Known sexual predator Terry Richardson has had a busy month (all his months are busy because, despite the accounts of multiple women who allege they've been sexually assaulted and harassed by him, he is beloved by the fashion world).
In the past 30 days, he's shot Lady Gaga for Harper's Bazaar, Lea Michele and Jennifer Hudson for V, LeBron James for GQ, Stacy Martin of Nymphomaniac fame for Purple Fashion, and Kate Moss for Lui (Moss link is NSFW). In keeping with his "edgy" style, Lady Gaga, Lea Michele and Kate Moss all have their legs splayed wide open. In the midst of all of this, a former model has shared her account of his vile and exploitative behavior; it's very similar to every other account we've heard, and it's completely horrifying. But the Richardson's steady stream of work with prestigious magazines and celebrities continues unabated, because the fashion industry has been callously ignoring stories like this throughout his entire career.
In a Reddit post, a former model shared her experience "modeling" for Richardson five years ago. She says that she previously didn't feel comfortable discussing what had happened to her, but:
I feel like it is extremely important for me to share my experience for the sake of other young women out there so I'm starting here. I want to not only warn against making the same mistake I did but possibly open up the dialogue about how/and why this sort of thing can happen so easily. Let me preface this by saying I am fully aware that this was bad decision making on my part and that the true purpose of me sharing this is I want people to know what is possible in these situations and that you as a human being are 100% allowed to say no to something you are uncomfortable with and I wish I had the strength to then.
She says that she was 19 at the time and had started doing nude "art" modeling a few months prior. Her experiences doing so were "overall great," and she was "never touched or made to feel like I had to do something out of my comfort zone." With Terry Richardson, though, things were quite different.
When she arrived at his studio, Richardson and his female assistant were casual and friendly. She signed some vague release forms and the shoot began; as it progressed, she alleges, Richardson's behavior grew increasingly inappropriate, then invasive, then completely fucked up — veering into the realm of sexual assault:
"I stood there and he started taking pics, assistant off to the side. Then he came up and took pictures POV style with his hand on my face. Then he put his thumb in my mouth, I actually thought this was funny in the moment and he and his assistant were very upbeat and just light heartedly directing me. Then he stepped back at some point and had me start removing my clothes (I knew I would be getting nude, so this was not weird to me). I remember he had me take stuff off in stages, he complimented a lot, his assistant too. Definitely the usual trying to make the barely legal model feel special kind of thing looking back. I honestly do not remember if the sexual stuff started by the wall or when he moved me to the couch area but at some point I was being directed to do things like hold the top of his pants while he took more POV style pictures, then eventually unbutton his pants and then his penis was out. Meanwhile it felt like it was all just happening and there was no time to step back and be like "woah this is out of hand". I dont think anyone who knows me would describe me as a particularly aggressive person (and definitely wasn't at 19) and the only way I can describe how I felt was nervous and paralyzed. At some point the assistant started taking pictures too with a crappy point and shoot camera. He had me posing on the couch and then I had my back to him and just literally felt him start licking my ass, like every part of it, and the assistant was taking pictures the whole time. Things were now completely pornographic and never once initiated by me. He was now on the couch with me and it became sexual act after sexual act, aggressive kissing, random sexual things being done to me and being directed to do everything you can think of back, everything slow so his assistant could photograph. He even directed me to squeeze his balls as hard as I could so that they pushed back up into his body. I did not even know that was possible (At least I learned something about the male anatomy that night?). I was completely a sex puppet at this point. It ended with him jacking off on to my face and he told me to keep my eyes open really wide and his assistant stood over me and it got in my eye and they both began taking pics of it for a what felt like 10 minutes but was probably only 30 seconds..."
She says that after the shoot she was "visibly in shock" and "quiet"; Richardson then asked if she had a boyfriend. When she said yes, he began "overly sweetly apologizing":
"[H]e said oh I always mean to ask that first I'm so sorry. This was the part that actually bothered me the most because A. I think what had just happened was hitting me and B. it felt so fake and planned and like a slap in the face.
This part of the story is particularly infuriating because it indicates that Richardson is aware that the power dynamic between him — the well-connected, successful, famous photographer — and a 19-year-old model is skewed in such a way that it's easy to coerce an unwilling young woman into acting as a "sex puppet." This is only bolstered by the behavior of his assistant, whom the Reddit user says paid for her cab and "rode halfway with me and sort of comforted me I guess?" The assistant also gave the model "weird advice on how everything we did was ok and how I am clearly a strong girl but i wasn't even asking for advice.""
Consent isn't the absence of a forceful no: it's the presence of a yes. And, as is the case in so many of the allegations we've heard about Richardson, there was never a "yes" here — it's already become painfully evident that Richardson is a manipulative predator who's well aware of what he's doing. In the comments, when asked why she didn't leave the second he took his penis out, the poster put it thusly:
"I dont know [why I didn't leave]! I think it was fear and a an automatic disconnect happened inside my head or something. It felt like it happened so quickly. Their attitudes were so upbeat and like everything was just you know silly or cool or whatever that the blend from weird to crossing the line was somehow blurred as it happened."
Why is anyone still working with him?
Side-eyeing every celebrity who casually hangs out with him (Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong'o recently, etc.) and the powerful ones who still work with him (Lady Gaga etc.). SMH.