I was 16 the first time. My girlfriend was dating a cop and he had a work-mate. She suggested we double date. The details are unimportant, let’s just say that before it got critical I talked myself out of the situation with promises of a future date. On a positive note, I look back on it now and know that’s when I realized I could have a career in sales!
The second time was my divorce lawyers—two brothers. Yes, my lawyers. I was 21. And after that, it was the photographer who wanted to shoot lingerie for my modeling portfolio. In those days, I would say I was a good Catholic girl—I’d even been a nun for a year! But I grew up quickly and really, I don’t think I ever thought of it as rape or assault; it was more of men I knew or trusted always trying to get to “third base” with pretty women.
I come from a different generation. I wasn’t a hippy but many around me were. Pot was prevalent, as was free love. Was I sexually harassed? For sure. And did they get to “third base?” Sadly, sometimes it seemed easier to just give in.
Today the stakes are higher. And the situations have become more controlling, frightening and violent. We can thank easily accessible debasing porn, the degradation of women, and the widespread sexualization of teenage girls. Society accepts and expects nudity from women. It’s almost the only way a young woman can be a success in the media today. It’s hypocritical but factual.
When I was young, you never talked about these things. Everyone had “an uncle” who looked at you weird. We talked about it amongst the cousins, but for the most part, it never seemed to go further than a “feeling” that something wasn’t right. Sexual assault was very much a behind-closed-door family event.
Harvey Weinstein is no longer on my radar although he has certainly stirred up old memories in many women not only from my generation but all generations. I always had to fight for equality in totally male-dominated fields like fashion: retail and wholesale. The bosses were men. And we knew, as women, that we had to move quickly and try to never be alone with the one that gave us the “look.” And that was 40 years ago.
But there are different levels of assault or abuse—the ones from people you know, and extremely violent attacks from a rapist. And like a bad marriage, a bad boss or someone in a position of power that can control your destiny, it’s a very frightening experience that can leave you damaged for life. I think I was one of the lucky ones. I let it all go a long time ago and have no desire to revisit any of it except to make a point. There is nothing new about what is coming to light in the media today.
For years men have been sexually assaulting their wives. We all know a woman who was hurt by her husband. She forgave him, and he hurt again—emotionally, physically and/or sexually. We’ve lived with it our whole lives only we never really talked about it.
Why am I writing about this today? Terry Richardson a world-famous photographer—famous for his sexually explicit photo shoots, has been accused of molesting, masturbating, assaulting for years. And the industry allegedly knew it. Some magazines took the allegations seriously and stopped working with him–but only in the last few years. Others didn’t. Sound familiar? Today Huffington Post reported:
Condé Nast International, the company that publishes Vogue, GQ and W, confirmed to HuffPost it will no longer work with fashion photographer Terry Richardson, who has been accused of sexual assault or harassment by multiple women. The news was first reported late Monday night by The Telegraph, which obtained an e-mail to country presidents from Condé Nast’s executive vice president and COO, James Woolhouse:
Mr. Woolhouse wrote: ’I am writing to you on an important matter. Condé Nast would like to no longer work with the photographer Terry Richardson.
’Any shoots that have been commission[ed] or any shoots that have been completed but not yet published, should be killed and substituted with other material.
‘Please, could you confirm that this policy will be actioned in your market effective immediately. Thank you for your support in this matter.’
Condé Nast International, which confirmed the wording of the email to HuffPost but declined to comment further, was one of a number of companies that continued to work with the controversial photographer for years after women came forward with accusations of sexual assault and harassment.
In 2001, model Liskula Cohen walked out of a photoshoot for Vogue after she said Richardson asked her to get completely naked, while he was also naked, and pretend to perform a sex act on another man. A woman named Anna told Jezebel in 2014 that he pressed his penis against her face during a shoot in 2008. Former model Charlotte Waters told Vocativ that he ran “his tongue up and down her bare ass, demanded she squeeze his balls and even jacked off into her eye” when he photographed her in 2009.
In 2014, model Emma Appleton shared a message purporting to come from Richardson in which she was offered a Vogue photo shoot in exchange for sex.
A spokesman from Condé Nast U.S. told HuffPost Tuesday morning that “Condé Nast has nothing planned with him going forward,” adding that “sexual harassment of any kind is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.” (a little late to be saying that Condé Nast. Worried about lawsuits??)
Many in my generation–baby boomers–felt powerless, angry, and defeated; but we knew there was absolutely nothing that would be done. It was his word against ours, so we had to let it go and live with the memories.
It’s so much more than sexual assault. It’s emotional assault. It can be debilitating and last a lifetime. You can heal the body, but memories linger forever. Do you think all this talk is going to change this type of male predatory behavior? I would like to believe things will change, but I don’t. I think it will be pushed underground like all other vices that have been declared criminal. This type of behavior has been illegal for a long time, and no one stood up for the victims before some very powerful men were exposed this year.
So, what’s going to happen? Tons of lawsuits. Victims will be more open and get the therapy they need. Will those on the fringes–not yet exposed–seek counseling, and change their ways? I doubt it. Maybe they will think twice or be more careful of how and when they stalk their victims. And then again, maybe they won’t.