The torrent called Pervnado continues with Bruce Weber and Mario Testino accused of sexual harassment by male models. This ought to surprise no one. Weber and Testino sell high-end titillation and are very good at it. Their sets stink of sex and ambition and hysteria, and like everyone else in that industry, they follow the custom of droit-de-seigneur. Both of them were brought to prominence by Anna Wintour, easily the wickedest woman in fashion, of the past 100 years and that is encompassing a universe of wickedness. Wintour single-handedly created the ultra-high-end hooker look adopted by every woman who swims in the fetid sea that is Society in London, Paris, New York, and LA. She put them on heels that will destroy the mobility of their last 20 years and bullied them into starving themselves into exhausted drooping Christmas trees teetering around the gilded streets of our world, hollow-cheeked and weak as kittens. Yay Feminism, says Wintour today, putting the terrifying Serena Williams on the cover. #Metoo #TimesUp cry the Voguettes. Too late ladies. You wrought it, you own it. Have you looked at Sarah Jessica Parker lately? It is a terrifying and instructive sight. Exhausted, hopeless, near death are adjectives that spring to mind. Such is the bitter end of Sex and the City. Those much-photographed parties are filled with hungry ghosts, cadaverous beings who have glutted every sense and snacked on the powerless as if they were Pringles. They are, as the matrons of my home neighborhood would say, dreadful people.
I spent about 20 years in that world, diving and dodging while scrabbling up the ladder, learning to write. At the beginning, I was married, which shielded me somewhat (though not from antiques-even-at the-time Warren Beatty, Arthur Penn and a Broadway producer called David Black). When on staff at Time Inc., my bosses were in New York, so no one could bend me over the desk like Charlie Rose or Mark Halperin are said to have done. I learned fast. I was published by women at Bloomsbury and Knopf. When I freelanced, I wrote for publications in another city, and finally (bless the internet) I spent my last 8 years as an ink-stained wretch filing from a literal mountaintop.
The closer I got to power, the more I became aware of droit de seigneur. The men elevated to run edit shops or news bureaus believed it was a) the way things had always been done b) they deserved it c) men were men and no one could change that and d) they could get away with it. Look at the English aristocracy. That’s how they had behaved for centuries. As did the French. It was their reward and they would take it. If you were a woman in that world, you might as well choose someone, because then at least, you’d have a protector. If you refused, the pursuit grew more fervid, more importunate. If you refused in the wrong way they tried to get you fired. Several times. Hello, mega-famous photographer, Harry Benson. Oh wait, Warren Beatty tried to get me fired too. No one was allowed to refuse the great cocksmen of the 80’s. The higher they climbed, the more they took it for granted, the most dissolute, devious, and disgusting they became. I was aware of few exceptions. Rock was easier. When I shook my head at Billy Idol or the guy from ACDC, lizard eyes just flickered. Here’s the thing about sex unmoored to spirit or love, you need more and more stimulation until the point where you regress to glutted lizard, going through the motions, thrilled only by coercion and violence.
I was stalked for about ten years by a senior journalist from London to New York to Bermuda to Paris to where I live now, a man who brought me to frustrated tears so many times I stopped counting, and who eventually turned me into a haunted, hunted, broken-hearted shell of a woman. I did emerge stronger and better and wiser eventually when he turned his attention back to his family, who had essentially moved on, which was pretty much what he deserved. Hey, life is not easy for anyone. I taught myself to be tough and I grew as tough as I knew how to be. I shrugged it off. I gave thanks for the training. I took what good I could from it and I moved on.
This state of affairs stains all the glittery professions which attract the young, every profession that promises great rewards and rarely delivers. One hundred years ago, we didn’t send our kids out to be raped and shamed and aggressed, because everyone knew how corrupt and dangerous it was. Only the desperate gave it a shot. Then, came the 60’s, Disney surf movies, the Beatles and Beach Boys and it all looked so innocent and fun.
This is what has become clear: the society that Anna Wintour engineered, with its weak starved women in hock to the men who pay their clothing bills, along with Tina Brown who gave the scene some literary gloss and British class is filled with people who are simply vile.
Three things will happen. First wise kids will stay home and enliven their hometowns with their talent and energy. Or, the delirious professions – first identified by Edmund White as literature, the arts, film and so on – will endure a cleansing. Or, finally, and more likely we will bleed and leach into a culture more corrupt than Rome, than Babylon, than the Paris of the last Louis’, than King’s Landing.
We will become hell.