Right now is the perfect time to shine a spotlight on the forgotten crimes perpetrated in Hollywood, and Patricia Douglas deserves to be avenged.[TW: This essay contains discussion of sexual violence] Ten years ago, Girl 27 went to Sundance. The film should have made a bigger splash than it did, but I suppose it makes perfect sense that it didn't garner as much recognition as it deserved, given its subject. Girl 27 is a documentary that tracks the forgotten story of Patricia Douglas, a film extra and dancer who was raped at an MGM studio stag party thrown by Louis B. Mayer in May of 1937. She was lured there under the false pretenses of a casting call. With 120 young women and girls in total, she was listed as number 27 on the "call sheet." David Stenn uses his quaint film to deliver an account of the entire story in gruesome detail, an extension of his exposé written for Vanity Fair in 2003. There were four separate police departments represented at the party that night — the LAPD, the State Police, Culver City Police, and MGM’s own private police and watchmen. None of them filed a report about the rape. When Patricia bravely took her story public with a lawsuit, the other young women and girls who worked as extras in the industry were given a questionnaire about her with questions like, “Have you ever seen Patricia Douglas intoxicated, before or after the party?” They were asked to “state in detail what you know about Patricia Douglas’ past reputation for morality.” The Pinkertons surveilled her and the doctor who first examined her was asked to create false records to show that she'd previously contracted a venereal disease. All of this was done in an effort to paint her as a drunken, loose woman. Patricia's lawsuit (seemingly the first known federal rape case) was dismissed by the court after collecting dust for three years for “lack of prosecution.” Her lawyer had failed to appear in federal court on any occasion. He went on to become elected as District Attorney of LA County, and David Stenn suspects that it was thanks to the support of MGM. Patricia's own mother—appointed her Guardian ad Litem—was paid off by MGM and let the case die. [caption id="attachment_48575" align="alignnone" width="220"] David Ross in L.A. for a grand-jury inquiry, June 16, 1937.
From the Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library/Corbis[/caption] Metro Goldwyn Mayer was home to the brightest Hollywood stars at the time. Louis B. Mayer was the highest paid man in the nation and the biggest name in the film industry. Patricia never stood a chance against the most powerful Hollywood executives at the most powerful movie studio on the planet. What happened to her was almost completely wiped from the record. Her rapist, David Ross, was never served, arrested, or charged. But Patricia did inspire a young singer, Eloise Spann, to come forward about her rape by an MGM executive. Her case was mishandled in the same way and she never received any justice. She stopped singing, became depressed, and died by suicide many years later. Peggy Montgomery worked as a film extra during the same time as Patricia and Eloise. In Girl 27, she speaks of how she was sexually harassed on the casting couch and of the culture of misogyny rampant throughout the industry. Men using their powerful positions to coerce, pressure, manipulate, and force young women and girls into uncomfortable sexual situations was common, expected, and even encouraged. “At sixteen, I went to work for MGM, and I considered it was a windfall. There was an air, a constant air of being pursued. All the men tended to try to break women down. These were very aggressive men. Twice, I was asked to go to be interviewed, and the guy got up and said, ‘Well, let's see your legs,’ and you'd pull up your skirt and he’d say, ‘Turn around, Honey. Pull it up higher.’ And then he'd say, ‘Let's see how you feel, ‘ and then he'd walk around the desk and grab you. You couldn't go to the Citizen's News and say, ‘You know, Mister So-and-so did this to me at MGM.’ No way! Because the studios owned Hollywood. I mean, this is no exaggeration. It was one of a laws I learned very early on. Even the adults were afraid. Everybody seemed to be afraid of something. Except the men that were pursuing girls, you know. That was the one thing that nobody seemed to have any compunction about.” [caption id="attachment_48576" align="alignnone" width="220"] Patricia Douglas identifies her attacker, David Ross, from a stack of photographs.
From the Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library/Corbis[/caption] Patricia's devastating account was only brought to light when David Stenn was researching his Jean Harlow biography, Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow (1993). The same week that Harlow died in 1937, the story of Patricia Douglas hit the papers, but after that, it disappeared. Girl 27 and David's investment in her experience allowed Patricia to truly be heard and believed for the first time, more than sixty-five years after she was raped. She describes how she was lured to the party, how she was literally forced to drink a mixture of champagne and scotch by two men there, how she was attacked and violated by David Ross in a field behind the barn where the party was held, how she had been a virgin before that night. For the rest of her life, Patricia struggled with physical and emotional intimacy. She experienced insomnia, depression, agoraphobia, and isolation.
She’s supposed to be Wonder Woman but she’s not. Her name is Gal Gadot, she is problematic, and she should answer for these allegations.[TW- discussion of sexual assault and victim-blaming] Gal Gadot is on everyone’s radar right now, not just for her portrayal of Wonder Woman but for seeming to be a real life wonder woman due to her hardline stance against continuing to work with Brett Ratner, who has had sexual harassment allegations brought against him. All that is awesome but it seems extremely hypocritical that no one is taking her to task for her own victim blaming past. On Nov 14, an anonymous woman going by the name “Ima Survivor” published a Medium post that detailed how Gadot bullied and shamed her for being raped by a friend of theirs while modeling in Milan thirteen years ago. The post has been removed from Medium but a cached version can be read here. For those who have not read it yet, the first-person account is extremely graphic and details her rape and subsequent mental and emotional abuse by Gadot. The post made very few waves in the media cycle. Where it was shared, its authenticity was called into question immediately. How do we know this “woman” is telling the truth? Wasn’t she in the military? How do you know this even real? And the answer is, we don’t know if this is real. We don’t know if this account is any more true than the countless people who have recently stepped forward to speak up about the abuse and sexual misconduct they have suffered at the hands of Hollywood elites, some of whom are our faves.
Sex addiction is a serious mental illness that makes the lives of people who suffer from it difficult.[TW: sexual assault and addiction] By Sami Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, among dozens of other powerful men, are being exposed for sexually harassing and abusing people. Each have left a trail of victims and tears. Survivors of their violence have come forward and risked either their careers, a peaceful life, their privacy, or all three to speak up. It takes courage for a survivor of sexual violence, whether they’re victims of famous people or not, to speak their experiences. To name and challenge your abuser is to upend your life and risk any semblance of peace you may have. For the first time, powerful men are being held accountable for their actions. Harvey Weinstein has been stripped of his positions and some of his power; Kevin Spacey has lost roles and House of Cards may go on without him. They’ve lost their shine across the globe. Further, they may even get criminally charged for their actions. To be expected, though, they’ve tried to trigger their own redemption arcs. In their effort to make themselves look like hapless victims, what they’ve done is try to hide behind the very real issue of sexual addiction. Sexual addiction is a serious mental illness that makes the lives of people who suffer from it difficult. In fact, research has shown that the brains of the sexually addicted when exposed to sexual stimuli, were seen to “light up” in the same way that the brains of drug addicts lit up when they used drugs, despite no chemicals being used in the study. But what these men have done is turned it into a justification for sexual abuse and violence, when previously it had been stigmatized as a joke among men and a “daddy issue” amongst women.
We support and we march in support of black men, but we can't get to work or home without fighting through dick offers and bitch insults from them.By M. Shelly Conner Let’s be clear: I paid three dollars and a hug for street harassment. Or assault. I still don’t know what to call it. I do know that I didn’t want it and felt forced to consent to it. As a genderqueer woman, I’m often taken by surprise by the unsolicited interest of men. As a black, cis-gender woman, I am surprised by my surprise. In his 1999 comedy special Bigger and Blacker, Chris Rock joked (because men are privileged to joke about rape and hebephilia) that, “every woman [in here] since [they] were thirteen, every man they met has been trying to fuck [them].” Of course most women know, depending on their development the depravity of their assailant, that age can go much lower. Rock goes on to posit that it is easy for women (and let’s include girls, since he opened that can of hebephilia with his 13-year-old starter age) to turn down sex because it is in constant supply for them. Ignoring: 1) the heterosexist framing, and 2) the assumption that women/girls are in equal positions to decline sexual advances from men as men are to decline them from women, we are still left with the idea that because “it is damn near impossible for men to turn down sex,” it is socially acceptable for men to “[offer women] dick three times a day.” Rock insists, “Every time a man’s being nice, he’s offering dick.” I don’t believe that and, of course, the joke is that neither does Rock. Far less humorous is the necessity for women to make this joke into a safe assumption. To act as if every kind offer from a man comes with an unwritten sexual addendum. To question intentions and weigh consent. In accepting a greeting of hello or a gesture of holding open a door, am I consenting to the unvocalized “offer” of sex? Although Rock uses the word offering as if it is merely a cup of tea, unsolicited dick offers in all of their myriad forms are more akin to scalping another’s head and calling it a haircut.
Language is malleable, yes—but we cannot allow social justice language, particularly the type of language specifically invented to empower victims of abuse, to work against us, to re-silence us, again and again.[TW- Mention of sexual assault]
A couple of weeks ago, when the #MeToo campaign was making its way across the social media landscape, I finally decided to out my rapist publicly. We had been friends for many years, romantically involved off and on—and then, about a year ago, I cut off contact with him completely. It wasn’t just one time that it happened, the rape. It was multiple times. But the most egregious and horrifying one, the one that eventually lead me to cut off contact with him completely, had stayed lodged within me like a splinter, unprocessed, unmoving.
Few people in our circles knew what had actually happened between us. Although I had admitted to being sexually assaulted on multiple occasions, I never stated his name out loud, much less publicly. It felt too vulnerable, and I didn’t feel ready for the onslaught of emotions that would inevitably accompany such an outing. But the #MeToo campaign struck a nerve. As woman after woman on my feed posted #MeToo, my only thought was: why are we the ones who have to make ourselves vulnerable, again, while our rapists sit there cloaked in silence—in the complacent comfort of non-confrontation?
I understand that there can be catharsis, even a feeling of solidarity, in seeing huge numbers of women in your community speak up publicly about the fact that they were sexually assaulted. But it didn’t feel like enough for me. If I was going to admit that I was raped in a public forum, I thought, folks better be damn sure I’m also going to name the person who raped me. If I have to make myself uncomfortable, then folks better be damn sure I’m going to make him uncomfortable too. I wasn’t about to re-victimize myself in the process of outing my oppressor.
My worry was that the #MeToo campaign was starting to render the idea of rape into something abstract—one of those things “every woman has experienced,” while, in the meantime, the actual, concrete people that raped them remain safely anonymous.https://twitter.com/sndrsng/status/920097942010200064
Part of the reason why I was so intent on outing him was that I knew other women had already reported him as a rapist to powerful institutions—such as Yale University, where he is currently a graduate student—only to have their requests ignored and silenced. Granted, Yale (along with, let’s face it, most institutions of higher learning) has a terrible track record of bringing justice to victims of sexual assault. But to see it happen so close to home just enraged me further. No institution would ever hold my rapist accountable—I knew this, and I know it now.
Given that, it seemed to me that the only real form of accountability available to me—to us—was social accountability. I needed my community to know what he had done—to me, and to many, many other women. The consequences of social outing for a rapist can be numerous, but here are some of the outcomes I hoped for in outing him publicly: first, mutual friends severing their ties with him; second, a sense of shock for my community—particularly my male friends who had been close friends with him for many years—that yes, they too, had been complicit. They, too, had been harboring and protecting rapists in their close friendships for many years without thinking twice about what that looked like to me and the numerous other women he had raped.