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You're Wild! (what?) You're Wiiiiiiiild!!!

I’ve long despised the franchise known as “Girls Gone Wild.” So it pleased me greatly to see the LA Times rip apart its mastermind, Joe Francis.

For those who haven’t seen the late-night ads, the Girls Gone Wild videos are predicated on this very simple formula: go to a location where drunk young girls abound (spring break, bars, etc), shove a camera in front of their attention-starved faces, and ask them to lift their shirts in exchange for stupid merchandise (a t-shirt or a trucker hat usually). Shocking how pliable these girls are…I see it as a combination of the need to rebel from their parents, maintain their virginity while still sexualizing themselves, a desire for attention, and a cultural obsession with reality TV.

As the Times article explains:

Francis has aimed his cameras at a generation whose notions of privacy and sexuality are different from any other. Nursed on MySpace profiles and reality television, many young people today are comfortable with being perpetually photographed and having those images posted on the Internet for anyone to see. The boundaries that once contained sexuality have also fallen away. Whether it's 13-year-olds watching a Britney Spears video, 16-year-olds getting their pubic hair waxed to emulate porn stars or 17-year-olds viewing videos of celebrities performing the most intimate acts, youth culture is soaked in sexuality.

Francis has made a fortune off these girls. What irks me so much is that the girls featured on the countless GGW videos are almost invariably intoxicated. They likely would not make the same decision where they stone-cold sober. Of course, I do think some of the blame lies with the girls who make the decision to go on Spring Break, get drunk wearing a bikini, and act irresponsibly. At the same time, one must wonder, in the words of Susie Bright, "Why are we at a place where the only way a young woman thinks she can be important or meaningful is to take her top off for a creep's camcorder?"

Bright sums up a feminist position that I personally agree with: "It's not the topless part that's the problem, it's the exploitation by this prick. If the women took their tops off for their own movie, their own orgasm, and their own point of view, it would be a completely other story."

Most astutely, she notes: “Francis' dirtiest secret is that he traffics in porno-puritanism, in sexual shame. His profit lies in young women snookered into doing something "shameful" that they will want to hide the rest of their lives— once they sober up. They have been ruined— the ultimate GGW turn-on. It's the frisson of humiliation that makes him, and his audience, hard.”

Ariel Levy has done the best analysis I’ve seen of the problem of GGW and similar media in her book Female Chauvinist Pigs. In essence, Levy argues that GGW is not women being liberated, as many of the featured girls might posit (we’re past feminism; we’re now at a point when women should be able to flash their breasts at a camera with impunity). GGW, in Levy’s (and my) view is women acting at being liberated. Big difference. They are not in control. They are not expressing themselves—it’s all a ploy to appear to be something they believe men and society will value. And the main beneficiaries are Joe Francis’s wallet and horny male viewers.


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oooyeah. getting naked for free is fine an all. but getting naked while someone else makes money off of your nakedness (or anything you do) is the definition of exploitation.

i suppose they must sign release forms? it's too bad all those girls can't sue that asshole for backroyalties.

and they can advertise that shit on regular tv, but not actual -movies- where the stars are actually paid and soberly consenting.

and on top of all that, the people that buy those tapes often feel duped and complain that that it's all very boring and/or uncomfortable.

I agree with you...while the GGW girls sign consent forms, there is something undeniably sleazy and exploitative that they are usually drunk and in an environment that encourages irresponsible behavior. Porn stars, on the other hand, must go through multiple steps before a movie reaches the video store shelves...many opportunities to rethink their choices, though obviously some porn sets are better than others.

What I find most troubling about GGW is that the women in the films are basically just copying the worst stereotypes of macho male sexuality - seeing how loud, crude and obnoxious they can be - no doubt encouraged by the likes of Joe Francis. The women are acting at being liberated by copying the worst male stereotypes. How much more liberating would it be to seek out, develop and present an authentic female sexuality? I would even bet that a lot of guys (myself included) would buy those videos.

The book I mentioned in my post makes a similar point to yours, John. Basically, by participating in what Levy calls raunch culture, these women, these "female chauvinist pigs," are copying the worst example of those in power--men.

A lot of the female porn stars I've met have expressed that they are pleasantly surprised at how receptive audiences are to authentic female pleasure. I agree that a lot of guys would buy videos of women expressing their true selves rather than some misguided construct of men at their worst. But unfortunately, horny men will buy whatever is available, even if they might prefer a slightly different product, leading producers to believe that this misogynistic crap is all that people want to see.

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