Category Archives: Paul Nathanson

From Sex to Sexual Harassment in the Movie Industry

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).

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