My loyal readers all know I am not afraid to tackle contentious issues. So buckle up – here we go again!
My proposition is that the media’s over-emphasis of the overpaid celebrities who are leading the “#me too” campaign ignores the real victims of sexual harassment and abuse – those who are genuinely in need of protection.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not for a moment condoning any form of non-consensual or unwanted or unacceptable sexual misconduct. However, in my view, the whole #me too campaign has gone too far.
Let’s look first at the celebrities. And again, I must make clear I am not condoning or seeking to excuse unwelcome sexual advances of any nature or in any context. But surely, the question must be asked why these high profile so-called victims – many of whom (and I readily concede not all) tolerated and remained silent about the conduct of which they are now complaining after in some instances 20 years plus, presumably in the interest of advancing their careers – are being given unrivalled media attention.
And all this media coverage to the few is given whilst the real victims of sexual misconduct remain relatively anonymous when compared with those who might be described as privileged and high profile and who, for whatever reason, have decided after many years to speak out.
Now, let’s consider the victims. Of course, there are many such victims, including those of domestic violence, forced marriage, church and other institutional abuse etc … of which I concede there has been some media coverage – in some cases significant and serious coverage. Yet one sector is virtually ignored and misrepresented – those are workers in the sex industry.
The recent UK tabloids’ coverage of the Dorchester Hotel event prompted me to write this article to highlight this ridiculously unbalanced media coverage – of the privileged #me too brigade on the one hand, compared with the lost victims of sexual abuse, including those who work in the sex industry and about whom we hear barely a beep.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the Dorchester was used as a venue recently to host a male only event described as a sexual predators’ playground. An undercover journalist sought to expose the sexual nature of this event, with descriptions of men salivating, taking pictures and drunkenly approaching the women who were employed at the event with unwelcome sexual advances and comments.
Now I am not for a moment condoning such behaviour. And I applaud the journalist’s desire to lift the lid on unacceptable sexual behaviour However, I beg to differ where the journalist and some of the girls involved said they were treated “like sex workers”.
That comment really brought home to me the relative lack of understanding and media profile – the deafening silence – about the plight of other, lower profile victims such as sex workers. Indeed, it highlighted to me how ignorant the media and broader community are of issues facing the sex industry.
Seriously, how can these men be described as predators for getting drunk and being nothing more than rude? And how can the journalist and these employees truly believe they were treated like sex workers? The world has simply gone #me too far!
Please don’t get me wrong. I applaud and support many of the objectives of the #me too campaign. In particular, I support the principle of non-acceptance of sexual misconduct, unwanted sexual advances, and the importance of encouraging victims of such conduct to speak out. However, as has been well documented by many anti-#me too campaigners, in particular the French former screen actress Catherine Deneuve, who have highlighted the importance of distinguishing between sexual harassment and abuse on the one hand and normal sexual behaviour on the other.
The #me too campaign is at risk of blinding us to the fact that humans are sexual beings. It is part of our identity. It is in our DNA. The campaign fails to differentiate between sexual harassment, abuse and violence on the one hand and normal sexual activity on the other.
Further, the media’s pre-occupation with the relatively few powerful figures who have ultimately seen fit to complain of wanted sexual advances, in many instances after many years and after they have reaped the financial and career rewards of their own mishandling of the incident of which they complain, fails to cover the real, powerless victims of such conduct, particularly those who choose or are forced to enter the sex industry.
What is more, the campaign fails to distinguish between drunken foolish behaviourand normal human sexual interaction.
The Dorchester event journalist compared the girls’ treatment to that off sex workers. And I venture to guess this is simply because the journalist and so-called victims concerned think they know what sex workers have to suffer. Believe me, they don’t.
Participants in the sex industry are one of the many unsung victims of sexual abuse and predatory behaviour. Yet they are the victims the media chooses to overlook. Why? Perhaps because they are seen as people who deserve it.
Most people do not actually understand what a sex worker is, let alone what they endure in the lives they have chosen or been forced by circumstance to pursue. Wikipedia defines sex workers as those who provide direct sexual services such as prostitutes, and some but not all professional dominants; pornographic models and actors who engage in sexually explicit behaviour that is filmed or photographed; phone sexoperators who have sexually-oriented conversations with clients, and those provide audio sexual role play. Other sex workers are paid to engage in live sexual performances, such as webcam sex and live sex shows. Some sex workers perform erotic dances and other act for an audience (striptease, Go-Go dancing, lap dancing, Neo-burlesque, and peep shows etc…).
Generally speaking, these are professionals, who are simply trying to earn a living. One thing for sure is they would never have agreed to wear a cheap bit of black cloth, loosely described as a dress, and work for a minimum wage for a male only event fuelled with alcohol and, I am sure, drugs. They would have charged a lot more and would have understood exactly what would be happening. And frankly, I’m pretty sure most of the women who worked at the Dorchester event would have understood the situation too.
The point I am making is that the media coverage of the #me too campaign, and more broadly journalists who should know better, are loosely using the words abuse, harassment, sexual violence and encouraging women to consider themselves victims of being made to feel like a sex worker; and they clearly do not understand what sex workers face on a daily basis.
And these are a group of people who really need the help. Yet they are overlooked by the media that prefers to pander to the relatively few grandstanding show-ponies that put up with unacceptable behaviour in return for untold riches and rewards they clearly coveted.
Many victims who should be encouraged to come forward, including many in the sex industry, are instead portrayed by the media, if the media covers them at all, as a lost cause – as someone who they expect it to happen too.
Recently, this view was implied to me by a newspaper journalist who I asked to help me and my colleague, Kelly Berg from House of Ardent, to expose the appalling abuse that is occurring within the porn industry, including the recent suicide of six young women who had faced physical and mental abuse, on-line bullying and depression. Such sexual violence, harassment and demeaning language is not the price one should pay for seeking employment, whether in the sex industry or otherwise; and nor should be deciding to take your own life. Yet hardly a word has been mentioned of these tragic cases, compared with the virtual avalanche of high profile #me too complaints.
Slut shaming of these women by the media and sometimes even from strangers on social media has gone far too far. It is contributing to these young women not wanting to better themselves because the truth is they never can leave the industry because of the poor choices they made or were forced to make, often in their youth.
Take myself for example. I retired some 18 years ago from the porn industry, and qualified in international business, counselling and mentoring. Similarly, my colleague, Kelly Berg – previously known as Kelly Stafford, retired many years ago after working with only Rocco Siffredi. And we both have offered to the media and others, including the body responsible for the welfare of adult entertainers – UKAP-important insights on the state and welfare of girls working in or trying to leave the industry, some of whom have taken their own lives. Yet we have been constantly not taken seriously because of our past – even though we are seeking to actively mentor and assist those who have faced years of genuine sexual harassment and abuse, and trying to prevent suicides.
My good friend Alana Evans in the USA recently has been inundated with media for refusing to have sex with Donald Trump! However this will soon be overlooked and questioned-Why? Because she is a sex worker.
Only last week, I interviewed a well-known UK porn actress who was groomed, manipulated and provided with false promises of security by a former Bristol MP who gained her trust then prostituted her to his friends. She was blindfolded, gagged and threatened with a sharp metal object. It took her a year to come forward and contact the police about what she had to endure. Yet no one would take her seriously because of her chosen profession. Can you imagine that being the case with a mainstream actress, particularly a successful one?
Many such victims of sexual abuse and harassment do not come forward because they are not the top of the popularity queue. They are not afforded the same compassion, coverage and support given by the media and broader society to the show-ponies from Hollywood.
Judgment, victim shaming, blaming, and fear of violence within the sex industry needs to be addressed. The media should not be covering salacious sexual content and then putting down men for admiring the view.
Further, women should be able to embrace their sexuality and not be called a slut or have it held against them in the future. It’s about time the media gave everyone the equal chance to be protected from sexual predators and abuse – not just the ones with an existing and well-rewarded profile.
It is also time for the media and broader community to learn the difference between normal sexual relations including courting or flirting, call it what you will, on the one hand, and sexual harassment and abuse on the other. It is time to learn guidelines and boundaries – not just towards others but also towards ourselves. I for one would miss the world without eye candy!
According to Oscar Wilde – “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”
It is time for the media and roader society to cover and protect the vulnerable, not just the powerful.
As Catherine Deneuve has observed, it is time for the media and broader society to understand the distinction between normal and acceptable sexual interaction that is part of our DNA and unwanted and unacceptable sexual misconduct.
The media must stop peddling salacious stories that is unsupported by factual research, in particular it must stop misrepresenting the sex industry as a measure of what is and is not sexually acceptable in society. Rather, they must uncover and expose the fact of the appalling abuse that is occurring in that industry and help address the damage caused to participants, including the unacceptably high level of suicide.
And finally, for our own and our childrens’ sakes, the media and society must demand greater education and awareness of appropriate and positive sexual behaviours. Children should learn at a young age what is acceptable in sexual terms and what is not.
Lianne and Kelly are available for interviews via http://www.houseofardent.com