Hostile

Update: Jessica has some ideas about what you can do.

Claire Hoffman, a staff writer for the LA Times, got a little more than she bargained for when she took an assignment to write an article for the paper’s magazine about “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis:

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.

Francis turned on Hoffman for no apparent reason; they’d just spent five hours inside a nightclub with 2500 very drunk people, holding a “Top Bod” contest (photos here) and recruiting girls willing (or simply drunk enough) to go out to the “Girls Gone Wild” tour bus (they were not allowed to photograph half-naked women inside the nightclub; go figure) to flash their tits or kiss another girl on video in exchange for T-shirts, GGW panties or the odd trucker hat. Francis himself has gotten very rich from these images: GGW generates about $40 million a year in sales.

But back to that rather ill-considered assault on an LA Times reporter:

I wriggle free and punch him in the face, closed-fist but not too hard.

“Damn,” bystanders say. Francis barely blinks. He snatches at my notebook. He is amped, his broad face sneering as he does a sort of boxer’s skip around me, jabbering, grabbing at my arms and my stomach as I try to move away, clutching my notebook to my chest. He stabs a finger in my face, shouting, “You don’t care about the 1st Amendment. I care about the 1st Amendment, but you are the kind of reporter who doesn’t care.”

Not content with the riches he has made off the bare breasts of drunk underage girls (who might well have thought differently about exposing themselves for a wide-release video sold on TV in exchange for a little swag had they been sober — wonder if those model releases are valid if they’re signed while impaired), Francis wants to take his empire into the mainstream:

At 33, and after almost a decade as the king of soft porn, Francis says he wants to leave this twilight existence and wade into the mainstream. He is quick to list the projects he says he has in the works: a feature-length film, a series of “Girls Gone Wild” ocean cruises, a “Girls Gone Wild” apparel line and a chain of “Girls Gone Wild” restaurants. He says he’s producing a new line of videos called “Flirt” that will be racy, but not explicit, and could be sold in mass-market retail outlets such as Wal-Mart and Target.

In short, Francis wants to insinuate himself and his view of the world into the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the vacations you take and the entertainment—filmed and glossy—that you consume. He sees “Girls Gone Wild” as the ultimate lifestyle brand. “Sex sells everything,” he says. “It drives every buying decision . . . I hate to get too deep and philosophical here, but only the guys with the greatest sexual appetites are the ones who are the most driven and most successful.”

This is how he sells that success:

The call center, just past Los Angeles International Airport, is staffed by rotating shifts of 250 employees who earn $9 an hour, plus commission, to hawk “Girls Gone Wild” videos, which sell for as little as $9.99 each. A whiteboard on the wall sets the agenda: “Push That Porn!!!”

The workers are mostly young and African American, and the videos they’re pushing are almost exclusively of twentysomething white girls. “You like watching triple-X, right? You seen our doggy-style videos? Well, I’m going to send you out eight of the hottest videos of the year,” goes the pitch.

Francis and his company are under investigation for what went on in Panama City:

In Panama City Beach, his lawyers successfully fought another battle. Authorities had filed a 77-count complaint in state circuit court that accused Francis and his crew of gathering a group of minors—a 16-year-old and four 17-year-olds—and taking them to the Chateau Motel. There Francis paid two of the girls $100 each to make out in the shower while his crew videotaped them and told two of the girls he would pay them $50 each to touch his penis, according to the complaint. Francis pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Francis, poor baby, doesn’t like how his empire has changed the girls he exploits:

But the women are changing, Francis tells me, and that makes him sad. In the beginning, when “Girls Gone Wild” cameramen first popped up in clubs, the women who revealed themselves seemed innocent—surprised, even, by their own spontaneity. Now that the brand is so pervasive, the women who participate increasingly appear to be calculating exhibitionists, hoping that an appearance on a video might catapult them to Paris Hilton-like fame.

The question of why these young women do this for a T-shirt is pretty complex. It’s not simple exploitation of drunk young women, but it’s also not simple enjoyment, empowerment or calculation:

I know that Francis’ assertion that women bare all for “Girls Gone Wild” because they enjoy it—while undeniably self-serving—is at least partly true. But I find myself asking the same question I had put to my friend back in Iowa: Why?

Francis doesn’t have an answer. “I’ve never focused on why they do it,” he says. He rattles off suggestions: “It’s empowering, it’s freedom.” Would he do it, I ask? “Probably not,” he responds. “I’m too shy.”

I call Vicki Mayer, a sociologist and Tulane University assistant professor, for guidance. Mayer teaches a class on the nudity rituals that take place on New Orleans’ infamous Bourbon Street. She has studied and written about “Girls Gone Wild,” and she contends that it’s simplistic to say that Mantra takes advantage of women. “For some women this is liberating, for some women this is something they do on a goof or for a lark to show friends they can, for some it’s a way of flirting with the cameramen,” Mayer says.

Francis and his staff maintain that it’s the “girl next door” they seek out for their videos. In reality, the “Girls Gone Wild” girl is almost always slender and young, with nice teeth and very carefully groomed private parts. At the same time, Mantra recruits hard-working and attractive young men who will be able to sweet-talk women into taking their clothes off for the cameras. (Mantra has released several “Guys Gone Wild” DVDs filmed by female camera crews, but they have not sold as well.)

Mayer has studied the young cameramen, who, she says, often sign up because they hope to break into Hollywood. Usually, she says, they end up disillusioned after spending night after night with women who lose their inhibitions for a T-shirt. “As much as it would be easy to see this as a simple relationship of men treating women a certain way, there are mutual relations of exploitation. I kind of feel like both sides could be seen as exploited.”

She’s concluded that the winners are “the owners of these companies who are contracting cheap labor and free talent for a media product.”

It would be bad enough if Francis left it at just exploitation of the images of these young women. But what makes him even more of a scumbag is his willingness to use their physical bodies for his own purposes. Hoffman writes of an awful encounter with a very drunk, barely legal girl whose description of what happened sure as hell sounds like he raped her:

Above the dance floor, the stage is full of girls who rotate, twist and shimmy their way up and down three strip poles. One of them is Jannel Szyszka, a petite 18-year-old who prances around the stage like a star. At her feet, a crowd of hundreds is gyrating to the pounding house music. Dozens of polo-shirted boys shout up to her, making requests like “shake your titties” and “get crunk” (meaning crazy-drunk).

Szyszka tells me later that as she was spinning around the strip pole that night, Francis appeared, grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him. “You are so going on the bus later,” she recalls Francis saying. “I was like, ‘Um, OK.’ I was shocked. I was like, ‘Whoa—Joe’s, like, trying to talk to me, like out of all the girls in here.'” Francis invited her back to the VIP area to do shots with him, she says, and she said yes.

Szyszka says the more shots she drank, the cloudier her judgment became. She says she agreed to join Francis and his crew on the “Girls Gone Wild” bus. “I thought ‘Girls Gone Wild’ was like flashing, and I thought I would flash them and be done. And so when I’m walking to the bus, that’s all I’m thinking is going to happen.”

At first she felt comfortable, she says. Inebriated and excited, she says she was led to the back of the bus, to a small bedroom. The double bed, with its neatly folded iridescent purple sheets, takes up most of the room. A flat-screen TV faces the bed, and cabinets are filled with remote controls, lubricants, condoms, sex toys in plastic bags, baby oil, a DVD called “How to be a Player” and a clipboard full of waivers for girls to sign. A small bathroom is off to the side, with a half-sized shower with faux marble tiling, and on the floor of the shower is a crate holding cheap and fruity-flavored rum, whiskey, tequila and Kool-Aid.

Footage from that night shows a close-up of Szyszka’s driver’s license, proving she’s not a minor. The camera then captures Szyszka lying on the bed. Her nails are chipped, her eyes coated with makeup. Following a camerman’s instructions, she shows her breasts and says, “Girls Gone Wild.” She seems shy but willing. She smiles. The unseen cameraman asks her to take off her shirt, her skirt, then her underwear. She sprawls on the bed, her legs open. At his suggestion, she masturbates with a dildo, saying repeatedly that it hurts but also feels good. Francis enters the room at certain points and you hear his voice, low and flirtatious, telling her, “You are so adorable.” When she says she’s a virgin, he responds: “Great. You won’t be after my cameraman gets done with you.”

When I talk to Szyszka seven days later, she says she “didn’t quite realize” she was being filmed. “But I didn’t care because I was drunk and who cares?” Then she adds: “It didn’t feel good to me at all, but I was totally faking it because I was on ‘Girls Gone Wild.'”

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.”

Francis told her to keep what happened between them, but Szyszka eventually told her parents and sister what happened. They were angry, but kept quiet at her request. But she finds herself confused and, as women have been conditioned to in this culture, guilty about what happened:

She’s confused, she admits, about what happened. She feels guilty, she says, for getting herself into the situation in the first place. She says she never would have undressed for the cameras if she hadn’t been completely drunk. And she is adamant that she said “no” to Francis. She says she’s haunted by that night.

“I feel like it was planned,” she says. “Sometimes I’m driving along, and I think about it and all of a sudden feel weird.”

Francis, let’s remember, took her to the VIP room and fed her shots and only then took her out to the bus to be filmed. She might be old enough (as evidenced by the creepy closeup of her driver’s license) to pose for porn, but she’s not old enough to be served at a bar.

For his part, Francis angrily denies that he even had sex that night — hey, if it didn’t happen on camera, it didn’t happen, right?

Six weeks after that night outside Chicago, when I call Francis on his cellphone and ask him about the incident, he says he doesn’t remember Szyszka and that he didn’t have sex with anyone that night. He seems to lose control, repeatedly referring to me by a crude word for female genitalia. “If you print that, I will [expletive] sue the [expletive] out of you. If you print that, baby, you just put the nail in your own coffin,” he tells me. “You are a [expletive expletive]. You decided to blast me . . . You are a [expletive] bitch . . . I will get my last laugh on you. I will get you.” He then refers me to Burke, his lawyer.

Burke, for his part, allows that his client had consensual sex with Szyszka, but denies that he fed her alcohol and claims that any pain was simply due to Francis’ endowment.

This anger and revenge has been on display throughout Hoffman’s encounters with Francis. He assaulted her, after all. Not only that, his jokes and anecdotes all had a barely concealed undertow of hostility and anger that belied his claims to “love” women.

But he doesn’t appear to be equipped to deal with women who aren’t very young, very drunk and shedding their inhibitions for a chance at some kind of fame. Hoffman scares him, and in an attempt to neutralize the threat she poses to him with her ability to use his own words and actions against him, he tries the “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty” tack:

Francis sounds scared in the message he leaves on my office voicemail: “I’ve seen some excerpts from your article that I guess you’ve sent to the photographer and, um, I want to talk to you about it.”

No photographer has been assigned to the story, and no excerpts have been sent to anyone.

I don’t call Francis back right away, so he calls my editor. He tells her that I have a crush on him, that I have an ax to grind because I am jealous and angry.

“I just felt that Claire may have had a little affinity for me,” he says as she takes notes. “It may have come out when she had a few drinks.” He describes my behavior as aggressively romantic. “Originally she hit on me. That’s how I met her. I took her to a lunch. She called me all the time and it wasn’t about work. It was about me. I know when a girl has a crush on me.”

He tells her I was drinking heavily—”we all were”—and offers to send photographs to prove it. When my editor asks if he put his hands on me that night, he doesn’t hesitate.

“I did absolutely get physical with her—but not romantically,” he says. “We were outside standing by a police car. The officer told her to quit taking notes on what he was saying. I said, ‘There’s no freedom of the press here.’ I took her arms behind her back and said, ‘Let’s take her to jail.’ I said she should go to jail and the officer agreed with me. She didn’t get the sarcasm. She listened to him. She stopped writing. Can you believe that? That’s the 1st Amendment. She’s not a journalist. I stand up for the 1st Amendment. But she didn’t.” My problem, he tells my editor, is that I “wasn’t smart enough” to “get” what he was saying.

Oh, she’s smart enough. And she’s smart enough to check out whether he’s done this kind of thing before. And he has: police and court records allege that he’s responded to women who haven’t complied with his every whim by making threats, attempting to break into their homes, screaming obscenities at them and harassing them at work.

But here’s where things get scary and depressing, because even though Francis attacked Hoffman on a public street, in front of witnesses (who included law enforcement officers), it was initially dismissed as affectionate play:

I phone Ementi Coary, a Melrose Park, Ill., police officer who witnessed Francis roughing me up. He says he didn’t intervene at the time because he had been told by “Girls Gone Wild” crew members that Francis and I had “hooked up” and that we “had a thing going” and that I was “just jealous.”

“I was under the impression that you guys knew each other, that something was going on between you and that you guys were playing around,” Coary says. “I changed my mind when he was grabbing your arm. That didn’t look like playing around anymore.” That’s when Francis’ bodyguard physically separated us, escorting me to the edge of the parking lot, and when Coary called for backup; a patrol car arrived moments later. “He’s one of those guys who has money and does whatever he wants to,” Coary continues. “I would’ve been happy to put the guy in jail.” He had advised me to press charges that night, but I declined.

Then I phone Leland Zaitz, who was working for Francis in Melrose Park as a producer and was in the parking lot during the episode. Zaitz says he interpreted the whole thing as Francis being affectionate toward me, despite the fact that the pressure he applied was so intense that hours later, my arms were covered in red hand marks.

“He starts having fun and he realizes that most people can’t keep up with him and he gets a little rough. I think it was just Joe’s version of being playful and goofy,” Zaitz says. “I think he was trying to bring you in closer.”

Boys will be boys, after all. If he’s teasing you, it means he likes you. Amanda, not surprisingly, also sees the hostility, the possessiveness and the coercion. She’s also anticipating that she’s going to get the kind of emails she got when she wrote about Dov Charney, the scum who runs American Apparel and treats his staff as his personal harem. Because it’s all in good fun, they said. What, are you some kind of prude?

Hoffman’s piece ends with a perfect example of how intertwined violence, sex and power are in the minds of a lot of people in this culture:

When I think back on that night, our very public scuffle isn’t what seems the most revealing. Instead, the moment I saw Francis most clearly—his charm, his rage, his cunning and even his regret—came later, when no one was looking. I was waiting, still shaken, outside the club for a cab to take me back to my hotel. Francis, who had disappeared inside the bus, returned.

Ignoring the two policemen who hovered a few yards away, he tiptoed past them to stand over me. He rubbed my shoulder. His gestures were oddly gentle—even fond. I felt sick.

“I’m sorry,” he said, reaching over to tousle my hair. “We love our little reporter. Don’t we guys? We love our little reporter.”

I stared down at the dirt as he whispered in my ear, “I’m sorry, baby, give me a kiss. Give me a kiss.”

See also Ezra and Steve.


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57 Responses to Hostile

  1. Bryan says:

    God, this is a truly harrowing and sickening story. Francis is lucky he only got punched in the face, he should be locked up in prison.

    I remember reading in one of Ariel Levy’s pieces on GGW for Slate a year or two ago that one of the tour managers (female, no less) was a graduate of the college I attend, and that she had been referred to the job by a professor. Reading this really makes me wonder who the hell that professor was that would recommend a young woman to work with a guy like Joe Francis.

  2. Natalia says:

    Oh my God! I wish the writer had pressed charges. It’s not my place do advise, after all, I never pressed charges against the guy who assaulted me. I was very little, ten years old, and I was very scared. He was trying to treat me like a woman, it was surreal.

    I don’t know where these people get off, I have no idea how their mind works.

    It sickens me.

  3. dawn says:

    What pisses me off (and yeah, this pisses me off) is that people shrug their shoulders and pass it off as “boys will be boys” and “he’s a little rough with his affection.” Bull. The man is a bully and will force his way to get what he wants.

    He raped that girl. He attacked the reporter. He has anger issues, definitely. And yet, he continues to get away with it.

    Shame on everyone around him for allowing it to happen.

  4. pamelabrkly says:

    What pisses me off is this guy isn’t just hurting girls once–he’s ruining their lives long term. Think about all of the high profile career options that are closed to them for life because someone got them drunk and then got them to do something stupid on camera.

  5. Lorelei says:

    She is so brave to publish this story.

  6. BeaTricks says:

    The guy is a sociopath. Enough said.

  7. this is why i oppose nuclear disarmament. we humans don’t deserve to exist, so why bother trying to protect human life?

    now i have to call my mother and tell her she’s a rapist. i don’t want to hate my mother, but now i have no choice. she owns some of these videos. god i just want to die.

  8. Nomie says:

    Romantic? Playful? What utter bullshit. If he had her arms forced behind her back, and her face shoved into the hood of a car, then it’s assault. If anybody shoved me into a car I’d knee them in the crotch, even if they were my best friend, out of pure reflex.

    I bet the guy will sue Hoffman and the LA Times for libel. Scummy piece of tripe-laden chicken shit.

  9. junk science says:

    I don’t know why, but somehow the idea of someone laughing at a woman being assaulted sickens me more than the assault itself. Even if you “believe” they’re “just playing.”

  10. Lorelei says:

    I don’t know why, but somehow the idea of someone laughing at a woman being assaulted sickens me more than the assault itself. Even if you “believe” they’re “just playing.”

    You know, it’s like, yes, sometimes people will be physical with someone to flirt with them and it really IS just playing. But definitely no, shoving someone’s head into a car and holding her arms behind her is NOT ‘just playing.’

  11. Elinor says:

    Think about all of the high profile career options that are closed to them for life because someone got them drunk and then got them to do something stupid on camera.

    With any luck, once they get in line for those jobs their posing for the GGW videos will be written off as youthful hijinks. That’d be progress. (But if that were the case, of course, GGW might lose some of its appeal, at least to sadistic creeps like Francis.)

  12. Esme says:

    I want to scream after reading this. I want to scream at every cop who hasn’t arrested him, at ever prosecutor who hasn’t pressed charges on his underage porn, feeding drinks to minors to elicit pornographic performances, assault on women anywhere near him, and at every dickwad boy who still buys this crap because it’s “hot.”

    A pox upon you, sir.

  13. butlervince says:

    Ever read “The Sociopath Next Door” ? Everyone should.

  14. wow. Holy shit. I remember seeing a show once where they were following the renovations of this guy’s home, and he was such a complete and utter asshole on that show, which I had suspected anyway considering what he does for a living is coerce young women into getting drunk and exposing their breasts and genitals.

    the worst about this is that society rewards this guy for his aggressive and manipulative behavious towards women, rewards him for turning women into objects, rewards him for being an asshole, and blames the women he uses to make his millions – normal, everyday women who are taken advantage of while in a state of intoxication – for being sluts and whores and attention-seeking and calculating.

    I wish someone, somewhere would take this guy down for what he has done and continues to do to women.

  15. exangelena says:

    I wonder what the sex positive feminists will have to say about this …

  16. sly civilian says:

    “I wonder what the sex positive feminists will have to say about this …”

    Strawfeminist…so good to see you again.

    I won’t speak for anyone else (but if you *actually* wanted to see sex positive feminists respond to this, you could just read the comments here, feministing, pandagon, etc…)but this is my two cents.

    He’s a goddamned rapist, and his work ought to be attacked for the way it fetishizes non-consent.

  17. Bryan says:

    Come on, Sly, haven’t you heard that the sexpos are all about rape and assault?

  18. bmc90 says:

    I think I know how to fix his little red wagon. Make him pay royalties to everyone in his stupid videos to the point where he is losing money, and give people a strong private right of action for invading their privacy by inducing them to perform nude on camera while drunk.

  19. Sheelzebub says:

    She’s also anticipating that she’s going to get the kind of emails she got when she wrote about Dov Charney, the scum who runs American Apparel and treats his staff as his personal harem.

    It looks like widdle Francis likes getting physical and violent. Dov sends his shills out to blogs critical of him to insist the bloggers are sex-hating prudes out on a feminist witch-hunt.

    What these two scamps have in common–besides their oversized feelings of entitlement–is that, at the end of the day, they’re corporate suits. And corporate suits are nothing if not entitled.

  20. Thomas says:

    exangelena, I’ve stopped using the term “sex positive” to describe myself, simply because I think it only adds to the acrimony between feminists of different views. And I may not be what you think of when you say “sex positive,” because I’m a Swedish Model proponent and I don’t consume mainstream porn.

    But here’s that I say: I want to see Joe Francis gut-shot by some woman that he attacks, since I suspect there have been plenty and will be more.

    I want his company to go bankrupt.

    I want every woman that ever appeared in one of those videos to get all her material back to do with as she sees fit. I suspect most of them would destroy it.

    I want straight men to realize that a teenager who shows her breasts to a camera when she’s drunk is overwhelmingly not representing anything about her authentic sexuality. She’s drunk, and she’s pressured. I’ve never seen his videos and I’m not going to.

  21. Thomas says:

    people a strong private right of action for invading their privacy by inducing them to perform nude on camera while drunk.

    How about a three-day revocation right, so these young women can think clearly about the experience when they are sober? And a private right of action, with a fee-shifting provision, permitting them to seek return of the footage if they were incapable of meaningful consent at the time it was made, with a presumption that if the crew had seen them consume alcohol within two hours of shooting the footage, they were incapable of meaningful consent?

    We could have ourselves a model statute in a few drafts.

  22. Thomas says:

    Please excuse the double-post.

  23. Dilan Esper says:

    I think the article speaks for itself, and this guy should be locked up for a long, long time.

    But one thing in particular stands out. He was going to have his cameraman have sex with that girl on camera. Then, when he finds out that unlike most of the women whom he pays to shoot amateur porn, this one’s a virgin (no wonder the sex toy hurt!), he excuses the cameraman and decides to rape her himself (off camera, to reduce the risk of prosecution), rather than shooting a scene.

    This is the cult of virginity meeting post-modern amateur porn, and it is absolutely sickening.

  24. bmc90 says:

    Thomas, like your idea. The important thing is not to censor the material and kick up the First Amendment issue, but rather to just make it unprofitable. At this point I’m toying with the idea of getting my own camper, following this guy around, and paying girls twice as much to come over to MY camper where they will watch Thema and Louise, drink black coffee, and call their moms until this guy clears the area.

  25. Thomas says:

    paying girls twice as much

    Do you have a funding source lined up? That does not sound like a good self-funded project.

  26. Robyn Banks says:

    Well, actually, Francis doesn’t pay them ANYTHING, so paying them twice as much as nothing sounds pretty feasible!

  27. Sheelzebub says:

    Interesting–Francis’s assailant got over 10 years in jail. Francis, who assaults women, has done no significant time.

  28. Pingback: Glow in the Dark · links for 2006-08-07

  29. exangelena says:

    I was probably being too snarky this morning and I apologize if I offended anyone. But I am sick of “sex positive feminists” or whatever you want to call them, bashing Ariel Levy as a prudish scold who’s trying to rain on their sexy fun when the articles she wrote for Slate touched on the ugly side of Girls Gone Wild and have been on the internet for years. There’s one disturbing episode she describes where two girls are on a beach and they’re approached by some guys and a GGW camera crew who start screaming at them to take their clothes off, and Levy wrote something like, I hope they don’t start throwing rocks at the girls if they refuse to strip.

    As for sex positive feminists, I may be opening a Pandora’s Box here, but it’s seemed to me that they are unfriendly about questioning women’s choices, especially if it is to be sexual or promiscuous or whatever. And if you criticize the sexual mores that GGW promotes – that puts a lot of aggressive pressure on women (like the episode I mentioned before) to engage in public exhibitionism and sexual activity – then you’re “slut-shaming” or you’re antifeminist because you’re criticizing other women’s choices. Of course sex positive feminists just like any other rational people should condemn rape and assault; of course many men who watch GGW videos will never rape or assault anyone; and of course causation isn’t correlation. But I think that you have to consider GGW’s attitude towards sex and women in the context of this disgusting behavior.

  30. piny says:

    I was probably being too snarky this morning and I apologize if I offended anyone.

    Why on Earth would it be offensive to have someone imply that you’re soft on rape?

  31. piny says:

    As for sex positive feminists, I may be opening a Pandora’s Box here, but it’s seemed to me that they are unfriendly about questioning women’s choices, especially if it is to be sexual or promiscuous or whatever. And if you criticize the sexual mores that GGW promotes – that puts a lot of aggressive pressure on women (like the episode I mentioned before) to engage in public exhibitionism and sexual activity – then you’re “slut-shaming” or you’re antifeminist because you’re criticizing other women’s choices.

    Like Sly said, this really is a strawfeminist. Do you have some examples of sex-positive feminists complaining about how it’s “slut-shaming” to have a problem with behavior like Francis’s?

  32. zuzu says:

    Gosh, there’s such a thing as rape?

  33. exangelena says:

    re#32: My apology was intended for sex positive feminists who thought I was implying that they are ok with rapists, which I did not intend.
    re#33: I’m not talking about Joe Francis’ behavior – as I’ve said, most rational people would condemn rape or assault and I’m not even going to get started on rape apologists. I’m talking about the GGW attitude that pressures women to strip and engage in sexual exhibitionism. Then if you criticize that behavior and that attitude, *then* you’re slut shaming because you’re criticizing a woman’s sexual choices (and then we’ve resurrected the sex wars).
    A fair amount of feminist bloggers dislike Ariel Levy, who I mentioned because she criticized GGW years ago (Bryan also mentioned it at comment #1): ‘I’m not going to fucking lecture some 19 year-old about who she wants to show her tits to’, ‘prudery and discomfort with public displays of sexuality, lustiness, etc’ and ‘scolds, alarmists … well-intenioned prudes’.
    I am curious about what some of these sex positive feminists have to say about this – whether they will say that Francis is a sleazy rapist and “one bad apple” or whether GGW’s promotion of women as sexual objects available on male demand deserves some scrutiny, even when it might question the choices of the dozens of adult women who have consensually appeared in GGW.
    I’m sorry, I’m not very articulate online and probably some things I’ve written were misstated.

  34. zuzu says:

    Are you assuming we here aren’t sex-positive feminists?

    Let me tell you something: My objection to the GGW empire has a hell of a lot less to do with women who want to flash their tits for a little money or attention than with the scum who profit from it while giving nothing to the women who pose — all the while being upset that it’s not a challenge anymore to talk/coerce/ply with alcohol young women into exposing themselves because they might be trying to get something out of it for themselves other than a trucker hat, thus destroying their little fantasy that these are “good girls” whose behavior is deviant and therefore exciting.

    Like the article said, the issues of exploitation are complex — at least in terms of the simple exposure/filming/trucker hat bit of it. It’s the other issues — the rape of an 18-year-old, the coercion, the having women sign waivers while impaired — that are simple. And those are not the kinds of issues that sex-positive feminists approve of.

    So when you insinuate that sex-positive feminists won’t agree that Francis is sleazy, or a rapist, you betray your ignorance of what being sex-positive means. And what you miss is the rather central concept of CONSENT.

    I have personally flashed my tits in New Orleans in exchange for beads — but I did it because I felt like it, and I got the nice pearls from the balconies. Nobody got me drunk beforehand, or asked me to sign away my right to profit from the image of my bare tits in exchange for the beads — and nobody forced me to do it. And nobody took me into a tour bus and raped me, either.

  35. Nikki says:

    Well, as a sex-positive feminist, I have to say that I don’t think that GGW on the whole reflects the actions of women making free, well-informed choices about their sexuality. It represents, on the whole, very young (if legal) women who are typically in some state of intoxication being directly and indirectly pressured into performing for GGW. Some few of them may be stone-cold sober and loving it, but I think those truly are few. GGW doesn’t promote sex-positivity and I think it kind of couldn’t no matter what because of the bass-ackwards attitude our society has about sex. Ultimately, to me anyway, being sex-pos is about knowing myself and what I want — and I think that GGW seems to focus on getting these girls out of their element as much as possible and then getting them to do what Joe Francis wants — which seems to me to be pretty opposite of my understanding of sex-pos feminisim.

  36. Bitch |Lab says:

    exangelena: KMFFA .

    or and it jiggles too. I don’t shave or wax for no one.

  37. Bitch |Lab says:

    I think, basically, Exangelena has an inability to understand that one can share Levy’s criticisms of GGW — the force behind it particularly — and still want to engage in criticisms of Levy’s own biases regarding women’s sexuality. The author of this article exposing Fracis, herself, takes a position very similar to my own regarding the women who appear in GGW. And that’s an analysis that Levy doesn’t much consider and it’s an analysis with which I took issue.

    I also have a big problem with any woman who writes a book who is obsessively concerned with what women look like, makes generalization on the basis of about 12-15 interviews, get facts wrong REPEATEDLY to the detriment of the young woman involved in the factually incorrect story, and who repeatedly calls women bimbos, sluts, lickerish, etc.

    I was astonished at the degree to which Levy felt comfortable describing the women she met. I was astonished at the degree to which she felt comfortable cherry picking through the research — a rich field of research — on young people’s sexuality over the years (we do a sex survey annyally for the last 25 years now. She could have cosulted it!)

    I was astonished at the way she made or tried to make a connection between her distate for the study of the ‘troika of race, class, and gender” and what she thinks of as,ultimately, the culprits beyind Girls Gone Wild — feminists who teach the troika of “race, class and gender” and who refuse to teach courses on the classics of Western literature because they think literature should be analyzed as the instrument-effect of racial, sexist, and classist domination in history.

    Finally, I was astonished at the racism and classism embedded in the book. And my use of the word prudery ties directly to that classism for prudery is, after all, the expression of upper-middle class or bourgeois norms about the body, it’s display, what we do with it in public, and so forth. Similarly, it’s astonishing that she compared “female chauvinist pigs” to “uncle toms” — knowing full well that the comparison is problematic and considered deeply problematic because it tries to compare sexism to racism as if one is reducible to the other. She knows this, and she does it anyway.

    If you find that sort of analysis wonderful, enjoy! Read the book, pass out copies. I’m not going to join you.

  38. exangelena says:

    Zuzu – I have never said that sex positive feminists excuse rape. What I meant was that sex positive feminists (along with most rational people) will undoubtedly and justifiably condemn Joe Francis for his disgusting behavior, but are they going to do that AND look at the attitudes about women and sex that GGW promotes, particularly the way that the crowds seem to pressure reluctant or ambivalent (and often intoxicated) women into flashing? I agree that there is economic exploitation involved, because the girls get some cheap trucker hat or t-shirt and the GGW enterprise makes obscene profits. But I think that the popularity of GGW promotes an attitude that puts a lot of pressure on women to act like sexual exhibitionists and the idea that women are sexually available on demand. Nikki at #38 says it a lot better than I will.

    Bitch Lab – I quoted your blog as an example of a feminist who disliked Levy’s angle on raunch culture. If it seems like I was casting aspersions on you, I apologize, I didn’t intend to. I do read your blog sometimes but you are obviously more well read than I am lol.

    Oh, and FWIW Joe Francis allegedly got his start in video with “Banned From Television”, whichis a collection of footage of all sorts of gory violence, so he’s probably a creep without all the flashing coeds.

  39. zuzu says:

    Zuzu – I have never said that sex positive feminists excuse rape. What I meant was that sex positive feminists (along with most rational people) will undoubtedly and justifiably condemn Joe Francis for his disgusting behavior, but are they going to do that AND look at the attitudes about women and sex that GGW promotes, particularly the way that the crowds seem to pressure reluctant or ambivalent (and often intoxicated) women into flashing?

    So where did you miss that in my post, exactly? It was all right there, so your insinuations and intimations are disingenuous at best.

  40. Bryan says:

    exangelena:

    I have never said that sex positive feminists excuse rape. What I meant was that sex positive feminists (along with most rational people) will undoubtedly and justifiably condemn Joe Francis for his disgusting behavior, but are they going to do that AND look at the attitudes about women and sex that GGW promotes, particularly the way that the crowds seem to pressure reluctant or ambivalent (and often intoxicated) women into flashing?

    Yes, it’s called nuance. Not everything can be reduced to X = good, Y = bad. Believe it or not, even sex-positive feminists are capable of such complex thought!

    you are obviously more well read than I am

    No one’s arguing that point.

  41. exangelena says:

    Crap, I posted before I saw all these other responses.

    Alright, I’m not quite sure what a sex positive feminist is. I mean, does anyone actually label themselves as sex negative? By sex positive, I was thinking about the Rachel Kramer Bussell article, where it’s basically like, don’t question anyone’s sexual choices. Personally, I don’t support outlawing any kinds of sex between consenting adults, but I do think that feminists should always question the social contexts – this reminds me a lot of the debate over makeup in the feminist blogosphere a few months ago.

    Bitch Lab – I’m sorry I misinterpreted your criticism of Levy, I have read some of the many posts you wrote about FCP and I’ll just agree to disagree for now.

    zuzu – I did read your post and I was clarifying what I meant earlier, which I may have misstated.

    Bryan – I apologized earlier for my snarky comment about sex positive feminists this morning. It was inaccurate at best, I should have thought twice before I clicked the submit comment button and I’m truly sorry if I offended you or anyone.

    Olive branch, anyone?

  42. Lya Kahlo says:

    Ugh. I want to puke. I always figured the guy who came up tiwh GGW would be a rapist, but didn’t think it was literally true.

    If this were a just country he would be in jail having an inmante with similar “endowments” teaching him what “oh god it hurts” really means.

  43. Bryan says:

    Alright, I’m not quite sure what a sex positive feminist is.

    If you’re going to admit to the fact that you’re ignorant, why would you butt your way into a conversation and make remarks about things you know nothing about?

    I’m gonna be nice and suggest you start here and then work your way through some of the links. Do a little legwork of your own. We’re all pretty much working with an established vocabulary and mutual understanding here, so it just derails the conversation when you come in and make unjustified and unfounded assumptions.

    Sex-positive feminism isn’t just about “not outlawing sex between consenting adults,” it’s about freedom of choice. And for the record (and I may be brewing up trouble here), Bussell’s sex-positivism isn’t simply “don’t question anyone’s sexual choices.” There are very few real feminists who would reduce anything to such a simple idea. That’s why you got called out for making strawfeminist arguments.

  44. Thomas says:

    Geez, people, when you hear me saying that those flamethrowers ought to be carried with the safety on, folks have been too quick on the draw.

    exangelena got gang-tackled as if she were an unrepentant convert to the Church of Jeffries, when no such thing is in evidence. In fact, it’s pretty clear that she’s looking to engage instead of fight, though perhaps with some unfair preconceived notions about what positions folks actually take.

    exangelena, I’m not sure that anybody openly identifies as sex negative, which is why I have stopped identifying as sex positive. I don’t think the term is useless, but it is so fraught with misinterpretation that I think it does more harm than good. Folks who don’t like it almost always read it as pro-porn industry and pro-decriminalized prostitution for one thing, when a lot of the women who use the term seem to have a more nuanced and critical stance than that would suggest. Further, as you say, the linguistic opposite is sex negative, which nobody openly embraces.

    That said, there is such a thing as sex negative, and part of the reason I don’t like the term sex positive is because it is often understood to cast all feminists who are strongly anti-porn and anti-prostitution as anti-sex, which is an unfair conflation. Opposing porn and prostitution does not necessarily include, say, the position that blowjobs, anal sex and BDSM are inherently patriarchal and antifeminist. But there are feminists who take the latter position. I don’t want to further conflation of the former with the latter, since people who take the former position (opposition to porn and prostitution) may share a fair amount of common ground with me, while folks who take the latter position (generalized opposition to BDSM, blowjobs and anal sex) are really not people I can have a conversation with.

  45. shannon says:

    I’m sex skeptical. I reserve the right to look askance at how women are encouraged to serve others sexually, and I will admit that if someone said that bjs or BDSM are not feminist, I will not be howling with outrage. Not to mention, nothing annoys me more than the idea that the terabytes of porn on men’s computers have no effect on their sexual expectations, but apparently we all care what a few ladies on the internet say about sex and will live accordingly. On the other hand, if you want to do some weird sexual thing on your own time, I don’t care. Just don’t invovle kids ,animals or non consenting persons. I also think in theory some porn could not be so so bad for women, and a small minority of prostutition doesn’t oppress women that much.

  46. shannon says:

    Oh yea, and if your weird sex thing is humping plush stuffed animals, I reserve the right to make fun of you.

  47. Sheelzebub says:

    Shannon–What you said.

  48. sly civilian says:

    “exangelena got gang-tackled ”

    Uh, sorry? I think it’s quite right to reserve the right to point to the obvious misrepresentation going on in conflating sex-pos feminism with rapists. It’s a cheap strawfeminist shot.

  49. Sheelzebub says:

    Oh yea, and if your weird sex thing is humping plush stuffed animals, I reserve the right to make fun of you.

    Don’t you oppress me, you sex-hating Dworkinite!

    :::snerk:::

  50. meep says:

    If every person who bought a GGW video knew that some girls were ACTUALLY being raped — that might make some of them want to buy more videos. And some might actually NOT, because RAPING A WOMAN AGAINST HER WILL IS OBVIOUSLY A BAD THING.

    Nevermind all the tidbits of exploiting breasts and crotches — what about the fact that every purchase indirectly condones Francis and his crew to rape and victimize more women?

    If you can live with that, and still buy a GGW video, YOU ARE A SICK FUCK.

  51. Thomas says:

    Not to mention, nothing annoys me more than the idea that the terabytes of porn on men’s computers have no effect on their sexual expectations

    I agree that porn influences men’s sexuality. I think that the woman-as-consumer-product porn produced by the industry is really bad and I don’t patronize it.

  52. exangelena says:

    Comment#31: “Of course sex positive feminists just like any other rational people should condemn rape and assault”
    Comment #36: “My apology was intended for sex positive feminists who thought I was implying that they are ok with rapists, which I did not intend.”
    Comment #41: “I have never said that sex positive feminists excuse rape.”

    For the last time, I have NEVER said that sex positive feminists support rape and I’ll apologize again for making a badly stated, inflammatory comment that was related more to the so-called “sex wars” than the actual article.

  53. SarahS says:

    I’m a sex positive feminist and I think this guy is a total scum bag who should be in jail by now. I think that he is one hell of a bad apple. I think he is being reinforced by the misogny in our culture and I think that he in turn reinforces it. I think that Ariel Levy’s latest book on female sexist pigs (I can’t remember the title right now) seems to completely miss the point of WHY women do what they do, just as much as Mr Francis does. Both of them oversimplify the women in question and ignore them when they don’t fit into what they want them to be. I don’t think that makes her a prude, I think that makes her a lousey author with a lousey arguement. I think that the mainstream porn industry is deeply troubling. I think that if an 18 year old wants to flash someone for whatever reason she wants, its not my business to judge. I think it is my business to judge the people would would get that 18 year old drunk and rape her. I’ve flashed people before, sometimes it is fun. I don’t see what the big deal is. And I’m not exactly sure who exangelena is argueing with here. Because she’s not argueing with what most sex positive feminists believe, she’s argueming with what she thinks they believe. And I think that is very strange.

  54. shannon says:

    I agree that porn influences men’s sexuality. I think that the woman-as-consumer-product porn produced by the industry is really bad and I don’t patronize it.

    Yea, the worst part is that that sort of porn is everywhere and young people are getting access to it before they are getting access to good sensible ideas about sexuality- like the fact that gagging a woman with your cock will not in fact in most cases make her beg for more or the fact that you can’t just go to town on a woman with your huge cock and make her come most times.

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