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The Weinstein Effect: Selective Hearing When It Comes To Sexual Exploitation

Photo by Getty Images. 7 minute read. Harvey Weinstein. He’s likely a name all of us now know, given the last year of sex abuse allegations, #MeToo...

By August 23, 2018No Comments
Photo by Getty Images. 7 minute read.

Harvey Weinstein. He’s likely a name all of us now know, given the last year of sex abuse allegations, #MeToo stories, and now fresh accusations of sex trafficking.

But how many of the people who have denounced Weinstein over the last year have also unapologetically supported an industry that fosters this same kind of Weinstein-esque abuse—simply because society has normalized that kind of abuse and exploitation by calling it porn?

If it weren’t for the continuous news coverage, you might not recognize Weinstein’s name right away, but you’d certainly recognize his big Hollywood productions. As the executive producer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Silver Linings Playbook, hit reality TV show Project Runway, all things Spy Kids, and hundreds of other projects, Weinstein has been deeply embedded in the fabric of Hollywood’s elite for quite some time, and thus woven into our lives.

However—if you haven’t already been caught up to speed—last October,  The New York Times and The New Yorker investigative journalists uncovered Weinstein’s abuse of power within the movie business spanning three decades with alleged sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment of over 30 women, some of whom have since come forward stating they were also raped by Weinstein.

What It Looks Like When Society Denounces Abuse And Exploitation

As these allegations are being further investigated, much of our society has taken on the only role anyone can hope for when we learn about sexual abuse, and in a largely unified voice, they’ve joined in recognizing and condemning Weinstein’s inexcusable behavior.

Many in the movie business and beyond have called for accountability of Weinstein and those who were complacent in allowing his exploitative actions to continue. And in seeking justice for what he has done, punishments have been handed down to Weinstein—he’s been fired from his production company, expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and denounced by many public figures with whom he was closely connected—effectively blackballing him from the industry he carried for so many years.

In a nutshell, this is what it looks like when a collective society seeking justice bands together and weeds out unacceptable and inexcusable behavior from an industry that has been infamous for glossing over the crimes of celebrities.

The sad truth is that alleged predatory behavior and abuse perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein is not unique. He is not a lone wolf in a world free from exploitation and abuse. He is not simply acting out in a way that the world has scarcely seen.

Because of the bravery of the victims who have stepped forward and named him in their abuse allegations, other actors have followed suit, describing the harassment they’ve also experienced within the industry.

For example, Brooklyn Nine-Nine star and Fight the New Drug supporter Terry Crews recently spoke out about being sexually assaulted by a high-level Hollywood executive:

And elsewhere on social media, the #MeToo movement has continued to gain momentum and support, connecting survivors of sexual assault in a ripple effect starting with the Weinstein scandal that keeps building.

It’s powerful to see this conversation spreading, destigmatizing assault and abuse. And even though we’re all collectively trying to address this systemic issue, so many continue to excuse pornography from the larger conversation about exploitation and rape culture. And that’s a problem.

The Similarities Between Harvey Weinstein & The Porn Industry

Over on the “adult” side of the entertainment industry, sexual assault, coercion, and abuse run rampant without outcry from a world that unapologetically consumes the creations of exploitative producers and directors.

While we are not saying that comparing the movie business to the porn industry is like comparing apples to apples, there are certainly similarities. Some might think all porn performers consent to what they do and are in the situations they are in completely by choice—but are those situations really that different from the situations Weinstein has allegedly put women in? How can you be so sure?

Force, fraud, and coercion are denounced when we are shocked by them, but they are normalized when they are in porn.

The similarities between Weinstein, a powerful Hollywood producer, and the porn industry professionals, who have used similar and worse exploitative methods on individuals, are too much to ignore.

The paralleled issues manifest in specific ways, like the similarities between Weinstein’s alleged controlling coercion that he used to harass and trap women into inappropriate and uncomfortable situations, and porn producers who echo this behavior. Countless male and female porn performers (some of whom were introduced into the industry by fraudulent and coercive means) have similarly exposed the ways they’ve been pressured on set by producers and directors, pushed into scenes and situations they wanted to escape from, but didn’t feel they had a way out.

Weinstein’s alleged abuse of power and exploitation echo what’s been happening in the porn industry for quite some time with varying, numerous executives and producers. In an exposé by The Daily Beast on the sexual coercion epidemic in the porn industry, behind-the-scenes abuse, and Weinstein-esque practices by directors, a familiar picture of exploitation is painted.

For example, one notable European porn director is described as having a nasty reputation, known to industry insiders as being abusive and aggressive on set, often physically injuring the women he has sex with on camera. And while female performers try to avoid working with him, usually at the disapproval from their agents, this director pursues performers intentionally and persuasively, schmoozing them into performing with him and destroying their careers from the inside if they reject him.

Though many know of this exploitative director’s reputation, few speak out for fear of what he could do to their careers and reputations. And according to the report, “It’s not just the loss of work that keeps women quiet—it’s the shame that follows; the fear of being ridiculed by their own costars and peers on social media once they speak up. Few are willing to risk the brutality of the social media onslaught.”

Sound familiar?

The similarities between the Weinstein scandal and the everyday practices of the porn industry are undeniable, but few are willing to make the connection.

Not to mention that, on a broader scale, the similarities between Weinstein’s alleged actions and the messages within today’s porn content is unmistakable. “Women are always up for sex, no matter who approaches them.” “No means try harder.” “Aggression is okay, and it’s even a desirable sexual quality.” While society collectively outcries about Weinstein’s alleged actions, they continue to ignore the estimated $97 billion dollar industry that continues to perpetuate abuse, fuel violence and exploitation, and feed into the same exact rape culture that we’re all speaking out against.

It’s important to remember that not every porn producer coerces people just like not every Hollywood executive producer does. But it cannot be denied that it does happen, and in each and every case, we cannot be complicit when there is abuse, exploitation, and coercion.

Regardless of the industry, when industry gatekeepers like Weinstein and porn directors use their power to manipulate, abuse, and harass people who do not share the same privileges that often come with power, an unhealthy (and illegal) precedent is set. We see in both the Weinstein case and the examples above that industry insiders often know about the abuse but feel powerless to stop the perpetrator. This cycle of silence perpetuates an idea in our society that people can be objectified, so long as it helps their career or is part of something we routinely excuse as “normal” behavior.

One Executive in One Industry, Many Others In Another Industry

Of course, we are collectively and justifiably outraged over one powerful executive in one powerful industry who allegedly assaulted and harassed over thirty women over the span of thirty years. And yet, society has turned a deaf ear to other powerful executives in another powerful industry, where industry-wide abuse stems from countless other producers, directors, and “recruiters,” who have exploited thousands of women and men, all in the name of “adult entertainment” and sexual fantasy. How does this make sense?

How can we be a culture that speaks out against the blatant abuse and sexual exploitation at the hands of people in power, people like Weinstein—yet as a culture, we fail to acknowledge the exact same type of abuse that is not only fantasized and fetishized all over the web, but also perpetrated by porn industry producers as well? How can we be a society that rightfully fights to expose abusers—yet so brutally ignores the same kind of sexual abuse and exploitation in one of the world’s largest and most prolific industries?

In the long term fight against sexual abuse and exploitation, we cannot have selective hearing that chooses which abuse epidemics to fight against. Whether Hollywood celebrity or individual exploited by the porn industry, we cannot be complacent in the face of systemic exploitation.

Fighting Injustice and Exploitation

The fact is, if we want to make lasting progress in the fight against sexual assault and rape culture, we must consistently shine a spotlight on all of the factors that fuel and include these things. This includes the porn industry that masquerades abuse as “fantasy.” This includes the culture our society has normalized, regardless of the industry, where men and women are pressured and coerced into exploitation by executives in power. This includes calling out all cultures where perpetrators are not held accountable and victims of abuse are blamed, even if it happens in an amateur porn scene instead of a blockbuster movie set.

Rather than only hearing about the issues of abuse and exploitation when celebrities like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Hugh Hefner, and other celebrities force us to acknowledge the systemic issues we have, let’s work to create a society where the voices of those being abused and exploited in any industry do not fall on deaf ears.

At Fight the New Drug, we are listening and we are fighting—are you with us?