SuicideGirls quit; say female empowerment reputation false


If you don�t know SuicideGirls (where have you been?) here’s the deal–it’s porn that features “alternative” women. Lots of tattoos and body piercings and the like. It’s enjoyed a high-profile reputation as female-controlled and operated. Apparently, that’s not necessarily the case.

A group of angry ex-models is bashing the SuicideGirls alt-porn empire, saying its embrace of the tattoo and nipple-ring set hides a world of exploitation and male domination.
…about 30 models have quit, claiming the site’s male owner treated them poorly and didn’t pay them well.
The women are spreading their allegations through the blogosphere, raising the hackles of the SuicideGirls company, which has until now enjoyed a reputation as porn even feminists can love. It offers burlesque tours, clothes and DVDs in addition to a sprawling online library of naked punk and goth women.
…the woman-friendly reputation of SuicideGirls is being battered. Since its creation in 2001, media outlets have lauded the company’s focus on goth, indie and punk models who aren’t necessarily big-busted and bikini-waxed. “It wasn’t the first alt-porn site to come along, but it was certainly the most widely promoted and probably the most influential,” said John d’Addario, editor of the porn blog Fleshbot.
The message of business-side female empowerment hasn’t hurt either. “The perception that women had an important/equal role in the administration of the site probably made it more attractive to some people who might not have visited a porn site otherwise,” d’Addario said.

Despite what the reputation of the site is, the models who have quit say that SuicideGirls is actually controlled by a man, cofounder Sean Suhl. They claim Suhl treated women badly and didn�t pay them enough.
The site claims that these are just a few women who are spreading lies. I don�t about you, but it seems to me that 30 women are more than just a couple of disgruntled employees. This is super disappointing.
Thanks to Ben for the link.

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18 Comments

  1. Posted September 29, 2005 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I was always freaked out that it was called “Suicide Girls.” Girls (not women) are hotter when they want to kill themselves? The tattoos and piercings are signs of sexy mental imablances? Give me a break. It’s just more put-women-in-their-place porn, with body modification to distract you into thinking it’s different.

  2. cerebrate
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I remember reading about the behind-the-scenes bullshit at SG 4 years ago. I thought everybody knew this by now. Huh.

  3. Jessica
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    yellow, hate to tell you, but tattoos and piercings aren’t signs of mental imbalance.

  4. Posted September 29, 2005 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Regardless of the admin of the site being men/ women, the stuff they produce is still for a very male gaze. Some like their porn without piercings, the others prefer. It doesn’t change the fundamental premise of the website – to attract men who like very nubile and extremely young looking naked female objects!
    As for the name Suicide Girls, it is deeply offensive to any survivor of suicide, or anyone who has suffered from the pain of having a close one choosing to end their life to give it a sexual connotation. It just panders to the image of women being manipulated by men!

  5. Posted September 29, 2005 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Jessica, I should hope not, or I (and my pierced face) would be screwed. I was just commenting on how SG played up the whole (if I may coin a term here) tragic hottie angle. (I mean, really, “suicide?”)
    I put it in the same category as pop songs about depressed women that glorify their unhappiness, or the “crazy girls are way hot in bed” thing (that I swear I hear from time to time from actual people). It seems to me that a lot of commercially-co-opted “counterculture” sells fucked up, unhappy or different women as creatures that just need someone to take care of them and love them, and just happen to picture her in her underpants when she’s sobbing in her room and slicing herself with a razor (also she is never unattractive). It’s like unhappy women are these cute pets for you to take care of, and if I may theorize, I think it’s an image that really contributes to teenage girls looking to self-destructive behavior (anorexia, cutting, etc) for happiness. I know when I was a teenager, it seemed really glamorous to be bipolar or anorexic, or whatever. I realize now that’s a bunch of hooey, but I still see this treatment of unhappy women in pop culture.

  6. Jessica
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    ahh…i see. apologies for the misunderstanding. i agree, fetishizing sickness (mental or otherwise) is fucked up.

  7. Crys T
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry, but I really don’t see how anyone could find this the least bit surprising.
    It’s not like the site tried to present any images other than conventionally attractive, acceptably young women….albeit with the sort of body modifications that the particular audience likes.
    If they had even the slightest pretensions to really doing something different, the first thing they’d do is include photos of naked males designed to get women off, and the second would be to provide images of women that don’t fit the extremely narrow boundaries of age, face and body type that constitutes “sexy” in the general culture.
    Not that doing any of those things would truly make them subversive, because, hell, there’s a creepy, slobbering perv for whatever body/age of female, so whatever sexualised image you show is going to be interpreted as appealing to that particular type of perv and not as a statement that the woman in the image owns her own sexuality. And as for the photos of guys….shit, they ALWAYS end up being aimed more at a gay male audience than a straight female one, don’t they?

  8. Posted September 29, 2005 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I’m one of those feminists who’s never heard of this site, as I tend not to surf the ‘net for porn. But it seems logical to me that any site that features women’s bodies posed primarily for the male gaze isn’t actually going to be woman-controlled.

  9. Thomas
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Crys T, I totally agree that a site that only has depictions of conventionally attractive women is not shifting any paradigm. I don’t patronize mainstream porn, and when I purchased a subscription to SG, I was immediately disappointed and dropped it. I really wish that there were a place where women could express their own sexuality visually for a larger audience, and where the audience could have some comfort that it was a genuine representation by a truly consenting model, instead of a financially strapped one — but that’s not widely available. I also think that, if a site wanted to concentrate on an area of sexuality without just appropriating women for the male gaze, it probably ought to include images of both men and women.
    There is one thing that you wrote that I think I’m not on board with, though. You wrote, “Not that doing any of those things would truly make them subversive, because, hell, there’s a creepy, slobbering perv for whatever body/age of female, so whatever sexualised image you show is going to be interpreted as appealing to that particular type of perv and not as a statement that the woman in the image owns her own sexuality. ” I don’t think we can use as the primary measure of speech how the audience will receive it. By analogy, a pedophile will always see pictures of children as essentially sexual — but that does not mean that pictures of children are all sexual.
    If it were true that, in a patriarchal culture, all depictions of women reduced women to objects because most viewers will see them that way, then we would have to adopt a prohibition on images to change anything. I’m not saying that how something will be received is irrelevant to what it means. But in a post-modern condition, where every expression can be read to include its opposite, that cannot be the primary lens.
    Certainly, when we’re talking about text, most feminists would not say that a woman should not write frankly about her sexuality just because some asshole will read it in an entirely patriarchal way. I think the same applies to images.
    What I’m saying here is that, just because some guys masturbate to Carol Queen’s or Wickie Stamps’ writing doesn’t make it anti-woman, and just because some men masturbate to On Our Backs doesn’t make it anti-woman (whether it’s okay for men to do this is a separate question: I’m saying they don’t define the expression by doing so).
    I’m far more concerned, first, with whether women make a meaningfully free choice to express their sexuality in a visual form, and whether they are treated with decency and respect in that process, and second, whether the expression merely parrots patriarchal norms of sexuality in slighlty modified form or reflects a more woman- and sex-positive conception, than I am with how some guy sees it.

  10. Crys T
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Firstly, sorry for the multiple posts: I kept getting an error message, so I thought it hadn’t gone through.
    Thomas: “I don’t think we can use as the primary measure of speech how the audience will receive it. By analogy, a pedophile will always see pictures of children as essentially sexual — but that does not mean that pictures of children are all sexual.”
    No, and I do see what you’re saying (and in a way agree with you), but the whole point of Suicide Girls was to be a porn site. And the function of a porn site is to sexually titillate, whereas the photos of children you describe are not. And until we radically change our perceptions of what sex means, I don’t believe that any images produced for the express purpose of being sexually arousing can be “subversive” or “empowering” or anything else positive.
    For example, it is perfectly possible for a 75-year-old woman to pose for a sexually explicit photo with the intention of doing it for the sole reason of showing to the world that she is still sexually viable. But I think we all know that, aside from a tiny handful of people who will most likely know the story behind the photo before they even see it (and therefore interpret it in the “correct” light), the audience for the photo will either be repulsed by it or see in it some sort of “kink”.
    Does that suck? Hell yes. But it also sucks that we seem to have a mentality that says we need to get validation for our own sexuality by displaying ourselves for others in stereotyped ways and getting their approval in the first place. I mean hell: maybe I feel my sexiest in jeans and a t-shirt, but if you saw a photo of me that way, not giving off the societally-determined signals for “sex” either by my dress or my body language, would you be able to recognise that’s what I mean? I’m guessing not.
    I personally don’t see much if any relation between the way sex is signalled–not only in out-and-out porn, but in other media–via images & my real-life sexual experiences. Media representations are cliched cartoons of what certain groups have decided sex should be about, not what it in actual fact is–or what it is in my world, anyway. I’m sure there are people who are so indoctrinated by media culture that they’re incapable of engaging sexually in anything other than stereotyped ways, but I haven’t really come across too many of them (luckily).
    OK, this is really rambling, so I’ll end it now…

  11. Thomas
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    If this comment is a duplicate, I apologize. I treid to put this up and had some difficulty.
    Crys T, I totally agree that a site that only has depictions of conventionally attractive women is not shifting any paradigm. I don’t patronize mainstream porn, and when I purchased a subscription to SG, I was immediately disappointed and dropped it. I really wish that there were a place where women could express their own sexuality visually for a larger audience, and where the audience could have some comfort that it was a genuine representation by a truly consenting model, instead of a financially strapped one — but that’s not widely available. I also think that, if a site wanted to concentrate on an area of sexuality without just appropriating women for the male gaze, it probably ought to include images of both men and women.
    There is one thing that you wrote that I think I’m not on board with, though. You wrote, “Not that doing any of those things would truly make them subversive, because, hell, there’s a creepy, slobbering perv for whatever body/age of female, so whatever sexualised image you show is going to be interpreted as appealing to that particular type of perv and not as a statement that the woman in the image owns her own sexuality. ” I don’t think we can use as the primary measure of speech how the audience will receive it. By analogy, a pedophile will always see pictures of children as essentially sexual — but that does not mean that pictures of children are all sexual.
    If it were true that, in a patriarchal culture, all depictions of women reduced women to objects because most viewers will see them that way, then we would have to adopt a prohibition on images to change anything. I’m not saying that how something will be received is irrelevant to what it means. But in a post-modern condition, where every expression can be read to include its opposite, that cannot be the primary lens.
    Certainly, when we’re talking about text, most feminists would not say that a woman should not write frankly about her sexuality just because some asshole will read it in an entirely patriarchal way. I think the same applies to images.
    What I’m saying here is that, just because some guys masturbate to Carol Queen’s or Wickie Stamps’ writing doesn’t make it anti-woman, and just because some men masturbate to On Our Backs doesn’t make it anti-woman (whether it’s okay for men to do this is a separate question: I’m saying they don’t define the expression by doing so).
    I’m far more concerned, first, with whether women make a meaningfully free choice to express their sexuality in a visual form, and whether they are treated with decency and respect in that process, and second, whether the expression merely parrots patriarchal norms of sexuality in slighlty modified form or reflects a more woman- and sex-positive conception, than I am with how some guy sees it.

  12. JesusJonesSuperstar
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    FIrst, will you dopes stop making multiple posts! It took me 1 time to figure out the error message problem but some of you seem to do it over and over.
    People, the fact is suicide girls WAS an innovative porn site that DID give the models more say in what they were doing, more control, more power, etc.
    But, it seems that SOME were DUMB enough to believe that this meant it was some kind of activist site and not what it in fact was… A COMMERCIAL PORN SITE IN BUSINESS TO MAKE COIN.
    the complainers must get real. OF course the girls are low paid. If they were high payed, how would the owner be getting rich? and, do you not think that is why he created a PORN site on the INTERNET??
    Yea, the models are young and cute. how shocking. But, u know their is also fetish sites for fat girl porn, femdom porn, golden showers, pretty much anything you can think of.
    The fact is some of the most popular porn sites ARE truely owned and run by women… women who are in business to make money!
    My god. some people really do need to have “the way the world works” every step of the way every five minutes. its sad.

  13. Solmaru
    Posted September 29, 2005 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I did SG for the Ladies. Boys looking at it is just an unfortunate side effect. =)

  14. Thomas
    Posted September 30, 2005 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Crys, you’re eloquent as always, and I agree with much of what you say.
    You wrote:
    “but the whole point of Suicide Girls was to be a porn site. And the function of a porn site is to sexually titillate, whereas the photos of children you describe are not. And until we radically change our perceptions of what sex means, I don’t believe that any images produced for the express purpose of being sexually arousing can be “subversive” or “empowering” or anything else positive. ”
    I see what you’re saying. Of course, to a large extent, any attempt both to sexually arouse and to change perception is fighting a real uphill battle: many viewers will reinterpret any image into something that does not challenge them. I do agree that far, but I don’t think that means we have to concede the ground of sexual stimulation — that would be a real shame.
    First, lots of material is produced for a limited audience. So, while some straight men may buy, and masturbate to, On Our Backs, most readers will still be lesbian and bisexual women.
    To narrow this phenomenon to its most reductive, there are sexually explicit images for an audience of just one, or just a few. I still have five photographs of a friend of mine in bondage — they were a gift. When she came out to me as a leatherperson, I gave her lots of support and a bunch of toys to get her collection started, but we’ve never really played together. One day, she sent a few photos, intended for an audience of exactly two: my wife and I. With an audience of two, who both know the model and share major aspects of her sexuality, I think we can agree that such pictures, though explicitly sexual, are unlikely to be misinterpreted — as I think you say above.
    To take a less specialized example, I think material produced by members of a sexual minority for their own can be “subversive” or “empowering” and arousing at the same time. Pat Califia’s writing was certainly both empowering and erotic for me as a young S/Mer. Of course, one can say that text is different (there are arguments both ways). But I think the same thing can be said for body mod photos at BME, for example. These are produced by and for a subculture. People outside the subculture may intrude, of course, and look at the pictures, but the space is still firmly within the subculture and all the context expresses those cues. That limits the ability of the intruder to reinterpret the material. In my view, non-modern primative straight men no more ruin BME by looking at it than straight guys ruin On Our Backs.
    You also wrote this:
    “the audience for the photo will either be repulsed by it or see in it some sort of “kink”.”
    The first is not a problem, right? If the mainstream simply looks away in horror, they cede the field to those the expression was meant for. The second is more complicated: the interaction between someone coming from a patriarchal perspective and material trying to stand outside that perspective is mutual, they impact each other.
    So, take the 75 year old model. Lots of men look away. They thereby make themselves irrelevant to the expression by ignoring it. The ones that look, if they are aroused by it, they bring to it a fetishization: they reduce the woman to a stereotype — the hot granny. That’s what I think you’re saying, and that’s in part true. But when they stare into the kink, to paraphrase Blake, the kink stares also into them. So, if they are aroused, while they may interpret the expression in a way that devalues and reduces the model, they also implicitly accept the existence as a sexual being of a person that the patriarchy says is non-sexual. Every time they stroke to a post-menopausal woman’s image, they become less willing to accept that dictate.
    I’m not sure that outweighs the problem of fetishization — that calculus, I think is both person-to-person and dependent on the image and its context. Images of women having sex with each other, in a straight context, are so non-challenging and so easily reinterpreted so as not to threated the male-penis-centric norm that they do much more harm than good. Images of butches having sex in a context that makes it clear the image is meant for lesbian eyes are not so easily reinterpreted. Gay men, same thing. Images of male submissives with hypodermic needles in their scrotum are not the sort of thing that I think, on the whole, can be assimilated by patriarchy and used to reinforce patriarchal norms: if a guy’s cock gets hard looking at that picture, he’s a long way towards accepting as sexually funfilling something that is very hard to square with patriarchal intercourse-centric sexuality.

  15. john
    Posted May 16, 2006 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    alright
    firstly girls are doing this porno stuff all by themselves .but look past your nose and you may get a sight that not all girls want to be radical feminists.

  16. colewj
    Posted February 21, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Alright, I admit . . . I did glance at a few, yes a few, imageries of SG individuals. BUT needless to say my photography enhanced mind truly captures not the “porn” initiative but the beauty in front of the lens and never truly going further into depth. Yes, now that I think of how disturbing it is. None the less, those 30+ women who quit decided to quit for reasons of inferiority towards a man . . . A man. A man with a penis, brain, hands, eyes, heart? but mostly a penis that then can attract other penises. BUT that is only hear say due to my powerful hatred towards the opposite gender. Yes, I know . . . . . Give’em a break? None the less porn in itself is ridiculous. Look at Girls Gone Wild, College Girls, and the enormous of porn indicating women as lesser value. A god awful insight of how desperate the industry truly is. Captivating by flaw. I disapprove of the lack of value porn holds as well as the lack of value some women can put themselves in. . . .bigger breasts, lips, softer skin (My mom has thankfully blessed me with soft baby touched skin, THANKS MOMMY!). My point i’m trying to make here is basically porn has major side effects . . . . AND WHO IS BEHIND THE SCENE MOST OF THE TIME?!?!?! MEN!!! MEN!!! AND MORE MEN!! But to those woman who do Suicide Girls, I do not find it as a crime, more or less just furthered art . . . . In the beginning. . Now, I have lost my thought of concentration. . . .Also the name Suicide Girls, it’s quite horrific in itself.

  17. Andrea
    Posted February 21, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    “the first thing they’d do is include photos of naked males designed to get women off” – Crys T
    Um, let’s not forget photos of naked females designed to get women off, thanks :)

  18. HyperSloth
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Its funny. I read through every one of the responses here figuring that at least one person would correct all the errorneous info, but could not not find any.
    Now, I’m not defending the company behind SG, or endorsing it, or anything. However, I keep seeing comments about how hoorific the “Suicide Girls” thing is, when not one of you ever bothered to find out what it means. Some of you even claim to have been on the site, been members, etc, yet you don’t even know what the name means? It has absolutley nothing to do with girl wanting to kill themselves. Short explanation is that it is a reference to a few different things including the idea of “killing that part of yourself that desires public aproval and freeing yourself to be who you truly are” and also a reference to the old sayings about posing nude being “social suicide” or “carreer suicide.”
    Secondly, none of you bothered to mention, or perhaps even knew, that the majority of the site and its traffic aren’t even related to its nudity, but rather the social aspect. Something along the lines of MySpace for the alterantive crowd. Last I checked 43% of their subscribers are female and the majority of its traffic is through forums and postings about rock bands and alterantive art rather than “porn surfing”.
    Like I said, I’m not endorsing the SG site in any way, but if any of you had bothered to do even a tiny bit of research it would be obvious because you would at LEAST know what the name means and that it has as much to do with death fantasies as rock and roll has to do with throwing boulders down a hill.

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