I got a phone call from a man who took my photos ten years ago. I was shocked. Normally men I meet are really rubbish at phoning me. No man has ever lived up to the fictional boys that used to ring me when playing 90’s board game Dream Phone. Anyway, the photographer from 10 years ago, called me to say that another woman who he had photographed, was accusing him of sexual assault and he wanted me to vouch for him as a character reference. He wanted me to write a statement promoting him. I mean what did he want me to say exactly? Do I word it like a review on TripAdvisor, saying something along the lines of ‘He touches up photos real good, not women.’ Or, ‘He flashes, but you don’t have to’. Basically he wanted me to say that, 10 years ago when I hired him to take my acting headshots, that he didn’t do or say anything untoward to me and that he was perfectly respectful to work with. This was back in the day when I wanted to be an actor, back when I had hopes and dreams, now I have more realistic hopes and dreams, like everyday I hope and dream that my boyfriend has unloaded the dishwasher.
So there I was, just a girl, standing in front of a man, on the phone, asking me to help clear him of sexual assault. I asked myself how can I seriously be sure that he isn’t cut from the same cloth as Harvey Wankstain or whatever his name is? I assume it’s a lot easier if your memory of the aforementioned photo shoot is that of utter professionalism. But truth be told, it wasn’t. Unfortunately my memory of him was that he was verbally ‘pervy’. I remember him looking me up and down and smirking seedily. The other memory I have of him is that he charged me over 700 pounds (beyond extortionate, the cheeky sod)for these head shots and asked me to bring the money for him, in cash. What the actual fuck? I was 21 and clueless and learning how to become an actress. So I did what he told me to do. Like a good girl. Met him in a park, gave him 700 quid cash, he shiftily counted it in front of me and then when he was sure that I hadn’t shortchanged him, he took me to his studio to take my photos.
My memories are fuzzy. Not because he drugged me or spiked my drink or anything but because it was ten years ago. (The only time I’ve ever had my drink spiked was when I visited my sister at Cardiff Uni, binge drinking capital of the UK, and we got really drunk and ended up in Tiger Tiger. We woke up the next day and we were like, “We definitely had our drinks spiked because there is no way we would ever go to Tiger Tiger.” )
So my memory is hazy because it was so, so long ago. It’s like someone suddenly asking you what you had for lunch 3 weeks ago on Wednesday. Actually I always remember what I’ve eaten because I’ve had a mild eating disorder since the age of 17 so that was a bad example but you get my drift.
I remember him taking my photo and looking me up and down with a cheeky glint in his eye. Saying things like ‘gorgeous eyes. You got a boyfriend?’ To which I shyly replied, ‘Errr, no’ and no doubt, almost definitely blushing. I didn’t mind. The blood that rushed to my face made my my cheeks look great in the prints. Also I didn’t think anything of it. Any woman reading this has had countless comments similar. Plus this was 2007. This was just what men do right? So I brushed him off as a ‘harmless perv’. I just wanted my photos.
Now fast forward ten years. He’s ringing me and other female clients and asking for our support. He said in this current climate all this is all ‘very much a la mode’. It’s the thing to do. Oh yes, it’s very fashionable to accuse men of sexual misconduct right now. Its like totally the In Thing to do. Women love to follow a fashion trend, don’t they? I was in a bit of shock, the line went quiet, I could sense his panic, he then started to emotionally manipulate me by saying ‘I hope my photos got you a lot of work’. Yes. If by lots of work you mean a couple of unpaid student films and a panto on the Isle of Wight which I never actually went through with because it involved, oh what was the reason again, oh yes MAKING ABSOLUTELY NO MONEY WHATSOEVER. He then said the girl was ruining him and he had a wife and kids. You have to admire him. He sure knows women and their maternal instincts. Mentioning his children was a smart move. I felt a pang in my womb but then again it could have just been my IBS. (I often like to play the game ‘period pain or got the shits’ with myself). I asked him exactly what she was claiming he had done. He laughed and blurted, ‘she’s saying I touched her boobs!’ and then quipped, ‘I mean it’s just ridiculous….and she’s a Stripper!!’ Definitely lying then if she’s a stripper. I mean a stripper claiming a guy sexually assaulted her? I mean come on, that’s about as credible as a butcher calling the RSPCA. Or like a wife accusing her husband of rape. I mean it just doesn’t make any sense! It’s like an oxymoron or something.
‘Well if she is a stripper it sounds like you don’t need my help. No one will believe a stripper over a highly credible photgrapher like you, who asks for £700 to be paid in cash.’
If only I said that. But I didn’t.
When he rung me I was on a train from Hartlepool where I had had a gig the night before (because comedy is glamorous). I was on my way to Liverpool for another gig that night. Turns out Hartlepool and Liverpool are nowhere near each other much to my dismay. Who knew? The two ‘pools’ are as divided as the men and women’s swimming pools that I went to when I lived in Saudi Arabia. Found that out the hard way. I used the fact that I was on a train as an excuse. I didn’t want to discuss the issue of me potentially defending him on a East Midlands Quiet Carriage. He suggested I moved undercarriages. Sorry I mean, carriages. I told him: ‘No’. To his credit, he did realise that ‘no’ meant ‘no’. Then for some reason, I asked him to email me. I don’t know what was wrong with me I mean why couldn’t I just tell him to ‘Knob Off’ or as my Mum said to me the other day ‘Bum Off’. My Mum infuriates me to the nth degree but sometimes she will come out with some corkers like ‘Bum off’ and she will regain my respect for her. I wish I told him to ‘Bum Off’ and that my only memory of him was that he was a dodgy perv and that what little memory I had of him all those years ago would not work in his benefit whatsoever? Why didn’t I stick up for myself and other women? It’s because I have an extreme character flaw. I am a massive wuss. I don’t stick up for myself. I people please. I don’t like confrontation. I’m not brave. That’s why. I am a chicken. And not even a bad ass extra hot Peri Peri Nando’s chicken. I’m Lemon and Herb at best. I’m pathetic.
We hung up and I instantly hated myself for not having the balls to tell it to him straight. My boyfriend (we worked together the night before at the same gig- we’re are like the Richard and Judy of Comedy, he’s a cocky bastard and everyone suspects I have an alcohol problem). So my boyfriend, looked at my face after I got off the phone and could immediately tell something was very wrong because the eczema on my forehead immediately started flaring. Proof that my eczema is caused by stress and not because I’ve drank too much wine or ate too much sugar. What a relief. *Bins food diary and skips joyfully to the pub.
When I got the email I thought about deleting it and not replying. Albeit, in the end I decided to reply. I simply said that I didn’t want anything to do with it. I almost wrote, ‘sorry’ at the end because I may have an Egyptian Dad and an Irish mum but I am proper English at heart. I say sorry for most things. I say sorry at least 5 times a day. 10 times if I’m having a bikini wax. Poor girl. I am at least proud to say that i had the good sense to delete the word ‘sorry’ because I did recognise the fact that I had absolutely nothing to be sorry about and I did not want to give him that ‘power’. I wanted him to know that contacting me was wrong. I sent the email and then immediately eradicated all trace of him by deleting all correspondence. I wanted to have a shower too, which reminds me I hope that girl who washed that man right out of her hair also took a trip to the STI clinic. My point being was that I didn’t want to be reminded of it. It might sound dramatic but it had upset me more than I care to admit.
He emailed back a few minutes later, (it’s amazing how responsive men can be when they want something). I was expecting him to reply. Fortunately his response wasn’t anything desperately awful, just with a little more emotional blackmail but i had the good sense not to reply. He knows better not to give another woman a reason to sue for harassment.
But the whole debacle left me feeling half angry half stoically numb.
I wish I had the guts to tell him on the phone the truth about my memories of him and hat the current climate of sexual misconduct isn’t a fashion like Kylie Jenner lip fillers, it’s a necessary revolution.
I don’t know if he is guilty or not of what she is accusing him of doing. But I can certainly not vouch for him.
I guess this blog is me saying, ‘Me Too.’
Here are some more:
Got my arse slapped and groped by a builder as I walked into a cafe to eat my lunch. I proceeded to continue to eat my lunch there but still…A GIRL’S GOTTA EAT.
Got beeped at as I walked into a charity shop. To my horror he parked, got out the car, came into the charity shop and asked if I wanted to get inside his car. He eventually left after I said no several times and ignored him.
As I was walking home on a main road late at night a car tailed me and a man hissed ‘I bet you’ve got a right nice fanny’ at me. He drove off when he saw pedestrians approaching. To be fair my fanny was looking proper nice that day because I’d had just had a wax.
Worked in an office where they told me I only got the job because of my photo. (Ironically the one that the photgrapher in question took).
Another job I had (Or was it the same job….oooooh ambiguous), I got told to not wear heels as the boss is short and doesn’t like women to be taller than him. When I left that job I was like Nicole Kidman after she split with Tom Cruise, ‘I can wear heels again’.
I was the only woman in the office so I was expected to make the tea for all the men. Because that’s what women do. On the plus side I was exempt from any heavy lifting of deliveries because women are weak, and so would kick back, make myself a cup of tea and sit at my desk reading Facebook while watching the men lifting heavy deliveries outside.
I had to hang something up in the office. I stood on a chair and my boss held the chair while he made me stretch to hang it up. I told him I couldn’t because my top would reveal my stomach but he made me feel like I was being awkward so I did it and felt so exposed.
I could write more but it’s too depressing. I was probably asking for all of it anyway.
I suppose at the end of the day, I guess I should be thankful that a man picked up the phone and actually rang me, even if it was ten years later and asking me to say that he wasn’t a sex pest. Also he wasn’t wanking on the phone like Louis CK so I’m thankful for that too.
Women- keep talking and telling people. Don’t be silent. Be an extra hot peri peri with extra spice Nandos.
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