i, sandwich

by cathyjwilson
Editor’s Pick
JULY 27, 2010 3:16PM

Jury validates 'Girls Gone Wild' disgusting consent policy

Rate: 14 Flag

Girls Gone Wild is disgusting. And the recent ruling that affirmed the company's weak views on consent is equally disgusting.

A St. Louis woman sued the Girls Gone Wild company for damaging her reputation by showing her tank top being pulled down by someone else in one of their videos. The jury ruled in favor of the company, saying that her merely being in the bar and dancing around -- with her clothes on -- was her way of consenting to be on film, regardless of the fact that she didn't ask to have her shirt pulled down.

C.L. Minou at Tiger Beatdown says it best when she talks about "implied consent" and the slippery slope it creates:

I mean, seriously: just how far does this go? Had GGW showed up to, oh, say, Le Bernardin, and some trashed suit was spending his bailout money on adult entertainers, and somehow a primly dressed female patron walked into the shot and had her dress ripped off…is that implied consent? Does a $180 prix fixe somehow mitigate the implications of consent in the way that a $3 PBR doesn’t? Because to be honest, what is the difference? Why should it matter if you dance or you don’t, if your skirt is shorter than your belt or brushes your ankles? How in the hell can clothing or location or body movements override a direct refusal to consent?

It doesn't matter what you're wearing, what bar you're in, or how you're dancing -- when you say, "No," that's more crystal clear than any vague signals that you might allegedly be sending in your clothes or body language. Those things can be misread, because what you think of them is an assumption and an implication -- someone saying "No" is a direct statement. But it's just one example of the Girls Gone Wild bizarre theory of consent.

I've actually watched a Girls Gone Wild tape, and it was horrifying. And not just because of what you see on the infomercials, but because of the more graphic and intimate scenes where the producers coerce the girls on camera to take off their clothes, touch themselves, or touch their friends. Some of the girls are quite willing, and others are visibly distraught, uncomfortable, and obviously pressured.

Watching the scenes with the intense coercion is sickening -- these producers use the alcohol in these girls' systems to their advantage, and it's not like these girls are playfully being coy -- the looks on their faces scream, "I do not want to be here." But there is a camera in their face, men standing around urging them to touch themselves or touch their friends, and the pressure to do what everyone else wants always seems to win.

What kind of consent is that? Sure, the girl eventually and reluctantly agrees, but she agrees to do things that she wouldn't have done on her own, and that she wouldn't have done without several people repeatedly and incessantly urging her to do. But this is technically consent, and it's how Girls Gone Wild gets many girls to do things on-camera that they likely don't feel comfortable doing.

The new ruling just adds to this disturbed view of consent -- not only is it OK for these producers to coerce intoxicated women into sexual acts on-camera, but it's also OK for them to show video of someone being sexually assaulted. Someone pulling down your shirt and exposing your breasts without your permission? Yeah, that's sexual assault. So can producers either encourage others or themselves go around to bars and pull clothes off women, simply because their presence at the bar somehow implies they want to get naked for the camera?

Or what about going further? Can they further sexually assault these women, because their dancing around/revealing clothing/alcohol drinking is an implication that they want to have sex? This ruling is completely ridiculous and also very dangerous, because it gives people the right to violate women simply on the pretense of, "Well, she was asking for it." I guess not only do women need to stop walking around alone at night because that's asking to get assaulted, but now women can't go to bars or clubs anymore because that's inviting assault, too.

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I agree that this ruling is rediculous. If she really didn't verbally agree to having somone pull down her shirt for her, she should be able to sue for damages. However, I reluctantly disagree with your later arguments about the girls who are pressured into acts that make them uncomfortable. If you genuinely don't want to do something, you get away from it or you say no. Sure, it's harder to do when there are a lot of people egging you on, but there is still that opening to decline.
What Anna said. I'm always amazed by the claim - oftentimes by self-declared feminists - that women are mindless beings incapable of independent thought or free will and are always "exploited" because of that. Hogwash!
This is appalling. What's next GGW with rape scenes? What is wrong with the judge, this is a clear cut case of assault, no different than if it had happened in a grocery or shoe store. The presence of a camera does not equal consent to humiliation and assault.
@Anna and Harry -- I totally see where you're coming from, and I don't dispute that women can make their own choices. But just from seeing an actual video, there are some girls -- one sticks out in my mind from the video I saw -- who are obviously being heavily coerced and pressured. Saying it was uncomfortable to watch is an understatement -- it was as if she only eventually caved so that they would *stop* pressuring her.
We wrote on this exact same subject in the same hour -- we must be synchronized! I'm with everything you said. Nice work.
1. As a writer, and an advocate, you need to calm down the rhetoric - well, it's not exactly rhetoric, but perhaps the adjectivication of your prose. It'll have more credibility.

2. This is a tough call. I don't mean about judging or choosing not to judge the content of GGW videos. Happily or not, you've got to weigh the constitutional rights of the purveyor, even as you offer to protect the constitutional rights of the exploited women. And that's really the hitch in the whole tamale: Exploited or there by choice? For every St. Louis Jane Doe, I'll show you 500 Snooki's, more than willing to share their tatas, and they'll throw in a Brazilian just for laughs and giggles.

I read the quote from the jury foreman, and was not impressed. I think it's obvious there was no consent; and even implied prohibition. It's a toss-up, I'd say, courtroom to courtroom.

And Bonnie's right, this one may be reversed on appeal.

We'll see.
What I have not read is what her response was after her top got pulled down . Did she keep dancing or did she freak out? That would seem to be an important distinction, but it is not mentioned anywhere that I have seen. If she protested then it is very twisted to rule against her.

And I agree with others who said that not all the girls are coerced. It seems that some people are in denial about any sort of bent toward female exhibitionism. I can understand why, but such a strong counter-reaction is strange. Sure society has some impact, and sure there are counter examples and exceptions, but there is something to the natural order of men and women as the peepers and the peeped upon, respectively.

You know, to some extent, or whatever...
cathy, I read about this and think your analysis is spot on.

regarding anna and harry's ghost, I didn't think she was saying that the women involved weren't (under pressure) making choices. She was saying that she felt uncomfortable watching it and seeing people see that pressured/uncomfortable consent as entertainment.

also, I'm way uncomfortable with a woman having her shirt torn off, and the fact that she was in the room in any way implying her consent to have that event filmed. I intensely dislike the direction this seems to be taking privacy law....
and I agree with Poppi Iceland....
Get ready to throw stones, because I think the verdict was probably correct.

Though not an attorney, I try to look at this from a legal perspective. As far as I know, these are the facts:

1) a bar sponsored a "Girls Gone Wild" event.
2) the GGW camera crew was at the bar with the consent of the bar owner.
3) the event was open to the public and advertised as a GGW event.
4) the woman in question was dancing in front of the camera, knowing that she was being filmed by a GGW crew, and that her image could be included in a sex-oriented video that would be sold, thus giving implied consent.
5) while dancing, she pulled down her shirt and smiled for the camera at least two times, further indicating consent.
6) after the assault (and I believe it was an assault) she never notified the police, even though she knew the woman who assaulted her.

So the question is, after having given implied consent to be videotaped for a commercial video, can you then control how the video is used, and what part of it is used?

Well, I don't think you can, even if something happens outside of your control that is embarrassing or humiliating, or portrays you in a bad light. I think once you've given consent to be videotaped, that cat is out of the bag, and the company is free to use that video.

I think the women has a case, but the case would be against the woman who assaulted her, not the GGW company. That said, the right thing would be for the company to discontinue using that portion of video in any future video programs.

It would be helpful to get some input from the OS members who are attorneys.
Mish, would you mind sharing the links where you got this information? I've done alot of reading on this story and have yet to come across any source that verifies she pulled down her shirt on her own in the video. Just curious where you're getting your info.
I saw it here:

Buh-buh-buh-but she was crying at the trial and everything. Her reputation besmirched! A-a-and just OMG!

Up on Cripple Creek she sends me, if her bra springs a leak I'll tend her, she don't have to speak I'll defend her, a cover story if I ever did see one!

Don't worry dear,
Bonnie Russell to the rescue,
Bonnie Russell to the rescue,
Bonnie Russell to the rescue,
Go Bonnie Russell go!
@ Mishima666, that could be part of the problem... the RFT is not necessarily a news source I would trust... I've known some of their "reporters." Some are excellent and do groundbreaking/muckraking stories.... others are just sensationalizing.
Isn't there something about being drunk and not being capable of consent? I know there are issues with contracts being signed if drinking is involved during the signing. I can't imagine this type of thing would be any different.
Me, personally? I see GGW and RUN, not walk, in the other direction. Even in my crazy Mardi Gras days, I avoided the one bar that had the GGW banner. That guy is lower than low.
The law concerning filming is very clear regarding filming of this nature. You must have written consent. Usually there would be "minders" going round getting written consent from anyone that had been filmed. For obvious reasons usually. There might be a minor present who looks older for her age, but in the eyes of the law it is the movie maker who has to take responsibility for checking their ID's. I know all about fake ID's and all the rest but the law is very clear about this. That may be unfair and we all know that minors as well as adults are "asking for it," but in California at least that is the law, and it is no use pleading innocence. "Your Honor she looked at least 80 years of age!" It is the responsibility of the filmaker or his staff to settle that first.
In Britain the law is quite different. There if a film maker has good reason to believe that the minor in question used a fake ID to both enter the club or to be filmed, or she lied about her age, buyer beware. Or she gave permission, filmakers will be held to be innocent. In California at least a minor cannot legally give permission to what at least in the eyes of the law is an illegal act.

What is interesting to me as a filmaker, was that in San Francisco it is perfectly legal to film a minor being tortured, (of course simulated,) with their nasty bits of course covered. But not being caressed. Interesting isn't it. But that's a whole other subject why it is OK to film violence but not sexual behaviour.
(a) Without knowing who "Jane Doe" is, it's impossible to check whether RFT has the story straight... but it is compatible with what the jury foreman said.
(b) The jury knows the case better than we ever will.
(c) If RFT and the jury are wrong, there still was no harm done, as Jane is alive and well, anonymous, and she's got nothing all of us haven't seen (it's not as if she was raped).
(d) If you're concerned about assault (sexual or otherwise), malign the girl who pulled down Jane's top.
(e) I've never witnessed the coercion Cathy mentions, but that's probably because I don't spend my time in bars, like GGW subjects seem to do.
(f) If she was dancing at a GGW event, what Jane did expect? Did she think she'd see other women filmed topless, but she'd be untouched and blameless?
"In Britain the law is quite different. There if a film maker has good reason to believe that the minor in question used a fake ID to both enter the club or to be filmed, or she lied about her age, buyer beware."

To clarify this. Based on an actual case. A movie shown in the States, Confessions of a Geisha, where a circus master beat young boys on their bare bums, I asked the duty DA's in San Fran whether or not it would be legal for me to torture minors (simulated) as long as they were clothed. After a very long silence and much sifting through law books, Yes, was the answer. Don't you think that is a little strange was my response.

A further question, would it have been legal to have shown the circus master caressing those minors on their bare bums? NO, was the immediate answer! Why not, was my next question? No answer. I think that I gave the poor man a headache!

In Britain if you could prove that the minor in question lied about her age you would be held free of any prosecution. It would be up to the Director of Public Prosecutions whether or not to proceed with a prosecution involving the minor. (Very rare but it has happened.) The law is quite unequivocal in California at least. You have to take all appropriate measures to establish that you are not breaking the law. Sorry to be so pedantic but as it is still early in the morning here and I have only had one cup of coffee!
When I was a grad student in a college town, one of the bars had a GGW night. It was advertised for a couple of weeks beforehand and there were signs outside to the effect of warning patrons that if they went in that night they were likely to end up naked on a video. I didn't go in myself, but I was told that there was a roped off area where the camera crews were working, signs saying something like "if you go here and you're female, your breasts are almost certain to end up in a video" and people giving verbal warnings to that effect, and somebody carding people entering the bar for 18-USC-2257 purposes, which still would have been in effect at the time of the incident.

I don't know if these things are always set up this well, but I'm comfortable saying that anybody who ended up exposed on camera at the bar in my area gave implied consent.
I'm not a lawyer, but let me tell you how I would see this case if I was on the jury.

I've been having a rather heated debate with Kasey Everly on this since yesterday. First, the woman was not sexually assaulted. Assaulted - yes. Sexually assaulted - no.

The issue of whether GGW used her image without her consent depends on how these events are run. Are signs posted that state your image may be picked up on camera and used for publicity? Did the jury see the GGW event much like a concert where people intentionally dance in aisles in the hope that they will be seen on camera? If GGW made money from her image, she probably deserved some compensation. If they could prove that they did not benefit from it, she didn't have a case from that standpoint.

This is how I think a jury saw the case. First thing the jury would question was whether she was aware of GGW's reputation and, if yes, why she stayed and participated in the event. Second, they would ask whether she remained at the event after the incident. More important, they would want to know if she called the police that night or the next day/week/month/year and filed charges of assault. Did she approach the GGW people that night and complain about the woman who pulled down her top and express her fear that her image would be used on tape. Did she seek medical care in the form of emotional/mental support for the assault. If she did none of those things, a good defense attorney would score big points and in the process prove she was not traumatized by it.

Now, fast forward to her husband's friend seeing her naked image on tape. Again, the defense attorney would ask if she sought emotional support for her alleged embarrassment. Did she continue to socialize with the friend in question, did she continue to participate in her normal daily activities like public dinners, pta meetings, school functions, shopping, etc. If the answers are yes, the defense attorney just raised a victory flag because she showed no evidence of being traumatized or embarrassed by the event.

A good defense attorney would depose her family and friends (those at the time of the incident and those from the time of the viewing) and question how her life had changed. If the answer was not at all, big points for them.

This is a personal injury case. In order to win them, you have to prove that your life has been adversely affected by the incident in question. You can't just say something happened and expect the jury to believe it. Also, when you demand a $5 million settlement with nothing to base that amount on the jury just sees a frivolous law suit.

I blame her lawyer who got greedy. Unfortunately, a jury never sees the lawyer as a money grabber. They just see the client as such. Had this case been approached from a different angle and with a lower monetary settlement demand, I think the outcome would have been different.

Remember, this woman was not suing GGW. She was suing their insurance company. This is what happens when a bad lawyer goes up against a good lawyer and, trust me, insurance companies only hire good lawyers.
If you've ever been to a taping of a movie or television show, there are signs at the entrances of the building that say that entering is giving permission to be filmed. You can see an example of those signs here.

Having lived in Florida (a.k.a. GGW Central) most of my life, I can *promise* you that these girls know they are being filmed and they have no illusions about the nature of the project. When GGW does these events, it is advertised on radio and television by the bars, normally. There are lines, bouncers and lotteries for the girls trying to get in.

Like most women, I think those videos are exploitative. They are also a great example of how our young women are exploiting themselves for attention and a twisted idea of "fame." It seems to me that there's the Facebook generation behind mine that is more than willing to do anything to get their faces on a screen of any kind. The sad truth is that most of the women on those videos have no qualms about their actions. If you don't believe that, show up to see the line form outside of a taping.

That said, if there's someone who would rather not be doing those things and is pushed into doing them, it seems like a lot of work for producers. Anyone who has been to Daytona during spring break knows they wouldn't have to do all that pushing if they chose a "better" venue.

Wherever there is money to be made, someone will set up a cash register. The plain, ugly truth is this - when we were kids, when we made a mistake, got drunk, slept with the wrong guy, showed off for attention in a sexual way or generally made a rear end out of ourselves, our shame was limited to the people there and our own minds. Now, it's on YouTube in 4 hours.

We MUST teach our daughters that being empowered isn't about exercising our right to say, "I was coerced." It's about having the good sense to say no, mean no and maintain a little bit of dignity. I have a 13 year old daughter that I have no doubt will make mistakes in her life, but she will make them armed with the knowledge that someone is ALWAYS watching and her actions are her own. If we teach our daughters that feminism is about our right to sue after we take our own shirt off in public, we set everyone back. What if they filmed a GGW and no one showed up?

These aren't snuff films.
Quite often, a case like this needs to happen to open up the eyes of people who will decide these issues on a much larger basis. Much like Brown v. Board of Education needed a Plessy v. Ferguson, by having a case like this brought to light, it not only shows the social injustice, but it also shows the distance that American still needs to go in order to stop things like this from happening.
This is an interesting discussion. I started out agreeing with you, Cathy, but Jodi Kasten makes an excellent argument.
What a sick cover up for the truth, which is all about men making money from this invalid exposure of others!
I'm even reminded of Anita Hill here. All it took for her abuser to get off scott free was his leaning on those assessing the case via a false charge of "discrimination." meanwhile, her case fell thru, and we get to live with the consequences.
The system is sick, and we are preoccupied by lies and bungling and media mishaps.
Let's get back to the basics of what it really means to be a woman in America.
R for righteous indignation
To Poor Woman: Women need to take responsibility for their actions. We've become a society of blamers: if you are fat, it's McDonald's fault, lung cancer - the cigarette industry's fault, drunk - the liquor companies, drug addict - the pushers. When are we going to assume the position and admit we are to blame for a lot of what happens to us.

Jodi is correct -- You can't expose yourself (in whatever form it takes) and then complain that somebody looked. Women do more harm to women by foolish actions than they realize.

Your source is the one and only "Ass Clown of The Week" completely unbiased and totally responsible journalist I'm sure Chad Garrison? Really? rofl.

I have to say I'm kind of surprised and bummed to find such a strong showout for anti-feminist apologists on this site, many of them women. I always thought OS to be a more progressive place. There's a lot of spewing of unsubstantiated misinformation being tossed about, when the truth is we know very little of the actual facts other than that a woman had her shirt down pulled down despite her verbal non-consent (on camera) and that a company is allowed to continue to profit from that appearance. How the fact that St. Louis clearly finds a woman's consent to be arbitrary with all this "implied" bullshit doesn't incite rage and disbelief in this community of supposedly enlightened folks is a bit beyond me. Ultimately, this isn't a case about harassment or sexual assault, you're right -- but it is about the fact that on this particular occasion a woman's cry of "no" was found to be insignificant in a court of law. That alone should be enough to make you sort of sick.
I can appreciate the very very slipper slope created through this "consent" ruling. It was a bad decision.


It's pretty evident you have some issues with Girls Gone Wild as a premise, and certainly the way you try to portray the women in these videos as "helpless" and unable to think for themselves tells a lot about this.

I'd buy your rant a lot more if it was watered down with moralistic anger against GGW in general. Hey, here's a thought. Women don't want to show their "goodies" 0n camera? Then, uhm, don't. If that means drinking less alcohol so they can maintain "control," then that's what should be done.

We should all recognize our limits, not just when we're behind a wheel.
On a side note, regarding the other girls in the series who were obviously pressured/coerced: I thought legal consent could not be given if the subject is under duress? Wouldn't proof of duress invalidate any 'implied' contract?
What I find on OS is that whether we're talking about race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, politics or any form of discrimination or marginalization - it's easier to pick apart folks on the same team than it is to go after people actually doing raping, assaulting, killing or inciting people to do so.

Saying that teaching young women personal accountability when they walk through the door of an establishment filming a show called "Girls Gone Wild" is not being anti-feminist. I'm saying that I think women can be smarter, stronger and more decent than doing something they don't want to do because some man tells them to do it. She should have had the strength to walk out. She didn't because she wasn't taught to do so.

Now, her only "strength" is in "standing up" to the big bad men she seeked out, posed for and did not refuse. No woman deserves to be debased that way. There will ALWAYS be men willing to exploit women for money and sex. Unfortuately, there are young women lining up to be filmed. Beating up on other women saying they think women can be stronger than that doesn't change the fact that right now, the line is forming again.

You aren't going to change the legal sex industry in a perceptible way through lawsuits. You can only empower women to be unwilling to participate in it. So, who are we? Are we strong and capable of making good choices with education and expectation or are we just lambs to the slaughter? I choose to believe that feminism is about making the choice to be my own best advocate and teaching my daughters to do the same.

If we don't want to be regarded as "weak" and "less than" then we need to demand the same rights and responsibilities as men have. How hard would we laugh as a society if a 22 year old drunk man flashed his penis then said he was coerced? Would we laugh less if he looked sad or unsure while he did it?

We can denigrate each other as women by saying we are "anti-feminist" when we don't agree with each other, or we can accept each other and work together, combining honest and fair legal action in cases of true exploitation with the *unwavering* message to young girls that if you walk through that door into that bar and perform a sex act, it will follow you for the rest of your life.

Awarding this young woman monetary damages for a really, really bad choice sends the message to young girls that they aren't responsible for what they choose to do. If she was being held against her will, forced to perform the act physically, drugged or drunk against her will, then I'd be the first one to say that she should sue the heck out of them.

At any point, she could have walked away. What people don't want to hear is that she should never have walked in there to begin with. When we say she had the right to walk in there, but shouldn't have been made to look sad when she did something she obviously knew was wrong, we send the message that we are all just victims waiting for an abuser. The very fact that she looked sad and unsure proves that she knew she was doing wrong. Where did WE fail as feminists in society for this young girl to feel she could not walk away?

We're better than that and so is she (and all the thousands like her that have regretted appearing in these films). How can we expect the next young girl to make a different choice?

Like all issues on OS, we're mostly in agreement - these films are disgusting and they debase women. Yet, they are legal. Therefore, if we want women to not be debased, we must convince them that there is more value in dignity than fleeting fame or the even more fleeting approval of a skeezy producer.

Just my two cents. (Okay, a buck fifty. Apologies for length)
Kasey writes: "Your source is the one and only "Ass Clown of The Week" completely unbiased and totally responsible journalist I'm sure Chad Garrison? Really? rofl."

That was my source for the information that the woman had pulled her shirt down in front of the camera in order to expose the upper part of her breasts. I neither purchase nor watch GGW programs, so I had to rely on the report of someone who did watch the tape. And the only information that I got from that source was that the woman acted in a way indicating willingness to be videotaped.

Kasey: "There's a lot of spewing of unsubstantiated misinformation being tossed about, when the truth is we know very little of the actual facts . . . "

I think we know enough to make a reasonable determination, that happens to be consistent with the jury's verdict.

Kasey: " . . . other than that a woman had her shirt down pulled down despite her verbal non-consent (on camera) and that a company is allowed to continue to profit from that appearance."

That's what happened. But the problem is that when you willingly show up at a GGW event, advertised as such, you know what GGW is all about, and you willingly appear on camera, at that point you've pretty much lost control over how your image is used. And if it turns out that something embarrassing or humiliating happens, it is unfortunate.

Kasey: "How the fact that St. Louis clearly finds a woman's consent to be arbitrary with all this "implied" bullshit doesn't incite rage and disbelief in this community of supposedly enlightened folks is a bit beyond me."

"Implied" isn't bullshit, and women who decide to participate in these events need to know that. She wasn't appearing in a National Geographic nature video.

Kasey: "Ultimately, this isn't a case about harassment or sexual assault, you're right -- but it is about the fact that on this particular occasion a woman's cry of "no" was found to be insignificant in a court of law. That alone should be enough to make you sort of sick."

I feel badly for her, in the same way that I would feel badly if she just regretted having been in the video at all. But it's not clear to me that the company did anything illegal or that was the basis for a lawsuit.

Some have suggested that they jury's verdict may be "overturned on appeal." I am unaware of any basis for that. Just because people don't like a verdict doesn't entail that there are grounds for an appeal.
Jodi: Are you sure you read the article right? Because having your top pulled down by someone when you're saying "no" sounds like being forced to me. I don't know why people keep missing the key fact in this story. Maybe caps will help: SHE DIDN"T PULL DOWN HER OWN SHIRT.

Mish: Thanks for further mansplaining your point to me. This one was particularly helpful in helping my tiny ladybrain to understand better:

"But the problem is that when you willingly show up at a GGW event, advertised as such, you know what GGW is all about, and you willingly appear on camera, at that point you've pretty much lost control over how your image is used. And if it turns out that something embarrassing or humiliating happens, it is unfortunate. "
I believe the reason for this ruling is when the company tapes at a location, those entering have been warned about what is going on. Those who don't want to participate have the option not to enter. By entering they give consent to being taped no matter what happens. It's analogous to riding a mechanical bull in a bar. You don't have to and if you are thrown off and get hurt, it's your fault.

GGW may be sleazy, however those participating have to take responsibility for their decision.

From what I've learned, Jane Doe lowered her shirt enough to expose the areola of her breast and, in fact, fondled herself for the camera. You can't pretend to be a lamb when you've been acting like a wolf.