Yesterday, both Ed Sheeran and Tom Jones talked openly about the abuse of power, and sexual harassment within the music industry. It’s something I’ve seen first hand. Unfortunately, more than once.
When I was 18, I’d been on a team night out with some friends who all worked at stations in the North of England. I’d spent a small amount of time talking to a senior radio producer about my hopes and dreams. He then said a few people were heading back to a radio station to carry on the party. Would I like to go? My overly ambitious ego, out of control, and hungry for approval, told me to go and carry on the night. When we got to the building, the man in question turned to me with a snarl and told me to “get my cock out”. He was very intimidating, but also someone I saw as a gatekeeper at that point in my life. The seedy, drunk, pathetic, weasel repeated himself.
“Go on get your cock out.”
He nodded at my crotch.
I was shocked, scared and speechless. We were alone, in an unfamiliar setting. From nowhere, some force within me managed to break my silence.
“Fuck. Off.” Were the only two words I could gather.
As I pushed by him and made for the door, I looked back. He was clearly angry. But his face was also filled with disbelief. I’m not sure what happened to him.
A year later, a senior male record company exec, acted in a disturbing way in a hotel toilet after an industry event. He was nastier and vile. However I can’t recall the exact wording he used, and I don’t want to invent anything that clouds the truth. I, however, remember exactly what i said.
“I’M NOT EVEN GAY!”
It seems strange that I would say that. I mean, i’m not gay, but the subtext would appear to me that on some level, it would have been more acceptable if I was. That in both cases, if i was a man who liked other men, it would have been ok for someone to instruct me to remove my penis from jeans. BONKERS.
There’s no doubt the power game was clearly in play in each of those uncomfortable moments. Neither of them ever said, “Show me your cock and you can have the breakfast show.” Or “Get your dick out and I’ll make sure X does an interview next time she’s here.” But there is an implication, in their words and actions, that you should go along with them – if you want them on your side.
Was there anything to report in these cases? Maybe. I didn’t of course. Like many of the accounts we’ve heard over the past few weeks, it often feels like par for the course. However, I believe the strength of people sharing these stories makes for safer working environments. It will also, hopefully, act as a vehicle for the perpetrator’s education that this behaviour is unacceptable, and will no longer be tolerated by anyone. Anywhere. Male or female.