I watched as he locked the door, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. We were in his office, which doubled as a makeshift dressing room, and I’d just changed into the outfit he’d requested—a yellow crop top with jean-short cut-offs, white cotton panties, and no bra. I’d been hired to film a young, teen-themed scene that day and the director had very specific instructions for my look, which included the stereotypical hair in pigtails and natural makeup (primarily mascara and lip gloss).
The man who’d just locked us in his office was both the company owner and director for the day, as well as the guy who’d be signing my check when it was over. He smiled at me as he sat in his chair, positioned between me and the only exit, patted his knee and said, “Come sit with daddy.” An awkward silence followed—him waiting for a response, me hoping something would change. It didn’t. If anything, my hesitation seemed to encourage him.
“C’mon baby girl…sit with me, just for a minute,” his smile turning to laughter as he chuckled at me. “I don’t bite.” He didn’t look menacing; he had a teddy-bear look, was a big guy but fairly round and had always seemed nice enough. To hear him laugh was a huge relief. I felt foolish for taking him so seriously, as I began to think this was all a bad joke. Only it wasn’t because, as I walked past him to get through that locked door, he grabbed my arm and pulled me into his lap.
I sat there stiffly as he reached between my legs, snaking his fingers up through the slit of my shorts, his other arm wrapped tightly around me, making it hard to escape. He didn’t care that I had a boyfriend, and when I asked him to stop he whispered about how wet I was as his fingers explored places they shouldn’t. I felt betrayed by my own body. I kept talking, trying to come up with something he’d care about, some reason this shouldn’t happen. I started discussing the scene he’d hired me for, reminding him that the male performer was waiting for us. Then I started rambling about how worried I was about doing a good job, told him how much I wanted to perform well, and that if things went too far with him I wouldn’t have the same energy for my scene. He agreed: I should be fresh for my scene. So I was a “good girl” and called him “daddy” just like he asked because I wanted it all to be over. I let him guide my hips over his crotch, dry-humping him through his pants until he came. After all, I still had a sex scene to shoot.
Expecting an ally, I confided in the make-up artist as she retightened my ponytails—making them a little perkier—but instead she shrugged it off. Yeah, it’s porn, what do you expect? You’re here to be groped. I started to tell the guy I was working with, but he didn’t want to hear it either. I shouldn’t be complaining; in his opinion, I should’ve been flattered that I was singled out. He blamed my reaction on my lack of experience and wrote it off. I’d only been in the industry for six months at that point; I was still learning the ropes and valued the opinions of these industry veterans. I then questioned the validity of my feelings because maybe they were right: maybe I was the one who needed to learn how to adjust.
Previously unacceptable behaviors became normalized. If a stranger slapped my ass on set or pulled my shirt up to tweak my nipples, I learned to accept it as common on-set behavior, as complaining about it would only alienate me from my peers—most of whom experienced the very same thing.
Thankfully, the next generation of performers entering the industry may not have to make those same types of adjustments. Today’s adult performers will have the opportunity to recognize sexual harassment for what it is, and the agents representing them won’t be allowed to shrug it off anymore. The #MeToo movement prompted California lawmakers to create legislation known as the Talent Protections Act (AB 2338), a mandate that requires all licensed talent agents to educate their clients about sexual harassment prevention, retaliation and reporting.
Which means the sexual harassment previous generations endured as a rite of passage will no longer be tolerated, socially or otherwise. And it’s about time.