That sexual misconduct/harassment thing – it’s getting around.
Seriously, are we now a nation of lustful, barely-in-control beasts?
It kinda seems that way.
Then again, it might be job-related, in many cases.
What about models? Not just models, but male models.
Have you seen those Abercrombie & Fitch posters? They’re all in black-and-white, and some of those male models look a little… uncomfortable.
There might be a reason for all that.
The latest story of inappropriate skeezing involves male models, former and current, who are sounding off about several prominent photographers for big name companies doing a little more than say, “OK… Show me ‘pensive’ “ and snapping shots.
From the New York Times:
Fifteen current and former male models who worked with Bruce Weber, whose racy advertisements for companies like Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch helped turn him into one of the foremost commercial and fine art photographers, have described to The New York Times a pattern of what they said was unnecessary nudity and coercive sexual behavior, often during photo shoots.
The men recalled, with remarkable consistency, private sessions with Mr. Weber in which he asked them to undress and led them through breathing and “energy” exercises. Models were asked to breathe and to touch both themselves and Mr. Weber, moving their hands wherever they felt their “energy.” Often, Mr. Weber guided their hands with his own.
And they fell for that crap?
“I remember him putting his fingers in my mouth, and him grabbing my privates,” said the model Robyn Sinclair. “We never had sex or anything, but a lot of things happened. A lot of touching. A lot of molestation.”
It wasn’t just Weber.
In accounts going back to the mid-1990s, 13 male assistants and models who have worked with the photographer Mario Testino, a favorite of the English royal family and Vogue, told The Times that he subjected them to sexual advances that in some cases included groping and masturbation.
At least he’s being more forward.
Of course, lawyers for the accused are denying the allegations and are attacking the credibility of the accusers. That’s how it works.
Some who have worked with the men in the past are even acting shocked that such accusations are making the rounds, themselves never having experienced anything so unacceptable.
For those who are making the accusations, however, they say they were left with few choices, and that’s a common theme: either acquiesce, or risk losing lucrative work, or even their entire careers.
Apparently, in modeling, young male models are the least respected, easily replaced, so the stakes are higher, if a serious career in modeling is what they want.
“It was general practice to give a model a heads-up about a specific photographer who we knew had a certain reputation,” said Gene Kogan of his time working as an agent at Next Management between 1996 and 2002.
But, he said, “If you said you were not going to work with someone like Bruce Weber or Mario Testino, you might as well just pack it in and go work in another industry.”
And the stories are disturbing.
They’re also familiar.
Meetings in hotel rooms, and concerns about nude “auditions.”
Testino’s career includes shooting the first baby photos of Madonna’s daughter for Vanity Fair, or the engagement photos for Prince William and Kate Middleton.
He’s obviously a powerful name in the industry.
Two models have also complained about his behavior in the course of photographing Gucci campaigns in the ’90s.
“If you wanted to work with Mario, you needed to do a nude shoot at the Chateau Marmont,” said Jason Fedele, who appeared in those campaigns. “All the agents knew that this was the thing to excel or advance your career.”
The nude work bothered him less than what he believed were sexual come-ons. It was as if Mr. Testino were gauging which “moves” might work, Mr. Fedele said — “whether it was a comment or a reach for the towel, and he definitely reached.”
It wasn’t just the models. Even the assistants hired – often young, heterosexual men – were subjected to abusive behavior.
“Sexual harassment was a constant reality,” said Roman Barrett, an assistant to Mr. Testino in the late ’90s who said the photographer rubbed up against his leg with an erection and masturbated in front of him.
“He misbehaved in hotel rooms, the backs of cars and on first-class flights,” he said. “Then things would go back to normal, and that made you feel gaslighted.”
Another assistant to Mr. Testino, a decade later, said he had his pants pulled down and buttocks fondled while on the job. Yet another said that Mr. Testino masturbated on him during a business trip. Both were granted anonymity because they feared career repercussions.
Testino’s legal team say these accusers are “disgruntled.”
I wonder why?
“I was pushed around, overworked, underpaid and sexually harassed daily,” Mr. Barrett said. “That’s why I was disgruntled.”
Well, there you go.
The industry is apparently set up to groom young, impressionable models to accept that their bodies, their faces, are commodities, and they have no protections.
“Models are not educated about what is or is not acceptable behavior, and often don’t even have the vocabulary to express their experiences,” said Edward Siddons, a model turned journalist.
“Male models are paid much less and they do not become icons, because the culture is about objectifying women to sell things, and people are deeply uncomfortable with that happening to men,” Mr. Ford said.
“I knew that if people didn’t want to have sex with you and people didn’t find you beautiful, you weren’t much inspiration,” Taber said. “The models that got jobs are the ones stylists and photographers are into. I also wanted people to like me, especially the most powerful people in the business. I would almost get offended if they didn’t want to have sex with me. That’s how I got groomed. That’s how it worked in my mind.”
That’s really sad.
It’s just one more cog in this machine of debauchery that is operating in different corners of media and culture.
Will coming forward stop it?
Who knows, but maybe we can at least slow it down.