Dear Straight People,
They say a picture paints a thousand words. But you would never be able to guess the story that this photograph hides.
For far too long, stories like these have only been shared through gossip within tight circles. Very rarely, if at all, do you hear of victims coming forward to tell their story. I now know why. For me, it was partly due to shame. Part of it was due to self-doubt. I didn’t dare to speak up because I thought no one would believe me and I was afraid of how people might react.
It took me almost a year to come to terms with my experience, and I realised my story is one that needed to be told. It is about time someone called out these assholes for the sad, sleazy perverts that they really are. This is my story of how I was sexually assaulted by a photographer during a ‘photoshoot’.
Last January, I was invited to the photographer’s apartment for a photoshoot. This was arranged through Facebook and WhatsApp.
The shoot started off innocently enough. I was told to don a tight fitting Superman t-shirt. He behaved professionally at this point, directing me on how I should pose. After the outdoor take at his balcony, we moved indoors for the rest of the session. It was then that things started getting inappropriate.
After a few topless shots inside, I was told to remove my underwear. I was startled by the instruction and hesitated as he did not mention that there would be nudity before. He repeated himself and beckoned me to hurry up. Being my first experience, I naïvely complied with his commands. Later when he took the liberty to apply oil on my body without my permission, I voiced out clearly that I felt very uncomfortable. But he brushed it off and tried to reassure me that it was all very ‘normal’.
Over the course of the session, he behaved very unprofessionally. He made suggestive remarks, such as commenting on how ‘nice and big’ my chest was while oiling my pecs. He also made plenty of inappropriate physical contact, which included caressing my muscles, hugging me, kissing my shoulder, tickling my nipples, brushing against and ultimately even stroking my penis.
It occurred in small incremental amounts, just enough at the start to make it seem like harmless insignificant “accidents” that could be dismissed, and he got bolder as time went by. His actions were also always very brief and quick, so I never had much time to react. The most I could do was pull away. Sometimes I froze. He would also quickly recover by moving on to doing something else and behaving as though nothing had happened.
I mentioned at least 4 times during the shoot that I felt uncomfortable but each time he would reassure me, even sharing about his experiences with other clients in a bid to normalise the situation. I felt immensely uncomfortable and at a loss as I wanted to stop but at the same time, I did not want to ruin the vibe or abort the session. I had come all this way; I did not want to quit prematurely and leave empty-handed. I did not want to feel used and not get anything out of it. The power-differential in the room was too great for me to handle and subservience seemed to be the easiest option. In retrospect, it was a very silly train of thought, but that was my state of mind at that point in time.
In shock and disbelief, I was so focussed on controlling my embarrassment and uneasiness that I did not realise what was happening to me. There I was, standing in a cold air-conditioned room, buck naked in front of someone I had just met, with multiple bright lights blaring at me. I wasn’t even given a towel or robe to use in between poses. I kept telling myself to bear with it and that everything would be ok. It would all be over soon enough. I left that day feeling extremely violated, small and helpless.
After the photoshoot, I blamed myself for what happened, telling myself it was my own fault for not doing anything when I should have intervened at the time. I was too ashamed to tell anyone about it, even my partner. It began to affect my mood and he noticed how withdrawn I became. It was only after hours of coaxing that I plucked up enough courage to tell him. Later, I asked around and confided with a few friends (who happen to be mutual friends with the photographer as well) but they didn’t believe me and even dismissed me for being dramatic, further reinforcing my self-blame.
It was only when I posted a cryptic Facebook status update which read ‘WTF just happened?’ that same evening that a bodybuilder mate of mine suggested I confront the photographer about it. So I did. He became profusely apologetic, readily admitting to his actions saying that he thought I “was cool with it” (WTF??). He also asked me what I wanted him to do about it and also not to tell anyone about the incident. I made him provide me a written confidentiality statement.
Seeing how apologetic he was, I initially wanted to just let the matter go. But the more I thought about it, the more things didn’t add up. During the shoot, when I asked if there was going to be any visible frontal nudity in the final product, he said that the sensitive parts would be cropped out. Later on WhatsApp, he also advised that “most of the shots were up to the waist only”. Why then, did I have to be fully nude in the first place? Why did he still oil up my thighs, crotch and dick? It didn’t make sense. My subconscious was refusing to let up. I experienced flashbacks and nightmares about the incident from time to time. I realised I was only being foolish by keeping quiet about it. On the contrary, I needed to tell EVERYONE what happened! They should be made aware. I’m certain I’m not his only victim and predators like him need to be stopped.
Regardless of your take on this matter, I hope that my story will inspire others who have been in similar situations to come forward with their experiences. Collectively, our accounts will make every sleazy photographer out there think twice before they attempt anything unprofessional with their models. People need to know exactly the kind of sleazy perverts these opportunistic photographers actually are.
Written by Jared J: @DrJaredJ