On February 10th, in the New York State Supreme Court building, at the trial of the former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Claudia Salinas, a witness for the defense, took the stand. Salinas is a slender woman in her mid-thirties, and her understatedly glamorous appearance—a low, sleek ponytail, a stylish tweed jacket, ballet-style flats—contrasted sharply with the courtroom’s public-sector dumpiness. When asked by the defense attorney Damon Cheronis to state her employment, Salinas, who was subpoenaed in the case, identified herself as a social-media influencer, a dancer, and an actress. (Her Instagram account, on which she appears to promote a variety of brands by modelling their wares, has a follower count of nearly three hundred thousand people.) She is also a onetime acquaintance of the model, aspiring actress, and screenwriter Lauren Young. In testimony the week prior, Young claimed that, in 2013, after meeting Weinstein for drinks during Oscars week at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, purportedly in order to discuss her career aspirations, Weinstein trapped her in a bathroom in one of the hotel’s suites, unzipped her dress, and groped her breasts while masturbating, releasing her and rushing out the door, naked, only after he ejaculated. (Young’s accusation is not part of the New York indictment against Weinstein but is rather meant to bolster the prosecution’s case, which focusses on rape and sexual-assault allegations brought by two other accusers, Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann. Weinstein has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct and has pleaded not guilty in the case.) In her testimony, Young also alleged that Salinas, whom she had met only once before, at an Oscars party the previous year, had essentially acted as a procurer for Weinstein, setting up the Montage drinks date and then accompanying the producer and model to the suite, where, ostensibly in cahoots with Weinstein, she shut the bathroom door behind them, enabling the alleged assault to take place.

In his exchange with Salinas, Cheronis, whose boyishly preppy looks and cunning manner brought to mind a debate-team captain in an eighties teen movie, set out to dismantle Young’s version of events. No, Salinas told him, she didn’t recognize pictures of the Montage suite in which Young’s assault allegedly took place; no, she had never seen Harvey Weinstein naked, nor had she ever closed a bathroom door on him or anyone else, much less Young, who, besides, she did not recall emerging from a bathroom with her white dress unzipped and bunched around her elbows, as Young had claimed. Nothing about her relationship with Weinstein, Salinas suggested, had anything to do with this type of gruesome incident. She had met the producer in the early two-thousands while dining at Cipriani, one of his New York haunts, where a mutual acquaintance introduced them. Weinstein, hearing that she was a dancer, helped connect her to an audition for the Weinstein Company movie “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”—a role that she booked. In the years since, Salinas claimed, she had been a successful working actress and dancer, able to secure jobs without Weinstein’s assistance, mostly in commercials for major brands in both the English and Spanish markets. She was never on Weinstein’s payroll, nor had she ever had a sexual relationship with him. He was simply one of her industry contacts, whom she would see three or four times a year, often at parties or events around the time of the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

In her cross-examination, conducted by Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast, Salinas continued to deny that she had anything to do with entrapping Young in the hotel room. “I remember meeting for a drink,” she said. “That’s all I remember. I remember it was at the Montage.” What did seem to shift, though, was the seemingly cut-and-dried nature of the influencer’s relationship with Weinstein. Not strictly professional, nor on its face sexual or even especially social, the association between the two seemed to exist in the kind of dim, miasmic space in which each of these zones bleeds into the others, and where rules are vague and outcomes unpredictable. Over the years, Salinas sought out Weinstein’s assistance in relation to business ventures and professional connections. (The fact that these overtures didn’t lead to anything appeared still to sting: “I was a little frustrated with him,” she said testily at one point, seemingly almost in spite of herself. “I wanted to keep a professional relationship, but I didn’t get any professional help at all!”) Weinstein proved more reliable, however, as a source for Oscars and Golden Globes party invitations, which Salinas e-mailed him about several times a year. She acknowledged that, at the beginning of the relationship, when she was nineteen and the producer was nearly fifty, he was “flirty” with her. (“He hit on you,” Hast said bluntly.) But she had clarified to Weinstein that she wasn’t interested in a sexual relationship. Under Hast’s pressing, Salinas admitted that, when Weinstein agreed to invite her to awards-season parties, he would ask her to “bring your better-looking friends” along, and to “tell them good things” about him—a request that she saw as an “innocent gesture.” Asked by Hast if, since she herself wasn’t interested in pursuing a sexual dalliance with Weinstein, she managed to stay in his good graces by selecting especially attractive girlfriends to take along to the Hollywood events he invited her to, Salinas responded, in a no-duh tone, “All my friends are good-looking.”

We often discuss professional life as if it were completely distinct from sexual life, but, in fact, women are often forced to negotiate the blurry space between the two, especially in Hollywood, where sexual appeal is effectively a professional requirement. The night before Salinas’s appearance in court, the Academy Awards had taken place in Los Angeles, and there was something instructive to me in witnessing the two events in such quick succession. Clearly, there was much to distinguish Hollywood’s glitz-fest from the grim proceedings of the People of New York v. Harvey Weinstein, which, by February 10th, had entered its fourth week. But, sitting at the trial, which I had attended intermittently since its opening, I found myself thinking of the beautiful actresses who took the stand, one by one, as the shadow doubles of those posing on the red carpet of a Hollywood awards show. The latter had seemingly bested the system, ascending to its highest point, while the former had fallen victim to it. But most of these women, with lesser or greater success, and to lesser or greater traumatic effect, had had to learn how to operate in a world in which the line between the professional and the sexual was hazy, and in which transactionality—sometimes overt, sometimes almost unconscious—was the rule rather than the exception. They were good-looking, as were all their friends, which meant that they could, perhaps, get things from men—who were surely more powerful than they, if likely not as good-looking—but they were then often expected to give something in return. This could mean as relatively little as trading some light flattery or a meaningful glance or an arm squeeze for an Oscar-party invite. But it could also mean the expectation of sexual favors, which, if not freely offered, might be coerced. Having to continually contend with this economy of sexual exchange makes women distinctly vulnerable, and, throughout the trial, it struck me, repeatedly, what a high-risk proposition it was to be an attractive young actress looking to break into the entertainment industry. That several of the incidents recounted in the trial took place around Oscars week is telling: while A-list actresses, like so many prize equines at a racetrack, employ trainers and stylists and nutritionists and dermatologists to ready themselves for the red carpet, still-striving aspirants mill about town, hoping to be asked to parties where their good looks could perhaps help them make valuable connections.

The prosecution, in its own way, took part in the fantasy that a clear, unimpeachable line could separate the sexual and the professional. Throughout the trial, prosecution lawyers attempted to present the accusers as fitting, as closely as possible, the mythical notion of the perfect victim. Some matched this image more easily. After the alleged rape of the actress Annabella Sciorra, or the alleged assault of Lauren Young, the victims largely avoided contact with Weinstein and displayed signs of distress, according to witnesses who knew them at the time. The actress Rosie Perez told the jury that Sciorra, a longtime friend of hers, was “talking in this very strange whisper of a voice, as if she was hiding from someone,” before Sciorra broke down in tears and told her she had been raped by Weinstein.

This strategy extended to the prosecution’s main witnesses. On January 31st, Mann, a slim, thirty-four-year-old brunette and one of the primary accusers in the trial, took the stand. Mann, an aspiring actress, had met Weinstein at a party in the Hollywood Hills, in 2013. During direct examination, she broke down in sobs several times while describing how, that year—weeks after she begrudgingly agreed to give the producer a massage at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, where they had met to discuss her professional aspirations—the producer forced oral sex on her at the Montage, and, on a later trip to New York, raped her at a DoubleTree hotel in midtown. She explained that she found him intimidating, not just physically and psychologically but also financially and professionally. Mann, who, for a period, was struggling to such an extent that she lived out of her car, often heard Weinstein taking calls from the Clintons, for whom he was fund-raising. “It intimidated me, because when you’re raising that much money for that powerful a person and you can call them on the phone, they’re not going to deal with someone crying rape,” she said. In the prosecution’s opening statement, Hast tried to convey a sense of Mann’s innocence in the face of Weinstein’s worldly sway. She emphasized Mann’s devout Christian background, her beginnings on a “small dairy farm in Washington State,” and her apparent ignorance of the producer’s powerful position in the movie industry when she first met him.

But, of course, women are not perfect victims: they can be canny and may try to work a deeply skewed system to their advantage if they can, with whatever sliver of agency they have. The fact that the prosecution portrayed Mann simplistically allowed the defense to poke holes in her narrative. Defense lawyers fastened onto the fact that, after the aspiring actress’s alleged rape by the producer, the two continued to occasionally have consensual sex and were outwardly on friendly terms. (Talita Maia, Mann’s former friend and roommate, claimed that Mann did not seem especially upset after two incidents in which she alleges that she had been assaulted.) During cross-examination, the defense attorney Donna Rotunno suggested that the aspiring actress knew exactly what Weinstein was expecting of her and was willing to take part in the transaction in order to advance her career. Throughout the trial, Rotunno employed a harsh, blunt-edged form of victim blaming. In a recent interview with Megan Twohey on the Times’s “The Daily” podcast, the lawyer chastised women who don’t “take precautions” in their relationships with men, leaving themselves vulnerable to sexual assault. “You make a choice to go into their home at the end of the day, what do you think could potentially happen?” she asked.

In the courtroom, Rotunno pointed out that before the first alleged assault, Mann had willingly entered Weinstein’s hotel room, and that when he asked her to massage him she had agreed. Mann explained that she didn’t want to offend the producer. “You didn’t want to offend him because you wanted what he had to offer!” Rotunno said, to which Mann responded, “He had a lot of power.” “And you liked that power!” Rotunno pounced. This time, Mann responded a bit slowly, almost as one does to a child. “It was in my best interest not to hurt myself,” she said. “But I didn’t want to massage him.” This back-and-forth seemed to distill the sick logic of the Weinstein affair. A woman is often expected to participate in flirtatious exchanges with a powerful man in order to advance her career. But if the man later assaults her, her previous interactions with him are used as evidence that she was asking for it—that she should have known that being in for a penny also necessarily meant being in for a pound. The whole thing was so cruel that I found myself inwardly cheering when Mann appeared to hold her own against the attorneys, making clear that her behavior was not a justification for assault. During her questioning of Mann, Rotunno kept returning to the subject of the award-show events to which Weinstein liked to invite aspiring actresses. “You were using Harvey Weinstein, right?” she asked. “You liked the Oscar parties, correct?” “Everybody likes the Oscars parties,” Mann responded.