The latest far-from shocking news to hit the blog-o-sphere is that some of the women featured in the (otherwise extremely high quality...no really) show "Girls Gone Wild" were co-erced into participation. The more astute of us might have argued we could see this coming on at least three counts:
1) There is a long history of co-ersion in pornography. And an equally long history of a refusal to truly address the abuses in the mainstream media. And why should we be surprised by that? Guys who want to make porn films for a living were never going to be the most wholesome types were they? And these guys respect the women involved so much that while they make small fortunes out of the video sales, the women are usually given just a T-shirt or baseball hat...
2) We know about the methods used to collect the footage used on "Girls Gone Wild". For instance crews are offered a $1000 bonus for collecting footage of girls who have only just turned 18. Crews target bars and clubs where women may already be intoxicated and frame their efforts as a "competition" to see which group of women is "the most wild".
3) The videos are marketed under titles and slogans which suggest strongly that subterfuge has been used in obtaining the footage and that vulnerable women have been targetted. Seperate vidoes offer footage of "first timers" (as though every woman experiences a "first time" getting her tits out on camera...?).
The response has been focussed on what can be done to prevent this sort of thing happening in future and the most popular idea so far seems to be raising the age of consent for appearing in pornography to 21 or indeed 65 (that would work). In the UK you can still appear in porn from the age of 16 - no one tell Joe Francis please or he'll be hanging round sixth form colleges in a heartbeat. I think the UK age could well benefit from being raised to at least 18 and preferrably 21. I don't however believe that would completely solve the problem. I have an alternative suggestion which I think would go a bit further:
A pornography cooling-off period.
Think about it this way. If a guy knocks on your door and sells you something you have seven days to change your mind. If he asked you to change electricity or gas supplier you have fourteen days. If you buy travel insurance from him, you have fourteen days to change your mind. If the same guy finds you drunk in a local bar and asks to film you topless your decision is final. In both scenarios the guy is working on big bonuses, so one would imagine equally unscrupulous tactics of persuasion.
This would present pornographers (not that inconveniencing them would bother me much) with two options:
1) Invite women to sign up in advance if they wish to participate in filming.
2) Film women and issue them with consent withdrawal forms which can be returned if they decide within a reasonable period (say 14 days) that they regret their participation and wish to have the footage of themselves destroyed.
I think this approach would have the added benefit of opening up the debate on the subject of these nasty videos. Women might question why they are signing away rights to footage of themselves without being paid. Relatives, friends and tutors would be more likely to be aware of the situation and have a chance to influence people who they feel may not be making the best decision.
And having said all that there is one more point I want to make... A great deal of the fuss about the footage is centred on the idea that women who have participated in these shows will have the remainder of their lives haunted by the footage and find themselves ineligible for good jobs, frowned on by polite society, etc. Personally when I was a student groups of women, including me, often ran naked or semi-naked around the streets late at night. It was something we did as a dare, as a challenge to ourselves, to shock people, push boundaries, generate scandal and most importantly because it's fun! It was a part of growing up and finding out about ourselves. This does not make me unsuitable for government office, the armed forces or indeed lasting relationships. And the fact that when these young women did the same thing there was a f*ckwit on hand trying to film proceedings shouldn't affect our opinion of them later in life.