TIME Culture

Why Masters of Sex Is the Most Feminist Show on Television

Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson in Masters of Sex
Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson in Masters of Sex Frank W Ockenfels—Showtime

How do you make a show about sex interesting in an era when we’re bombarded by it? Easy. Put three women behind the lens.

Michelle Ashford, Amy Lippman and Sarah Timberman are seated around a conference table ticking off a list of Hollywood sex scenes.

“Basic Instinct.”

“Out of Sight.”

“Remains of the Day.”

“Ohhh, Remains of the Day,” Lippman coos. “That’s a beautiful sex scene.”

It’s all research, of course. As the brains behind the Showtime series, Masters of Sex – which traces the lives of pioneering sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson – the women needed to understand: What makes a sex scene sexy?

(Read this week’s story on the women behind Masters of Sex)

So they each sat down one night, with a series of sex scenes collected on a DVD. One by one, they dissected each carnal moment. “We literally had 50 movies,” says Ashford, the show’s creator and showrunner. “We wanted to find out what actually makes something, honest to God, sexy.”

What they found, naturally, was that it had little to do with the physical act – and everything to do with narrative. And so as the trio – creator and executive producers, respectively – prepared to film the pilot of Masters of Sex, Ashford made a rule: sex on this show couldn’t just be about sex. “We decided that sex had to be completely connected to story,” she tells TIME, in a profile in this week’s magazine. “So it was either funny or humiliating or curious or revelatory or… something.”

Ashford, Lippman and Timberman spoke to TIME about Masters and Johnson, sex on television, and how you keep a show about sex interesting in an era where we’re bombarded by it.

So you guys watched 50 sex scenes. What was the sexiest?

Ashford: We all agreed that Don’t Look Now, the Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie movie, from 1973, was memorably sexy. Michael Sheen (who plays Masters) loved it. We loved it. And our director, John Madden, said, ‘Every love scene I’ve ever directed was influenced by that movie.’ So when we went and watched the film again, we tried to figure out what were we all responding to. We just assumed it must not be trying to be sexy. But that’s actually not true — the sex is very sexy. But what they did was they shot that sex scene and then they intercut it with all these shots of that couple after sex, getting ready to go out for the evening. And so the aftermath of being together is on their faces, what this intimacy has meant to them. And so all of a sudden you get a whole story, because you’re seeing the sex but you’re also seeing the effect of the sex.

Is it rare to get that level of story and sex these days?

Ashford: I think in a lot of shows it’s still as if, OK, we’re going to have a lot of exposition, so we’re going to have two people humping in the background to make it more interesting.

Part of what makes Masters of Sex great is its willingness to treat sex like science.

Ashford: We show a lot of sex, but the discussion of sex is incredibly frank. We use the words vagina and clitoris, like, endlessly, and you really don’t find that on other television shows.

Lippman: I mean, I’m not a prude about this stuff, but [before this show] I don’t think I’d spoken the word dildo publicly … well, ever.

Ashford: And now you say it six times a day.

Lippman: An hour! It’s like, is the masturbation with the dildo, with out the dildo…

You talk about more serious topics too – there’s an episode on vaginismus, a rare sexual disorder, and even male impotence. Those are like the least sexy topics possible in a show about sex.

Ashford: We want this show to feel relatable … We want people out there watching, who don’t have perfect sex lives, who suffer from sexual dysfunction and insecurities and many nights of the worst dates ever, we all want those people to watch and say, ‘Well, that’s me.’

So there’s almost an underlying social mission.

Timberman: The show has really given us license to talk about a lot of these taboos.

How do you make sure you get the science right?

Ashford: One of Masters and Johnson’s claims-to-fame is that they disproved Freud’s theory that vaginal orgasms were superior to clitoral orgasms — which made half in the women in the world think they were “frigid.” But when we actually went to write that part of the script, we realized we didn’t understand the mechanics. So at one point, we had all these diagrams out to try and understand the difference between. It was hilarious, all of us writers gathered around this drawing, going, “Really, that’s how it works?”

It’s still pretty rare to find women running the show in Hollywood. How do you think your gender influences the way this story is told?

Timberman: It’s something that’s come up a lot in talking about the show that we almost forget – that this is a show that’s run by a lot of women. That’s not by design. But, sure, it’s not the male gaze.

Lippman: And female pleasure is well represented. As women writing a show about sex, the expectation might be that we are most interested in telling stories about love and romance, and while that’s a component of the series, it isn’t necessarily our focus.

Timberman: Right. And, you know, in season one, we make a big deal of that line by Masters, where he says that women are ‘greater sexual athletes’ than men, because they have multiple orgasms.

I was watching the preview of the second season, and within the first five minutes we hear Virginia Johnson talk about asking for a raise, the farce of diet pills, dildos, and female competition. You watch something like that and it’s hard to imagine this not being a show produced by women.

Lippman: I think the thing that gives us license is not necessarily being female, but having Virginia Johnson as a character. She was a remarkable woman, very flawed, very complicated, but absolutely a groundbreaker. And her attitude toward sex was truly unusual – even for today. She was able to separate love and sex.

Right. And she’s a working mom.

Lippman: You know, we all have children. We’re working. We’re struggling with things like, ‘When do I get home because my kid’s in an All Star game?’ and ‘I need to take a week off to take my kid back East to go look at colleges.’ So I think there is a lack of judgment on our part about Virginia as a working mother and an appreciation for how hard it must have been, in the late 50s, to balance one’s professional ambitions with having a family.

When I spoke with Lizzy Caplan [who plays Virginia Johnson], she made the point that your portrayal of female friendships is really quite nuanced. Can you speak to that a bit?

Ashford: I think sometimes female friendships tend to be portrayed as either ‘We’re best friends and tell each other everything’ or ‘I did like you but now we want the same man, so I hate you.’ But the truth of female friendships is they are often as complicated as romantic relationships, sibling relationships, mother/daughter relationships — there’s competition between women, and envy, women can be both very judgmental and incredibly selfless in the love and support they offer one another. There are a million emotions under the sun that play out in female friendships, and I think we’re just committed to making the women (and their friendships) that we portray on our show as very specific.

Jessica Bennett is a contributing columnist at TIME.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. A former Newsweek senior writer and executive editor of Tumblr, she is also a contributing editor for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s foundation, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

TIME justice

Virginia Police Issued Search Warrant For Photos of Sexting Teen’s Genitals, Lawyer Says

For evidence in a sexting investigation

Local police have issued a search warrant for explicit photos of a Virginia teenager accused of sexting his former girlfriend, lawyers for the teen said.

The Manassas City Police and Prince William County prosecutor are seeking pictures of the teen’s genitals, lawyer Jessica H. Foster told the Washington Post.

The teen faces two felony charges for manufacturing and distributing child pornography after exchanging sexts with his then-15-year-old girlfriend, whose mother filed the initial complaint with authorities. The case was dismissed in juvenile court in June, because prosecutors neglected to certify the teen’s juvenile status, the Post reports, but new charges were filed by the police.

The teen’s aunt told NBC Washington last week that local officers have already taken photos of her nephew’s genitals, but now want photos of an erection, too, to compare with evidence. The police reportedly told the teen that, if necessary, they would take him to a hospital for an injection that induces an erection.

“The prosecutor’s job is to seek justice,” Foster told the Post. “What is just about this? How does this advance the interest of the Commonwealth?”

If charged, the teen could face incarceration and would be forced to register as a sex offender.

Foster added, “I don’t mind trying the case. My goal is to stop the search warrant. I don’t want him to go through that. Taking him down to the hospital so he can get an erection in front of all those cops, that’s traumatizing.”

Carlos Flores Laboy, the teen’s appointed guardian ad litem told the Post that he found authorities’ desire to create more sexually explicit photos of a teenager, in the name of an investigation into child pornography allegations, both ironic and troubling.

“They’re using a statute that was designed to protect children from being exploited in a sexual manner to take a picture of this young man in a sexually explicit manner, said Flores Laboy. “The irony is incredible.”

He added, “As a parent myself, I was floored. It’s child abuse. We’re wasting thousands of dollars and resources and man hours on a sexting case. That’s what we’re doing.”

Calls to the Manassas City Police Department and the Prince William County prosecutor’s office were not immediately returned to TIME.

[Washington Post]

TIME 30 Days of Ramadan

Ramadan, Day 12: Sex Slavery and Objectification of Women

We are desperately in need of a cultural shift in how we think of women.

The holy month of Ramadan is a time of deep reflection for Muslims worldwide. Over the 30 days of Ramadan, Imam Sohaib Sultan of Princeton University will offer contemplative pieces on contemporary issues drawing from the wisdoms of the Qur’an – the sacred scripture that Muslims revere as the words of God and God’s final revelation to humanity. The Qur’an is at the heart of Muslim faith, ethics, and civilization. These short pieces are meant to inspire thought and conversation.

Recently, on my drive home I was listening to Public Radio when I came across a story that just boiled my blood and sunk my heart. It was the story of mostly young and vulnerable women who were kidnapped from Tenancingo, Mexico and forced into sex slavery right here in the United States. It is the single largest source of sex slaves in America according to this report.

The latest studies estimate that there are more than 20.9 million people – mostly girls and women – who are forced into sex slavery worldwide. And, sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world today. These statistics can just sound like numbers until we pause and think of the individuals who suffer through this evil. We may not know them by face or name, but they do have faces and they do have names and they really do matter.

The problem of sex trafficking can seem beyond our control, but there are some wonderful organizations out there fighting the good fight everyday that we can support in whatever ways we can to help end this evil. And, as citizens we can demand that our government do more domestically and internationally to further the cause of human freedom. As a nation, abolishment of slavery was and is an important milestone in our history. We now have to go the extra mile to end slavery in all of its illegal forms starting here at home.

I would like to argue that there is something else we can do too – something that requires moral courage, introspection, and ultimately a cultural shift. We can start a movement against the sexual objectification of women. If we are really honest, the shocking evil of sex trafficking is in, some ways, only an extension and the ugliest manifestation of treating women like commodities. From selling cars and clothes to beer and chips and everything in between, we have become quite comfortable with the sexual objectification of women in society. And, somehow as long as a woman consents and is over the random age of 18 or 21, it becomes completely legal to sexually and commercially exploit her.

Sadly, many women – young girls in particular – have internalized a lot of this objectification around them on highway billboards, television and movie screens, and Internet. For it nowadays to be common and culturally acceptable for a young girl to walk around in the mall, for example, with something like “juicy” written across her backside or across her chest is an indication of the serious problem that lies before us.

Needless to say, women are not objects – they are human beings who have souls and intellects and are endowed with God-given dignity that no man or corporation should ever be able to take away from them. Starting with the way we raise our boys and our girls, we are desperately in need of a cultural shift – locally and globally – on how we think of women.

A young man once came to the Prophet Muhammad asking permission to commit fornication with women. The Prophet drew the young man closer to himself, put his hand on his shoulders, and asked, “Would you like this for your sister or your mother or your daughter?” The man immediately replied that he would hate it. The Prophet said, “then, how can I permit you to do this with someone else’s sister, mother, or daughter?”

Ramadan is the month in which we learn to discipline our sexual appetites through the spiritual discipline of fasting. The idea is not sacrifice our appetites completely at the altar of monasticism, but rather to bring our inclinations into conformity with a higher and more ethical way. If people were not slaves to their sexual appetites there would be no industry for sex slavery. And, if people learned to control their sexual glances, there would be far less objectification of women. As with everything else that is good, it all begins with the self.

TIME Sex

Abstaining From Sex Doesn’t Help You Win the World Cup

Netherlands v Mexico: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
A dejected Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez of Mexico at the final whistle during the Round of 16 match of the 2014 World Cup between Netherlands and Mexico at the Estadio Castelao on June 29, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. Ian MacNicol—Getty Images

All of the teams that had strict rules against sex have been eliminated

If coaches are looking for some secret strategy for World Cup success, forbidding your players from engaging in sexual intercourse is not the answer. Four teams publicly banned their players from having sex at the World Cup, and all those teams have been eliminated.

Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile and Mexico—all of which banned hanky panky—will not have a chance to play for the championship. To be fair, plenty of teams that didn’t ban sex (like Italy, Spain, Switzerland and England) have also been eliminated. So let’s not mix up correlation and causation.

Teams that had more creative rules about sex have had mixed results in the tourney. Brazil (which allows you to have sex, just not “acrobatic” sex), Costa Rica (which forbid sex in the first round but not the second) and France (where all night sex is forbidden) are all still in contention. Nigeria, where players can sleep with their wives but not their girlfriends, is out of the tournament.

MORE: World Cup: The Crazy Rules Some Teams Have About Pre-Game Sex

 

TIME China

What the GSK Sex Tape Says About Surveillance in China

CHINA-BRITAIN-PHARMACEUTICAL-CORRUPTION-EARNINGS-GSK
A Glaxo Smith Kline signboard outside their facilities in Shanghai on July 25, 2013. GlaxoSmithKline expects its performance in China to take a hit from Beijing's probe into bribery allegedly carried out by senior staff AFP—AFP/Getty Images

Surveillance, or the threat of surveillance, is a constant

Years ago, when my husband and I were living in Shanghai, a crew of men came to change the smoke-alarm battery in our bedroom. It seemed a lot of people to change a single battery, and they took their time about it. The leader of the battery-changing brigade was a man in a dapper pin-stripe suit. The smoke alarm was above our bed.

The men, all but one in uniforms from our apartment building yet unfamiliar to us, eventually departed. We had a lunch to get to, so we too left a few minutes later. As we walked out the back door of our apartment building, we saw the suited gentleman riding away in a black Toyota Crown, then considered the favored car of the Public Security Bureau. For several nights, my husband and I stared up at that alarm, wondering whether it was doing more than just sensing smoke.

This past weekend, the Sunday Times reported that a video of unknown provenance had circulated showing a British pharmaceutical executive having very friendly relations with a Chinese woman. Mark Reilly is the former China head of GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical company that has been accused by Beijing authorities of bribery involving nearly $500 million. Reilly has been barred from leaving China and charges against him made in May potentially carry a long prison sentence. Other foreign pharmaceuticals have also been targeted in graft probes, presumably part of a nationwide anticorruption sweep by China’s President Xi Jinping.

The sex video, according to the Sunday Times, was “filmed clandestinely in Reilly’s Shanghai flat, [and] was sent by email to senior Glaxo staff including the chief executive Sir Andrew Witty.” The film clip accompanied one of many anonymous emails alleging financial impropriety at Glaxo — emails that were, in some cases, sent to a Chinese regulatory agency as well as company officials. The British newspaper reported on speculation that a Chinese ex-Glaxo employee might have been linked to these whistle-blowing missives but no proof has turned up in the public sphere.

Surveillance — or the threat of surveillance — is a constant in China. As a journalist, I may be more interesting to the powers that be than some other foreigners here. But other expat friends who’ve been followed, hacked or otherwise tracked in China include diplomats, NGO staff and businesspeople. Also, artists and academics.

Sometimes, the scrutiny can yield helpful consequences. A diplomat in China remembers commenting to his wife in his then nearly empty apartment that they were out of toilet paper. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door and a bearer of new rolls arrived.

In most instances, it is in no way reassuring to have your email auto-forwarding mysteriously activated or to be tailed by a black Audi while on assignment in the Chinese countryside. Nor are foreigners the only ones subject to such treatment. The days of communist neighborhood-committee grannies poking their noses into residents’ sex lives may be over, but it’s hard to feel completely private in China. Each Chinese citizen still has a dedicated personal file kept by local authorities. The contents are supposed to be secret but a friend who once gained accessed to hers found, among other things, an old high school paper and a copy of a letter from an ex-boyfriend.

As for the smoke alarm, my husband and I eventually paid it no heed. You can’t be on guard all the time or you’ll end up paranoid. Besides, we weren’t hiding anything. Like other foreign reporters, if I work on a sensitive story involving, say, dissidents, I’ll take precautions. But otherwise, my daily life proceeds without incident or spy-sparring guile — no matter who may be watching.

TIME Sex

Everyone at the World Cup Is Getting Laid, Thanks to Apps

Tinder and Grindr see a huge uptick in use in Brazil

An estimated 600,000 tourists and 3.1 million locals will be traveling in Brazil for this summer’s month-long FIFA World Cup, and they won’t be lonely. Soccer fans are taking full advantage of the event to meet new lovers using location-based hookup apps, Quartz reports.

Hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr, which are popular around the world, allow users to swipe through pictures of potential matches that are geographically close to them. If two people select one another, they can choose to start chatting and then take it from there. This simple, quick setup caters perfectly to short-time travelers looking for a fling after their soccer team of choice wins a game—or better yet, looking for some comfort after a devastating loss.

Tinder is reporting a 50% uptick in downloads and usage in Brazil—which already has the dating app’s third-largest user base, after the U.S. and the U.K.—since the World Cup began. Grindr, an app designed specifically for gay and bisexual men, has seen a 31% increase in the number of times users have opened the app in the area since the tournament began in June.

This isn’t the first time Tinder has made a splash at an international sporting event. Olympians admitted to frequent use of the app during the Winter Olympics in Sochi this past winter. And why not? There were so many in-shape people to choose from.

Hookup apps are probably not as popular among the athletes in Brazil right now: Some of the World Cup players are restricted in their romantic escapades by their teams. But even if the players may not be getting any action, that’s not stopping the fans.

[Quartz]

TIME relationships

Casual Sex Is Good for You, According to Your New Favorite Study

Couple feet
Getty Images

You do you

Turns out that no-strings-attached sexy times are good for you, so don’t let the haters stop you from doin’ your thang.

A recent study conducted by researchers from NYU and Cornell dispels the popular notion that casual hookups — defined as sexual activity outside the context of a romantic relationship — will leave you with low self-esteem and depression. The research, published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, involved a group of NYU students who kept a weekly diary over the course of 12 weeks documenting any and all adult snuggles — and the effect those instances had on their overall well-being.

Sociosexually unrestricted students reported higher well-being after having casual sex compared to not having sex, the researchers found. Also, those who were sociosexually unrestricted reported lower stress and greater overall emotional health after casual sex. (This is … maybe not super surprising.)

Although past reports have shown that women are less likely than men to orgasm during casual sex, this particular study showed few overall differences between genders.

The study’s authors explained that “the effects of casual sex depend on the extent to which this behavior is congruent with one’s general personality tendencies.” So, in other words: if you want to have casual sex, you definitely should. If you do not want to have casual sex, you shouldn’t. The main takeaway of this study? You do you.

TIME Sex

Can Sex Really Dampen Athletic Performance?

SOCCER: JUN 06 Portugal v Mexico
The Mexican wall waits for a free kick from Portugal's Nani (17) during an international friendly before the 2014 World Cup, Foxborough, Mass., June 6, 2014. Fred Kfoury III—Icon SMI/Corbis

Many teams at the World Cup are abstaining from sex. Does science back up their abstinence?

Several teams participating in this year’s World Cup have team-wide bans on having sex before games, because coaches believe it could interfere with performance.

“There will be no sex in Brazil,” Safet Susic, the coach of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s national soccer team told reporters. “I am not interested what the other coaches do. This is not a holiday trip, we are there to play football at the World Cup.”

Abstinence is not a phenomenon reserved for the World Cup; several Olympic teams have taken temporary vows of celibacy during the games (though that has not stopped Olympic villages from running out of thousands of condoms). It’s even reported that boxer Muhammad Ali refused to have sex six weeks before a match.

However, there’s a lack of evidence proving sex makes people worse—or better—at sports. “It’s often talked about, but it has not been shown to be true,” says sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzel. “There are lots of factors that could account for how a player performs.” For instance, doing the deed can take time away from getting enough shuteye, and getting enough sleep is non-negotiable for peak performance. (French players are allowed to have sex, but “not all night,” the team’s former doctor told 20Minutes.fr) The authors of a 2000 study note that former New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel once said: “It’s not the sex that wrecks these guys, it’s staying up all night looking for it.”

There have been few studies looking specifically at sex and athletic performance but results were inconclusive. For example, a mid-90s study looked at the effects of sex on measures like aerobic power and oxygen pulse among 11 men running on treadmills. The men were tested twice, once having sex 12 hours before and once without sex. Putting aside the fact that it was a very small sample size with limited testing, the data came back showing the results from both experiments were no different.

Another review of 31 studies on sex and athletics published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found weak evidence that having sex the night before competition affects performance. Exhaustion cannot be a great factor since most sexual intercourse burns only 25–50 calories—the equivalent of walking up two flights of stairs. The authors of that research conclude that it likely just depends on the person. Some may feel that sex helps them relieve anxiety, while for others it becomes a distraction.

There’s also the possibility that sex during major athletic events leads to distractions. Some teams, like Nigeria, only allow players to have sex with their wives. Perhaps it’s because the hook-up scene can becoming distracting. “There was a point where I had to be like OK, this is way too distracting. I deleted my [Tinder] account to focus on the Olympics,”American snowboarder Jamie Anderson told reporters.

However, no studies have looked at the psychological effects of having sex before a game and whether athletes believe sex helps or harms them, which may be more important. “In sports, people have all kinds of theories, even if it’s not medically substantiated. For instance: compression gear for speed and titanium necklaces for performance,” says Dr. Metzel. “We don’t have scientific evidence to back those claims, but if players think abstaining from sex helps them, it may give them a psychological edge.”

Many athletes have pre-game rituals, or lucky tokens, and some research has shown that these superstitions actually improve performance. So perhaps a team sex-ban technically isn’t doing much for performance on the field, but when it comes to getting in the right mindset, it’s not out of the question that it could make all the difference for some players.

TIME Sex

The Smut Shaming of Dov Charney and Terry Richardson

Dov Charney American Apparel
Dov Charney, chairman and chief executive officer of American Apparel Inc., stands for a portrait in a company retail store in New York City on July 29, 2010. Keith Bedford—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Fashion giants Dov Charney and Terry Richardson have both been accused of sexual harassment multiple times (and always settled out of court). But are they finally getting their due?

Dov Charney and Terry Richardson are like the weird uncles of the fashion world, complete with ’70s glasses, questionable facial hair and a tendency to strip down when you least expect it.

They have another thing in common: both Charney and Richardson have built their brands on selling sex. As founder and CEO of American Apparel, Charney is especially fond of showing pubic hair and using semi-nude teenage models in his ads, and was known for walking around his factories in his underwear. And Richardson, one of the most famous photographers in fashion, has photographed his own face drenched in semen and is known for getting naked (and becoming erect) during photo shoots with female models (he says it’s to make the models feel more comfortable).

At first, the controversies around their personal behavior brought attention and buzz to their envelope-pushing work. But sex only sells until it stops seeming edgy, and that day may have come for both Charney and Richardson. Ultimately, the sex factor that launched their careers may morph into a smutty reputation that brings them down.

And it would not be entirely surprising. Both Charney and Richardson have been accused of harassing women they work with for years. Both have been named in multiple sexual-harassment lawsuits. In 2008, Charney, 45, was accused of keeping a teenage employee as his “sex slave” (she said he coerced her into performing oral sex by threatening that she would lose her job). He’s also been sued for sexual harassment by multiple other employees and models, but all the lawsuits against him have been dismissed or settled out of court. And Richardson, 48, has been sued at least twice by former models (both lawsuits were settled) and has been accused at least nine times of sexual weirdness during photo shoots. (Requests for comment from Richardson and from American Apparel were not returned.)

We’ve known about these allegations for a long time, and until now, both men seemed to weather the storms of bad press.

But on Wednesday night, the board of American Apparel dismissed Charney amid “ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct.” They didn’t identify a specific case, but an anonymous source told the Los Angeles Times that the “misconduct” involved Charney’s bad behavior with women. In other words, the sexual weirdness that left a bad taste six years ago is completely unpalatable now.

Charney’s story is like a Shakespearean porno — the sex-infused imagery that sold his clothes became the smut that sank his career. It is a sign that times have changed. Behavior that used to be tolerated as the price of working with an eccentric genius is now considered unacceptable. No matter how cool you are, you don’t get a “free pass” if the public concludes you’re taking advantage of women.

Richardson hasn’t been dumped like Charney, but a recent profile in New York magazine shed light on some of his stranger sexual proclivities and how they’ve affected his career — the article was titled “Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Predator?” Magazines like Vogue and fashion companies like Target Style and H&M have said they have “no future plans” to work with Richardson. A Change.org petition to get big brands to stop employing Richardson has already gained over 34,000 signatures.

And Charney’s antics didn’t seem to be helping his company. American Apparel had been hemorrhaging money in the years since Charney’s lawsuits started, and lost over $396 million since 2009 (the company wasn’t in total free-fall the whole time, but the overall financial picture looked bleak). Yet in the hours after Charney’s dismissal, stock rose 20%.

To be fair, Charney’s leadership wasn’t all bad. His commitment to making all of American Apparel’s clothing in the U.S. and supporting fair wages for workers is certainly admirable. After the tragic collapse of a factory in Bangladesh last year, Charney wrote that “the apparel industry’s relentless and blind pursuit of the lowest possible wages cannot be sustained over time, ethically or fiscally.”

But Charney’s narrative is familiar to any girl who’s found out the hard way that sex sells and sells and sells, until it the moment it doesn’t. Just ask Miley Cyrus when she turns 40 (or, for that matter, Madonna). Where sexual women are slut-shamed, Charney and Richardson are being smut-shamed, as well they should be. Unlike girls who simply express their sexuality, Charney and Richardson are accused of taking advantage of women less powerful than themselves. That’s what’s really shameful.

Women have known for years that sex can have social consequences, unfair as they may be. Maybe men are finally getting a taste of that medicine.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser