The story is, sadly, a common one. A powerful man in the entertainment industry, a younger performer, an allegation of sexual misconduct.
In this case, however, the performer — the one who retreated from Hollywood after the incident, and who worried about being blacklisted — was not Rose McGowan or Asia Argento or Salma Hayek, but Brendan Fraser.
In a GQ profile published on Thursday, Fraser joins actors like Terry Crews and Anthony Edwards in the relatively small group of men in Hollywood who have publicly reported sexual harassment and assault. His story is another reminder that while women are more likely to experience harassment and assault, at least according to a recent survey, sexual misconduct against men is still distressingly widespread. It’s also a reminder that the experience can be life-altering for survivors, regardless of their gender.
Fraser says an experience of sexual misconduct made him depressed and reclusive
In the ’90s and early 2000s, Fraser was a leading man known for his good looks, his willingness to do stunts, and “a kind of solid decency and equanimity” that underpinned his performances, Zach Baron notes at GQ. Nowadays, he’s a character actor who, despite roles on Showtime’s The Affair and the upcoming FX series Trust, is nowhere near as well-known as he once was. Many factors contributed to that shift, but one, he tells Baron, is an encounter he had in 2003.
That summer, he ran into Philip Berk, then a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hosts the Golden Globes. (Berk would later serve as president of the organization again.) Fraser was on his way out of an HFPA luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Berk reached out to shake his hand, Fraser says, and then groped him: “His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint,” Fraser tells Baron. “And he starts moving it around.”
Berk says the touch was a joke and tells Baron that “Mr. Fraser’s version is a total fabrication.” But Fraser says that afterward, he became depressed: “I was blaming myself and I was miserable—because I was saying, ‘This is nothing; this guy reached around and he copped a feel.’”
In the wake of the experience, his team asked the HFPA for a written apology, which Berk provided. (“My apology admitted no wrongdoing,” he says.) Fraser began to worry that the HFPA had blacklisted him — he says he was rarely invited to the Globes after 2003. Ultimately, he says, the experience “made me retreat. It made me feel reclusive.”
The HFPA now says it is investigating Fraser’s report. “The HFPA stands firmly against sexual harassment and the type of behavior described in this article,” the association told Us Weekly in a statement on Thursday. “This report includes alleged information that the HFPA was previously unaware of and at this time we are investigating further details surrounding the incident.”
What Fraser says he went through is common for men
While many of the most high-profile Hollywood stars to report sexual harassment or assault have been female, the experiences are common for men too, according to a survey released Wednesday by the group Stop Street Harassment. Forty-three percent of men surveyed said they’d experienced sexual harassment or assault, compared with 81 percent of women. Twenty-six percent of men reported experiencing some form of physical sexual harassment, 17 percent said they’d experienced unwanted sexual touching, and 7 percent said they’d been sexually assaulted.
Terry Crews of Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine became one of the first men to speak up about sexual misconduct in Hollywood in the wake of allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein. In October, he tweeted that he had been groped by a Hollywood executive at a party. He later identified the man as Adam Venit, an agent at William Morris Endeavor.
“I have never felt more emasculated, more objectified,” Crews told Good Morning America in November. “I wake up every morning wondering, ‘Did this really happen?’” He added that if he’d fought back physically, as a black man, he’d “immediately be seen as a thug.”
Since Crews’s statements, actors Anthony Edwards and Anthony Rapp and former actor Blaise Godbe Lipman, among others, have come forward to report sexual misconduct by men in Hollywood. Their words, and Fraser’s, drive home the fact that sexual harassment and assault are disturbingly common experiences for men, as well as for women, and can have severe effects.
According to the Stop Street Harassment survey, 20 percent of men went through anxiety or depression after experiencing sexual misconduct. Male survivors may feel emasculated by their experiences, as Crews did. Like survivors of any gender, they may blame themselves. And they may be afraid to speak up.
“Am I still frightened? Absolutely. Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely,” Fraser told Baron.
“Maybe I am over-reacting in terms of what the instance was,” he continued. “I just know what my truth is. And it’s what I just spoke to you.”