The Sexual Harassment Epidemic is More Sordid Than You Realize

If you think you have a pretty good feel for the breadth and depth of the sexual harassment landscape, think again. Then read “Can Hollywood Change Its Ways?” by Dana Goodyear:

“Lyle’s job was to write down what the writers talked about. According to testimony she gave later, several of them talked about anal sex, oral sex, “fucking,” “pussies,” “schlongs,” what color hair they preferred women to have, what size breasts, and how one of the writers had missed his chance with one of the show’s stars. They referred to a lead actress as “having dried branches in her vagina”; one writer “frequently brought up his fantasy about an episode of the show in which one of the male characters enters the bathroom while a female character is showering and rapes her.” They doodled offensive anatomical drawings, vocalized pleasure while pretending to masturbate, altered a calendar in the writers’ room so that it read “pert tits” instead of “persistence” and “penis” instead of “happiness.”

“I can’t even say I was offended,” Lyle told me recently. ‘That’s how steeped in the culture I was. It was such a ubiquitous thing that it would’ve seemed off to have them not do that stuff.'”

Goodyear describing a female writer who became a target of one studio’s star executive:

“The woman wore librarian glasses and thrift-store clothes, and kept her hair short. It was her style, but also a signal of her seriousness, her not-gameness. It provoked him, even though his own girlfriend was “hot,” as he told her all the time. “Can you believe I want to fuck you and that’s my girlfriend?” he said.

Several times a week, she had to call him to talk about a script, a writer, the status of a project. Instead, he asked her what she looked like naked, and sulked when she declined to flirt. It was impossible, under these conditions, to do her work effectively, but she had to make nice—he was their guy.”

Kim Masters is an investigative journalist at the Hollywood Reporter. Goodyear turns to her for the bigger picture:

Hollywood, Masters says, has long operated like a men-only club. “This town is shot through with a culture of intimidation, boys having fun, going to Las Vegas, hiring hookers. They don’t want female colleagues anywhere near them. Women are not invited and not promoted. I remember Dawn Steel saying, ‘If only I could go whoring with these guys my life would be so much easier.’ ”

Still, Masters has been shocked to see how pervasive sexual harassment is, particularly at certain studios and agencies. “It’s not just one or two people,” she said. “It’s woven into the fucking fabric.” She went on, “What’s become clear to me is how deeply the culture of tolerating this behavior is rooted. You have a standoff—mutually assured destruction. There’s so much bad behavior, if you try to get rid of one guy then he says, ‘I will go after you. I know what you did.’ The behavior is entrenched at such high levels. You almost have to burn the companies down.”

Are we, as regular consumers of Hollywood products, complicit in helping create the “fucking fabric”?