No Surprise Here: Woody Allen Joked about Sexual Coercion in a 1971 Playboy

On a neighborhood stroll one early summer evening I found a treasure trove of old books and magazines in someone’s trash. Yeah, I’m not above digging in the trash, especially if I see pure gold poking out. In my new collection of garbage pale books was a well preserved July 1971 issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, I found a disgusting piece by none other than newly established filmmaker Woody Allen…

In 1971 when Woody Allen released his third film, Bananas, the director was enjoying his fame in a world free from the platforms that now give a voice to victims of sexual abuse, harassment and gender discrimination. He could say whatever he wanted, and he did — no matter how creepy (I write this as if he’s no longer active. He is!). Of course, during this time women were already fighting tooth and nail against the patriarchal status quo and the National Women’s Political Caucus was founded in July 1971 — the exact month that Allen’s “humor piece” was published in Playboy. The article, entitled, “I’ll Put Your Name in Lights, Natividad Abascal” indicates that the director always had predatory inclinations (for those that love timelines, this came out 8 years before Manhattan). The Playboy piece focuses on Natividad Abascal (or “Naty”), the Spanish model and socialite who Allen gave a small part to in his comedy Bananas. The piece features a photo of Woody Allen clutching Natividad’s stomach and also four nude beach photos of the model.

A muse to fashion designer Valentino and Oscar de la Renta, Natividad graced the cover of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine and starred alongside Salvador Dali in a controversial 1974 Alka-seltzer commercial. Married to a Spanish Noble, the Duke of Feria, Natividad is still a very active stylist and has a beautiful Instagram account where she documents her work and luxurious lifestyle. And, on May 5, 2016 — just days before Ronan Farrow wrote about his father’s history of sexual assault in the Hollywood Reporter — she posted a TBT of her and Woody Allen (another one from the same shoot where he’s desperately clutching her). As so many people in Hollywood have done and continue to do, she praises him: “I 💚 Mr Allen!”

It’s possible she may or may not remember the “jokes” he wrote at her expense some forty-six years ago:

“I first met Natividad Abascal, who is a high fashion model — as any fool can tell from these photos — when she came in to audition for my new movie, Bananas. We were looking for an old, white-haired man to play the part of Gramps in what someone with a macabre sense of humor (I believe it was I) called the script; but as she talked and bent over, I was suddenly inspired to re-write the part. She was cast as a Latin American revolutionary.”

Already, Allen positions Natividad as an object of his sexual desire, someone to cast in his film because he liked what he saw when she was bent over.

“I play Fielding Mellish, a products tester who joins the revolution. Right, throwing myself into the spirit of my role, I do a little testing that Naty finds revolting.”

Who knows what Allen means here by “testing that Naty finds revolting” but there’s little doubt it’s something sexual in nature. He goes on,

“I like Naty because, as a native of Spain, she possesses Old World values, and her skin falls in extremely good conjunction with her bones and muscle tissue. Below, Naty appears pensive as she relives in her mind moments of loveplay the two of us had indulged in only minutes before.”

Below the text is a photo of Natividad nude in the Ocean. She does look beautiful in her own right, it’s too bad Allen has to take credit for it somehow.

“If Naty’s 11 brothers read this, I’m only kidding; if her twin sister reads this, what’s it to you? I was, in actual fact, a person of some awe for Naty, as I was directing her in her first movie, and we had many a chat over films and their socio-psychological significance before she turned me into the police.

Allen acknowledges that he is in a position of power over the actress he cast. Unfortunately in 1971, the term sexual harassment had not yet been coined and this kind of behavior was normalized and par for the course. Allen plays up his role as predatory Hollywood producer/director — a very well established (accepted and expected) part of “The Business” by 1971. As Allen’s piece goes on, the humor at Natividad’s expense takes a turn for the humiliating,

“Before Naty signed her movie contract, I told her about the sexual obligation that was a part of the job of any actress who worked with me.”

Wait. What? Given Allen’s history of sleeping with or trying to sleep with his costars, there’s no evidence pointing towards this obligation being a joke. Here Allen appears to have no problem admitting that he feels sexually entitled to the bodies of the actresses who work for him. This was Natividad’s first (and last) film. Allen was her boss and the level at which he takes advantage of that position, whether in actuality or just on the pages of Playboy for a few laughs amongst men, is astounding. And still he goes on…

“I recall what she said. It was “Yucch!” That was the kind of splendid rapport that caused me to spend most of my nights reading Portnoy’s Complaint aloud with a jar of strawberry yoghurt at my side. Naty, as you will note, has a type-B body. (Jane Fonda and I are the only ones with type A.)”

It’s unclear what Allen is trying to do at this point. It seems he’s feeling sorry for himself because the attractive actress he cast in his film doesn’t want to sleep with him. As a result he makes some dated joke about her body type, that could also be seen as some subtle negging on his part.

“As time went on, I began to appreciate Naty’s body for what it was — a girl’s body.”

To be clear, he says he appreciates her girl’s body not her woman’s body. She was a twenty-eight year old woman at the time and probably wasn’t looking for any appreciation or approval from Allen. The auteur FINALLY concludes his humor piece:

“Aware of my position as a father figure on the set, I let her come to me with her problems as often as she wished. When she never showed up, I came to her with mine.

He ends with that. He likes that being a film director gives him the authority to act as a sexual father figure to any woman who works beneath him. It’s like he just described his entire plan of attack when it comes to sex: he positions himself so that a younger female sees him as a father figure and mentor. He hopes she’ll come to him for advice. And once he has her trust he assumes that the (probably unasked for) favor of his consultation will be returned through sexual access.

Of course none of this is really a surprise to any of us. And sure, it was a humor piece in a men’s magazine famous for objectifying women. Still, it’s interesting to see how someone now infamous for being a predator was publicly joking about being that very thing 46 fucking years ago.