Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Girls Gone Wild and Crazy




It's not every day that small town Southern girls get the opportunity to participate in pornography — especially the kind viewed by millions of people around the world.



So when "Girls Gone Wild" pulled into Sumter, South Carolina recently, to film at a bar on U.S. 76/378, several readers contacted The Item, where I am a reporter. And, since that's not the sort of coverage male reporters can handle — at least with any credibility — I offered to go.



Before the festivities got under way, I drove toward Shaw Air Force Base to scope out the terrain. As I pulled into the parking lot behind the colorful "Girls Gone Wild" bus, my 3-year-old shouted, "Look, Mama! A princess bus!" I laughed. But then it occurred to me that somewhere, each of these girls was indeed someone's princess.



When I went back about 10 p.m. (without my daughter), bouncers were checking IDs and handing out plastic bracelets: colored for 21 and older; black for the underage bar-goers, 18 to 21. My male "body guard" paid the $10 cover charge required for men. Women were free. We scribbled our names on an attendance sheet and opened the door, where a "Girls Gone Wild" crew member had just taped a legal notice."By entering these premises," it said, "you consent to be filmed and have your image distributed in print, on video and on the Internet, at the discretion of 'Girls Gone Wild.'"



Hardly the sort of "waiver" that would hold up in court. Then again, I don't think anyone is suing. As the evening would prove, they're actually chasing the attention.



A very intoxicated 40-something woman entertained us for hours as we waited for the party to start. She made interesting use of a pole planted centerstage on the dance floor, showing off moves that could have only been learned in a strip club — including, at one point, licking that pole. By 11 p.m., the same woman was wearing nothing but a bra and thong, and gracing the laps of the bikers and military members who had coughed up the $1 bills now adorning her undergarments.



Three young women sitting next to us made fun of her. One hour later, they would be gyrating for the cameras, using similar moves.



At midnight, people were wall-to-wall, next to the dance floor, waiting for the action. The smoke was thick, and hours of alcohol consumption had dulled everyone's senses. A few people stumbled. Most sat smoking and drinking, staring wildy, their eyes raking up and down the bodies of any women who passed.



Good thing I had dressed like Grandma Moses.



Finally, with a series of triumphant announcements and a ramped-up rap song, three crew members strutted to the front, where they were swarmed. Video cameras perched on shoulders, lights blazing, the men pointed the cameras at various women.



Like television anchors being cued, the women swung into action. They bumped. They grinded. They simulated sex acts. More than a few lifted their tops, fondling themselves for posterity in the tell-tale moves that make "Girls Gone Wild" so notorious.



I followed the crew as they filmed, zooming and tilting their lenses to make the shots more interesting. After about 30 minutes, the crew member had exhausted most of the willing women. Bored, they began walking around, trying to convince more women to do things for the camera.



"You only live once," cooed one camerman. "This is your chance to be in the spotlight, do your thing, have your moment, girl." Some fell for it. Others merely shook their heads.



Later, the cameraman told me he had graduated from journalism school at a prestigious West Coast university. Media jobs paid little, he explained. This paid well. And he got to travel throughout the United States. What more could anyone want?



What more, indeed.



"The guy in the back told me I could have a T-shirt if I flashed him," said a heavy brunette, shoving her way toward us. "I did, but he said I had to talk to you."



"Will you show them to me?" asked the cameraman. The woman obliged.



"Hold on, let me turn on the camera," he said.



Before he had even flipped the switch, the brunette was flashing her wares once again, fondling herself for added effect. She looked at him, one eyebrow cocked. He tossed her a pink tank top with nary a second glance.



"They do that for a T-shirt?" I asked, incredulous."Yeah, a $3 T-shirt," said the cameraman with a smirk, shaking his head. "Can you believe it? We don't ever pay anybody – ever."



Not only does "Girls Gone Wild" not pay anyone, but bar owners actually pay them to come. Employees said this bar's owner shelled out a $1,500 fee to the organization, in addition to paying for hotel rooms, gas, meals and drinks for the crew. That didn't include the $5-per-head cover fee that he also had to hand over at the end of the evening. With at least 300 in attendance, the bar's bill for the evening would amount to well over $3,000, possibly close to $4,000.



Asked if it was worth it, the bar owner said he was making plenty of money on drinks. "Our parking lot has never been this full on a Thursday — never," he said.



Few expenses, pure profit. Apparently, "Girls Gone Wild" is a money-making operation all the way around.



"Congratulations," I said to one of the waitresses, who had performed a girl-on-girl "dance" with one of her colleagues. "The producer told me you two would definitely make the final cut."



"Oh!" she giggled, covering her face with her hand. "What will my mother say?"



I kid you not.


I pursed my lips. "Does your mother buy 'Girls Gone Wild' videos?"



"No," she said with a laugh.



"I guess you're OK then," I replied, trying to keep the sarcasm from my voice.



OK, assuming you don't mind millions of people watching you simulate sex with another woman. To the cheers of a drunken crowd.



OK, assuming this is the legacy you want to leave for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.



And OK, assuming you don't give a whit what the women's movement has fought so hard to obtain – the right to be viewed by men as equals, just for starters, and to be treated with respect.



All of which is being slowly obliterated by a generation that has seized a pro-choice slogan ("It's my body, and I'll do what I want with it") and crammed it into a justification for stripper-style, peep-show entertainment that can only take us back to the dark ages in terms of male perception.



Because no matter how much these young women cry "freedom," their performances — which they stubbornly insist are just "dancing" — are stripping a generation of dignity, one bar at a time. Protests notwithstanding, these women are eroding their own self-esteem, and transforming themselves into objects for sexual gratification. And, they are confirming that nagging suspicion which so many men carry — some secretly, some not so secretly — that women really are good for just one thing.



I can hear the demons cackling.



All the way to the bank.




Annabelle Robertson is an award-winning journalist and reporter who writes for The Item newspaper in Sumter, South Carolina. She is the author of The Southern Girl's Guide to Surviving the Newlywed Years: How to Stay Sane Once You've Caught Your Man.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was funny and a little bit sad as well. Thanks so much for the essay.

Keetha said...

This was a lot sad. I'd like to think it was fiction but I'm afraid it's all too real.

Anonymous said...

ha the chicks love it!!!!
stop ranting

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Anonymous said...

What a waste. These lovely young women are so misguided - lack of upbringing? Poor choices? Just plain dumb?

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