If You See A Flashing Red Light, Put Your Clothes On

I read an interesting article in Glamour magazine the other day. (I can't find the article on their website, but it's in the March issue.)

The title was "Click Here For Your Worst Drunken Nightmare" and, basically, it was about the "girls gone wild" genre of porn (that is, drunk and crazy candid amateurs, rather than professional porn stars in a studio), and the promoters who plan parties, encourage women to drink their inhibitions away, direct certain behavior, and make a profit of selling the results, generally through porn websites. One woman tells the story of being at a party, drinking way too much, and having a sexual encounter with her best friend, while her boyfriend begged her to stop. She says that she wanted to stop, but, between the alcohol and the other partygoers cheering her on, she felt she couldn't.

But only the image of her boyfriend kneeling over her and begging her to stop stands out in her mind. "I just looked up at him and said, 'I can't,'... in retrospect, it was a weird thing to say. But that's how I felt. Between the booze and the crowd, there was no way to stop. I cheated on my boyfriend in front of his face."

The guy filming the incident gave her a hundred dollars and had her sign a release. The entire incident ended up on the internet and she felt humiliated.

One of the points the article makes is that for as long as there has been alcohol, there have been regrets about drunken mistakes, but that it is a bigger problem now when your mistake can be so quickly and easily posted on the internet.

I mean, compare it to when I was in college, which was less than ten years ago. If a girl got drunk and did something stupid, most likely there would only be a rumor about it ("You won't believe what I heard she did!"), and if she ignored it, it would eventually just go away. Even if everyone was talking about it, there was rarely photographic evidence ingrained in their memories. And even if photos existed, most likely only a few people saw it, because it was unlikely that anyone was ever going to take it to the photo shop and have duplicates made. And a xerox can only do so much.

These days, obviously, thanks to the internet, it's much easier to take and share photos and videos. And we're not even talking about hidden videos here - every woman in the article knew she was being recorded.

While the article does put some of the responsibility on the women involved, I think it puts too much blame on the men who profit off these women. For example, one of the section headings is "Can women be protected?" But I think the question really should be, "How can women protect themselves?"

I have a problem with the way the article portrays the men who arrange these tapings and the industry in general. While it may be distasteful, are they wrong to try to make a profit off something women are so willing to do? Look at prostitution - commonly known as "the oldest profession." As long as their are women willing to sell their bodies, there will be men trying to find a way to cut themselves in on the profits.

To blame it on parties, or alcohol, or the people serving alcohol or encouraging drinking is wrong, and just plain sexist. We don't let men get away with blaming their mistakes on alcohol - why should we, as women, be allowed to use it as our excuse? I have clients charged with domestic violence or sex abuse, and if they were to tell me, "Oh, I only did it because I was drunk" or "Some guys were cheering me on, so I had to do it," I would tell them that's not good enough, that's not going to get anyone's sympathy. And it shouldn't fly when it's a woman giving the same excuse.

Instead of focusing on laws that criminalize the mens' behavior, the article should instead discuss how women can protect themselves (i.e., when you're getting wasted, stick with a friend you can trust to say, "Hey, put your clothes on, there's a creepy guy with a videocamera here") and why they should want to protect themselves in the first place (i.e., just because it's cool at the party when all your drunk friends are doing it, doesn't mean you won't be ashamed of it the next day, or when your parents find it, or someday when you want to run for congress, unless, of course, your life's ambition is to be a porn star.)

Perhaps I was most appalled though, when someone quoted in the article compared it with rape. Here's the quote: "Saying a drunk girl deserves to be filmed is like saying a drunk girl deserves to be raped." So, being filmed is somehow equivalent with rape? If you do something consensual and regret it later the next day, it's rape? I suppose I can see a small similarity - that the women live with some sort of humiliation after... but I think the similiarity ends there. A drunk girl being filmed has the option of putting her clothes back on! The girls in this article got paid and signed releases! The one woman went back with the cameramen to the website's offices so that they could copy her driver's license for the release... that's somehow comparable to rape?

Again, just as it sets women back to say that we can't think for ourselves and can't protect ourselves by simply staying sober while a camera is running, it does a disservice to all women to minimize the violent crime of rape by analogizing it with a consensual act.

Who's with me?

17 comments:

  1. I am totally with you. I once worked for the general counsel's office at Boston University and did a lot of research on the sorts of things girls do while drunk and then try to pin on someone else. I read far too many cases of girls (sometimes boys, but mostly girls) suing universities for failing to protect them from their own stupidity. In one case, the young lady in question blamed the university for (among other things that couldn't possibly be the school's fault) not doing a better job of making sure she didn't sneak alcohol into her dorm room.

    P.S., next time you update your blogroll, please note my updated URL. The old one still works, though.

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  2. I agree that bad judgment is a far cry from rape. I do feel sorry for these girls, though, at least the ones who feel like they're being pressured and don't know how to stand up for themselves.

    I remember reading a Cosmo article about "how not to be on Girls Gone Wild" a few years ago. It basically boiled down to: Keep your clothes on.

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  3. I do photography as a hobby, and I've looked into the law a bit.

    I think the best the drunk girl can hope for is to void the model release for mental incapacity due to drunkenness. I believe the rule is that she has to act quickly when she sobers up, otherwise her inaction tends to indicate continued acceptance of the contract.

    Note that the model release is generally only needed for commercial use. If you're at a party (or any other private place with permission, or any public place) you can always take pictures. This is how journalists and wedding guests get away with it.

    Unless the photographer was trespassing or peeping in a window, he can still keep the photos or video, show them to other people, and post them on a free web site.

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  4. I just saw The Accused for the first time. That was rape.

    Watching the closing in the trial for the spectators was educational. I learned how not to do a closing in a rape case.

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  5. There was one instance in the article of a peeping tom situation. That is, of course, dispicable and also illegal.

    But posing for a camera and later regretting it doesn't make the cameraman's behavior illegal.

    It's funny you should mention The Accused, I haven't seen it in years but when I read the article and it was talking about people gathering around and cheering on their behavior, I thought of The Accused. But, clearly that's a different situation because in The Accused it wasn't the victim who was being encouraged by the crowd, but the attackers. You're absolutely correct - The Accused is rape, this is not. And I still believe that it cheapens the pain that all rape victims go through to say that it's at all similar to a drunken regret.

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  6. For women at parties it boils down to a few simple rules.

    1. If you are there with your boyfriend, don't hit on other guys--if you stick by him this won't be a problem.

    2. If you are there with friends, leave with friends.

    3. Don't ever leave a drink unattended! I wish I could repeat this a hundred times. This is very important!

    4. Don't get wasted. Having a few drinks at a party is much more fun than drinking yourself into oblivion.

    5. Keep your clothes on. Seriously, I can't believe people don't know this rule.

    6. You are ultimately responsible for what you do. Make sure your actions represent who you are.

    7. Never go to a party alone, and if you have to meet people there, meet them someplace outside the party and go in together. The site of a woman entering a party alone can be a problem depending on what kind of guys are there. Don't go if you don't know anyone else there. It only leads to trouble.

    I personally think that every college should have a party orientation seminar. I know that at the sorority the older girls always watched out for the newer ones, and that worked out extremely well. The important thing is to go with people you trust, stay with those people during the party, don't leave people behind, and keep the group together.

    I feel like I am a speaker for some alcohol awareness class or something. . .

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  7. That was very well said, and something that our society of victims would be loathe to admit. I'm glad to see a woman open her eyes to the fact that she is fully capable of being what some men and even other women would deny her: a fully autonomous person.
    -J.

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  8. It's women like these who make it much harder for a real rape victim to have any credibility at all. I'm sorry, but I'm sick and tired of people doing stupid things and then taking no responsibility for their own actions.

    Honestly, anyone that's so drunk that she cheats in front of her boyfriend ought to take herself off to AA, NOT blame everyone but herself.

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  9. You are right on to hold women who do stupid things responsible, but that doesn't get the men who take advantage of their stupidity off the hook. Maybe it should be illegal to take advangage of stupid drunk girls, maybe not, but those guys are definitely doing something wrong. What would you say if you found out your son, or brother was doing that? It's just not okay. You can hold women responsible and still slam the men involved for what they're doing wrong.

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  10. I am actually happy that a female is agreeing with what is argueable a male argument: that these women need to take responsiblity for their actions. Don't get me wrong - what the guys are doing is "probably" immoral in the large scheme of things, but def. not illegal. No one forced them to drink, period. If you hook up with some random sluts, she shouldn't be able to sue you the next day by saying, "Well, it wasn't rape, he didn't force me to, but I was really drunk and I regret it."

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  11. As a man, and retired lawyer, of 67, can't quite decide whethet to take a stern or satirical tone on this, but, somewhere along the way, people of both sexes have lost some of the wisdom of the past on such matters. In one often-misquoted verse I'm too lazy to look up tonight, getting a girl drunk to take advantage of her sexually was specifically condemned in the Old Testament, a key source of our law until 1954. More recently, on a secular plane, was the famous line in the Grace Kelly movie "High Society," "You were somewhat the worse, or the better, for the wine, and there are rules about that." The old "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker," bit has now been supplemented with various date-rape drugs; marijuana given to young girls around here is often laced with everything from embalming fluid to strychnine. Gilrs should Always Be Careful in such situations, but, if the photographer and publisher did not get the girl's informed consent while she was over 18 and cold sober, before and not after the event, these should at least presumptively be invalid.

    I knew and represented an alarming number of young women, in diverse matters, who I was personally convinced, knowing their histories of childhood abuse and related psychiatric problems, could not consent to anything, cold sober, much less to either sex or public exploitation of their lapses while drunk. What you are describing sounds a lot like the old definition of rape "seduction without saelsmanship."

    How do coeds, many from politially and officially powerful families, get to college knowing so little? The daughter of a senior law enforcement officer assured the that "[she] can drive safely on 8 beers," after nearly losing her young life in a sideswipe accident between her little sports car and a tractor-trailer rig. Actually, of course, she had lost count and, according to another client of mine who had been at the bar, had probably had more like two dozen beers in the four hours before that accident. Binge drinking and planned "21 at 21" nights have accounted for far too many hospitalizations and deaths with blood alcohol levels over the clinical LD .50 that will kill half of adults. We dealt with several in my practice, from age 13 up. My wife's good 15 year old student got his picture in Time magazine by wnning the "all you can drink" contest at his first "grown-up" party by soemhow downing 27 straight shots of vodka. He was photographed in his casket, of course.

    Why anyone with enough brains to come in out of the rain, much less competent to contract, would allow herself to be videotaped having sex is beyond my comprehension. I forget the name in and of the Texas Supreme Court case over this, but it was long before the Paris Hilton episode. Anyone thinking of doing anything they would not want to see published in living color should remember how many video-equipped cell phones and other such devices there are out there, too. Tracy Lord, who, as a former porn star, qualifies as somewhat of an expert on such matters, has given some enlightening advice on CNN's Larry King Live, etc.

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  12. Related: Audacity hates teenage sex laws. I suggest our laws infantilize girls and teaches them to blame others if they get drunk and take their clothes off at parties.

    That said, I wholeheartedly agree w/Anonymous (at 4:38 p.m. on 2/20) that the men involved in these "girls gone wild" scenarios are behaving very badly. Their behavior may not be illegal, but that doesn't make it right.

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  13. Rape is worse. But the "consenual" drunken exhibitionism is still very bad.

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  14. You are right we are accountable for our own actions. But what bothers me the most isnt their stories but the pictures with the article, these are not drunk girls removing thier cloaths, but passed out girls having their cloaths removed for them. I did check the web sites and saw other girls in the horrific predicament. To me having someone remove my cloaths while im passed out and take pictures for the world to see would be almost as damaging.

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  15. As for the ones who remove their own clothes, drunk or not, there is some other cultural phenomenon going on here which eschews our (more traditional) notion of decorum (shame?)...I can't articulate it but I have seen that the younger girls (like my 19 year old stepdaughter and her friends)are much more likely to remove their clothes than we were 10-15 years ago. It's what they do. Blaming others later? That's just buyers remorse.

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  16. This cracks me up. A girl can engage in bad behavior and blame a guy for something she did willingly?

    "Oh, but she was drunk, therefore, she was taken advantage of." Really? How was she taken advantage of, when she willingly put the alcohol up to her lips, knowing full good and well what her personality is like?

    "She doesn't know what her personaility is like when she gets drunk." Then, don't drink.

    How are the guys bad? If the girls are willing to engage in that behavior drunk, it just means that when they're sober, they foster exhibitionist/lesbian tendencies, and the alcohol manifests those hidden desires.

    The girls chose to liberate those desires with alcohol, not the guys. Again, how are the guys bad? Is it their fault those girls have exhibitionist/lesbian tendencies? C'mon!

    Are these girls incapable of running their own affiars, so we have to rely on strange guys to look out for them, because girls in general are incapable of looking out for themselves?

    That puts alot of burden on men, and alot of shame on women, because it's basically saying, women are incapable of running their own lives without protection from the own decisions. Is that what we're saying here?

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  17. This cracks me up. A girl can engage in bad behavior and blame a guy for something she did willingly?

    "Oh, but she was drunk, therefore, she was taken advantage of." Really? How was she taken advantage of, when she willingly put the alcohol up to her lips, knowing full good and well what her personality is like?

    "She doesn't know what her personaility is like when she gets drunk." Then, don't drink.

    How are the guys bad? If the girls are willing to engage in that behavior drunk, it just means that when they're sober, they foster exhibitionist/lesbian tendencies, and the alcohol manifests those hidden desires.

    The girls chose to liberate those desires with alcohol, not the guys. Again, how are the guys bad? Is it their fault those girls have exhibitionist/lesbian tendencies? C'mon!

    Are these girls incapable of running their own affiars, so we have to rely on strange guys to look out for them, because girls in general are incapable of looking out for themselves?

    That puts alot of burden on men, and alot of shame on women, because it's basically saying, women are incapable of running their own lives without protection from the own decisions. Is that what we're saying here?

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