Girls Gone Wild, a eulogy

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 at a book launch in Hollywood last month.

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.

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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. 

25 comments

  • The "Girls Gone Wild" franchise is pretty awful. Honestly, though, I spend more time wonder why the girls participate (Joe's an obvious waste of oxygen). And in particular I wonder why so many women are eager to get in on the action. They think it will make them famous - but is Paris Hilton really their role model? How does that happen???

    The underage girls might not know better but the college girls should. Particularly once the videos came out and everyone figured out what was going on.

    I've never been so drunk that I've flashed my tits at a cameraman or made out with one of my female friends. Overconsumption of alcohol is not a valid excuse, not a "get out of jail free" card. If it were we could excuse anyone of every bad choice they make while inebriated.

    Commenter
    TK
    Date and time
    March 13, 2013, 9:07AM
    • What's equally interesting is the assumption that all these girls are poor, innocent victims ruthlessly exploited by the big bad corporation. The idea that any of them may be their own agents and choose to participate, let alone not regret their actions, is something not even considered as a possibility.

      Commenter
      DM
      Date and time
      March 13, 2013, 9:58AM
    • Oh DM! How much have you read about this franchise? Did you click on any of the links in the story? When these girls are drunk they, like so many people in so many other, far more dangerous situations, are not able to fully give their consent. This is something I imagine you'll turn into 'the girls know what they're doing, even when they're unconscious, damn them!' In which case, good luck. Meanwhile, may I recommend this article? http://globalcomment.com/apparently-no-still-means-yes-for-%E2%80%9Cgirls-gone-wild%E2%80%9D/

      Commenter
      Sheba
      Date and time
      March 13, 2013, 10:11AM
    • I'm with TK on this one. None of the women I've known who I've been in the company of on a massive night out would ever do this kind of stuff. That would imply that even while inebriated, women are capable of showing judgement. And that would imply that these girls are probably willing participants rather than being exploited. No-one is forcing them!

      Commenter
      SK_
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 13, 2013, 10:30AM
    • Thanks Sheba for posting a link to that awful case - I was about to cite the same one.

      For anyone who hasn't clicked on the link, it pertains to a high-profile case where a girl was in a bar, and was encouraged to take her top off for the camera. When she refused, someone yanked her top down and her breasts were captured on camera. Despite her clear refusal even being captured on video, a court determined that her consent was "implied" by the context she was in, and the fact she had been enjoying herself until someone assaulted her by pulling her top off.

      DM, are you really defending this franchise, given that sort of behaviour?

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      March 13, 2013, 10:36AM
    • "When these girls are drunk they, like so many people in so many other, far more dangerous situations, are not able to fully give their consent. This is something I imagine you'll turn into 'the girls know what they're doing, even when they're unconscious, damn them!"

      Please don't 'imagine' what i'll turn things into. I have absolutely no doubt that this is a sleazy and exploitative company, hell-bent on taking advantage of young people, and Joe Francis is an all-time douchebag.

      My objection is to the complete lack of nuance or balance in the discussion, and the unspoken, patronising assumption that these women have no independence or free will and have to be 'protected'. These women did something while drunk and a bunch of guys cheered. Is it something they would not have done if sober? I have no idea. Everyone does dumb things while drunk. However, I get angry at a society that tells them they should feel ashamed for doing it in the first place. In no way is flashing your breasts for a camera something 'shameful'.

      Commenter
      DM
      Date and time
      March 13, 2013, 10:52AM
    • "DM, are you really defending this franchise, given that sort of behaviour?"

      No, i'm not. Coercion is not acceptable, nor is 'implied consent'. Consent must be explicitly given by people in the right state of mind to do so. But again: Balance. I have no idea how many Girls gone Wild videos have been produced, but I assume it's quite a few. How many women were on them? How many objected, how many did not care, and how many were unapologetic in displaying their sexuality? What I am after is balance. The clear cases of abuse that exist should stand out all the more against the facts.

      Commenter
      DM
      Date and time
      March 13, 2013, 11:07AM
    • @DM
      I can't understand why no one's mentioned 'Female Chauvinist Pigs' yet. It's by Ariel Levy and is an excellent read. It's also got the balance you're after.

      Commenter
      Heisenberg
      Location
      thisaggression.wordpress.com
      Date and time
      March 13, 2013, 4:26PM
    • Actually on that issue of consent.

      Is it possible that if someone is under the influence (drugs or alcohol) they become incapable of offering a legally binding form of consent?

      When does 'yes you can film and exploit me' from the inebriated fail to meet a notion of being truly informed and having had an opportunity to contemplate issues before consent is given?

      Is it odd that we have no issues or trouble regarding GGW as outright exploitation yet there were people defending a promotion for a girl on girl jelly wrestling contest for two Bendigo Secondary schools, or having underage girls kiss each other and then using those images on a Facebook page to promote a mega disco?

      I'm pretty sure the same arguments GGW used in their exploitation were trotted out by those defending the actions of the Bendigo nightlclub and the Melbourne nightclub hosting those megadisco's.

      Commenter
      MattG
      Date and time
      March 14, 2013, 12:29AM
    • I get your point, DM, that assuming that the women who participate have something to be ashamed of is questionable (at best). My problem with the enthusiasm for these videos is that the girls are often acting in a way not because they enjoy it, not because they have a driving desire to expose themselves to people and be free with their bodies, but because they see it as a means to an end. I guess I don't understand commoditizing one's self and one's sexuality in this way. There have to be other options.

      It's not even a very efficient means - unlike porn stars, these girls aren't even paid. They might get a t-shirt out of the deal. So I struggle to understand it.

      Commenter
      TK
      Date and time
      March 14, 2013, 3:23AM

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