In the wave of allegations made against actor Kevin Spacey, one of the most prominent was made by Harry Dreyfuss, the son of Jaws actor Richard Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss alleged that Spacey groped him when he was just 18, while his father was in the room and unaware. Dreyfuss tweeted out that his son was very brave for coming forward and that he was proud of him.
Unfortunately, Richard Dreyfuss is back in the news, this time with allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him by L.A. writer Jessica Teich. In an interview with Vulture, Teich explains her confusion seeing Dreyfuss come forward against sexual assault when he allegedly harassed her for years.
“When I read about his support for his son, which I would never question, I remember thinking, ‘But wait a minute, this guy harassed me for months.’ He was in a position of so much power over me, and I didn’t feel I could tell anyone about it. It just seemed so hypocritical.”
Teich detailed the harassment she had to deal with while working with Dreyfuss on an ABC comedy special in the 1980s, while she was in mid-twenties, and Dreyfuss over a decade her senior. In a story that is now uncomfortably familiar, Teich alleges that Dreyfuss exposed himself to her without her consent.
“I remember walking up the steps into the trailer and turning towards my left and he was at the back of the trailer, and just — his penis was out, and he sort of tried to draw me close to it. He was hard. I remember my face being brought close to his penis. I can’t remember how my face got close to his penis, but I do remember that the idea was that I was going to give him a blow job. I didn’t, and I left.
It was like an out-of-body experience. I just tried to swiftly get out of the room. I pretended it hadn’t really happened. I kept moving because it was part of my job, and I knew he was, at the time, a very important guy, and certainly important to me. I trusted him. That’s what’s always so weird. I liked him. That’s part of why it’s so painful, because of the level of innocence one brings to these things. I felt responsible, that I must have indicated in some way that I was available for this.”
According to Teich, this was not an isolated incident, with Dreyfuss continuing to harass her, leaving “love notes,” telling her that he “wanted to f*ck her,” and trying to kiss her in business settings.
Following Teich’s interview, Dreyfuss was quick to issue a statement, saying:
I value and respect women, and I value and respect honesty. So I want to try to tell you the complicated truth. At the height of my fame in the late 1970s I became an asshole–the kind of performative masculine man my father had modeled for me to be. I lived by the motto, “If you don’t flirt, you die.” And flirt I did. I flirted with all women, be they actresses, producers, or 80-year-old grandmothers. I even flirted with those who were out of bounds, like the wives of some of my best friends, which especially revolts me. I disrespected myself, and I disrespected them, and ignored my own ethics, which I regret more deeply than I can express. During those years I was swept up in a world of celebrity and drugs – which are not excuses, just truths. Since then I have had to redefine what it means to be a man, and an ethical man. I think every man on Earth has or will have to grapple with this question. But I am not an assaulter.
I emphatically deny ever “exposing” myself to Jessica Teich, whom I have considered a friend for 30 years. I did flirt with her, and I remember trying to kiss Jessica as part of what I thought was a consensual seduction ritual that went on and on for many years. I am horrified and bewildered to discover that it wasn’t consensual. I didn’t get it. It makes me reassess every relationship I have ever thought was playful and mutual.
There is a sea-change happening right now, which we can look upon as a problem or an opportunity. We all of us are awakening to the reality that how men have behaved toward women for eons is not OK. The rules are changing invisibly underneath our feet. I am playing catch up. Maybe we all are.
I hope people can join me in honestly looking at our behavior and trying to make it right. We have to relearn every rule we thought we knew about how men and women interact, because after all getting together is the most fundamental human compulsion. And if we don’t succeed in that, what do we have? I hope this is the beginning of a larger conversation we can have as a culture.