The “casting couch” has been a part of Hollywood culture almost since the beginning. It has often been the punchline to a joke, but generations of actresses have come into Hollywood and forced into the same choice. And Hollywood is hardly the only place where women find themselves in the position where career advancement comes with a sexual price. In a perfect world, yes, every woman would have the strength to walk away from such an offer, but in the real world, temptation can take over.
I’m not saying it’s right that some women sleep with men for career advancement, but I’m not willing to say they aren’t victims either, and often in Hollywood, as with other places, the lure of success can tempt people into compromises of this kind.
The problem here, whether the women in question were sexually assaulted or more willingly took part, is that this is how institutional abuse works. It gets ingrained in the very system itself, its core ethos, that to get to the top, you’re going to have to allow yourself to subjected to a certain degree of perversity. In some cases, it doesn’t even appear that sexual acts were directly involved. One actress was put in a nude lineup by a female producer to show that she needed to lose weight.
This all suggests that the core problem here is the objectification of women. Actresses on a balance get paid less, are often pressured to do more nude or overtly sexual scenes, receive more pressure over weight issues. Not that men in Hollywood don’t have similar pressures, but for women it is that much worse, and while a man can age into a nice middle age leading man role, or even in older age still pursue a career, women find themselves constantly bumping up against this gap as they approach middle age where the roles dry up.
Weinstein and his ilk, who have long been the plague of actresses, is just the most extreme end of the spectrum. So it’s not just about making fat cat producers accountable for their actions, it’s about how the entire industry treats women.