Just a few days ago, 38 women came forward and accused director James Toback of sexual misconduct. 38 is an alarmingly high number.
The number of accusers has now grown to the hundreds.
Among Toback’s accusers are Rachel McAdams and Selma Blair, who are bravely sharing their harrowing stories.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, more and more people in Hollywood are sharing their #MeToo stories and feeling brave enough to speak up, and shatter the culture of silence.
One of the men accused of perpetrating a pattern of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry is an Oscar-nominated director.
According to the initial allegations, James Toback uses similar tactics on different women.
He allegedly approaches young women if they aren’t sent to him and promises to boost their careers, citing what he did for Robert Downey Jr.
Once alone in a place like a hotel room, he reportedly becomes inappropriate, all under the guise of it just being part of the entertainment business.
He would reportedly try things like humping women’s legs, masturbating in front of them, and ask them unacceptable questions.
(In particular, based upon the accusations, he seems obsessed with talking about masturbation and fixated on women’s pubic hair)
The issue, of course, is that none of this was consensual.
These aren’t accusations of weird dates, these are accusations that he used the false pretense of work-related meetings to lure women to him, where he would then ambush them and coerce them — successfully or not — into playing their role in his twisted fantasies.
All of that is enough to turn your stomach, but there’s more.
As we said, hundreds of women have now reached out to say that they had experiences like those described with James Tomack.
And two big-name actresses, Rachel McAdams and Selma Blair, are sharing their stories with Vanity Fair.
Selma Blair says that she met with him to discuss Harvard Man, at a time when Selma Blair had filmed her famous role in Cruel Intentions but the film had not yet been released.
After Toback apparently refused to leave his hotel room to meet her in the restaurant, Selma went up to meet him. She describes how uncomfortable she became.
“He said, ‘Where are your parents?’ I was thinking, ‘Why is he trying to make me feel so uncomfortable?’ But I realize now he was really trying to figure out what support system I had. I answered him. My mother was in Michigan, and I had an estranged relationship with my father.”
Meaning no family support network in town to speak of.
“James said, ‘You know, I could have him killed.’ He sat back in his chair and said really confidently, ‘I do it all the time. I know people.'”
That’s scary … and it will come up again.
“It was about 40 minutes in and he said, ‘Will you trust me? I cannot continue to work with you unless you trust me.’ He said, ‘I need you to take your clothes off. I need you to do this monologue naked.'”
As ridiculous as that sounds, Selma was thoroughly intimidated at this point and ended up caving to his request. She says that then, of course, he started rubbing himself through his clothes … and asking if she would have sex with him.
She declined, but he didn’t seem impressed by her refusal.
“I felt trapped. I did not know how to get out and save face and not make a scene. Was I imagining it? He dropped some names [of actresses] that he did some really dark sexual things with.”
And there was an implied threat in that.
“These felt like lies and dark gossip and that he would add my name to the list. I went to leave and he got up and blocked the door. He said, ‘You have to do this for me. You cannot leave until I have release.'”
“He said, ‘It’s O.K. I can come in my pants. I have to rub up against your leg. You have to pinch my nipples. And you have to look into my eyes.’ I thought, ‘Well, if I can get out of here without being raped …'”
No one should ever be put into this position.
“He walked me back to the bed. He sat me down. He got on his knees. And he continued to press so hard against my leg. He was greasy and I had to look into those big brown eyes.”
“I tried to look away, but he would hold my face. So I was forced to look into his eyes. And I felt disgust and shame, and like nobody would ever think of me as being clean again after being this close to the devil. His energy was so sinister.”
After that, Selma says, he reminded her that he could supposedly have people killed, and admonished her to keep quiet.
That didn’t stop Selma from telling her manager that Toback was “vile,” and warning her to note send any women to him again. But she didn’t tell the whole story, she says, to anyone except for two people.
Rachel McAdams also shared her horror story in Vanity Fair.
She was a 21-year-old theater student at the time, and she was also auditioning for Harvard Man.
At the time, Rachel McAdams had her first TV job to film early the next day, but she eventually agreed to meet him that night. It could, after all, end up being her big break.
(Remember, this is before Mean Girls or The Notebook)
“Pretty quickly the conversation turned quite sexual and he said, ‘You know, I just have to tell you. I have masturbated countless times today thinking about you since we met at your audition.'”
That … is not appropriate in a workplace environment. And yes, an audition or anything audition-related is very much a workplace environment.
Also … gross, dude.
Rachel says that he then had her read to him a number of seemingly unrelated passages — like reviews about his work.
(There’s no telling if he wanted to make sure that she was impressed, or if he … ugh, gets off on that)
“Then he went to the bathroom and left me with some literature to read about him. When he came back he said, ‘I just jerked off in the bathroom thinking about you. Will you show me your pubic hair?’ I said no.”
It sounds like, for whatever reason, Toback was less aggressive with her than he is accused of having been with Selma Blair.
“Eventually, I just excused myself. I can’t remember how long I was there. I felt like I was there forever. This has been such a source of shame for me — that I didn’t have the wherewithal to get up and leave.”
Countless other women didn’t. Few would, in that situation. Society trains us to be polite, innate survival instincts tell us to play along, and the man’s very real power to boost careers added even more complications.
“I kept thinking, ‘This is going to become normal any minute now. This is going to all make sense. This is all above board somehow.’ Eventually I just realized that it wasn’t.”
And Rachel acknowledges how fortunate she was.
“I was very lucky that I left and he didn’t actually physically assault me in any way.”
Even so, no one should have to endure that.
With hundreds of accusers having come forward, there’s no telling how many are keeping silent.
After all, reading a story or a woman who got away or said “no” enough times might actually be discouraging to a woman who did not, rather than liberating.
But it’s so important that women — and men — who have faced this kind of unacceptable sexual harassment and sexual assault continue to come forward so that predators can be dragged out into the light of day.
There can be healthy relationships between people who work in the entertainment, whether they’re casual or romantic. They might even be for personal gain.
They must always be truly consensual, however. Making someone feel cornered or trapped or afraid is a monstrous tactic.
If someone fears for their safety or their career if they say “no,” then it’s not consent.
And, basically, no one should ever do any of the thing that James Toback is accused of having done. Please.