Photographer: David John Green
An article by Marlo Thomas in the Huffington Post* comments on some recent instances of men behaving badly - Schwarzenegger, Strauss-Kahn, Edwards, Weiner.
What emerges, says Thomas, is that women STILL find it hard to complain when men sexually harass them. It takes guts. There is a power imbalance and it is difficult for women to counter that. Sometimes women do want to speak out but they find that men are able to manipulate the law in their favour, so all they can do is bow their heads and move away in silence, as the men laugh and dismiss them as being liars or worse, of unstable mind. Hence we must applaud the chambermaid who had the courage to report a man as powerful as Strauss-Kahn for attempted rape.
Photographer: DGWe have seen a number of 'Slut Walks', everywhere, the latest one in London on 11th June. Apparently, if women get raped it is because they dress like sluts, said a Canadian police officer, so they are asking for it. In an overwhelming response, women from all over the world have staged the walks, to protest. Even in New Delhi there will be one of such walks in July, the first ever in an Indian city,where rape is apparently the norm and women cannot walk around without a trusted male escort.
Rape is an extreme form of sexual harassment and it is good to see it is finally being understood to be a serious crime. But it is not the only manifestation of sexual harassment. There are other ways which are more difficult to prove as being harassment, more insidious, from mind games to persistent suggestions, groping and so on.
Photographer: DGI remember when I was a student, in the days when colleges did not have any sexual harassment policy, a tutor of mine regularly groped female students during one to one tutorials. We did not know what to do, it did not even cross our mind we could complain, we were all worried that protesting might have repercussions on our results. Or worse, that we could be accused of soliciting his attentions. The groping always seemed to be accidental and the first time it happened each one of us thought we were dreaming it, seeing too much into something quite casual. Then we compared notes and realised these were no accidents. So we started going up to his office in pairs and use all sorts of ruses to keep the door open, making sure the friend we had taken with us was outside waiting. We used to laugh it off, but it was a real ordeal, not at all pleasant. He is harmless, we used to tell each other. Still, we did not like it. The man WAS harassing us.
Photographer: DGThe modelling world is full of such stories and here I am thinking in particular of the art nude 'milieu'. Modelling nude is never easy, there are boundaries which should not be crossed. The issue here is one of professionalism, choice and trust. Almost every model has had a negative experience or another. Very few models are actually raped, that is an extreme occurrence. But many are 'accidentally' groped or 'helped' to undress. There's plenty of suggestions, double entendres, mind games, you name it. Every modelling site forum will have 'negative experiences' as a topic of discussion among models. I don't even look at those threads anymore, it is enough to put one off modelling, except that nude modelling is not just about that and it should not be reduced to that. I continue to believe it is a form of artistic expression. Luckily, I am too old and wise to be manipulated by any man, I can see through it immediately so I am not in danger. But younger models, younger women are.
Sometimes I come across stories that really make me see red. A few days ago I received a note from a lovely, bubbly young model, whom I interviewed for a forthcoming piece I am writing. I read it as I was having my morning 'cuppa' and I nearly choked. She was writing about her first modelling shoot, answering some of my interview questions. When she began modelling she was just about to turn eighteen and keen to start, having been a deviantArt member for nearly four years. She contacted a well known photographer whose work she admired. "I wanted to be an art model and be part of the artistic process, I was delighted to be booked by someone with such a wonderful reputation", she wrote in her note. They did two shoots together and on the second shoot he was physically abusive to her. "
*have begun reading it thanks to Anne Enke's AOC
(All photos modelled by Alex B)