Saturday, December 30, 2006

Girls Gone Wild: Raping and abusing women since 1998.

I'm a little late with this, as this expose of Girls Gone Wild and its founder, Joe Francis, came out in October. But I just found it via The Happy Feminist and I'm a little sick to my stomach.

The article documents his practice (and his crew's practice) of not only aggressively targeting young women and pressuring them to do far more than take off their clothes on camera - but of raping them.
Some excerpts:
Joe Francis, the founder of the "Girls Gone Wild" empire, is humiliating me. He has my face pressed against the hood of a car, my arms twisted hard behind my back. He's pushing himself against me, shouting: "This is what they did to me in Panama City!"

It's after 3 a.m. and we're in a parking lot on the outskirts of Chicago. Electronic music is buzzing from the nightclub across the street, mixing easily with the laughter of the guys who are watching this, this me-pinned-and-helpless thing.

Francis isn't laughing.

He has turned on me, and I don't know why. He's going on and on about Panama City Beach, the spring break spot in northern Florida where Bay County sheriff's deputies arrested him three years ago on charges of racketeering, drug trafficking and promoting the sexual performance of a child. As he yells, I wonder if this is a flashback, or if he's punishing me for being the only blond in sight who's not wearing a thong. This much is certain: He's got at least 80 pounds on me and I'm thinking he's about to break my left arm. My eyes start to stream tears.

And that's just how he treated Claire Hoffman, the reporter. Here's what he did to one of the young women he filmed:

Eventually, Szyszka says, Francis told the cameraman to leave and pushed her back on the bed, undid his jeans and climbed on top of her. "I told him it hurt, and he kept doing it. And I keep telling him it hurts. I said, 'No' twice in the beginning, and during I started saying, 'Oh, my god, it hurts.' I kept telling him it hurt, but he kept going, and he said he was sorry but kissed me so I wouldn't keep talking."

Afterward, she says, Francis cleaned them both off with a paper towel and told her to get dressed. Then, she says, he opened the door and told the cameraman to come back, saying, "She's not a virgin anymore."


After you read the article, check out The Happy Feminist's post and links on the subject. Sadly, there is more evidence of rape (in one instance, by a cameraman). It's clear that while Francis is calling the shots, his coworkers are either raping women themselves or facilitating rape. Very disturbing.

If you are on a college campus, share this information with students.

But there are larger questions here. I do not label myself as an anti-porn feminist. Though I do think that porn can hurt women (and men) by normalizing women's sexual objectification and availability, I also think that when women use porn, particularly the production of porn, to validate their own sexualities, it can be empowering. So I have tended to ally myself, in general, more with the sex radicals in this feminist conversation (more on that another time).

However. The anti-porn feminist movement has argued that pornography is basically the same thing as prostitution: sex (bodies, esp. women's bodies) for sale. They have argued that it is also always exploitation of women in general, whether or not the particular women involved are victimized in a given situation. And in the case of Girls Gone Wild, this theory certainly seems to hold true. We have young women who are deliberately encouraged to drink to the point of intoxication (at which point consent cannot be given, as a drunk person cannot legally give consent), young women who are then systematically separated from their friends and taken alone into a bus where they are first pressured and then forced into doing things they do not want to do, including having simulated and real intercourse with dildos (on camera) and crew (off camera). And this is done for some kind of exchange - money, a hat, panties, whatever. The product is then sold in order to make Joe Francis and his cohorts very rich, indeed.

So, the real questions:
Why is Girls Gone Wild not considered prostitution?

Why is Girls Gone Wild not considered sexual assault and/or rape, given coercion and lack of consent?

4 comments:

Kelsey said...

I'd say it's only not prostitution because the women are compensated so poorly for it (seriously, a hat?). Almost across the board, I'd call it sexual assault.

plain(s)feminist said...

So what would it need to be to be "real" prostitution? Doesn't any exchange make it sex for hire? (Does it need to literally be money?) Would $10 make it prostitution?

I'm really curious about this.

Kelsey said...

I guess I would personally define prostitution as consentual sex for pay. First, I don't believe what goes on with Girls Gone Wild is consentual, because the girls are too intoxicated (and sometimes, too young) to actually give consent. That's why I say it's sexual assault (and obviously, as the article shows, sometimes they don't give consent at all).

And I would say, yes, it literally has to be money. Any other job is only considered such because of the payment of money. I went to SDPB every day and got a pay check. That was my job. There were people who answered phones at pledge and got a free coffee mug and they were still considered volunteers. As to the level that they would need to be paid, I think it would make more sense to compare them to other women who work in porn as opposed to prostitutes. And from what I know from the porn industry, these girls, aside from being physically exploited, are being financially exploited to the point that they can't even seriously be called porn actresses (or prostitutes). Once again, outside of the sex work realm, there is a level of compensation that we would call 'sweatshop wages' or 'slave wages.' People that work for that kind of money are not considered just regular factory workers on the lower end of the pay scale.

There are certainly people who see the exchange of sex for anything as prostitution. I find that problematic for a number of reasons that would take me more than a blog post to explain. If you ever come down here for coffee, we can talk about it ;)

Lana Wood said...

Whenever I see part of one of these commercials, while I scramble for the remote, I wonder why no one's parents haven't sued these people into oblivion.

The young women in the videos are so obviously impaired, and oftentimes apprehensive, I cannot imagine how these people get away with these videos.

Also, why isn't this Joe Francis guy in jail for being the self appointed devirginizer of the spring break set?