“James abused his power by exploiting the non-celebrity women that he worked with under the guise of giving them opportunities,” Tither-Kaplan, who was a student in Franco’s acting master class in Los Angeles, said. “Being an actor and a filmmaker and working in the industry has been my dream since I was maybe five or six, and I knew that by coming forward I was risking my career.”
Tither-Kaplan went on to explain that while she was taking Franco’s class, “Sex Scenes,” the critically acclaimed actor would sometimes change the original scripts and pressure the women enrolled in his course to agree to “gratuitous or exploitative” nude scenes.
Paley chimed in to say that while some of her relationship with Franco was consensual, she often felt that she had to do things out of her comfort zone. She recounted one time when he “pushed” her head down towards his genitals and pressured her to perform oral sex.
“I’m regretful,” Paley said. “I was young. He was a celebrity I looked up to.”
Paley’s experience is all too common and seems eerily similar to the widely shared and debated story of an unnamed woman’s date with Aziz Ansari in which she allegedly felt coerced into sexual acts she didn’t feel comfortable performing. Though controversial, the story, first reported by babe.net, highlighted that abuses of power don’t always fall into categories of “rape” and “consensual sex.”
“James is absolutely not a Harvey Weinstein,” Tither-Kaplan said. “He is not an unfeeling monster who has no sense of reality. He created exploitative environments for non-celebrity women on his sets. I also think James is a talented and valuable person. It’s a pyramid, and at the top is rape and sexual violence, and at the bottom are the other abuses of power that when they continue to happen over and over build and build and build and create a culture that allows the most heinous examples of sexual violence and misogyny and discrimination to happen. So, if we allow any of them, we allow all of them.”
This is a point some actresses and online commenters made after Franco accepted his Golden Globe award wearing a “Time’s Up” pin, a symbol that represents the end of silence as millions of survivors are speaking out to end rape culture. If you’re worried about another show of pageantry on Franco’s part, there may be no need. This morning, the Academy announced their picks for this year’s Oscar nominees, and Franco’s name was nowhere to be found on the Best Actor list.
Refinery29 has reached out to Franco for comment.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).