I was only just sixteen and I was lying on a blow up mattress in an unfamiliar place, in my bra. There was a middle-aged man hovering around above me taking pictures. And I was surrounded by rose petals. In fact, here’s a picture of it:
How awkward is that? You can see how my mouth is a little puckered – because I’m wearing braces. As I say, I’m wearing a bra, but I’d been asked to pull it down “quite low, please”, because otherwise the “straps will show in the shot”.
I remember feeling pleased with the pictures, thinking I looked quite pretty, and quickly forgot about them as I got on with my busy teenage life. Nothing ever came of them, after all. I also forgot about how awkward and uncomfortable I felt, trying to look confident and ‘sexy’ lying alone in the back room of a man I’d never met before, surrounded by chirpy pictures of his wife and kids. It’s not until I had a Facebook clear out recently that these pictures resurfaced and I realised just how creepy and inappropriate these images are. And I only have a couple of the images. He was clicking away for a very long time, directing my movements and position. Who knows where those pictures have ended up?
Now, this isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to anyone, not by a long shot. But thinking about it, it’s still pretty bad. I can’t believe it’s only just occurred to me how easy it is for predators like Weinstein to take advantage of young girls and women. If anything else had begun to happen, would I have been brave enough to say no? Thinking of how timid I was back then, I can’t say with full confidence that I would have been.
That makes me feel worse: like so what – I would have just let it happen? Well, yeah. I would have probably frozen with absolute shock. I was never a promiscuous girl, and would have been at school what the youts call ‘frigid’. In the picture, I had just got my first ‘proper’ boyfriend, and things were still very, erm, ‘proper’ on that front at the time.
Since the Weinstein scandal, there have been plenty of women who have been brave enough to speak. It’s eye-opening and shocking just to see how common this behaviour is – not just to women, but to men too.
It’s really got me thinking about my life and experiences. Unfortunately, more and more things keep popping into my head that at the time made me feel very uncomfortable, but I didn’t do anything about and just compartmentalised and shut in my head. I believe this is a perfect ‘why’ to the naysayers who are having a go at all the actresses coming out with allegations: “Well if it happened, why didn’t you say anything before?”
I’ve been cat-called and whooped at from men in vans since about the age of 13. I’ve been called an ugly slut and a bitch for turning down an unsolicited video of an older man masturbating. I’ve also been full-on grabbed by the crotch whilst coming down the stairs at a club VIP area. I didn’t say anything – I was wearing quite a short dress, so I was probably asking for it, right?
Recently, model Cameron Russell has been using her Instagram account to share stories of harassment in the modelling industry with her followers. Like me, many of the experiences she’s shared are to do with underage models or female photographic assistants being put in dangerous and/or uncomfortable situations with male photographers.
You can see the stories on Cameron’s IG here: https://www.instagram.com/cameronrussell/
The Weinstein allegations come nearly a year to the day after Donald Trump’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” video leaked; it was not enough to derail his presidential ambitions, but it inspired a million women to march.
I’m glad there is much less of a stigma around this, and people are speaking out. I feel like sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour is going the same way as mental health: if we all stand together and talk about it, it’s much less scary.