For the last time (I wish): It is not fucking ok to work with Terry Richardson

Another model has come forward about hipster darling, Terry Richardson’s predatory behaviour, adding to a long list of sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations aimed at the photographer.

The model shared her story on Reddit, saying that she feels it’s important for her to share her experience “for the sake of other young women out there.” And here’s what I’d like to know: how many more fucking women are going to have to share their stories about Richardson before we believe them, before we stop ignoring them, before we hold this man accountable for his disgusting behaviour? HOW MANY.

Sadly and typically, she blames herself for what happened as well:

Let me preface this by saying I am fully aware that this was bad decision making on my part and that the true purpose of me sharing this is I want people to know what is possible in these situations and that you as a human being are 100% allowed to say no to something you are uncomfortable with and I wish I had the strength to then.

Like a 19 year old woman trying to make it in the industry, in a situation with this man who she is made to feel can make or break her career, should have just been “stronger.” No dis to her — I mean, we’ve all felt guilt at not being “strong enough” to leave a sketchy situation or say no to a man — but to be clear, this is not on her. Richardson is in a position of power with all the models he exploits. The women are not in a position where they feel comfortable saying “no” and it’s likely they feel or are made to feel they need to say “yes” to anything and everything if they want work in the industry.

She goes on:

When I was 19 and going to art school in NY I thought it would be fun to do nude “art” modeling on the side for money. I thought hey I am comfortable with my body and a creative, open minded person so this is a great idea, right?!

Just gonna shout out “sex-positive feminism” here. Because thanks to you and the libertarians, women learn that if they are to be “open-minded” people who are “comfortable with their bodies” and, like, totally sexually liberated, man, they should be cool with nude modelling and porn and casual “sex work” and stuff. I mean, you want to be one of the “cool girls,” right? I see you assholes. I see you.

So she got in touch with Richardson to do some modelling, without really knowing about his reputation of predatory behaviour, went to his studio, and signed some release forms, saying: “I don’t remember what they said, definitely not anything specific about what he would want to do though, I had signed several of these before and it looked the same.”

Here’s what she says happened next (TW — this is explicit):

Eventually we got up to take pictures and he had me stand against the blank white wall in the middle of the apartment. I stood there and he started taking pics, assistant off to the side. Then he came up and took pictures POV style with his hand on my face. Then he put his thumb in my mouth, I actually thought this was funny in the moment and he and his assistant were very upbeat and just light heartedly directing me. Then he stepped back at some point and had me start removing my clothes (I knew I would be getting nude, so this was not weird to me). I remember he had me take stuff off in stages, he complimented a lot, his assistant too. Definitely the usual trying to make the barely legal model feel special kind of thing looking back. I honestly do not remember if the sexual stuff started by the wall or when he moved me to the couch area but at some point I was being directed to do things like hold the top of his pants while he took more POV style pictures, then eventually unbutton his pants and then his penis was out. Meanwhile it felt like it was all just happening and there was no time to step back and be like “woah this is out of hand”. I dont think anyone who knows me would describe me as a particularly aggressive person (and definitely wasn’t at 19) and the only way I can describe how I felt was nervous and paralyzed. At some point the assistant started taking pictures too with a crappy point and shoot camera. He had me posing on the couch and then I had my back to him and just literally felt him start licking my ass, like every part of it, and the assistant was taking pictures the whole time. Things were now completely pornographic and never once initiated by me. He was now on the couch with me and it became sexual act after sexual act, aggressive kissing, random sexual things being done to me and being directed to do everything you can think of back, everything slow so his assistant could photograph. He even directed me to squeeze his balls as hard as I could so that they pushed back up into his body. I did not even know that was possible (At least I learned something about the male anatomy that night?). I was completely a sex puppet at this point. It ended with him jacking off on to my face and he told me to keep my eyes open really wide and his assistant stood over me and it got in my eye and they both began taking pics of it for a what felt like 10 minutes but was probably only 30 seconds… Finally, they backed off and were still acting like everything was totally fun and normal and upbeat or whatever and I think I was visibly in shock.

DEAR FASHION INDUSTRY, HIPSTERS, AND CELEBRITIES: THIS SHIT IS NOT OK. NOT NOW, NOT EVER. DO YOU HEAR US?

If it isn’t absolutely fucking clear by now, this man is a manipulative abuser. After the shoot Richardson asks her if she had a boyfriend: “I said yes and he started overly sweetly apologizing and so did his assistant. And he said oh I always mean to ask that first I’m so sorry.” Because, like, sexual assault is only ok if the chick in question isn’t already spoken for, yeah? Like, “Oh sorry, didn’t know another dude already owned you.”

To be perfectly honest, I feel too angry to even put a cogent sentence together right now, but here goes:

1) There are no more excuses. It is not ok to work with this man. The entire fashion industry is enabling him. His assistant appears to be enabling him. Celebrities are enabling him. Everyone who pays for his photographs are enabling him. Harper’s BazaarGQRolling Stone, Vogue — this is on you, too.

Lady Gaga, shot by Terry Richardson, in Harper’s Bazaar.

2) This is porn culture. You hear me? What Richardson is doing is mainstreaming porn. You cannot separate his behaviour from his work. They are one in the same. The work he produces (link NSFW) is pornographic. I want everyone — especially so-called feminists — to stop trying to draw lines between the exploitation and degradation of women, pornography, the way women are treated and viewed and how women feel they must behave in this culture. It is ok to say that something is not ok. Just because it’s “sex” doesn’t mean anything goes. This perception of “sex-positivity,” this “No judging! No shaming!” shit that is ever-popular in online feminism and was enabled by the third wave has made space for the culture we are in now and made room for Terry Richardson. And while yes, Terry Richardson is responsible for Terry Richardson, and patriarchy is also responsible for Terry Richardson, the condonation of pornography and the pushing of the idea that women should be cool with objectification (and not just “cool with,” but “empowered by”) is also responsible.

There is such a thing as porn culture and we’re looking at it. There is no separating “fantasy” from “reality.” We can see the ways in which they bleed together. What Terry Richardson is doing he is doing because of power, but he’s also doing it because we live in a culture raised on and saturated in pornography. This is what we learn is sexy — what Richardson is doing is a porn fantasy. He is making porn and he is doing porn to women.

Decades ago, Andrea Dworkin said: “Pornography happens to women.” Get it? Open your eyes.

Is it not ok to work with Richardson now but it never was. And all you feminists out there calling him out for being a sexual predator are great and all, but it’s time to start making some fucking connections.

 

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • Helen

    Are you really equating life modelling with prostitution?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Are you really not understanding that this is pornography and sexual assault and rape culture and porn culture and, like, misogyny? Not “modelling”?

      • Helen

        Scroll back here.

        Although it’s unorthodox, I was actually referencing what the model said, and thought.

        “I thought it would be fun to do nude “art” modeling on the side for money”

        Your response was to say “Just gonna shout out “sex-positive feminism” here. Because thanks to you and the libertarians, women learn that if they are to be “open-minded” people who are “comfortable with their bodies” and, like, totally sexually liberated, man, they should be cool with nude modelling and porn and casual “sex work”.

        As an art student, your experience of life (nude) modelling is to either be sketching a nude model, or standing or posing in front of other art students, mostly women. It’s not usually an exploitative situation and it has nothing in common with sexual assault.

        Shockingly enough, I don’t think a middle aged man in a position of power cumming in a young woman’s face without her consent is ‘life modelling’. I think it is assault and that he should be in jail. Now.

        I am suggesting that the model in question was expecting a situation similar to her art classes and being cool with that is not her being ‘cool’ with sex work and porn.

    • pisaquari

      FFS, Terry doesn’t photograph “life modelling”–he shoots crime scenes.

    • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

      Since when is rape “life modelling”? Are you out of your fucking mind?

  • latte

    You rock Meghan. But I doubt he’s the only one right? And for the sex “postitive” it’s ok. Ok. See?

    You are sooo frigid and man-hating or something totally not cool. Not.

  • jo

    That’s right it’s not fucking ok to work with him, or support any of the many other male artists who are well-known for their abuse of women or little girls. It should be the obvious thing to do, if any man behaves like this, immediately stop supporting him no matter how great his work is. But so many people still support these men. There have been a lot of cases of this recently, it breaks my heart. Do abuse against girls not count? Do we not count as people?

    • jo

      And don’t get me started on how misogynist male artists are seen as edgy or whatever. Hating on female humans and little children? No man has ever done that before in history. Wow so different and cool. Really breaking taboos there dude.

      • http://liberalfeministtropes.blogspot.com.au/ Independent Radical

        You’ve got to love how they try to appeal to tradition and novelty at the same time. They say stuff like “prostitution is the world’s oldest profession” and “there’s always been porn”, but then they try to claim that they’re “revolutionary” and that they’re challenging the status quo, which is it porn lovers? Are changing the world or is the world impossible to change and you’re just pointing it out, over and over and over again? Make your minds up.

        As for Terry Richardson, I think it’s an understatement to call it “porn culture”. If he ejaculates onto her face (without even having her explicit permission) and photographs it, then it’s pornography (not to mention sexual assault.)

        • Meghan Murphy

          “I think it’s an understatement to call it “porn culture”. If he ejaculates onto her face (without even having her explicit permission) and photographs it, then it’s pornography (not to mention sexual assault.)”

          Totally. I say “porn culture” in an effort to show the connections between porn, sexual assault, and more generally how we see and understand sex and sexuality today, as a culture.

  • http://djupgron.wordpress.com Henke

    This makes me seriously feel sick. This guy (and his assistant too it seems) should be in jail.
    It becomes so obvious the harm porn culture does and how, as she has described what happened, influenced these scumbags are from porn culture.

    • Li

      Yeah, I’ve felt sick and had nightmares about this man. I don’t think it’s my or my brain’s fault for that when I see clear manipulation, abuse, and sexual assault/rape. I don’t understand how people can keep defending him or just passively allowing him to continue.

      And he’s not the only one. Porn culture and sex positivity in our culture is seen by rapists and potential rapists, manipulators and abusers as permission, that what they do is ok. That it’s ok to take undisclosed pictures with a hidden camera while having sex with a girlfriend who is doing it because the culture has advised “please your man or you’re failing as a girlfriend/wife” over and over. I’m not saying this hypothetically either. I experienced it first hand.

      And people will look for other reasons a nice guy so they can tiptoe around the evidence that he is an abuser/manipulator/rapist without doing anything about it.

      Why are people so afraid of stopping perpetrators?

      • Li

        I want to add I don’t blame other people for a manipulator/abuser/rapist being that way, but I’m trying to show that it is connected to porn culture, it is not isolated.

        Also, at the time I thought I was doing everything through consent. So I did blame myself. But the man was a manipulator, which means he subtly pushed and pulled things, pushed buttons and switches to lead me into that situation, where I didn’t know how to say no or something was being done TO me until it had been happening for a long time.

        I think this porn culture and “everything goes” sex positivity aids patriarchy in manipulating women, and then blaming them. It’s so obvious. If a woman calls out a man’s behavior, he shifts the focus onto what she did or did not do. Manipulation.

        • Donkey Skin

          Yes, and the monomaniacal sex-pozzie focus on ‘consent’ as the only ethical standard for sex feeds this too.

          Women frequently ‘consent’ to a lot of things in sex that they don’t actually want to do – whether because of financial or psychological coercion, implied physical threat, or grooming from the whole damn culture that tells them they’d better go along with ‘X’ or be considered prudish and uncool.

          So, after a man has manipulated a woman into sex she doesn’t want to have, and she is left traumatised by sex acts that were experienced by her as unwanted, uncomfortable, degrading or violent, all he has to do is point and say, ‘She consented!’

          It’s this relentless focus on women’s ‘agency’ at the expense of questioning and challenging a culture that routinely robs us of agency in the realm of sex, that means women end up being blamed and blaming themselves for having being victimised by abusive men.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Exactly. Like, she signed the papers — too bad for her! The “consent” conversation has seriously limited our ability to speak about these things in some ways. Consent is imperative (obviously), but the conversation extends beyond that.

        • http://djupgron.wordpress.com Henke

          The shifting of focus becomes so clear as soon one tries to talk about porn culture and the harms it does. So often if one talks, not about the participants in the industry, but how its all portrayed on film, towards the viewer.
          It takes just a nanosecond for men to begin talking about “how they are doing it out of free will and the actors feels empowered” and so on and so forth…
          Yeah well, I was not talking about how they feel or their personal choices for doing porn. I was talking about the actual harms porn culture does. Such as feeding rape culture, how it teaches us males to be dominating in sex (as with everything else really) and how it really just crushes healthy sexuality between human beings.

          Porn culture teaches us that in sex there always has to be a fucker and a “fuckee” if that makes sense.

  • NitroGirl

    I’ve never really heard of this guy until now…what a disgusting misogynist.

    Why is it hard for so many people to see there is a porn culture? You mean to tell me that, a multi-billion dollar company couldn’t possibly shape how society veiws women in any way whatsoever?

    Porn culture, and pornography itself promotes rape culture.

    Porn culture promotes the idea that it should be legal for men to take upskirts of little girls and women (to create “creep shots”) —porn culture teaches them that it’s ok to treat women on the street as their personal plaything to be gawked,objectified,and groped. Men know this,which is why they get angry and violent towards women questioning and challenging the industry–this is why they get mad at and send rape threats to female reviewers that critique scantily clad female warriors in videogames and other forms of entertainment. Men have porn in every aspect of their lives ,in every medium,and they are going to put up a fight about it. Porn culture created a viral mentality among men that helps them believe women are 24/7 sex whether they like it or not, whether non-pornstar or pornstar. Women’s bodies are not their own in a porn culture. (that “agency” and “choice” bullshit liberal sexpozzies like to pull will tell you otherwise.)

    • Missfit

      Porn culture feeds rape culture. They go hand in hand. This is why I don’t get how self-proclaimed feminists can vigorously decry rape culture while at the same time refusing to seriously address pornography because, omg, that would be so ‘sex-negative’ you know…

      I want to take the occasion Meghan to thank you for creating and maintaining this space which allows for interesting feminist thinking and discussions. I read the two articles you mentioned by Glosswitch and Sarah Ditum at NewStateman, which I liked, but geez, the comments are filled with MRAish drivel…

      • Meghan Murphy

        Yes, Glosswitch and Sarah Ditum and doing some really great writing these days! (And thank YOU for coming here and contributing to these discussions.)

        “Porn culture feeds rape culture. They go hand in hand. This is why I don’t get how self-proclaimed feminists can vigorously decry rape culture while at the same time refusing to seriously address pornography because, omg, that would be so ‘sex-negative’ you know…”

        The inability to make such connections seems to extend to many issues in feminism, doesn’t it. People like to compartmentalize certain things. It also seems to signal an inability to think.

      • jo

        I also want to thank you Meghan for writing what needs to be written and doing it so well, and for providing a sane haven among all the thoughtless pro-objectification, pro-porno crap on the web.

  • Maureen Master

    For those who are interested and haven’t already seen it, there is a petition about him on change.org called “Big brands: Stop using alleged sex offender & pornographic Terry Richardson as your photographer.” If you want to sign, you can find it at http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/big-brands-stop-using-alleged-sex-offender-pornographic-terry-richardson-as-your-photographer

  • marv

    There is a great deal to grieve over here, and condemn. Pathological devotion to individualism is at the heart/heartlessness of sex liberal psychology. It exercises dominion over women and girls, bringing death to the inner self and degradation to the body. We desperately need laws to stop the spread of this spirit murder and dehumanization by porn.

    • lizor

      “It exercises dominion over women and girls, bringing death to the inner self and degradation to the body.”

      Yes, exactly right.

  • Pingback: Witch hunt! Terry Richardson responds to sexual assault allegations. (Also, libertarians will be the death of us) | Feminist Current()

  • bloomnpsycho

    This man is a horrible human being, and this incident is sexual assault. This is, however, not art modeling. It is porn.
    I’ve done art modeling. It isn’t pornography or exhibitionism, nor is it sexy. The instructors in the art classes made it very clear that the students were to treat the models in a respectful fashion and not do anything to make us feel uncomfortable. People of all sizes, ages, and genders were used as models. The only time I heard of a negative interaction in my years doing this sort of work was when a model on one occasion came onto an instructor. She told him to leave and he was barred from working at the school again.