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The actress and co-creator of Netflix’s The OA recalled the 2014 experience in an essay in The Atlantic about “the economics of consent.”
“I, too, went to the meeting thinking that perhaps my entire life was about to change for the better,” she wrote. “I, too, was asked to meet him in a hotel bar. I, too, met a young, female assistant there who said the meeting had been moved upstairs to his suite because he was a very busy man. I, too, felt my guard go up but was calmed by the presence of another woman my age beside me. I, too, felt terror in the pit of my stomach when that young woman left the room and I was suddenly alone with him. I, too, was asked if I wanted a massage, champagne, strawberries. I, too, sat in that chair paralyzed by mounting fear when he suggested we shower together. What could I do? How not to offend this man, this gatekeeper, who could anoint or destroy me?
“It was clear that there was only one direction he wanted this encounter to go in, and that was sex or some version of an erotic exchange. I was able to gather myself together — a bundle of firing nerves, hands trembling, voice lost in my throat — and leave the room,” she continued. “I later sat in my hotel room alone and wept. I wept because I had gone up the elevator when I knew better. I wept because I had let him touch my shoulders. I wept because at other times in my life, under other circumstances, I had not been able to leave.”
Marling explained in the essay that she felt the freedom to exit the situation because she had co-written and starred in multiple films before meeting with Weinstein. “I think for me, I was able to leave Weinstein’s hotel room that day because I had entered as an actor but also as a writer/creator. Of those dual personas in me — actor and writer — it was the writer who stood up and walked out. Because the writer knew that even if this very powerful man never gave her a job in any of his films, even if he blacklisted her from other films, she could make her own work on her own terms and thus keep a roof over her head.”
She further stressed, “I’m telling this story because in the heat surrounding these brave admissions, it’s important to think about the economics of consent. Weinstein was a gatekeeper who could give actresses a career that would sustain their lives and the livelihood of their families. He could also give them fame, which is one of few ways for women to gain some semblance of power and voice inside a patriarchal world. They knew it. He knew it. Weinstein could also ensure that these women would never work again if they humiliated him. That’s not just artistic or emotional exile — that’s also economic exile.”
Marling then explained, “For me, this all distills down to the following: The things that happen in hotel rooms and board rooms all over the world (and in every industry) between women seeking employment or trying to keep employment and men holding the power to grant it or take it away exist in a gray zone where words like ‘consent’ cannot fully capture the complexity of the encounter. Because consent is a function of power. You have to have a modicum of power to give it. In many cases women do not have that power because their livelihood is in jeopardy and because they are the gender that is oppressed by a daily, invisible war waged against all that is feminine — women and humans who behave or dress or think or feel or look feminine.”
She also commended the dozens of women who have shared their sexual harassment stories of Weinstein and others throughout Hollywood. “It’s a powerful moment when courageous people begin speaking about how they have been harmed, which is a deeply difficult thing to do because it means wading through a swamp of shame you’ve been made to feel. I am inspired by them all. We should let their strength guide our way forward, which means beginning a much larger conversation about the role economic inequality often plays in rape culture.”
Marling joins Kate Beckinsale, Cara Delevingne, Minka Kelly and dozens of others who have come forward with their own harrowing accounts with Harvey Weinstein since the New York Times and New Yorker exposes were published earlier this month. Weinstein has since been fired from The Weinstein Co. and kicked out of BAFTA and the Academy, while multiple criminal investigations on his behavior have been opened.
Additionally, the two pieces on Weinstein have spurred others to come forward with their accounts of sexual harassment and assault by other Hollywood figures, including Amazon Studios’ Roy Price, director James Toback, Loud House series creator Chris Savino and APA agent Tyler Grasham.
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