We at the Quad are not Terry Richardson’s biggest fans. He’s a creepy, threatening figure on the scene who has been accused multiple times of sexually assaulting his photographic subjects; and yet, not only has he never been brought up on charges, he continues to land massive clients with the full support of much of the fashion industry. This week, model Charlotte Free, a frequent subject of Uncle Terry’s unimaginative, directly-lit images, posted on her Tumblr in response to queries about the accusations leveled against Richardson. The results (since deleted), were . . . well, perhaps it’s best to let it speak for itself:
“i love terry’s raw sexuality, it’s one of the things i really admire about him. Terry likes to do sexy stuff, that’s his shit. If you don’t wanna be part of it, make it clear in the beginning. Don’t willingly blow the man and get all mad and ashamed later…I hate when girls say ‘but he asked me to.’ you should have said no then, stupid bitch! there’s plenty of other girls waiting in line, so he’s not forcing you to do shit. When you make a choice you have to live with it — unless someone got you fucked up against your will. Thats how I feel about it.”
There are so many things wrong here. Free’s statement indicates an industry-wide culture of victim-shaming and abuse of power that’s often distorted through a lens of fame and glamour. It’s a strange and extremely screwed up industry where sexual assault on the job is all too common, and entirely too easily accepted. In what other professional industry would implied as compulsory fellatio to one’s superior ever be accepted as part of the job? In what world is it acceptable to call a survivor of a sexual assault a “stupid bitch” for not putting a stop to a confusing and horrifying situation? Furthermore, in what world does a line of purportedly willing partners mean that everyone implicitly has given consent? Victim-shaming will never be okay, and in an industry where models have no unions and no professional protection of any kind, it’s especially egregious to put the blame on those taken advantage of.
Free has since deleted her post, apologizing for the offensive comment, but her amendment doesn’t reflect any change in attitude:
“I don’t even believe the accusations against Terry…And if they are true, I still stand by what I said. I shouldn’t have used such offensive language…I’m sick of people making stuff up about him, and even if it was true, I still have Terry’s back no matter what.”
Free also deleted this comment shortly after publishing it.
It’s true that Richardson has never been brought up on criminal charges, but the very worst thing to do when a survivor opens up about an assault is to doubt it. By qualifying sexual assault in this way, rape culture is only perpetuated and further distorted. And in the fashion industry, where professional lines are often blurred and sexualized, it’s all the more urgent that the issue of sexual assault be addressed. Of course, the issue runs far deeper and wider than just Richardson, but comments like Free’s represent a continuing harmful culture even in a time of rapid advancement for women’s rights. We can’t, we won’t, and we will never get behind it.