In a new article for The Atlantic, Brit Marling talks about her own hotel-room confrontation with Harvey Weinstein, the “economics of consent,” and the sexual politics that startled her when she first arrived in Hollywood. Marling recounts her beginnings as an aspiring investment banker in New York, saying that she wanted the freedom that came with financial autonomy, but traded job security for a more creatively fulfilling life in movies. Upon arriving in Hollywood, though, she had “a rude awakening” when she realized that “a large portion of the town functioned inside a soft and sometimes literal trafficking or prostitution of young women (a commodity with an endless supply and an endless demand).” Marling remembers going out for parts like “Blonde 4” and “Bikini Babe 2,” which spurred her decision to stop auditioning and and write her own roles, a move she calls “an easy thing to say and a very hard thing to do.”
Marling found success with independent films like Another Earth and Sound of My Voice and The East, which led to her own hotel-room incident with Weinstein. The story is remarkably similar to many that have already come out: the female assistant who leaves once the meeting moves from the hotel lobby to the private room, the offer of a massage, the unwanted touching, the escape that ended with Marling alone, sobbing and feeling ashamed. But Marling says there was one key difference: Her creative and financial independence let her feel comfortable rejecting his advances. She notes that many women in the industry aren’t lucky enough to have that same independence, and she connects their lack of personal power in situations of assault to lack of financial power in the business as a whole:
I’m telling this story because in the heat surrounding these brave admissions, it’s important to think about the economics of consent. Weinstein was a gatekeeper who could give actresses a career that would sustain their lives and the livelihood of their families. He could also give them fame, which is one of few ways for women to gain some semblance of power and voice inside a patriarchal world. They knew it. He knew it. Weinstein could also ensure that these women would never work again if they humiliated him. That’s not just artistic or emotional exile — that’s also economic exile.
Marling closes by saying that to grant consent, a person must possess “a modicum of power to give it” and that the conversation around consent should be linked to wage parity for disempowered demographics like women, people of color, and queer communities.