Thursday, January 29, 2009

Girls and guys for guys and... guys?

February marks the beginning of spring break for thousands of college students, and Girls Gone Wild is just one of the things that go hand in hand with spring break. It’s the time when girls let their bikini strings loose, get drunk, and make out with other girls, all of it captured on camera. Some guys love the films, while many girls think it’s demeaning and degrading (even the ones on the camera, after they sober up, of course).

The Girls Gone Wild industry has been around and popular for over a decade, even after creator Joseph R. Francis was arrested and pleaded guilty to federal charges of failing to document the ages of women engaging in the sexual acts in the videos. Francis’ company, Mantra Films Inc., paid $1.6 million in fines for that charge, and, according to the Associated Press, the judge ordered Francis, his company president, general counsel, and chief financial officer to each perform eight hours of community service every month for 30 months. The company was also charged with tax evasion, racketeering, drug trafficking, and child pornography, landing Francis 339 days in jail and $60,000 more in fines.

This criminality surrounding the videos doesn’t stop the flow of cash to Francis’ pocket, however, or those of his 400 plus employees. According to U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak, the $1.6 million paid by Mantra Films Inc. in 2006 represents less than three percent of Mantra’s profits from 2002 to the time of the charges.

But it’s not just Girls Gone Wild that’s helping with these profits. Guys Gone Wild has been around since 2004 (about eight years after Girls Gone Wild began), and retails for the same price as the Girls Gone Wild videos. While some people may be aware of these CDs, they are not nearly as well known as Girls Gone Wild. Why is this? Well, partly because Girls Gone Wild is in the news, women are usually the ones driving the sex industry, and sex has a strong emotional attachment associated with it for most women, and considering that the Guys DVDs don’t come with flowers and “after viewing cuddling,” it’s probably a long shot to market them strictly toward women. However, the main reason these videos are not as well-known is because Guys Gone Wild is geared toward a “niche market” of gay men.

Since the main audience for Girls Gone Wild is heterosexual men, Guys Gone Wild may suggest the intended viewing audience is heterosexual women. However, the double standard that is gender in America tells a different story. In the same way that a man is “cool” to some for sleeping around, while a girl may be labeled a “whore,” homosexual women versus homosexual men has its own problem. While no double standard defines everyone’s opinion on an issue, the majority of men watching Girls Gone Wild do so not just because of nudity, but also because of “lesbian” interaction among the women in the videos. To many men, the act of two women together is stimulating, while most straight men would be turned off by the idea of two men behaving the same way.

Because of this common double standard, Mantra Films Inc. realized Guys Gone Wild would not sell to straight men the way Girls Gone Wild had. Next step? To also realize that men probably watch more porn than women. One episode of the television show Friends, “The One with the Free Porn,” predicts this same logic. In the episode, Chandler and Joey discover that there is free porn on their television. They watch it as long as they can and refuse to turn off the TV just in case they can’t get it back, while the girls in the apartment are disgusted with their obsession.

Of course, women can be seen in the back rooms at video stores as well, but, because of the way men are perceived in society, many people believe it’s only men keeping the industry alive. As a result, even if women are watching just as much porn as men, we’d never guess, and certainly wouldn’t market videos just to them.

With the economy looking bleak, Mantra Films joined Hustler’s Larry Flynt in asking Congress for a $5 billion bailout for the porn industry. They didn’t get it. So now we’re waiting for Francis to convince every office in America to have “make out, film it, sell it” parties in an attempt to make sure no more people are laid off. Workers Gone Wild could possibly be the newest endeavor in the series… but don’t count on it being made for women.

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