BuzzFeed writer Susan Cheng has published a new article that’s ostensibly about the fact that Mad Men’s Paul Johansson (a.k.a. the dude who sexually harassed Joan in the final season) is kind of a jerk in real life. More broadly, however, Cheng’s piece examines the fact that Johansson’s conduct “is common in a Hollywood culture that puts young women in positions where they can be easily manipulated or harassed by older men.”
In “What Hollywood’s Acceptance Of Sexism Looks Like In Practice,” Cheng recounts her experience interviewing the actor, probably best known as the villainous Dan Scott on One Tree Hill. She claims Johansson made inappropriate and odd comments throughout the day. While making small talk with one of Cheng’s female colleagues about tennis, Johansson noted, “This is what we refer to as flirting where I am from,“ and asserted, “I’ll serve the ball right down your throat.” He later joked during a photo shoot, “I’m sweating like a rapist.” He put his arm on or around Cheng several times and at one point asked her if she ever took people into a meeting room to make out with them.
Cheng openly admits that “far worse things have been said and done.” But she writes:
In the immediate aftermath of my interview with Johansson, I’d shrugged off one of my colleague’s suggestions to write about the experience and told myself that this was bound to happen one day. Every journalist has had a negative experience with an interviewee at some point in her career, and this was mine, right?
It worries me that I felt this way. It worries me that it took a conversation with my editor to make me realize that I should have been pissed. If I were a man, Johansson would not have said those things in front of me, let alone to me.
After emailing Johansson’s publicist with a request to speak to the actor about his behavior, Cheng received a letter from his lawyer. Alternately defending and denying Johansson’s comments, the letter asserts that the actor “never acted inappropriate towards [Cheng], or any of [her] colleagues at the BuzzFeed offices.” Here’s the except BuzzFeed published: