Earlier this month, a sexual harassment allegation story was pre-empted when Michael Douglas publicly denied masturbating in front of a woman who was once in his employ.
He made a very convincing statement, but … since he spoke out before the accusations were even published, we only got to hear his version of events and of the woman’s story itself.
Now, the woman’s allegations have been published.
The Hollywood Reporter has come out with an account of accusations against Michael Douglas by Susan Braudy. They first summarize her situation.
“In the late ’80s, when Braudy was in her 40s, she was hired to run the New York office of Stonebridge Productions, the production company launched by actor and producer Michael Douglas, then one of the biggest and most powerful stars in Hollywood.”
She apparently kept detailed records at the time, including evidence of her employment and evidence that she once sought — but ultimately did not pursue — a remedy for the sexual harassment that she claims that she experienced.
“She claimed she was subjected to sexual harassment by Douglas that included near-constant profane and sexually charged dialogue, demeaning comments about her appearance, graphic discussions regarding his mistresses and more.”
In addition to written records, Braudy was able to put The Hollywood Reporter in touch with multiple people who could confirm that she’s been describing these events for decades, including at least one well-known journalist and author.
“The most traumatizing experience, she said, took place during a one-on-one script meeting in his apartment, during which Douglas masturbated in her presence, prompting her to run home crying.”
But let’s hear her words.
In Susan Braudy’s own writing, she describes her job at the time as being to “read scripts, hire and supervise screenwriters, and perhaps most important, to babysit Michael in his apartment.”
As The Hollywood Reporter notes, the entertainment industry is full of odd jobs where personal lives and professional lives overlap.
At first, she says that she “did my best to shrug off the cloud of sexual aggression that Michael reflexively emitted.”
“I knew something was off but had no name for it,” she says in her writings. “I’d never heard there was a phenomenon called sexual harassment and didn’t know the term until the Anita Hill hearings in 1991.”
And she has an anecdote that both harmless and sure to turn stomachs:
“One screenwriter I hired asked if he could bring his daughter to meet Michael. She asked Michael for a banana. Michael strode to me and said so that only I could hear, ‘Yes. And then you can tell your friends you licked Michael Douglas’ banana.’ I was appalled.”
She claims that Michael Douglas used a crude term for a woman’s genitalia when they first met, and that she eventually took steps to deter him from commenting about her body:
“I began wearing long, loose layers of black. He asked a producer, ‘Why does Susan dress like a pregnant nun?'”
“Another time I laughed loudly and he shouted to a group of agents, ‘Oh yeah, she’s a screamer! I bet she screams in the sack.'”
In no way is that an acceptable way to talk to or about your coworker.
“I protested, ‘Please, don’t talk like that. It’s inappropriate.’ This made him laugh until he got pink splotches on his cheeks.”
That sure sounds inappropriate.
“Michael was usually barefoot, his blue oxford shirt unbuttoned to his navel. I sat across the room on the yellow silk couch taking notes.”
This was in 1989. That outfit itself sounds fine. What she says happened next during this one instance … does not.
“Michael unzipped his chinos and I registered something amiss. Still complimenting my additions to our E.T. imitation, his voice lowered at least half an octave.”
And then. …
“I peered at him and saw he’d inserted both hands into his unzipped pants. I realized to my horror that he was rubbing his private parts. Within seconds his voice cracked and it appeared to me he’d had an orgasm.”
“I said nothing. I was surprised I wasn’t falling to pieces even though I was humiliated. I realized he thought he could do anything he wanted because he was so much more powerful than I was.”
We struggle to think of what a person might say in that situation. That sounds so creepy and gross, especially at what was — though at his house — a work meeting.
“Michael ran barefoot after me to the elevator, zipping his fly and buckling his belt. ‘Hey, thank you, you’re good. You helped me, thank you, thank you.'”
Braudy says that she was soon after asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement and that, after stalling on her lawyer’s advice for six months, she was let go towards the end of 1989.
Michael Douglas has famously strongly denied these allegations of sexual harassment and general creepiness.
We can consider the fact that either Susan Braudy is lying, though it’s hard to conceive of a reason for her to do so. And the idea of someone confiding a lie in 1989 as part of some decades-long scheme to come out with it in 2018 … is truly bizarre.
We can also consider that Michael Douglas is lying, as his motive for doing so would be to preserve his reputation.
But can we talk about another possibility?
It was the ’80s, and Michael Douglas’ career was pretty much at its peak.
Some have openly wondered if Douglas was abusing any substances at the time (which we are not accusing him of) that might have lowered his impulse-control and perhaps also prevented him from remembering or even realizing his actions.
Even without the involvement of illicit substances, it sounds like both Michael Douglas and Susan Braudy could be describing events as they remember them. Susan might have her memory locked in because of trauma, while Michael Douglas might have thought nothing of events.
It’s even possible that one or both of them misinterpreted the other during that time period.
The only thing that we know with absolute certainty is that no one should have to face the kind of workplace harassment that Braudy describes.