[Warning: This article contains discussion of sexual abuse.]
In the past few months, Hollywood has seen an uprising in the voices of sexual assault victims who have fallen prey to its most powerful men. Among the latest of the women coming forth is J. K. Stein, who has released a memoir anonymously detailing her experience with a man only named as The Director.
Stein’s book, now available on Amazon, is a compilation of a series of journal entries detailing the duration of an abusive and manipulative relationship with a powerful Hollywood director. The entries are written in a narrative style: one that is largely unedited and rough in places, but rich with the details which only someone in the immediate aftermath of an event could remember.
The style makes it simple enough for one to follow along with the story. Towards the end, Stein’s entries become less and less frequent as she details moving to a different city and going through the tribulations of ending a second abusive relationship. In the end, she has written a reflection on the events, which spanned multiple years of her life.
The Director is the center of the story, and his character, as revealed through the eyes of his victim, is a predator. Stein speaks of having been led on and promised a role in one of The Director’s upcoming films. As readers, we watch as Stein, a hopeful graduate student in her early 20s, is preyed upon and forced to perform sexual acts to “prove” that she will be a suitable star for his film.
The reader gains a scarily intimate insight into the megalomaniacal mind of the power-drunk Director, a man who is so centered on himself and his own desires—sexual and otherwise—that he has become a monster. One of the most disturbing scenes in the novel is the first meeting between Stein and The Director, wherein he quickly turns the conversation to the sexual and taboo.
She squirms internally; she is wildly uncomfortable. But, at The Director’s high-end dinner club, in the midst of symbols of his power, she feels that she is in no position to contradict him or express discomfort. In Stein’s own words, it is “what ensues when a 22-year-old woman with low self-esteem is approached by a man in a position of power, wealth and an over-inflated ego.”
Throughout her journal entries, Stein grapples with questions of consent. Deeply uncomfortable with the Director’s requests, she continues to comply out of fear and a desire for his power. She writes in her foreword, “consent is more complicated than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” This is a major theme of her experience with The Director.
Despite being massively uncomfortable and disgusted with the man’s requests, she obeyed and indulged him. Some people might argue that this consent means that a woman has no right to raise objections against a man. But, by reading “The Director,” it becomes obvious that this is not the case. The power and control the man exuded constituted a threat—one wherein a woman can never be safe, where people say “yes” because it feels like the only safe answer.
The Director’s psychological manipulation is a chilling opportunity to view the sick, twisted minds that have ruled so many sectors—most notably the entertainment industry—for the past several decades. Throughout the journal entries, he is shown screaming at service workers and into his phone, regaling terrible tales of other people he’s abused and making gross statements that convey a complete lack of empathy. American media has been ruled by men like him. It raises the question of how the industry will change in coming years, now that people are speaking up and networks are taking allegations seriously.
If we see the face of Hollywood change in the coming years, it is due in great part to the bravery of women like J.K. Stein. By speaking up and telling her story, she has offered a chilling glimpse into the inner workings of those corrupt people whose power has gone unchecked for too long.