Leave it to the French.
The French Open revoked the credentials of Maxime Hamou after the 21-year-old French tennis player repeatedly kissed Eurosport journalist Maly Thomas and held her neck during an interview on Monday. Thomas elbowed Hamou in the chest and attempted to loosen his grip as she spoke with him following his ouster from the Grand Slam tournament.
Thomas’s colleagues in the Eurosport studio clapped and laughed as the incident unfolded on live television.
The French Tennis Federation (FTT) condemned Hamou’s behavior as “reprehensible” and ordered an investigation.
Thomas told the Huffington Post France that Hamou’s actions were “frankly unpleasant.”
Hamou later apologized, offering his “deep apologies to Maly Thomas if she feels hurt or shocked by my attitude during her interview.”
“I have just spent a magnificent week here at Roland Garros … and I expressed my overflow of enthusiasm crudely towards Maly, who I know and respect sincerely,” he said. (It should be noted that Hamou’s tournament experience was abbreviated since he lost in the first round.)
Kissing the nearest woman—whether she agrees to the gesture or not—is still too often a means of male celebration.
It’s how former Fiat CEO Lapo Elkann commemorated winning an auction at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Elkann planted a surprise kiss on host Uma Thurman as the actress announced him as a winning bidder.
A representative for the actress later said that Thurman was not privy to the stunt and felt “very unhappy” about the kiss.
“It is opportunism at its worst,” Thurman’s rep told People. “She wasn’t complicit in it.”
It’s also how actor Adrien Brody marked his win at the 2003 Academy Awards, dipping presenter Halle Berry into a surprise, full-on kiss.
“I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag,” he told Berry before an audience of millions as the actress, with a slight scowl, wiped her face.
After the Elkann incident last year, Slate noted that the surprise stranger kiss came to be seen as romantic—and perhaps the ultimate expression of male exuberance—from the iconic “V-J Day in Times Square” photo of a World War II sailor smooching a nurse. But lost in the lore of that captured moment is that it was nonconsensual. In 2005, the nurse, Greta Friedman, explained that “the guy just came over and grabbed [me].”
What’s unique about Monday’s episode is that Hamous actually faced consequences for imposing his will on an unsuspecting woman who was simply doing her job. In past cases or reports of similar behavior, men have been regarded as spontaneous, waved off as jokesters, or elected president of the United States.
While the French Open took immediate action against Hamou, it wasn’t quite the response Thomas had in mind.
“If I hadn’t been live on air, I would have punched him,” she said.
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