Paul Nathanson ©2019
Beginning on 5 October 2017, a long series of sex scandals shook the entertainment industry and other industries that allowed immensely powerful men access to immensely beautiful young women (or immensely beautiful young men). By now, the “casting couch” has become a dirty secret, better known as sexual harassment. But it was not always a secret, let alone a dirty one. The recent scandals reveal a change in standards of sexual behavior, one that would have surprised or even dismayed the men and women of an earlier generation—notably the hedonistic one that began during the 1960s and came to a sudden end (after a decade of dissatisfaction) this very year. My goal here is not to justify sexual harassment, which I define as coercive and intimidating sexual behavior, but to examine some non-coercive and non-intimidating forms of behavior that people now consider sexual harassment but did not always do so.
In this essay, I discuss (1) what has always gone on in front of the cameras and (2) what has always gone on behind the cameras.
During the Great Depression, Warner Brothers produced several backstage musicals, in fact, which refer by innuendo to casting couches in New York’s theater industry. By far the most famous and successful of its kind was 42nd. Street (Lloyd Bacon, 1933).
Paul Nathanson has a BA (art history), a BTh (Christian theology), an MLS (library service), an
MA (religious studies) and a PhD (comparative religion). Of particular interest to him is the
surprisingly blurry relation between religion and secularity: how religious patterns of thought
underlie seemingly secular phenomena such as classic movies (such as The Wizard of Oz) and
political ideologies (notably feminism and wokism). With Katherine Young, he has written a
series on the problem of masculine identity in this polarized environment. These volumes include
Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture; Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men; Sanctifying Misandry: Goddess Ideology and the Fall of Man; and Replacing Misandry: A Revolutionary History of the Male Body.
The fifth and sixth volumes are not yet published: Managing Misandry: Men’s Voices on the Meaning of Manhood and Transcending Misandry and Misogyny: From Feminist Ideology to Intersexual Dialogue.