It has come as quite a shock to many of the older generation that there has been some furore in the film industry because last October a mega movie mogul was outed as a sexual predator, hasn’t there? Yep, but not because disgraced Oscar-winning producer Harvey Weinstein has behaved in that disgusting way, but because we ‘thought’ that it was all well-known already that it was common behaviour in that line of work, wasn’t it?
You see, from time immemorial, the ‘casting-couch’ syndrome has been the grubby reputational badge of the motion-picture industry and indeed goes back over a hundred years to the days of the silent film industry, surely?
There can be no doubt that the sleazy operation of the casting couch was no myth during the heady days of Hollywood, when it is said that its moguls wouldn’t cast starlets like Marilyn Monroe and Kim Novak unless they auditioned in bed?
Moreover, some ‘stars ’themselves have made no secret of its operation, and indeed there is ample evidence of its debilitating effect on some of them, which included that where a star’s talent, beauty and original charisma of ‘self-worth’ basically ended-up in ‘low self-esteem’, drug abuse and suicide. Some say it was an industry that ate women for lunch, eh?
Then again, that situation of sexual predatory behaviour (particularly towards the young and venerable), despicably also apparently included children, has simply been continuously ongoing and indeed has flowed into this the 21st century. The names of those stars [and an example of their films] who would confirm it include US’ famed child actress Shirley Temple [Bright Eyes (1934)], American Judy Garland [Wizard of Oz (1939)], London’s Lesley-Anne Down [Pink Panther (1976)], American Gwyneth Paltrow [Shakespeare in Love (1998)], South Africa’s Charlize Theron [Monster (2003)], English Thandie Newton [Crash (2006)], Megan Fox [Transformers (2007)].
The big thing and indeed watershed coming out of Weinstein’s exposure and disgrace, is that similar behaviours have seen the light of day not only in the entertainment industry but in many other places where sexual harassment and abuse has occurred including the BBC, British Parliament, Art world, Fashion, Music industry, Charity organisations, and Sport, to mention some.
[Mind you, release of the 2005 tape of Donald Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women, didn’t stop him securing the US Presidency at all, did it?].
However, the casting couch in Hollywood hasn’t been the place by a long chalk where sexual favours are demanded by ‘in power’ sexual predators, is it? Many of us have seen it in the normal workplace, especially in the big organisations, haven’t we?
Also, it must be mentioned here that sexual exploitation in the work environment is in fact a ‘two-way’ street and while in general (but not uniquely) it is heterosexual men that abuse their power and position to solicit sexual favours from their female staff, there are also some women employing their sexuality to ingratiate themselves and gain career advantage from those males above them.
Those of you who might have served in any senior management capacity in a major international company might well have seen it first-hand, perhaps? Like an Area manager for years bedding his secretary, both married of course, both unashamed and even flaunting it, and of course extremely close at the time of ‘annual reviews’ – she was always on the top secretarial pay scale, unsurprisingly eh? [Perhaps she was really good – but at what though?].
Or perhaps mention that at another big outfit, where top Directors together with senior staff & guests, often met-up on a Friday night at the Company’s Social club to relax, and have a friendly get together with a few drinks? One Group manager used to bring his admittedly very attractive wife, who spent her time fawning over the sleazy MD in a very touchy-feely manner. Then at the firm’s overnight annual bash at a top London hotel meeting venue, that ‘’liaison’ was again self-evident, so there was little doubt in many minds as to which hotel suite she would be retiring to at the end of the night, eh? It came of course as no surprise then the following day at the company’s senior staff gathering, giving performance details and organisation announcements, that the woman’s husband had secured the new Regional manager’s slot, ahead of us other three well-qualified but ‘disappointed’ hopefuls [well at least our ‘less-committed’ wives weren’t prostituted, eh?].
On the other side of the coin though, those in company senior positions that influence or control the future of other staff, do have to beware the potential pitfalls associated with very often career ambitious female employees, don’t they? Some of those staff will most certainly make it plain that more than a committed ‘close working-relationship’ is on offer. Now, we are not talking here about young vulnerable naive females, simply desperately trying to get their feet on the first rung of the career ladder, are we? No, we get it from the striking, already successful, very talented women, often married, sometimes with children, already in a technical management position themselves, who view their attractive sexuality simply as another ‘tool in the box’ to be used if appropriate to progress their career – but show no dismay either when that device doesn’t fit, eh? A responsible decent manager properly earning their pay, wants to fully embrace the identified talents of their female workers but not by enjoying the attention of their workers in bed, surely? There are simple rules and red lines that keep everyone safe – never have closeted meetings with the office door closed and never socialise on a one-to-one basis (and never n ever ever make personal comments about appearance however complementary like “You look lovely/nice/smart/tired/upset/worn-out/etc”).
[The majority of bosses totally respect their female employees and wouldn’t try it on, but the few who do cause a culture of fear in many industries and businesses – so the sooner they are ALL exposed the better for Western society and women’s place in society, eh?]