Lawsuit accuses American Apparel CEO Dov Charney of forced sex with 18yo

Those who are of the opinion that the CEO of American Apparel is a skeevy sonofabitch who exploits young female employees will not find this news story surprising.


  1. I’m confused by the wording accused of forced sex. Isn’t that the same as rape? Is the r-word too strong to throw about, or is it because we’re dealing with the differences between criminal and civil law?

    1. The same thought occurred to me. There is a different legal definition for each, perhaps the court filing would make this more clear to us.

    2. It sounds like the woman in question was being coerced into having sex through career threats rather than physical force. Both are morally reprehensible but I’m not sure if the former legally counts as “rape”.

      1. Legally, the terms are “sexual assault” or “sexual abuse”, not rape.

        Rape is too emotional of a word, and people have a tendency to think of the concept of “real” rape (by which they mean physical threat with a deadly weapon or at least proof of being beaten up) when it’s used, instead of understanding that there are many ways to threaten someone in such a way that they feel they cannot get out of the situation.

  2. If only there was a left wing company with awesome tshirts at a good price without a sleezy CEO, grrr

  3. I believe that, when previously questioned on the subject, this guy said that it was always made quite clear from the beginning that if you didn’t want to ever sleep with him then you shouldn’t be working there.

    1. Therefore making it okay? Man, I don’t know how this guy stays financially solvent or out of prison. ‘Spensive clothes can only make you so much… right?

  4. So…coercion and harassment, without physical force…except for that whole being dragged part…

    This is just too much to take in. Going to bed now.

  5. Well. . .shit. I was just thinking the other day that AA makes the best black t-shirt.

    GAP: too heavy. A/X: too flimsy. AA: just right.

    Now I’m conflicted. Jackass!

    I have a closet full of unwearable wide collar polyester shirts and silk dragon prints, and now if I buy the clothes I like, I support douchebaggery: that’s just great.

  6. Xeni, I honestly don’t mean this in a confrontational way, but I’m confused. What’s the difference between Dov Charney’s behavior and that of boundary-crashing fashion photographer Terry Richardson’s antics with possibly-not-willing-but-fearing-for-their-career models?

    One is a skeevy sonofabitch, but the other was worthy of your (albeit qualified) defense last year. They both look like predatory douches to me. Is there nuance I’m missing here?

  7. Given the statistics that only about 2% of sexual assault reports are false, it is one of the few instances where I am inclined to question the innocent until proven guilty maxim of our justice philosophy. However, American Apparel actually employs workers in the U.S. and pays a nearly-livable wage including benefits. So, do we chastise the company because they use the same marketing techniques that include questionable use of women’s bodies and demonize them because of these types of accusations. Or do we buy clothes from nearly every other textile manufacturer that relies on the forced labor of primarily young women in countries like China where sexual assault is common, the pay is a pittance, women are fired for pregnancy, they are compelled to live in objectionable conditions, and they face a host of other problematic circumstances.

    1. I’m not sure the question is whether or not you should buy these overpriced-though-American-made shirts.

      If this man is a sexual predator, he should be removed from this position of power that he uses against his employees/victims.

    2. Given the statistics that only about 2% of sexual assault reports are false

      Citation needed.

      How does one go about compiling those statistics? Take the conviction rate? 98% convicted (or took a plea deal), therefore 2% were false reports.

      1. It’s not 2%, it’s 8%, which is still low. Or so says the FBI, I hope you trust them as a (dated) source.

        Or you can read this:

        “Complaints of all Crime Index offenses made to law
        enforcement agencies which are found to be false or baseless
        can be “unfounded” and excluded from crime counts. A higher
        percentage of complaints of forcible rape are determined “unfounded,” or found by investigation to be false, than for any
        other Index crime. While the average of “unfounded” rates for
        all Crime Index offenses was 2 percent in 1997, 8 percent of
        forcible rape complaints were “unfounded” for the same


        According to Wikipedia 2% is apparently at the low end of the estimates for these stats. Certainly these are difficult to compile and will depend on your operationalization of “false reports.” I personally got the 2% number from college-level sexuality textbooks. I looked through three such books and each uses 2%.

        One specific reference:
        Strong, Bryan, Christine DeVault, Barbara W. Sayad, and William Barber. 2005. Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America, 5th ed. Boston, MA: McGrawHill.

        The false reporting by women that is occurring is a remarkably ineffective way to exact some sort of revenge. “Thus, among all women who were raped since age 18, only 7.8 percent said their rapist was criminally prosecuted, 3.3 percent said their rapist was convicted of a crime, and a mere 2.2 percent said their rapist was incarcerated …”
        This quote is from the National Institute of Justice special report on Rape (311. Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Rape Victimization: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey NCJ 210346, January 2006, Special Report, by Patricia Tjaden, Nancy Thoennes (47 pages).

    3. I’m so glad we have courageous people like you to question the epic inconvenience of the right to a fair trial.

  8. can i go out on a crazy limb here and suggest that each of those is a separate question?

    my answer is that american apparel is bigger than one guy, and your t-shirt money does more good things than bad in this case. meanwhile, let’s hope the guy gets whatever he deserves in court.

  9. (Referencing Charney’s photo in the article) I’m interested in his upside-down smile. His expression clearly reads as a smile to me, but the lips curve down at the edges.

    And I’m with bamboozled as being inclined to weigh his behavior as horrible and abusive, but less evil than child labor, squalid working conditions, mass exploitation etc.

  10. Man, a guy goes his whole life cultivating a reputation as a skeevy sonofabitch and then when someone sues him for being a skeevy sonofabitch everyone assumes he’s a skeevy sonofabitch.

    Life just ain’t fair is it?

  11. Thanks. Interesting story. . .from the get go I’m like, ‘uh-oh these people are too happy: a kraken or some Vikings are going to mess everything up. . .’

    And many of my concerns are dealt with: beer? check. trains? check. orgies? ditto. No clergy and no bombs. . .but rich pastries and horse racing? Sign me up!

    But indeed, the misery that -has to exist- for a shiny, happy world: I am pretty conscious of that fact in my life and the world around me. Maybe my AA t-shirt (that I’m wearing now actually) didn’t actually cause rape. . .but as i look around my apartment, at all the nice things that i have, and fairly bought: I paid for my music, these books. . .this delicious glass of Tricerahops beer. But as a first world American person I KNOW somebody has been fucked (figuratively, if not -hopefully- literally) due in some small part to my actions and life choices.

    Oh Turkish ladies that wove the lovely wool rug under my feets; were you fairly compensated for your efforts? Or did the middleman rip you off because you were starving and he had cash?

    Some child, generations from now: ‘Granpa. . .I’m sooo cold. pleaseplease turn on the heat lamp!’ ‘Sorry little one: all the wood is gone and there is no longer petrol we can afford: gwailo_joe liked to go fast and used up all the gasoline so now we must suffer. Here, let me cover you with another cat skin. . .’

    As you can see: I think about this stuff ~a lot~. So. . .if I boycott AA will it make a Difference? If EVERYONE boycotted the joint and it closed and put people out of work. . .would that be a net positive? Does anyone here think for ONE SECOND that this kind of sexual abuse is not played out every day in the factories and sweatshops world wide that make all our other clothes and toys???

    Now I’m getting hot under the collar. . .and to no avail. I did like that story, so thanks again sparkdale: but for me. . .I would not be one of the ones who left. I don’t have that kind of integrity. Sure. . .this game is rigged; but it’s the only game in town.


  12. can i go out on a crazy limb here and ask why she – an 18 year old sales clerk – stayed in that job for another 2 years, if the circumstances were as she describes?

      1. Aaaannnnndddd you’re saying that an entry-level job, likely at or near minimum wage, is worth enduring 2 years of coerced sex?

        Come on. The economy may be bad, but entry level jobs are not that hard to find, and certainly not so rare and treasured to put up with some hairy creep like that. Shit, she could turn tricks and work a couple days a week making more money if she didn’t mind unwanted sex.

        It’s either a case of retaliation on her part, or he had such a hold on her she felt like she had no recourse.

        1. he had such a hold on her she felt like she had no recourse.

          I was thinking of a reply, and then realized you answered it yourself. I’m guessing you haven’t had to test the job market lately.

          Look, Charney has had something like 15-20 sexual harassment suits filed against him over the past 20 years. It’s like an annual thing. I know internet anecdotes are worth nothing, but I’ve met two graphic designers on two separate occasions with creepy Charney employment stories of their own. They were mature enough to know that they didn’t have to take his (alleged) crap. A 17-18 y/o?

          Smart money’s on she-said, not he-said. And while people are free to do so, I don’t feel comfortable with an argument like, ‘Well, she could’ve just quit’. It’s a little too close to, ‘She got what she deserved’. YMMV.

          1. I work for myself. (My boss is such an asshole.)

            Still – you’re not going to convince me that retail sales jobs are in so short supply that one would endure the situation primarily for the job. Staying because she was in an abusive, manipulative situation I could totally see.

          2. That’s fair. It’s my own fault for trying to be glib and just posting that link, when I should’ve prefaced it with a “For starters…”

            But keep in mind that a sales job at AA isn’t the same as one at the Gap or Banana Republic. It’s a few steps higher in the fashion universe. Some people might say that you work in retail at the Gap, but you work in fashion at AA. I say I’m happy in my Champion t-shirt because, you know, it makes me feel like one.

          3. And while people are free to do so, I don’t feel comfortable with an argument like, ‘Well, she could’ve just quit’. It’s a little too close to, ‘She got what she deserved’. YMMV.
            She really should have. If it was a bad situation, you leave, it’s primal instinct.

            And yes there is a world apart from the rapist with a knife in a dark alley way to working in the same job for 2 years, and enduring 8 alleged months of sexual exploitation.

            I can totally understand the first contact, being young and naive, but not the repeated contacts after that one.

    1. Up until the time I was 25, almost every single one of my jobs involved at least some level of sexual coercion if not outright attack (not always successful). If it’s what you’re used to, you don’t realize you have any say in the matter.

      And that was back when finding a new job wasn’t impossible. I shudder to think of what young women are putting up with now.

  13. See what I expected was outrage and debate over sexual issues but what I’m really hoping for is someone to pass along word of shirts with comparable quality. Preferably something in a tall size.

  14. Lots of victim blaming up in these comment threads. Why didn’t she just quit? Seems like she just wants to retaliate, etc.

    Y’all know that this shit is illegal, even without the use of physical force, right? You can’t threaten an employee with retaliation for not sleeping with you. Period.

    Also, where have you people been? Charney’s pattern of sexual harassment and the hostile working environment at AA has been common knowledge for at least a half dozen years. There are a number of articles linked on my page here.

    Also, I’m glad someone brought up Terry Richardson. He’s cut from the same creepy cloth. I hear worse stories from the fashion industry than I ever hear from those in the sex industry. And I have friends in both.

  15. Guys (unless they’ve been unlucky enough to be raped themselves) just don’t get it. Being raped is an unbelievably humiliating experience, and the first reaction is often deep shame and self blame. It can destroy (temporarily) your ability to stand up for yourself, in part because it is more about power than sex. Think about it – most men really like sex, but would never force someone to have sex. So what kind of men do? Men who want to abuse, humiliate and disempower women. Should we really be surprised that it took an 18 year old two years to regain enough self esteem to be able to remove herself from the situation and fight back?

    1. This is a very good and informative post.

      An 18 year old is scarcely out of childhood. How can you expect them to know how to react to a situation like this? Someone’s boss is seen as a power over them, especially to a young person.

      The sad part is that Charney is wealthy and in a “cool” business, he could have sex with many different partners voluntarily. Yet he feels the need to prey on the young and defenseless. (My opinion, even if it wasn’t rape, it’s inappropriate for the CEO of a company to have consensual sex with an 18 year old employee. Not illegal, but highly inappropriate and immoral.)

  16. I have it on good authority (sorry that I cannot elaborate here to my BB bretheren) that the allegations of Dov’s douchebaggery are mostly likely true but even so, I think this case won’t go very far based on it’s particularities. (Pls read the article.) All that said, it is a wonder how he could stay untouched for so long. Perhaps the wheels of justice do grind slow but…

  17. Sexual harrassment in the workplace, or failed “office” romance?

    What’s the US Armed Forces’ Official position on Commander -Commanded “affairs”?

    “When the senior has authority over the lower ranking soldier or has the capability to influence actions, assignments, or other benefits or privileges, there is the strongest justification for exercising restraint on social, commercial, or duty relationships. At the same time, when the senior does not have this authority or capacity regarding the lower ranking soldier, social relation-ships are not inherently improper and normally need not be regulated. Soldiers must be aware, however, that even these relation-ships can lead to perceptions of favoritism and exploitation under certain circumstances.”

    From Section 4-14, taken from:

    in general, the real question iMHO is whether or not the superior threatened or promised the inferior some employment-related consequence(s) for either giving in – or not – to her “demands” or “requests” or “wooing”.

    Where a pre-existing power relationship exists, a question may arise as to any subsequent “affair”.
    A question, moreover, which can only be answered by the facts specific to the situation or relation under examination.

    1. Better than in the above:

      “While a pre-existing power relationship subsists, a question may arise as to the propriety of any ‘affair’.”

      1. i hasten to add to my comment above, that PRECiSELY whom may be considered to be in a position to pose that question of propriety (and WHY they ought to be allowed to do so), and what consequences ought to follow from its answer, are altogether different questions.

        And indeed imho they ought to be answered prior to attempting to determine the question of whether or not the relation in question was in fact “improper”.

        1. …and btw i don’t know this “Dov Charney’ fellow from Adam.
          Never heard of him, or anything about him, good or bad, in my life, as far as I can recall.

          Sexual harassment in ANY workplace is a serious problem.

  18. It always seemed weird to me whenever a story comes out about Dov Charney being a creep that people always seem so conflicted because the quality of his shirts is supposedly so good. I don’t like his shirts very much at all, so instead stories like this act as a sort of pat on the back for not buying his stuff in the first place. I’ve found that American Apparel t-shirts are too thin and are cut much thinner and look totally unflattering on me. I’d rather have a Hanes Beefy-T that’s made of more comfortable material and is cut to fit me.

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