You have heard of women who sleep their way to the top. But there is also the other side of the story; of men in position who demand sexual favours from their juniors. Evelyn Makena explores this harassment in Kenya’s entertainment circles
Over the past one month, there has been a growing list of Hollywood actresses and female employees that have come out with sexual assault claims against their bosses. And this is not unique to Hollywood as the vice also bedevils Kenya’s entertainment circles.
Early this month, Harvey Weinsten, a powerful American film producer was accused of an avalanche of sexual misconducts by over 50 women. Then, came James Tobback, Hollywood director and writer, who has so far been accused by 39 women of sexual assault.
#Metoo trended globally for days as more women around the world narrated their sexual abuse experiences in the hands of powerful individuals. Our very own Lupita Nyong’o has also come out to give her account of sexual assault by Harvey.
The ongoing discussions have effectively broken a culture of silence around issues of sexual assault that have been, especially in the international entertainment industry; issues that bedevil our own local entertainment industry as well.
Even though such issues are rarely discussed, women in Kenyans music scene bear the brunt of sexual predators too. Berly Owano, an upcoming artiste known for Mafisi and Namtafuta tracks, admits that the behaviour is also common in the music industry.
Individuals in positions of influence such as producers, deejays, media hosts demand for sexual favours promising to help artistes grow in their career. “Sometime back, the issue of sexual assault in the music industry was widely talked about.
Nowadays, no one talks about it, yet it is going on,” says Beryl. Bosses preying on upcoming artistes lure them into their traps by pretending to want a genuine relationship with them.
There are some artistes that have fallen to the trap by their bosses whose real intentions are to use them and dump them. Many people mistakenly believe that sexual harassment is primarily about sex.
But sexual harassment is about power and control; sex is only the vehicle for an assailant to exert and exercise power and control over a victim. Men in positions of power place hurdles to genuinely talented artistes with an aim of frustrating them. Beryl says this trick has worked to slow down the growth and progress of some female artistes.
Their positions give them the impression that they can arm-twist their subordinates and get away with it. Which unfortunately is the case. “Eventually, however, if you are genuinely talented, someone will spot you and you will get a breakthrough,” says Beryl.
This culture of sexual assault has contributed to destroying the careers of female musicians who had potential both in secular and gospel industry. “Some become pregnant and others are frustrated. It’s the reason you hear of a promising female musician today and tomorrow they are no more,” says Beryl. This trend is not only limited to the music scene, but also the acting industry as well.
The behaviour, which has earned the name couch casting refers to an actress giving a boss sexual favours in return for an acting role. According to Papa Shirandula, actress Jackie Vike popularly known as Awinja, bosses target women actors who are new in the industry promising a bright future for them.
Those who lack talent, but desperately want to get into acting, are easy targets for these men. Awinja points that there is need for one to be confident in one’s talent and not be lured into quick fixes as things eventually work out for those who work hard.
She, however, points out that sexual assault in the acting industry has waned off in the recent times. For upcoming women trying to navigate the entertainment industry, Beryl advises women to stick to their principles.
Have a good management team that has your best interest. It’s also important for women who are in these positions of power to support their fellow women,” she says. Women also ought to come out and shame the sexual predators instead of staying quiet as it further promotes the behaviour.