Girls Gone Wild on tour.

Girls Gone Wild on tour.

It is with a sad and heaving heart that I report that Girls Gone Wild has filed for bankruptcy.

Vale Girls Gone Wild.

The hugely popular video and web series was one in which barely (and thanks to bad record keeping, possibly not even) legal girls in varying states of sobriety exposed themselves and performed sexual acts. 

Joe Francis attends the party for the launch of Heather McDonald's second book "My Inappropriate Life" at The Emerson Theatre on February 13, 2013 in Hollywood, California.

Joe Francis at a book launch in Hollywood last month. Photo: Paul Archuleta

In death, Girls Gone Wild leaves behind its close companion slut-shaming and the overwhelmingly sad realisation that capitalism, exploitation and sexism combined to create a world where the grinning oil slick that is it's creator, Joe Francis and Girls Gone Wild: Hot & Horny Schoolgirls is possible.

Though Girls Gone Wild was no longer owned by founder and sleazepressario Joe, the company has shouldered costs for his and the organisation’s legal woes, hence the bankruptcy filing. As previously noted by Joe, it’s hard to separate him from the company, so together they fell in tumult like squabbling, coiffed warthogs into this heartfelt eulogy.

Some will remember Joe as a champion for justice, like the time he chose represent himself in court while on charges for allegedly filming an underage girls' boobs for his frat boy DVD empire. He asked the woman under cross-examination if she was a prostitute. She left the stand in tears. He told media following the incident that he'd done it deliberately, saying,  “I think it helped. I think the judge was wrong. I shook them like a tree until all the fruit fell out, and I shook them violently." It earned him a contempt-of-court finding and a $US2,500 fine, but it’s a small price to pay when bold legal manoeuvres like this make him the modern day Atticus Finch.

Joe's Atticus-like courtroom skills were on display again when he was able to beat down nearly 40 felony and misdemeanour charges for allegedly possessing hundreds of hours of footage of potential minors having real and/or simulated sex. His legal team was able to argue the authorities had improperly obtained search warrants

He was also a captain of industry. According to Think Progress, “Francis has openly admitted to the exploitation that seemed integral to his company’s business model. In 2006, he plead guilty to exploiting minors and paid a fine of $500,000 after admitting that he didn’t keep track of the identities and ages of the women (or girls) captured in his videos. He similarly plead “no contest,” and served a year in jail, for charges of child abuse and prostitution.”

As the founder and recognisable face of Girls Gone Wild, Joe has charged forth to show he’s more than a legal and business mastermind. He's quite the philosopher as well, with strong views on how modern society associates male heterosexuality with success, like survival of the sleaziest or CEO (chief executive onanist).

As he told Claire Hoffman of the LA Times in her harrowing study, “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.”

After sharing such philosophical sagacity, he then pinned her to a car bonnet and recreated his arrest upon her with such force that tears streamed from her eyes. I think that’s called the Socratic method. Or the Reverse Socrates. Whatever.

We will also remember Joe as a keen curator of culturally acceptable female sexuality. He preferred his ladies to be surprised at their easy exploitation and was saddened his brand was later weighed down by opportunistic vagina vultures who would participate by choice.

As reported by Hoffman, “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.”

It is this keen interest in sexual anthropology that helped inform the expectations of Girls Gone Wild viewers around the planet. How many men have learned that the way to a barely legal teen’s heart (and, more importantly, the tits in front of it) is to offer beads while holding up a camera?

Say what you will about the regular court and prison attendee, he has educated millions in the art of seduction. I don’t think Joe will mind me saying this, but his contribution to the world is not too dissimilar to that of Cassanova, famed Venetian gambler and seducer of women.  

Take this quote from a woman who had sex with Joe, from Hoffman’s LA Times profile: "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."  Mr Francis maintains the sex was consensual.

It was under Joe's guidance that Girls Gone Wild became an internationally known brand. A series of videos and downloads in which girls are exhorted to perform sexual acts and exhibitionism for the chance to be given money or, more likely, booty shorts and other branded merchandise.

But it wasn’t all about boobs, babes, brewskis and bail agreements. Oh no. Girls Gone Wild had heart, people. HEART. Sure, it was under the heaving chests of intoxicated girls but who can deny a company so philanthropic it released Girls Gone Wild for Katrina? At first, I was all, Katrina? Who’s that skank and can I pash her then slut shame her and then wrestle her in an over-sexualised way for the aroused entertainment of men?

Then I realised they meant Hurricane Katrina, which had devastated New Orleans, and Girls Gone Wild had pledged to donate profits from the DVD to the Red Cross. I was so inspired that I just had to drop trou and scissor a sorority sister in fake-sapphic exhibitionist pride (pay per view pending).

Unsurprisingly, the company shares many of Joe's values. In fact, it says the reason for the bankruptcy is mainly due to Joe’s legal troubles. Like that time he defamed a casino owner and was ordered to pay $US20 million (under appeal). Or that other time a woman took parent company GGW Brands LLC to court claiming she did not give consent for it to expose her breasts and film them.

The company has described these actions as “frivolous and burdensome”, claiming this is the reason it needs to file for bankruptcy. As one should during a eulogy, let us spend a moment in silence – a moment in silence as we realise a company can consider assault and defamation as “frivolous and burdensome”. 

But life goes on. Girls Gone Wild is not truly dead. For it is the hydra of exploitation and by cutting off one head, it is attempting to protect and preserve itself.

By filing for bankruptcy, Girls Gone Wild is actually trying to protect itself financially from any costs that could be awarded in court with the additional benefit for it that any bankruptcy filing will halt attempts to stop judgements in other claims and trials. Though it has less than $50,000 in assets and $16 million owed in disputed claims, the company states it is still going strong. This bankruptcy is to shield it from paying what the courts have ordered. The hydra isn’t dead, it’s just sacrificing one head to block attackers. It won’t die, it will rebound.

Meanwhile, Joe assures TMZ that none of this affects his personal fortune. 

Were the world different, we wouldn’t eulogise Girls Gone Wild. We could instead eulogise a system where companies can restructure their finances as a means to block the legal system. We could perhaps pay meaningful tributes to minors who can be cajoled into exposing their breasts for beads for a company’s profit, or women who stagger from an experience with the company’s founder wondering what in the hell had been taken from them that society wasn’t going to give back. 

Perhaps we could eulogise the fact that under coercive exhibitionism and exploitation, Girls Gone Wild helped to reinvigorate popular culture towards slut shaming, in a world where women are already expected to perform for men’s entertainment and yet are sullied for doing so.  

Imagine what the world would be like if, instead of young girls, the executives of Girls Gone Wild had to get drunk and expose themselves for legal costs.