In Yahoo’s new Style section, Tim Murphy writes about sexual abuse in male modelling. Women models outnumber their male counterparts, but boys and men certainly experience a parallel culture of sexual objectification and abuse.
In a year in which the famous fashion photographer Terry Richardson has seen mounting allegations of sexual harassment against him by a string of former female models, culminating in a New York magazine cover story and a very public discussion about the sexual abuse of female models, the male side of the equation has gone virtually undiscussed.
Yet as I talked the past few weeks with scores of male models, casting agents and other industry insiders—most of whom demanded anonymity—it became clear that various levels of harassment, from inappropriate comments and touching to surprise requests to disrobe and explicit quid-pro-quo offers (accept my come-ons and I’ll advance your career), happen every day to male models, creating a troubling subtextual power dynamic that echoes its counterpart on the female side of the business.
One thing’s clear: Nobody really wants to talk about it—often, least of all, the (still mostly straight) male models themselves, who aren’t comfortable using the same language of sexual harassment that the women’s side of the casting call is only just now acclimating itself to.
«Harassment definitely happens,» says a men’s agent at a top agency, «more so than a lot of the guys like to tell us. A lot of them come back from shoots feeling very uncomfortable but they’re afraid that if they tell us, we’ll have to talk to the client. Then, if it gets back to the culprit, he, depending on his status, could actually destroy that model’s career.»
“It’s easy to tell models they don’t have to do anything they’re uncomfortable with,” says [Sara] Ziff. “But most models start out in debt to an agency for flying them or putting them up. That puts much more pressure on you to go along with inappropriate demands.”