That’s what a coworker of mine told me when I asked her why she quit being an actress. The casting couch, trading sex for film and TV roles, has been a well-known practice in the film industry for decades. The same practice is known to take place in the music industry, with singers and musicians trading “sex for tracks” and the ability to work with top producers.
While the entertainment industry and media works to dismantle Harvey Weinstein’s entire life and career, as they should, Weinstein is simply one of many sexual offenders in the entertainment industry who used harassment, intimidation and the casting couch to victimize hundreds of women over the last 30 years.
I’m glad to see that one of the most notorious offenders is being held accountable but Weinstein is simply one head on a massive Hydra. Cutting off one will not end the long-standing tradition of sexual violence in Hollywood.
The NY Times broke the story of Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct earlier this month and since then, countless women have come forward about their experiences with him. The most harrowing accounts were reported by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker.
The industry is no doubt making an example out of Weinstein but the problem is, there are many more like him still working and thriving; Some of them known to the public and others, hiding in plain sight.
I came to Los Angeles after majoring in theatre performance in Ohio. I was theatre trained and wanted to break into film and TV acting. Right away, I was signed by a manager and received my eligibility to join SAG-AFTRA three months later, after three days of background work.
It didn’t take long after that for me to realize how the business really worked.
Multiple encounters with industry professionals groping me, sexually suggestive “jokes” and being told straight up that the only people who were successful sleep their way to the top, left me distraught and dejected.
I remember an emotional phone call to my mother telling her that I was afraid I’d have to give up on my dream just because I wasn’t willing to compromise and essentially trade sex for film roles.
I eventually pivoted to working behind the camera and spent over five years attending Hollywood awards shows, parties, movie premieres and working on studio lots. At one such party at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood, a plethora of expensive items had been brought in for celebrities to promote and bid on.
I stood admiring a pair of designer shoes when a well-known music producer told me that they were hoping to get Lindsay Lohan to wear and promote them. If I wanted them, however, I should take his phone number and we could, “work something out.”
When I joked that I probably couldn’t afford them, he told me, “That’s okay, there are other ways you can pay. You know how we do things here.”
I’ve never told anyone this person’s name and I don’t intend to. Actresses with more power, money and fame than myself stayed silent for years about their harassment out of fear. As an unknown writer with neither money, power nor fame, I have nothing to gain by speaking up and everything to lose.
Sexual harassment has long been an issue with many speaking out against Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, Bryan Singer, Terry Richardson and Casey Affleck, to name a few. Despite multiple allegations against these big name celebrities, many have continued to thrive and be recognized in Hollywood as the best at their craft.
Dylan Farrow, daughter of Mia Farrow and Allen’s ex-wife, wrote a harrowing open letter in the New York Times detailing her account of abuse she alleged to have experienced from Allen. Despite years of allegations against Allen, he has continued to direct films, win awards and be known as one of the top directors in Hollywood.
Polanski won the Oscar for Best Director Oscar for The Pianist back in 2003. He fled the United States for France in 1978 as he was about to be sentenced to prison for having sex with a 13-year-old girl, and had been hiding out there ever since, preventing him from physically accepting his award.
Hollywood has historically had no problem awarding and recognizing many accused and convicted sexual predators, so this new backlash against Weinstein is pandering and hollow; A sacrificial lamb to calm the masses and return to the status quo.
The industry must clean house, period. No more insincere apologies, no more stints in rehab to deal with accusations of bad behavior and above all, no more enabling and coddling abusers. Weinstein is the monster here but we cannot forget the many studio heads, assistants and other employees who served him his prey on silver platters and helped hide his behavior for three decades.
Unless Hollywood is truly interested in taking a long hard look at itself and putting an end to sexual violence, all of these revelations and publicity will have been for naught–Lip service to a public whose money it desperately requires for survival and fake reassurances to women whom the industry needs to continue to appear on its movie screens.