Suicide Girls not so edgy…

When I was last in Boston, I had dinner with Eric and his girlfriend at CPK at the Pru. As usual, we had the hour wait and spent time wandering around Barnes and Noble to pass the time. As we were walking around the various bookshelves talking about books and politics and such, we walked by the women’s studies section where I saw the most unexpected book: SuicideGirls. This is a book for the eponymous porn site.

I’ve never belonged to SuicideGirls, but because they advertise on some of the bigger blogs, I’ve heard of them. They get a lot of good press too because their models break the Playboy-style artificiality. These models are “real” and people geeks and hipsters might be interested in. Say, for example, BoingBoing’s crowd of users. Or Xeni Jardin fans (co-editor of BoingBoing). They also get credit for being a site that “empowers” their models and gives them some control over how they’re presented on the site. The models have blogs on the site, talk to users, etc. It sounds like what a non-exploitive porn site should be.

Anyway, my point is that it’s kind of odd to see them in the women’s studies section but at least it’s understandable. I got home and mentioned it to Heidi. I defended SG a little, saying that pretty much what I’ve said above (better than the rest, might even be a morally “good” porn site in their business dealings).

Well, based on a new article in Wired, it seems I may have to take back what I’ve said above. From the article:

Talk about piercing the veil.

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.

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.

Two of the ex-models say they were attracted by the empowerment message, too. “I liked that you had a journal and voice, you had the chance to make your own (photo) sets,” said “Dia,” a 30-year-old former model who doesn’t wish to be identified because she now works outside the porn business in Northern California.

“I looked forward to making great art,” added Dia, who has unsuccessfully tried to get her photos off the site.

She and other models say that contrary to its image as a women-run operation, SuicideGirls is actually controlled by a man — co-founder Sean Suhl. They accuse him of treating women poorly and failing to pay them enough. (According to the site’s FAQ, SuicideGirls models get paid $300 per photo set.)

As usual, Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon steps back and takes a look at the broad picture here.

I don’t think the fact that a man owns it really makes it any less of a female empowerment enterprise, but control over the images seems important to me as does ongoing revenue sharing. Promoting a band and all that… meh.

  • bob

    There is more information on DIA at dramawhores.com

  • anonymous

    Bob has obsessed over Dia on nearly every single blog online where she has been mentioned, and it’s been reported in the past that she felt very uncomfortable with his attention.

    This sentiment was also reported to have been shared, regarding “Bob,” by several other people involved in the anti-SG sentiment.

  • Danni

    I am a little worried about all this. Why do people call it porn, it isnt as far as i can see its just some beutiful naked pin up models not porn i thought porn was penatrative sex?! So confused:(
    Help me, i mean there is nothing really rude just naked flesh!
    i thought that was beautiful

  • DO

    Hundreds of models left the site after being exploited by the site’s owners. The lack of empathy toward the models was a shock for some of the clueless wonders, who after all had agreed to strip off for a site which literally translates to “Kill Yourself Girls”. Predictably, Suicide Girls never did make selling your body to a grubbing middle eastern pervert cool.

  • BrittanyLouis

    It’s actually softcore porn.

  • BrittanyLouis

    This is actually happening again right now. One of the site owners Sean asked for “criticism” of the new website which is in beta. They put ALL of members information publicly on the beta site. When members brought this up he lashed out violently making light of our security issues and started banning paid subscribers from the site. People who have paid for years in advance were banned for simply offering the criticism he’s asked for. SG’s and members are going left and right. Someone from the help desk even send an email calling a German member names. (I’ll post the screen shot). Sean is glad to take our money, put ALL of our public photos and blogs on display even if you’re listed as a private member, mock you and still delete you out of insipid rage. As a member I quit in 2011 and it seems that after having been back for about 3 months, I’ll be quitting the site again. It was a good site in the beginning. It just isn’t anymore.