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October 30, 2012 9:41 PM   Subscribe

The World of a Professional Naked Girl - Molly Crabapple on her time as a nude model.
posted by Artw (50 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Beauty is powerful because it is pleasing. Real power means not having to please.
posted by The Whelk at 9:49 PM on October 30, 2012 [35 favorites]


Maybe this is just a sign that I'm getting old, but it seems like every four or five years a new generation of women discovers that they that the money is really good, but stripping/posing nude/dancing nude/sex work is kind of tiring and degrading after a while, and that while they started off doing it for Reason X, they eventually wind up doing it only for the money, which is also degrading.
posted by gingerest at 10:04 PM on October 30, 2012 [16 favorites]


Maybe this is just a sign that I'm getting old, but it seems like every goddamn week someone on the internet discovers that all is vanity and there is nothing new under the sun.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:14 PM on October 30, 2012 [16 favorites]


Hey, she did that comeek with The Whelk!
posted by not_on_display at 10:16 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


There’s only one story, just different ways of telling it.
posted by bongo_x at 10:27 PM on October 30, 2012


She also did that week in hell with The Whelk.
posted by Orinda at 10:30 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm getting Frontline to investigate the link between The Whelk and public nudity.
posted by hippybear at 10:54 PM on October 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Maybe this is just a sign that I'm getting old, but it seems like every four or five years a new generation of women discovers that they that the money is really good, but stripping/posing nude/dancing nude/sex work is kind of tiring and degrading after a while, and that while they started off doing it for Reason X, they eventually wind up doing it only for the money, which is also degrading.

It's almost like certain life experiences lead to a similar end result in self discovery.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:02 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lest we forget their enlightening other work together, What Is Tor?
posted by carsonb at 11:05 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


She wrote a piece about getting arrested at the OWS anniversary last month.
posted by homunculus at 11:06 PM on October 30, 2012


Level 9 is achieved when you marry a graphic novelist.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:10 PM on October 30, 2012


"Beauty is powerful because it is pleasing. Real power means not having to please."

I read the article a few weeks ago and when I read that I thought, "No. Everyone works for someone."
posted by bswinburn at 11:20 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Real power means not having to please.

How true that is. My metric for a civilized species is very simple: when the survival of no member hinges on the pleasure it gives another.

Until such time we're just baboons with dull asses and undersize fangs.
posted by clarknova at 11:47 PM on October 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. Molly's work is always amazing.
posted by deo rei at 12:27 AM on October 31, 2012


This is a great piece of writing.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:54 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with pretty much everything she says but the article definitely rubbed me the wrong way.

Dude, if you're young or young-ish you do not need to have Angelia Jolie looks to get people (especially men) to give you money to look at your naughty bits. In fact, it's easier than ever to make this happen (less of a porn-stigma these days, craigslist) and there's a ton of porn out there featuring "regular" looking people.

I am not and never was as Adonis, but damn if I wasn't propositioned multiple times in college and graduate school to "model" for people who probably weren't that interested in honing their painting and photography skills (again, usually older dudes).

So part of me is like, get over yourself.

And then there's this:

"Jolie-hot Latina girls were bagging groceries throughout Brooklyn"

Yeah, no way a Latina could be working as a teacher or a banker or a cop.

Everybody's a little racist I guess.
posted by bardic at 12:55 AM on October 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm so boring. I thought that this would be about working as an artist's model, and was disappointed that it wasn't. I need to get out more.

Posing for life drawing sessions actually is being 'professionally naked' since it involves being naked and nothing else. It's well paid -- reasonably well paid, anyway -- because it's uncomfortable, but the discomfort is physical (holding the pose, cramps, chills, bits of you going to sleep) and not psychological. It's also egalitarian: old people model, fat people model, ugly people model. Drawing someone who's not young and conventionally attractive is much more interesting than working with the conventionally pretty, so creaky old funny-looking people who can hold a pose are usually in demand. 80 year old yoga practitioners who are comfortable with nudity can supplement their pensions quite nicely.

In contrast, sex work isn't really 'about' being naked; it's about getting clients off.
posted by jrochest at 12:57 AM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


bardic : "Jolie-hot Latina girls were bagging groceries throughout Brooklyn"
Yeah, no way a Latina could be working as a teacher or a banker or a cop. Everybody's a little racist I guess.


I think you missed the point there - Namely, that you-the-reader would have a much, much better chance of "bagging" a hot grocery clerk (or at least encountering them) than "you" would an educated professional woman. Not that Latinas (hot or otherwise) can't work in "real" jobs.


That said, her site appears down, and a GIS for her turns up pretty much nothing I wouldn't show Mom. So... Does the "Professional Naked Girl" of the summary count as an in-joke? I can apparently find more compromising pictures of Tipper Gore than I can of Molly.
posted by pla at 3:33 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Office workers lacerated themselves for not looking like Angelina Jolie, even though Jolie-hot Latina girls were bagging groceries throughout Brooklyn.

Her point, surely, is that it's naive to imagine that if only you looked like Angelina Jolie, all your problems would be solved. You can look like Angelina Jolie and still end up working in a grocery store. Hence her conclusion: that the only sensible thing to do with your looks is barter them, while you still have them, for independence and self-worth.
posted by verstegan at 4:14 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh FFS. Now every former stripper thinks she's Diablo Cody. Even Diablo Cody isn't Diablo Cody.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:46 AM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hence her conclusion: that the only sensible thing to do with your looks is barter them, while you still have them, for independence and self-worth


The only sensible conclusion for whom?
posted by c13 at 4:59 AM on October 31, 2012


Does "A Tart's Progress" exist anywhere outside of Molly Crabapple's biography?
posted by DU at 5:01 AM on October 31, 2012


It's not even a moral defense. She is sending a public announcement "Don't bother calling me with old photos and threats of publishing them."
posted by surplus at 5:03 AM on October 31, 2012


"a binder full of naked women"

Topical!
posted by surplus at 5:05 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now every former stripper thinks she's Diablo Cody.

Oh God, I died in the hurricane and this is hell, isn't it?
posted by nathancaswell at 5:10 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Telling an old story a new way makes some people get it where previously did not. This makes it a new story in every way that matters.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:37 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


pose for amateur photographers. We called them GWCs, or Guys with Cameras. They paid 100 bucks an hour.

I used to know a real photographer (a job which, if you do artsy stuff, tends to pay considerably less well than dishwashing) who made a fairly good living basically being a procurer for those GWCs, who were desperate for naked young women to photograph with their expensive camera gear. I met some of them, and they were just such stereotypical sad middle aged guys, hovering right on the edge of creepy. The idea of being alone in a hotel room with them, naked, is not pleasant. I'm glad for her that she saved enough money to launch her career, but she definitely earned every penny of it.
posted by Forktine at 6:02 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Women are offered huge incentives, often monetary, to present themselves sexually. This usually happens to women when they are at their least independent, when they are young and have just moved away from home. But once they do present themselves sexually, they are labeled harlots. Setting aside the immense physical danger that being labeled a harlot brings women, the social cost is terrible. A woman who is known to have sold access to her naked body, whether it is for photography, stripping or sex, gets stigmatized by many people forever. Some people, once they learn something like that, add a 'harlot' marker to anything they do or say. Everything they do gets denigrated. And they better not talk about their experiences publically, especially not in the service of making another point. Everything they say is flattened, it's not so-and-so says this, but so-and-so-the-harlot says this. Don't get me wrong, it's a major step forward that women don't get burned at the stake for speaking up,* but the same structural discounting of female voices still exists in modern society.

This thread has been a sad example of this dynamic. Molly Crabapple writes a dispassionate article talking about her experiences with private nude modeling in an environment that's usually discussed much in any way other than sensationalistic: eBay's now terminated adult section. I thought it was an interesting article, that ends with some conclusions that I don't necessarily agree with, but her reasoning is sound and how she describes her personal path to those conclusions is well-drawn and interesting. However, the response in this thread is too depressing and predictable to be shocking. The writer's humanity is subsumed and she's labeled as a harlot. Her points get lost under the pile of people rushing in to be the first and wittiest to say how much they don't respect her.


* This is an extreme example, but every other example I thought to include still occurs regularly: Being sent to psychiatric hospitals for speaking up, being arrested for speaking up, being thrown out of their homes for speaking up, getting beaten up for speaking up.
posted by Kattullus at 6:18 AM on October 31, 2012 [25 favorites]


In contrast, sex work isn't really 'about' being naked; it's about getting clients off.

Eh, not really. Usually the term "sex work" is a bit broader than "prostitute", actually, including both legal and illegal activities. Like, for example, this.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:02 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really cant tell if some of these comments are parodies of loser misogyny or the real thing. So just in case they are clever parodies I think we should ignore them. Cool article Molly!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:29 AM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I guess my biggest take-away is "the kids sure are good at selling themselves these days."
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:42 AM on October 31, 2012


Kattullus brings up a really big and important point; a woman who once posed for nude (or 'semi-nude') photos is subject to losing her job on bullshit morals clauses, especially if she works in primary or high school education. On the outside it looks like we Americans are idiot hypocrites about sex, but really it's a control thing as always. Men are still trying to control women's bodies and behaviors. Some have not internalized the concept that women are not chattel property.
posted by Mister_A at 7:45 AM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good short essay. I thought it was going to be about being a 'life model' but when it wasn't, it didn't suffer for it.

I thought,
When men harrass us, they blame it on our looks.
was a trenchant (if depressing) way of putting a universal (?) truth.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:45 AM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Molly Crabapple is lovely, and a very talented artist, and a good writer. Two things especially stand out to me about her stint as a professional naked girl: This was, in one way, an exploration of creative cynicism similar to what an awful lot of bright young things (my past self included) enter into one way or another in their early to mid-20s, and also a job for money that ultimately turns out to be as grey and tedious as any "mmh, yeah, I'm gonna need you to..." cubicle assignment.

Leaving aside the many possible binders-of-women feminist aspects of the story (maybe because I'm just kind of discouraged and burned out on this particular digital conversation at the moment), I think almost all of us constantly negotiate the rocks and shoals of being an employable / useful / exploitable / possibly-titillating human product supplying specific returns on investment as required, and also a single unique synthesizer of that experience. In this way, what bongo_x said: There’s only one story, just different ways of telling it, and I'm glad that we keep telling it.
posted by taz at 11:11 AM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Jolie-hot Latina girls were bagging groceries throughout Brooklyn"

Yeah, no way a Latina could be working as a teacher or a banker or a cop.

Everybody's a little racist I guess.


I read this as a (somewhat ham-fisted) attempt to point out the racial/ethnic blinders that people wear along with their normative criteria for attractiveness, which her experiences prompted her to be more reflexively aware of. If this was supposed to be a more theoretical think-piece it might bother me as a throwaway line but it seemed to make sense in context here (at least to me).
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:49 PM on October 31, 2012


Well, that was kinda depressing.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:41 PM on October 31, 2012


"she's labeled as a harlot"

Literally nobody did this.
posted by bardic at 9:17 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting and just a little bit frightening. Some aspects of that world I really don't want to know about. The freakish behavior of these photogs when a male chaperone is present is just, I don't know, ICK.

I was struck by that bit that about how Marilyn Monroe could turn it off and on. I have heard of people who can hit that charisma switch like it's second nature.

Some years ago I read an interview, and I want to say it was with David E. Kelley but I'm not sure. But regardless, it was the husband of a famous actress. The question was about red carpets and how the less glamorous spouse gets shuffled to the wayside and instead he talked about turning on and off that "movie star" persona in a way that was almost scary. The husband said when approaching award shows in the limo, the star would say "OK, brace yourself. I'm going to be 'her' now." And they'd step out of the limo, the flashbulbs would pop, and he would turn to his wife and about take a step back because her transformation into "her" was so swift and sudden. And since then I have always been curious about the celebrity interviews and how far away they likely are from the person that only family sees.
posted by Ber at 9:35 PM on October 31, 2012


bardic: Literally nobody did this.

Comments were deleted.

posted by Kattullus at 9:44 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


And some weren't deleted.

charlie don't surf: “Oh FFS. Now every former stripper thinks she's Diablo Cody. Even Diablo Cody isn't Diablo Cody.”

What a shitty thing to say about someone and their writing. Using "former stripper" as some kind of derisive dismissal is misogynist, no matter how you do it. And if you don't at least respect Molly Crabapple as an artist and as a thoughtful person, then you don't know shit about who Molly Crabapple is.

And even if she was an idiot, she doesn't deserve the sighing caveman treatment.
posted by koeselitz at 9:50 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


koeselitz : Using "former stripper" as some kind of derisive dismissal is misogynist, no matter how you do it.

FTA: "Never have I seen a stripper without thinking she was a philosopher queen."

FTA: "I was 22 years old and sweating on a gogo platform. Glitter melted into my cleavage. One fake eyelash hung off with clockwork orange precocity. In walked the guy I was dating. He was at the tail end of a relationship. He came in with his girlfriend, who was not a painted, exhausted, ridiculous professional naked girl. I kept dancing, pretending not to notice."

When a statement of fact counts as "misogynist", at least one of us has a problem with our underlying world-view.


What a shitty thing to say about someone and their writing.

I know a lot of "writers" (the internet seems to have made everyone into one, for better or for worse - usually "worse"). Few of them write well enough to merit an audience; and far fewer have anything to say.

Molly, FWIW, makes some decent art. Her writing... Eh. Nothing a thousand others haven't said before, some more eloquently, some less. And that, I think, describes charlie don't surf's point, which you completely ignored in favor of pointing out his misogyny.


I think, saying that just now, I've figured out why such comments bother me so (to the point that I've taken the time to write this response) - They amount to the "ism" version of "argument by grammar Naziing". Except, instead of ignoring your opponent's point to criticize his spelling or grammar, you've ignored it to criticize his use of social power dynamics.
posted by pla at 3:44 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's no need to address his argument, it's a garbage ad hominem dismissal of a group of people that doesn't apply to this article at all. Misogyny is why he chose to focus on her being a stripper rather than any of the other things that she says or does in her life story in order to score lazy points inveigling against Diablo Cody, who had nothing to do with this article or thread, except for being a woman and showing her knockers at one point. Anyway, yeah, it's certainly cheaper and less-imaginative than it is sexist, but it's still pretty sexist.

Not the end of the world, I say sexist things too (unfortunately often). When I'm called out on it I usually just apologize, but then I reread threads I post in too, I don't just drop a nasty poo on first encountering a discussion and never look back.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:14 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks to those who've pushed back against my original comment, I realized that I have some Feelings about this article that led me to be more critical and cynical than it merited. I think they derive from my impatience and sadness that we live in a culture where poor people are so trapped in poverty (despite the pervasive smirky narrative of Horatio Alger), and where those who are impoverished but articulate, insightful, connected, and broadly read can write and sell essays about it but still can't escape.

It's a horrible trap, to be faced with either very-low-paying dead-end jobs that won't help you escape poverty, or a high-paying dead-end job that puts you at a particular, special risk of serious injury or death. Whether we're talking about mining coal, oil rigging, factory fishing, or sex work, it's fucking horrible to price yourself for sale that way, even before addressing the challenge of participating in work you might find ethically iffy.
posted by gingerest at 4:38 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Using "former stripper" as some kind of derisive dismissal is misogynist, no matter how you do it.

No it isn't. My ex-girlfriend is a former stripper and made sure everyone she met knew it. You are making sweeping generalizations about how women self-identify. I am however, derisive of her writing. If she wants to complain about exploitation, she probably should not write lurid tales that exploit her experiences. Perhaps she feels empowered by exploiting herself, but that's not how it comes across.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:06 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am however, derisive of her writing. If she wants to complain about exploitation, she probably should not write lurid tales that exploit her experiences. Perhaps she feels empowered by exploiting herself, but that's not how it comes across.

This isn't addressed directly in the article, but I figure she's in a position where she needs to address this anyway, as she's a well-known artist of whom there are who knows how many nude pictures out there, and inevitably those pictures will resurface as her popularity grows. I don't know her and it shouldn't matter whether she loathes this aspect of her past or revels in it, but I don't think pretending it didn't happen is much of an option for her. So if she's chosen to own it, then I say good for her, so be it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:58 AM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


New York strip club loses bid to have lap dances legally defined as art
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on November 3, 2012


Molly Crabapple Has Your Heart With New Animated Project
posted by Artw at 6:15 PM on November 19, 2012


Here's an interview with the creators of I Have Your Heart.
posted by homunculus at 1:55 PM on November 20, 2012


Er, that wasn't the link. Here it is (via).
posted by homunculus at 2:05 PM on November 20, 2012


Democracy, Ow: A Q&A with Discordia authors Laurie Penny and Molly Crabapple
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:05 AM on November 30, 2012


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