Warning: this article contains descriptions relating to an alleged sexual assault that some readers may find upsetting
Model and actress Emily Ratajkowski has bravely spoken out about being exploited as a young model, alleging that photographer Jonathan Leder sexually assaulted her following an uncomfortable naked photoshoot. She says the shoot happened in 2012, when she was 20-years-old, and that Leder supplied her with red wine while she was underage. He has firmly denied all the accusations.
Detailing how she feels she's lost power over her own image, Ratajkowski wrote a brilliant (and anger-inducing) essay for The Cut shedding light on everything from how a paparazzo tried to sue her after she reposted an image he'd taken of her in the street, to male artists profiting from photos of her.
She also describes the shoot that took place at Leder's home, which years down the line he repurposed into not one, but three books (none of which Ratajkowski says she received any money for).
In her piece, she writes that at first she wanted to impress the older and more established photographer: "He offered me a glass of red wine, which, in my nervousness and desire to seem older and wiser than I was, I accepted and drank quickly... I continued to riffle through the Polaroids. Something switched inside me then. As I looked at the images, I grew competitive. 'This guy shoots all these women, but I’m going to show him that I’m the sexiest and smartest of them all. That I am special.' I chewed on my lower lip as I handed the neat stack of Polaroids back to Jonathan."
Ratajkowski then describes how the shoot progressed and Leder asked to photograph her nude. She claims he made disparaging remarks about how she looked, including commenting on the size of her nipples. Later, following the shoot, she says the pair were sat on the sofa when she began absentmindedly rubbing her feet "against one another and against his for warmth". What followed that moment, Ratajkowski describes as a 'blur': "Most of what came next was a blur except for the feeling. I don’t remember kissing, but I do remember his fingers suddenly being inside of me. Harder and harder and pushing and pushing like no one had touched me before or has touched me since.
"I could feel the shape of myself and my ridges, and it really, really hurt. I brought my hand instinctively to his wrist and pulled his fingers out of me with force. I didn’t say a word. He stood up abruptly and scurried silently into the darkness up the stairs."
The essay included a response from Leder too, which included words that sounded like slut shaming. "The fact-checker I worked with on this story reached out to Jonathan about what happened that night after the shoot, he said my allegations were 'too tawdry and childish to respond to'," writes Ratajkowski. "He added: 'You do know who we are talking about right? This is the girl that was naked in Treats! magazine, and bounced around naked in the Robin Thicke video at that time. You really want someone to believe she was a victim?'"
Honestly, to this response we have no words – how have we managed to reach the year 2020 and there are still people who can't wrap their heads around the fact that what a woman wears, says or does for work should have no impact on how she's treated by others?
Since then, Leder has issued a further firm denial of the accusations. "We are all deeply disturbed to read Ms. Ratajkowski’s latest (false) statements to NY Mag in her never-ending search for press and publicity," a rep told Page Six. "Of course Mr. Leder totally denies her outrageous allegations of being ‘assaulted.’ It is grotesque and sad that she is so vindictive to lie in such a way to the press routinely."
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