The past few months have been filled with news about high-profile men such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. abusing their power to sexually harass and assault others. In many cases, the predators made unwanted sexual comments and advances and sometimes forced others to perform or watch sexual acts.
But as we continue to talk about harassment and assault, it's important to point out another kind of abuse; one in which people use their power to humiliate and belittle others. These encounters, though perhaps not as glaringly obvious as someone forcibly accosting another person, are still incredibly toxic and harmful.
On Monday, actress Melissa Gilbert visited Andy Cohen's radio show and detailed one such encounter she had during an audition with director Oliver Stone for his film The Doors. According to People, Gilbert claimed that Stone tried to make her act out a "humiliating and horrid" scene in which she had to say sexually explicit things. The scene was allegedly written just for her as payback for a time she "embarrassed" Stone in public by calling him out for bashing those who work in television.
"He had me read a scene," she said. "I had auditioned, and then he said: 'I've written this special scene with you, I'd like you to do it with the actor. I want to see the chemistry with the two of you.' And the whole scene was just my character on her hands and knees saying, 'Do me, baby.' Really dirty, horrible."
Gilbert, who was initially afraid to mention Stone by name, said that the experience caused her to "[run] out of the room crying."
To reiterate: Stone was allegedly mad at Gilbert for disagreeing with him about the importance of TV, so he went ahead and wrote a demeaning scene with the sole intention of shaming her in front of his peers. If that's not proof that masculinity is fragile, then I don't know what is.
Gilbert's story is eerily similar to Patricia Arquette's, who alleged that Stone wanted her to read for a part in a film that was overtly sexual and later sent her flowers. When she refused his advances, she was no longer considered for the role.
These kinds of power plays are completely unacceptable. No one, regardless of industry, should be put in a situation where they're physically and emotionally manipulated. Stone knew that asking Gilbert to get on her knees and simulate sexual acts would upset her. That's harassment, and there's no way around it.