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Sara Ziff talks to Louise France about the world of teen modelling.
June 8, 2009 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Sara Ziff talks to Louise France about the world of teen modelling. "We might need to see you without your bra, he told me. I was 14. I didn't even have breasts yet."
posted by chunking express (216 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jesus. Just... wow.
posted by grubi at 11:05 AM on June 8, 2009


I've worked on tons of fashion shoots and never heard of anything remotely like this (and I've heard plenty of horror stories about big egos, assholes, and drama queens of all kinds). I'm sure it happens, but saying this is common or typical is ridiculous.
posted by bradbane at 11:06 AM on June 8, 2009


This must be what it's like to actually be as pretty as Elizabeth Wurtzel thinks she is.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:11 AM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, I don't think she's saying it happens at most shoots. But it wouldn't have to. If a model does hundreds of shoots, and is only assaulted at one of them, that's still far too often.

Common or not, that it happens at all — and by the sound of it tends to go unreported when it does happen — is still a problem.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:14 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a real hard time caring about how a model is exploited. If they passed a law that said you had to be 18 to model I'd be incapable of caring at all.

It sucks that parents will do this to their kids, and sucks that pretty women do it to themselves, but I can only muster empathy for the kids.

Life is so rough when you are beautiful and rich.

I'm not sure there are many new revelations here.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:17 AM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Needs a "whitegirlsinjeopardy" tag.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:19 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a friend who was building a high-fashion modeling career for a while. At one point she had to be hospitalized for malnourishment while on job in Italy. She is about 6'4" and was under 100 lbs at the time. When she returned to the job her handlers showed no concern for her wellbeing, rather chastized her for gaining so much weight while on the feeding tube at the hospital. It was at about that point that she decided to drop out of modeling and go back to school. The next year she went back to 9th grade.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:20 AM on June 8, 2009 [34 favorites]


Needs a "whitegirlsinjeopardy" tag.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:19 AM on June 8 [+] [!]


No. It doesn't.

Fantastic post and a great read.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 11:21 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love this canard that people who have certain advantages (beauty or wealth) are incapable of having real problems.

Actually, I lied: I don't love it, I find it disgusting. How callous of a human being do you have to be to be so blasé about a young girl being sexually assaulted? Are you really that defined by your ressentiment?
posted by nasreddin at 11:24 AM on June 8, 2009 [137 favorites]


The assaults described in this piece are certainly horrible, but this is a far cry from reading an article about child sex trafficking in Asia, for instance. I think what cjorgensen is getting at is that, here, at least they're getting paid by the boatload and it seems that that's enough to empower and enable them to get out if need be.
posted by adamms222 at 11:35 AM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The assaults described in this piece are certainly horrible, but this is a far cry from reading an article about child sex trafficking in Asia, for instance.

What the fuck is this even supposed to mean?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:38 AM on June 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


The assaults described in this piece are certainly horrible, but this is a far cry from reading an article about child sex trafficking in Asia, for instance.

Good thing it's a zero-sum game. I'm saving up my outrage this week--when the next Amnesty International report comes out, it'll be a real blowout! I can't waste it thinking about anyone else's problems, though. I've gotta keep hoarding.
posted by nasreddin at 11:39 AM on June 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


It means that there's a range of sexual abuse of underage girls occurring throughout the world, and that the abuse detailed in this documentary appears to me to be on the less horrific side of the spectrum.
posted by adamms222 at 11:41 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


A male doctor needs a female assistant in the room when examing a female, right?

I don't see why the same shouldn't be true of a male photographer and a female model, especially one who's under 18.
posted by zippy at 11:42 AM on June 8, 2009 [7 favorites]


It means that there's a range of sexual abuse of underage girls occurring throughout the world, and that the abuse detailed in this documentary appears to me to be on the less horrific side of the spectrum.

Um, who gives a fuck?
posted by nasreddin at 11:42 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, yes. It Could Be Worse. In fact, it often is worse. Nobody's denying that, though, and I'm not really sure why it's relevant at all unless you're trying to somehow deny these women sympathy.

I mean, yes, I get it — these women's lives have some good points and some bad points, and some people's lives have fewer good points or more bad points. But I don't think there's any contradiction there. I'm happy about the good points, and sad or angry about the bad points, in anyone's life, and as a curious human being I like learning as much about both as I can.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:44 AM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ha! So far my comment-to-replywiththeword"fuck" record is 2 for 2 here. Let's see what this one gets...
posted by adamms222 at 11:44 AM on June 8, 2009


Sounds like the doc. might be interesting to watch. To be fair, though, I don't see how any of this can be a surprise to anyone. It isn't a well kept secret, more of an implied state of normalcy.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:45 AM on June 8, 2009


This is kind of like when that cry-baby Christopher Reeve broke his fool spine riding his hoighty-toighty high horse around like the rich man that he was! It's not like he couldn't afford to have a new third world virgin orphan wipe his ass for him every day! Or like when John Lennon got himself shot. Oh, boo hoo! - Look at me, I'm a famous rock star in New York. Feel sorry for meeeeee!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:47 AM on June 8, 2009 [24 favorites]


"This is the ugly, sleazy side of the modelling industry"

As opposed to what, exactly? The wholesome, wonderful side? Article needs less rosy-glasses.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:47 AM on June 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


It is awesomely bizarre in a James Bond kind of way that the restaurateur who goes only by "Mr. Chow" has not only armed gaurds in his mansion but a holding cell to put people in.
posted by The Straightener at 11:51 AM on June 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


I read the article with horror and shame for my species, and came to the thread fully expecting to find blasé "who cares, they're getting paid, wake me up when they're send to the death camps" comments. I was not disappointed. Don't ever change, MetaFilter.
posted by languagehat at 11:51 AM on June 8, 2009 [20 favorites]


Ha! So far my comment-to-replywiththeword"fuck" record is 2 for 2 here. Let's see what this one gets...

"Fuck." Happy?

Good. Now go troll someplace else.

posted by nebulawindphone at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was about to feel empathy for these victims of sexual assault, but fortunately my resentment towards pretty people, white people, and rich people overrode my humanity, and all I felt was a clear, clean wave of snark.
posted by The Tensor at 11:56 AM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, there was one sexual assault mentioned in the article, where a guy apparently fondled a girl in a bathroom. That's obviously pretty bad. But a lot of the stuff, being naked and asked to take your clothe off for huge sums of money, well, it's a problem but at the same time it's a choice. These people could leave that world whenever they want too and all they would have to do would be to get a real job like a normal person.

No one is going to have a perfect life.
posted by delmoi at 11:57 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was about to feel empathy for these victims of sexual assault, but fortunately my resentment towards pretty people, white people, and rich people overrode my humanity, and all I felt was a clear, clean wave of snark.

Like, all white people? I don't think "white people" is a good stand in for "rich elites" if that's what you mean.
posted by delmoi at 11:58 AM on June 8, 2009


Halloween Jack: "This must be what it's like to actually be as pretty as Elizabeth Wurtzel thinks she is."

You read about young women being sexually abused, and you leap straight to "They're pretty! Elizabeth Wurtzel thinks she's pretty but she isn't!"?
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:59 AM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


On occasion, Ziff says, she has earned as much as $150,000 a day. "I've done shoots naked, totally naked. They sell it to you as: 'Here's this great artist and he wants to take your portrait.' I had to switch off the voice in my head that said: 'Do you really want to do this?' When you're being paid a lot of money and you want to appear cool you really don't want to show any resistance to going with it.

"But at the end of the day I used to wonder: what's the difference between doing a shoot in your underwear for Calvin Klein and being a stripper? Obviously you are compromising yourself. How far am I willing to go? How much am I willing to show for a big fat cheque?"


The difference is about $149,000 and a sweaty back, you clueless classist. I hope you got model releases from everybody you secretly filmed.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:59 AM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


at least they're getting paid by the boatload and it seems that that's enough to empower and enable them to get out if need be

So the problem with most perpetrators of sexual assault is that they aren't paying their victims enough for it?
posted by burnmp3s at 12:00 PM on June 8, 2009 [10 favorites]


zippy: "A male doctor needs a female assistant in the room when examing a female, right?"

No, not in my experience.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2009


You read about young women being sexually abused

The story is about the movie, and includes one anecdote about a girl who was assaulted.
posted by delmoi at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Vote with your pocketbooks.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2009


Isn't part of the resistance the reluctance to turn the baleful eye of that camera back on ourselves? Why do we allow this industrial exploitation of teenagers? Why do we consume and consent by silence to the images of sexualized minors? Do we only get mad when Calvin Klein or American Apparel make it overt by making it look like a porn shoot?
posted by dhartung at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


Zippy: A male doctor needs a female assistant in the room when examing a female, right?

I don't see why the same shouldn't be true of a male photographer and a female model, especially one who's under 18.


The photog seems to set the tone because it's his "art" and one can't disturb or put rules upon the "process". Or that's the excuse I've heard.

I've often wondered why as these high-end fashion photogs tend to be male, and if this kind of stuff would happen if there were more female fashion photographers in the industry. (I have no statistics on male vs female, and would like to see them -- this is just what i've noticed. would love to hear others' observations on this )
posted by NikitaNikita at 12:03 PM on June 8, 2009


I have a real hard time caring about how a model is exploited.
posted by cjorgensen


the abuse detailed in this documentary appears to me to be on the less horrific side of the spectrum.
posted by adamms222


ITS NOT RAPE IF SHES REALLY HOT BRO HIGH FIVE BOOYA LETS DRINK A FEW BREWSKIS AND RITUALLY DISEMBOWEL OURSELVES
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:06 PM on June 8, 2009 [19 favorites]


What the fuck is this even supposed to mean?

Since someone, somewhere is worse off we should not care or empathize with these people. Further we should mock and resent them for daring to mention their hardships.

I can usually understand the impulse - that banker tool with the open letter about how he wants his multi-million dollar bonus brought it out in me. But feeling that from a story about exploitation of young people? I don't get it.

To be fair, though, I don't see how any of this can be a surprise to anyone. It isn't a well kept secret, more of an implied state of normalcy.There's the older, more worldly people here like you and me and there's barely pubescent kids with a dream. I'm sure it comes as a shock to them.
posted by anti social order at 12:06 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


delmoi: "The story is about the movie, and includes one anecdote about a girl who was assaulted."

"Abused" might be too strong. There's a bit about a girl having their breasts touched, one being grabbed between the legs, one being told by her employer that she should've slept with the photographer who made a pass at her... What I took away from the article was that the movie was mostly about the unpleasant sexual aspects of working as a model.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:06 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"A male doctor needs a female assistant in the room when examing a female, right?"

You're confusing cops and doctors. This could be dangerous.
posted by rokusan at 12:09 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry. I wasn't implying that these women make so much money that they can get out of a bad situation (though they do and should), but rather I have a hard time mustering sympathy for someone who puts herself in a situation like this in the first place. Like I wrote above, I'm not sure there are many new revelations here. Eating disorders, drug use, manipulation, near prostitution, pornography, etc.

Maybe it's me, but no way in hell would I ever let my non-existent kid model.

And no, this isn't "blame the victim." Of course I feel bad for any victim of sexual assault. I wasn't focussing on this aspect in particular, but rather the whole picture. Boo hoo hoo, they want me to take my clothes of for 150k. Sexual assault aside it seems like these women seek out victimhood.

From the article: "When you are working at a higher level there is no separation between life and work."

I'm saying I can't understand why someone would choose this life/work understanding what occurs in this industry. If it was an industry of adults only I wouldn't care.

A 16-year-old has no business being unchaperoned. More so in places where bad things are more likely to happen. Which is why I also wrote that kids shouldn't be modeling. I know I am being unrealistic, since when you have that much money being thrown around, people can't resist.

And to be clear, sex assault is horrible no matter where it happens.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:11 PM on June 8, 2009


No matter what you may think of models or modelling or the fashion world, no woman should ever risk being sexually assaulted in the course of making a living.
posted by jb at 12:12 PM on June 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


"Abused" might be too strong. There's a bit about a girl having their breasts touched, one being grabbed between the legs, one being told by her employer that she should've slept with the photographer who made a pass at her... What I took away from the article was that the movie was mostly about the unpleasant sexual aspects of working as a model.

You don't consider grabbing a woman's chest or groping her vagina unwelcomed to be sexual assault? Remind me never to come to a party at your house.
posted by headspace at 12:12 PM on June 8, 2009 [16 favorites]


Sorry - that should be "should have to risk being sexually assaulted in the course of making a living."

this entire story disgusted me. If I had my druthers, it wouldn't just be whistle-blowing and a union for the models, but criminal sexual assault charges for those who have abused them.
posted by jb at 12:13 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


But a lot of the stuff, being naked and asked to take your clothe off for huge sums of money, well, it's a problem but at the same time it's a choice. These people could leave that world whenever they want too and all they would have to do would be to get a real job like a normal person.

It's a choice I wouldn't want to have been confronted with at 14. It's a choice I'd feel pretty shitty about offering a 14-year-old. There's still something pretty crappy in there — not just technically imperfect, but really sleazy and unpleasant.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:14 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nobody is forcing these women to model. Nobody is forcing these women to stay silent.

What the article touches on but never says flat out... these women put up with it for the money. The money is good, and they're afraid of losing the money.

Sorry, no sympathy when they choose this lifestyle for themselves and are too afraid of losing money to try to change it.
posted by Malice at 12:15 PM on June 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Nobody is forcing these women to stay silent.

What the article touches on but never says flat out... these women put up with it for the money. The money is good, and they're afraid of losing the money.


This is an article about women who are speaking up, even if it ends up costing them money. Shouldn't you be happy about that?
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:18 PM on June 8, 2009


The assaults described in this piece are certainly horrible, but this is a far cry from reading an article about child sex trafficking in Asia, for instance.

A 14 year old is transported to another country for the purpose of sex and in order to sell nude photos of him or her. Does it make a big difference in the sex trafficking scheme of things if that 14 year old is a white kid from Iowa or an asian kid from Laos?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:19 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


headspace: "You don't consider grabbing a woman's chest or groping her vagina unwelcomed to be sexual assault? Remind me never to come to a party at your house."

What? Of course I do. I was saying that my use of "abused" in this comment might be too strong, as I wanted to include all the sexual creepiness. "Abuse" might imply rape for some people, and I was looking for a broader term.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:19 PM on June 8, 2009


a girl having their breasts touched, one being grabbed between the legs,

Wait, that doesn't count as abuse? Also, the article says:

Then suddenly he puts his hands between her legs and sexually assaults her

I read that as the Guardian being too classy to say, "Then he put his hand between a sixteen year old's legs and fingerfucked her against the wall until he got bored."

And for those of you who want to act like you're not surprised, just remember that 99.7% of all twelve year old American girls daydream about being discovered and whisked away to a life of international travel and pretty clothes. It's in the cultural water, even for ones who, like me, were raised to climb trees, get dirty, and fear no insect or arachnid or academic achievement.

The let's-hate-on-girls-because-they're-pretty-and-making-more-money-than-me in this thread makes me a little sick.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:19 PM on June 8, 2009 [49 favorites]


If it was an industry of adults only I wouldn't care.

You do realize that this is a pretty nineteenth-century attitude to have, right? If your ancestors had thought as you do, we wouldn't have weekends or sick days or workers' comp. Anything goes as long as you're an adult, after all.
posted by nasreddin at 12:20 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


There is so very much more than "pretty white girls making obscene amounts of money for being pretty" line. Though the first girl sounds like like she goes through life in a haze ("I did it," she shrugs, looking into the video camera. "But later I didn't feel good about it."), the second case is atrocious.
A 16-year-old model is on a photo shoot in Paris. She has very little experience of modelling and is unaccompanied by her agency or parents. She leaves the studio to go to the bathroom and meets the photographer - "a very, very famous photographer, probably one of the world's top names", according to Ziff - in the hallway. He starts fiddling with her clothes. "But you're used to this," says Ziff. "People touch you all the time. Your collar, or your breasts. It's not strange to be handled like that." Then suddenly he puts his hands between her legs and sexually assaults her.
The article goes on to mention how this isn't discussed because of the terrible balance of power. The girls are young, naive and replaceable, while the industry people who are abusing the girls are respected and rich.

Sorry, no sympathy when they choose this lifestyle for themselves and are too afraid of losing money to try to change it.

No sympathy for 16 year old girls who have no power in the situation? I'd imagine that if a girl was to go to the authorities in one of these cases, she'd have the full force of design firm is against her.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:21 PM on June 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


"Abused" might be too strong.

What?

I was expecting way less "she's hot and white so it's not sexual abuse" in this thread.
posted by chunking express at 12:21 PM on June 8, 2009


The let's-hate-on-girls-because-they're-pretty-and-making-more-money-than-me in this thread makes me a little sick.

I think the truth of the matter is probably a bit of overlay between that sentiment and the fact that this industry is something of a cancer and the people who willingly enter into it with dreams of big money and the high-end lifestyle are indeed able to walk away if they are strong enough.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's like those women in the military who keep complaining about harassment and rape! THEY put themselves in the situation of high-stressed men who haven't seen their wives/girlfriends/etc lately; why should I feel sorry for them? But I'm not blaming the victim, amirite?
posted by olinerd at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2009 [13 favorites]


Posing naked when you have consented to it is no problem. Neither is performing sexual acts for money when that is what you have chosen to do and you knew what was involved going in and, again, you have consented to it. Actors have contracts about when they will be naked; pornography models and actors know that they will be performing sexual acts.

These are stories about girls and women who are being forced to strip naked when that has nothing to do with their job - their job is to model clothing, not to be naked, or give a handjob to the photographer. Being forced to touch someone under duress is also sexual assault. The system is set up telling them that they must prostitute themselves - saying "well, you just should have given up modelling" is like saying that it doesn't matter that those with power are using that power to sexually harass and assault those underneath them.

To put it into perspective, what if a graduate student's advisor started telling them they had to have sex with them? I mean, they don't have to be a grad student, right? There are too many grad students anyways, they can just leave if they aren't happy with the system.
posted by jb at 12:24 PM on June 8, 2009 [46 favorites]


ITS NOT RAPE IF SHES REALLY HOT BRO

Ironic sexist comments are (marginally) better than actual sexist comments but less good than no sexist comments at all, imo.
posted by jessamyn at 12:29 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


chunking expressPoster: ""Abused" might be too strong.

What?

I was expecting way less "she's hot and white so it's not sexual abuse" in this thread.
"

GAH. I was trying to find one word that summed up all of the events -- the blatant abuse and the overall sexual atmosphere -- because it seemed delmoi thought there was only one incident. Yes, "abuse" is too strong for some of the events. Other events clearly were abuse.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:29 PM on June 8, 2009


Sorry, no sympathy when they choose this lifestyle for themselves and are too afraid of losing money to try to change it.

Is a 14 year old allowed to 'choose' this lifestyle? I believe this 'lifestyle' involves contracts. I believe a 14 year old in not legally allowed to sign a contract. I believe therefore that this is not about the 14 year old's choice, because the law doesn't recognize that a 14 year old has a choice in the matter. Just like regardless of what a 14 year old girl chooses, if a 14 year old boy has sex with her, he is guilty of statutory rape. It's the parents here that should be vilified, not the 14 year olds.

The 18 year old ones - slightly different story.
posted by spicynuts at 12:29 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's sum up the thoughts presented here. We're only allowed to feel true sympathy for people (and/or victims of sexual assault) who are all of the following:

1. Underage
2. Female
3. Non-white
4. Poor.

Limited empathy is allowed if the person fulfills 3 of the 4 conditions. 2 out of 4 are not worthy of thought, much less emotion. 1/4 and less are deserving, nay, requiring mockery as they are socially incapable of having real problems.
posted by slimepuppy at 12:30 PM on June 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


I was expecting way less "she's hot and white so it's not sexual abuse" in this thread."

You were? Cuz this being Metafilter, I was expecting exactly that as well as the hate/snark cocktail that accompanies it.
posted by spicynuts at 12:30 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


To put it into perspective, what if a graduate student's advisor started telling them they had to have sex with them?

I'm not at all defending actions of disgusting modeling industry people, but it's a bit of a stretch to equivocate photography modeling with just about any other undertaking. It's all about skin and suggestion. It's not about building better machinery or developing ingenuity, or any other pursuit that can be labeled as noble or progressive.

My conservative seams are showing, but modeling is one industry that really seems to me to just drain the quality of life from all of its corners. Again, that doesn't excuse excesses inside the industry, but it means that it's a corrupt undertaking.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:31 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Seems like there are some people using this story as a means to express their own more deeply seeded creepy girl hate shit, and a couple people honestly pointing out some legitmate flaws in the article.

Sexual Assault of any stripe or "degree" is criminal and wrong. There is also a very hard to pin down line when it involves the personal choice of a 16 year old and a lot of money. Certainly most 16 year olds are not even close to making that decision with all of the implications weighed maturely. In that case, even more culpability belongs to the absent parents and the nature of the accountability threshold in the industry.

The article contains anecdotes about other girls being assaulted, and some sketchy situations that actually happened to the writer. It's not a stretch to believe that these types of criminal activities happen to others as well. And that is a Bad Thing and Should Not Happen.

It's also not a huge stretch to make a distinction, not in terms of the "amount of sympathy you give to a sexual assault victim" because that is patently ridiculous, but a distinctioin that takes into account the very real differences in the level of personal choice, the financial reward, and the ability to re-think the original choice.

In the case in the article, the level of personal choice is mitigated by the age and reasoning faculties of the child, and should instead be of the parent, to which the resounding answer to whether or not my child can fly to Europe to participate in an unsupervised, unchaperoned underwear photo shoot is NO. The financial reward is astronomical to the overwhelming majority of the world, and money is most definitely power. Again, where are the parents? The second I caught wind of any sketchy business, use that money to protect the holy hell out of my kid. Shit, that much status alone should give a top model enough bargaining power to stipulate a SWAT team to be in the room should she choose. And this person in this particular situation can get out of the situations he or she is in at any time, without having to worry about working another day in his or her life.


Obviously there is a difference between a 14 year old who wants to be a model, enters the industry, makes a lot of money from it, and is sexually assaulted in the process, and a 16 year old who is sold by her parents to pay a debt, forcefully introduced into the sex trade, and is rewarded with no pay and routine beatings. They both are victims of criminal acts by fucking assholes, but there is a very real difference in the chain of events that lead them there as well as the opportunity for a rope to climb out.

I'm not sure if I am explaining this clearly but I tried.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:35 PM on June 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


I am, personally, looking forward to the "To Catch a Predator" exposé on the fashion industry. It's about time they targeted some rich and stylish people for once.
posted by felix betachat at 12:35 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


To put it into perspective, what if a graduate student's advisor started telling them they had to have sex with them?

To put it in perspective relative closer to the reality of the modeling industry, what if a middle school student's earth science teacher started telling them they had to have sex with them?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:37 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, no sympathy when they choose this lifestyle for themselves and are too afraid of losing money to try to change it.

Is a 14 year old allowed to 'choose' this lifestyle? I believe this 'lifestyle' involves contracts. I believe a 14 year old in not legally allowed to sign a contract. I believe therefore that this is not about the 14 year old's choice, because the law doesn't recognize that a 14 year old has a choice in the matter. Just like regardless of what a 14 year old girl chooses, if a 14 year old boy has sex with her, he is guilty of statutory rape. It's the parents here that should be vilified, not the 14 year olds.

The 18 year old ones - slightly different story.
posted by spicynuts at 12:29 PM on June 8 [+] [!]


We're not going to catch all of these child molesters without someone whistle blowing in the first place. There (probably) are more over 18 models than there are under 18. SOMEONE needs to speak out, and not just in a documentary. To authorities. Over and over again until the message gets through.

However, I was 8 when I told that I was getting molested. It's not that freaking hard to do, and at 14 I probably would have beat them down with something large and heavy.

Kids have mouths to speak as well. Their parents should have never let them into the industry to begin with (wtg parents!) but SOMEONE has to start speaking out to authorities before anything can change. And it's easy to get greedy and starstruck at any age.

These adult models don't want to speak out because they like the money (some teens have the capacity to feel the same way, too.) Some like the attention (I should clarify, the attention of modeling, not the molestation). I am sure there are a few other reasons but the fact of the matter is this is a CHOICE.

It's all a choice. They can leave at any time. If you worked at McDonald's and your boss starting feeling you up, would you feel compelled to stay? Hell no. They're not paying you enough for that, amiright?

If you were making several thousand, or several hundred thousand a shoot, for a few seconds of groping, would you weigh in your head the ramifications of giving that up?

The point is they decided, at some point in time, telling someone was not worth losing everything. But it should be, because being violated isn't worth any amount of money.
posted by Malice at 12:39 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


i am amazed at how people assume a 14, 15 or 16 year old girl can defend themselves or for that matter know what "choice" and the consequences of choosing their modeling are.

teenage modeling, especially the VOGUE kind where they have 14yr olds being dolled up to look like full blown adult women, is nothing more than socially sanctioned pedophilia and child exploitation.

you've heard of vampires sucking the blood of virgins to stay forever young? that's exactly what these girls were used either metphorically or through abuse. plain and simple.
posted by liza at 12:39 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, no sympathy when they choose this lifestyle for themselves and are too afraid of losing money to try to change it.

THEY'RE CHILDREN, FFS.
posted by katillathehun at 12:40 PM on June 8, 2009 [14 favorites]


I'm not at all defending actions of disgusting modeling industry people, but it's a bit of a stretch to equivocate photography modeling with just about any other undertaking. It's all about skin and suggestion.

Showing skin isn't giving consent. Striking a pose isn't giving consent. Working in a lousy, parasitic industry — because I'm with you there, the fashion and advertising industries are a horrible, horrible blight and we'd all be better off if they vanished — still isn't giving consent.

That's why the grad school analogy is worth making. Because despite the plastic sexy awfulness of modeling and the earnest drab awesomeness of grad school, people in both fields still have the right to decide for themselves what they do with their bodies.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:40 PM on June 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


I also like how once you turn 18, you are entirely responsible for everything that happens to you, regardless of the upbringing you have had. At 18, some of these women will have spent their formative years in a really fucked up environment, yet now that they are "adults", they are supposed to make informed and mature decisions and take control of their lives.

Didn't we have a discussion recently about footballers who waste all their millions in a matter of years and fall on hard times because, effectively, they stopped having to learn anything or take responsibility after age 16 and their first millions? Take the same mentality, only now add in a healthy dose of the hypersexualised and shallow nature of the fashion industry and is it any wonder you have models with serious emotional problems?

But no: they're pretty and rich, so how could they possibly have problems?
posted by slimepuppy at 12:41 PM on June 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


THEY'RE CHILDREN, FFS.

This.
posted by felix betachat at 12:42 PM on June 8, 2009


I did a bit of modeling during high school and definitely dealt with my share of sexual harassment, if not outright assault. One of my fondest memories of those days was when, in the midst of a photo shoot in the middle of some Philadelphia street, the photographer paused and said to me "Your pussy looks so tight." Encouraging words indeed for a 16 year old to hear.
posted by medeine at 12:43 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ironic sexist comments are (marginally) better than actual sexist comments but less good than no sexist comments at all, imo.
posted by jessamyn at 12:29 PM on June 8


It goes a bit beyond "ironic." What I wrote seems hyperbolic, but it's no different than what adamms222 and cjorgenssen wrote. I just put mine in all caps.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:43 PM on June 8, 2009


entirely off-topic, but "earnest drab awesomeness of grad school" is just about the most brilliant description I have ever heard.
posted by jb at 12:44 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sara Ziff was 14 when she first began modelling .. Her parents are academics who never approved of her career .. She was scouted in New York near Union Square by a female photographer when she was walking home from school .. Within a week she was being offered a magazine shoot in Jamaica and a show for Calvin Klein.

I can't understand the attitude of the parents here. Any parent whose 14-year-old daughter starts modelling should (a) make sure she knows the facts of life, (b) make sure she's okay with what she's getting into, (c) make sure she's properly chaperoned, and (d) make sure she's prepared to deal with predatory men. Sarah Ziff's parents seem to have done none of those things. And so we get this:

Her third casting was in the East Village in New York. "We had to go in one by one. The photographer said he wanted to see me without my shirt on. Then he told me that it was still hard to imagine me for the story so could I take my trousers off. I was standing there in a pair of Mickey Mouse knickers and a sports bra. I didn't even have breasts yet. 'We might need to see you without your bra,' he told me. It was like he was a shark circling me, walking around and around, looking me up and down without saying anything. I did what he told me to. I was just eager to be liked and get the job. I didn't know any better."

Where were her parents? What were they thinking? I find it extraordinary that anyone could allow their 14-year-old daughter to walk into such a situation. Am I being ridiculously old-fashioned here?
posted by verstegan at 12:45 PM on June 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


However, I was 8 when I told that I was getting molested. It's not that freaking hard to do, and at 14 I probably would have beat them down with something large and heavy.

Kids have mouths to speak as well. Their parents should have never let them into the industry to begin with (wtg parents!) but SOMEONE has to start speaking out to authorities before anything can change. And it's easy to get greedy and starstruck at any age.

These adult models don't want to speak out because they like the money (some teens have the capacity to feel the same way, too.) Some like the attention (I should clarify, the attention of modeling, not the molestation). I am sure there are a few other reasons but the fact of the matter is this is a CHOICE.


I think it's wonderful that you spoke up. And it would be wonderful if these kids spoke up too.

But let's turn that comment about greed around for a minute. The industry is effectively bribing these girls to stay silent about what's been done to them. Regardless of how you feel about the girls' choice to take the bribe, shouldn't you at least recognize that the ones offering the bribe are doing something evil?

If the outcome we want is for all victims of abuse to stand up for themselves, then we need to be willing to denounce those who try to stop them.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:46 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


entirely off-topic, but "earnest drab awesomeness of grad school" is just about the most brilliant description I have ever heard.

*bows* That's me! Earnest, drab and descriptively awesome!

posted by nebulawindphone at 12:47 PM on June 8, 2009


I really don't understand where the parents are in this equation. If my daughter got a modeling gig at 13 or 14, I would be at every photo shoot scrutinizing every last detail. My first inclination would be that something suspicious was going on. Why doesn't everyone caution to the worst-case-scenario side when confronted with a situation where the potential for abuse is both extremely exorbitantly high and completely effing obvious?
posted by fusinski at 12:49 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I wrote seems hyperbolic, but it's no different than what adamms222 and cjorgenssen wrote.

Affecting a "rapey frat boy" persona for the purpose of making a point is very very different from what either of those people wrote.
posted by jessamyn at 12:50 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think it's wonderful that you spoke up. And it would be wonderful if these kids spoke up too.

But let's turn that comment about greed around for a minute. The industry is effectively bribing these girls to stay silent about what's been done to them. Regardless of how you feel about the girls' choice to take the bribe, shouldn't you at least recognize that the ones offering the bribe are doing something evil?

If the outcome we want is for all victims of abuse to stand up for themselves, then we need to be willing to denounce those who try to stop them.


In therapy after the fact of something like this, they teach you that most non-violent child molesters try to bribe the people they abuse, with gifts or money or.. well, anything the child wants really. When that doesn't work, they then threaten (if you don't keep your mouth shut I will do this to hurt you/family/friends/dog.)

This is the same concept on a richer scale. It's the same exact thing. It's still their responsibility to speak out about. And by their, I mean particularly the adult ones. These women know what the teens are going through and still keep their mouths shut? I'm not all that big on humanity but I wouldn't stay quiet for any bribe when someone innocent is being hurt.
posted by Malice at 12:50 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]



It's all a choice. They can leave at any time. If you worked at McDonald's and your boss starting feeling you up, would you feel compelled to stay? Hell no. They're not paying you enough for that, amiright?

If you were making several thousand, or several hundred thousand a shoot, for a few seconds of groping, would you weigh in your head the ramifications of giving that up?


The law of this country disagrees with you in the case of people under 18. Which is the only case I was talking about. You do not have a legal status allowing you to make the choice to get into the situation in the first place.
posted by spicynuts at 12:51 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


At a private Gucci show at the Los Angeles home of the restaurateur Mr Chow, he came to the attention of the armed guards and was escorted to a holding cell in the house

What the hell house was this? The castle of Silling?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:51 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah... I re-read and saw you used the word 'adult' models. So I retract my above comment.
posted by spicynuts at 12:52 PM on June 8, 2009


I really don't understand where the parents are in this equation. If my daughter got a modeling gig at 13 or 14, I would be at every photo shoot scrutinizing every last detail. My first inclination would be that something suspicious was going on. Why doesn't everyone caution to the worst-case-scenario side when confronted with a situation where the potential for abuse is both extremely exorbitantly high and completely effing obvious?
posted by fusinski at 12:49 PM on June 8


If I couldn't be at every gig of my 13 year old daughter, I wouldn't be allowing them to work in such an industry.

And really, why does a 13 year old girl need to work anyway? I'd probably just say hell no and be done with it.
posted by Malice at 12:53 PM on June 8, 2009


This is the same concept on a richer scale. It's the same exact thing. It's still their responsibility to speak out about. And by their, I mean particularly the adult ones. These women know what the teens are going through and still keep their mouths shut? I'm not all that big on humanity but I wouldn't stay quiet for any bribe when someone innocent is being hurt.

So, lemme ask again. Why are you complaining about this article and this movie, rather than being proud of the women it depicts for doing the right thing?

It sounds like we basically agree on the principles — silence is bad, holding the bastards accountable is good — but I don't understand why you're angry about what looks to me like a step in the right direction, towards less silence and greater accountability.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:57 PM on June 8, 2009


Affecting a "rapey frat boy" persona for the purpose of making a point is very very different from what either of those people wrote.

The article included instances of sexual assault on children. Children who happen to be models, but children nonetheless. Cjorgensen wrote "I have a real hard time caring about how a model is exploited. If they passed a law that said you had to be 18 to model I'd be incapable of caring at all."

At least the "rapey frat boy" persona called it rape, recognized it for what it is. Cjorgensen literally, quote, would be "incapable of caring" how a model is exploited - his euphemism for sexual assault, remember - if they were over 18. As it is, with children involved, he simply has "a real hard time caring."

This is not overly analytical, this is not reading between the lines. This is what he said. It's no different than "it's not rape if she's hot."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:57 PM on June 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think that the snarkers think that, because they're not surprised that these things happen in the fashion industry, empathy is a inappropriate reaction. It isn't. Then again, that might be giving some people too much credit.
posted by ob at 12:58 PM on June 8, 2009


So, lemme ask again. Why are you complaining about this article and this movie, rather than being proud of the women it depicts for doing the right thing?

It sounds like we basically agree on the principles — silence is bad, holding the bastards accountable is good — but I don't understand why you're angry about what looks to me like a step in the right direction, towards less silence and greater accountability.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the article. I'm glad she's making a documentary on it.

What gets me is that no one complains to the authorities.

What the hell are they there for if not to investigate things like this?
posted by Malice at 12:58 PM on June 8, 2009


And for that matter, why didn't she try to convince the girl to tell authorities what had happened to her?
posted by Malice at 1:01 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's no different than "it's not rape if she's hot."

Do you believe that it's not rape if she's hot? No, you don't. Does cjorgensen believe what he said? Yes, I think he does. I disagree with him but I think that's what he thinks and I can tell him that without exaggerating his position to say he's some sort of rapist because for some reason he doesn't care about this particular situation. The only person making hurf durf rape statements is you and I wish you'd stop.
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on June 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is not overly analytical, this is not reading between the lines. This is what he said. It's no different than "it's not rape if she's hot."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:57 PM on June 8 [+] [!]


You are smart and this is important.

Why parrot an insensitive argument in it's most base, offensive, and intrusive form? Why not take time to rise above and present a nuanced counterargument?

The worth of the original and of yours is about the same to the discussion, which is pretty much exactly what jessamyn said.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:05 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jesus, so because the teenage girls get paid a lot this isn't sexual exploitation?

Did you guys miss the part where Ziff discusses women coming from non-English-speaking, extremely poor countries, completely unchaperoned, who are not in a financial or physical position to resist this exploitation? If you are 14 and can't speak English and you come across multiple countries because your family is financially dependent on your success, and then the photographer decides he wants to touch your breasts, are you in a position to say no? So they hand you a ton of money, that makes this all OK?

Everyone is saying this is a choice, they've consented to this. These girls are not adults. This is not a choice. Teenagers are not developmentally ready to be making decisions about whether or not they're comfortable in dicey sexual situations, and especially not teenage girls, who are socialized to keep their mouths shut about these things.

To simply make this an easy money-not-money dichotomy, dismiss these concerns because of the pay involved and the fact these girls are pretty, it ignores the tremendous other social pressures on these girls to acquiesce to the demands of the adults exploiting them.

So many, many teenage girls undergo similar scenarios outside of the modelling world . . . If a man came up to your daughter, grabbed her breasts, and then wrote her a check for ten thousand dollars and said she was pretty, would that make it OK? But because these women occupy a socially "elite" status they don't deserve our compassion?
posted by schroedinger at 1:10 PM on June 8, 2009 [14 favorites]



Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the article. I'm glad she's making a documentary on it.

What gets me is that no one complains to the authorities.


In that case, we do agree. I'm sorry I got you confused with the blame-the-victim brigade.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:11 PM on June 8, 2009


Every woman (and girl, in this case) has the right not to be sexually harassed while doing her job. It doesn't matter what that job is, or what it pays. The appropriate response to a woman who is sexually harassed at work is not, "Well, just leave that job then."
posted by lexicakes at 1:12 PM on June 8, 2009 [35 favorites]


I disagree with him but I think that's what he thinks and I can tell him that without exaggerating his position to say he's some sort of rapist

I didn't say he's a rapist. I'm saying he's an apologist for rapists.

The only person making hurf durf rape statements is you and I wish you'd stop.

Yes, it's worse to mock people who thinks raping children is not a big deal than it is to think that raping children is not a big deal. I think that you would rather avoid arguments between members than confront horrific, inexcusable statements, frankly.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:12 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


schroedinger: "If a man came up to your daughter, grabbed her breasts, and then wrote her a check for ten thousand dollars and said she was pretty, would that make it OK?"

The correct analogy would be if my daughter wanted a man to give her $10,000 for being pretty- but didn't know that such men are likely to grab her breasts. [Or objectify her in some other, less clearly criminal fashion.] Which is why I, as her father, would refuse to sign the contract allowing her to engage in that kind of activity.

Not very complicated, really.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:20 PM on June 8, 2009


Where are the parents?

I'm guessing the parent's really don't have the option of attending these shoots. If this is how the industry operates, I can't see them allowing Mom & Dad (especially Dad) to sit in the corner and watch. The industry is built around the illusion that the kids are sexy adults, after all.

The parent only option is to either allow their child to model, or not. If they don't, someone else will let their kid work the shoot, and the industry knows it. And although the parent might have a few suspicions, they also have a lot of reasons to convince themselves everything is ok (1 day could pay for the child's entire college education, it's a major photographer/magazine, there's multiple adults in the room, it's NY, other kids are doing it, etc....). Not to mention that if you forbid your 13 year old daughter from modeling for her favorite magazine, she's going to hate you, at least for the immediate future. So although I wouldn't personally allow my child to model, I understand how hard of a decision it must be.
posted by ShadowCrash at 1:21 PM on June 8, 2009


Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the article. I'm glad she's making a documentary on it.

But of course you don't have problems with the article. You just have problems with the subject of the article! And the subject of the documentary! And the documentary maker! And the documentary! And the way the documentary maker made the documentary! And of course, you weren't the person who said this:

These women put up with it for the money. The money is good, and they're afraid of losing the money.

Sorry, no sympathy when they choose this lifestyle for themselves and are too afraid of losing money to try to change it.


It's a little hilarious watching you retreat from that supremely insensitive comment after people started pointing out that these are vulnerable minors who are being sexually exploited.

Do you have sympathy for rape victims who choose not to prosecute? My God.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:22 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't care if she's a princess, a hooker, a check-out girl, or a middle-class student.

She was FOURTEEN, and she was sexually assaulted.

How is there even a discussion implying that it was deserved?

Why didn't she go to the authorities? When this is the reaction that such cases get, from people who are arguably very intelligent and discerning, it amazes me that anyone goes to the authorities, ever.
posted by jnaps at 1:23 PM on June 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


> Yes, it's worse to mock people who thinks raping children is not a big deal than it is to think that raping children is not a big deal. I think that you would rather avoid arguments between members than confront horrific, inexcusable statements, frankly.

Jesus Christ, OC, give it a rest. Go out and take a walk among the trees or something. Just because you're embarrassed that jessamyn called you out on your poor use of sarcasm doesn't mean your best move is to piss on jessamyn.
posted by languagehat at 1:23 PM on June 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


ShadowCrash: "Not to mention that if you forbid your 13 year old daughter from modeling for her favorite magazine, she's going to hate you, at least for the immediate future."

Your 13 year old daughter is going to hate you for something. [And if you're not prepared to have your child hate you for a decision they don't like, you shouldn't be a parent in the first place.]

Preventing her from marketing her sex appeal in exchange for cash strikes me as a fine and noble thing for her to hate me for.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:24 PM on June 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Optimus Chyme, in the role she's in right now, damping down those arguments between members which appear that they might bloom out of control into an all-out flamewar is her job as a moderator. She's not Jessamyn West, Defender of Truth and Justice, Confronter of Things Which Are Wrong. She's pretty fabulous, but she's not wearing a cape. (Unless you are wearing a cape, jessamyn, in which case, that's cool.)

She's on the clock to keep the infighting to a reasonable level. Hence, moderator. Like a neutron-absorbing rod in the midst of a nuclear fuel assembly, she's here to keep reactions from going supercritical, and she does a great job of it.

She certainly could come down on one side or another of an issue, but moderators who do so risk being seen as someone who throws their weight around, which defeats the purpose of having a fairly impartial moderator as a job and role within the community.

If the statements are really that bad, someone besides jessamyn will most likely come in and say something about it, though perhaps not as well as she can.
posted by adipocere at 1:24 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, it's worse to mock people who thinks raping children is not a big deal than it is to think that raping children is not a big deal.

The mods aren't thought police. They are (sort of) mockery police.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:25 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


adipocere: "She's pretty fabulous, but she's not wearing a cape."

Adding a cape would make her completely fabulous!
posted by Joe Beese at 1:26 PM on June 8, 2009


It seems that many comments here are pointing out that these girls are pressured because of the money involved. While that certainly seems to be a large motivator for them to stay in a bad situation, I think that there is also an authority pressure here too.
If Uncle Cletus sexually assaults his 14 year-old niece, she will be pressured to stay quiet. He's the authority figure. Or maybe she thinks "my parents will be upset with me because this happened."
I can imagine how this could become even more complicated if the girl's parents are encouraging their "career" in modeling. The girl thinks "This guy is a powerful photographer that can make or break my career and my parents will be pissed if I screw this up."
I guess I'm just saying that there is a lot more psychological twist to this than just a girl putting up with a crime because she wants the big payout.

Sexual abuse/assault is wrong. Doesn't matter how pretty and rich these girls are; and it doesn't matter if "They can leave at any time." It's a crime.
posted by medium format at 1:27 PM on June 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


If I were embarrassed I wouldn't continue the discussion. And I don't think it's "pissing on" anyone to point out that some people are less concerned with the content of a comment than the manner in which it's expressed. As long as you say it politely, no opinion, including justifying child-rape, is okay. I disagree with that philosophy.

P.S. I am outside and it's quite nice today, thanks. :)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:29 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ziff's parents are described as educated, intelligent people who were dismayed when their child wanted to go into modelling. Still they let her, and alone. Blows my mind.

I have no insight into the modelling industry. But the one or two documentaries I've seen tell me I'd let my (theoretical) teenage daughter join the fucking Légion étrangère before allowing her to go work for e.g. Elite by herself. In the Légion, she'd at least learn how to kill her attackers.
posted by Glee at 1:29 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


It seems like this thread is being crystallized into a faux dichotomy with "she deserved it" and "what the fuck?" on the opposing sides.

In the interest of an attempted rerailing, I think the really interesting questions here are in the area of culpabiltiy: How do we encourage heavier oversight by the parents of young models, and how do we prevent people interested in the sexual exploitation of same from gaining access?

Those questions seem more interesting to me than continuing a red herring flame war. But that's just me.



For the industry, I would say that due to the highly sexualized nature of modeling to begin with, there should be an independent watchdog model protection agency with unfettered access to all shoots and monitors and stuff like that, especially in situations where young children, especially those unaccompanied by their parents, keep an eye out for the sketchy folks. And then those folks get to go to jail, not become esteemed gurus of the fashion world.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:34 PM on June 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Your 13 year old daughter is going to hate you for something. [And if you're not prepared to have your child hate you for a decision they don't like, you shouldn't be a parent in the first place.]

Preventing her from marketing her sex appeal in exchange for cash strikes me as a fine and noble thing for her to hate me for.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:24 PM on June 8


Exactly.
posted by Malice at 1:34 PM on June 8, 2009


"Imagine being an eastern European model from Latvia," says Ole, "who can barely speak English and is supporting a family back home. Imagine how compromised they are."

I didn't notice anyone addressing this point. A lot of these girls are more easily exploited because they don't speak the language, don't have parents around, and feel a sense of obligation toward supporting their families that leads to them thinking they need to put up with abuse because the well-being of their entire family is resting on them.

I wonder how many young models (especially those under 18) working in New York or other major fashion hubs are from poorer countries and supporting their families or even just separated from their families geographically. In my mind this makes it much more akin to exploitation of migrant workers than a situation where "Well why don't they just quit then?" is the answer.
posted by primalux at 1:36 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]



I didn't notice anyone addressing this point. A lot of these girls are more easily exploited because they don't speak the language, don't have parents around, and feel a sense of obligation toward supporting their families that leads to them thinking they need to put up with abuse because the well-being of their entire family is resting on them.

I wonder how many young models (especially those under 18) working in New York or other major fashion hubs are from poorer countries and supporting their families or even just separated from their families geographically. In my mind this makes it much more akin to exploitation of migrant workers than a situation where "Well why don't they just quit then?" is the answer.
posted by primalux at 1:36 PM on June 8


Parents, no matter where they're from, are still parents with parental obligations and responsibility. Every culture has their own sense of morals and what should be tolerated in exchange for money.

All that can be done is to stop it from happening in the country that the molester/rapist/etc. is currently living in. I would say that a majority of models are probably not from poorer countries supporting their families on their model wages, they are more than likely the exception.
posted by Malice at 1:39 PM on June 8, 2009


In my mind this makes it much more akin to exploitation of migrant workers than a situation where "Well why don't they just quit then?" is the answer.
posted by primalux at 4:36 PM on June 8 [+] [!]


I think you have this right. Both lack the age and maturity for us to expect them to make that decision on their own. A difference, however, is that the first person has a shitload of money, and the second is in slavery. The first has the option of escape should the choice be made, the second no options. But of course, we should not expect 14 year olds to protect themselves from sexual assault by choosing to leave. They are 14. But it is an important distinction, I think.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2009


1. The point about some of the girls being from poor eastern european families who know little or no english/french is an excellent point. Mom and Dad know you're making a ton of cash in the glamorous world of fashion, walking away or telling your boss no isn't much of an option.

2. Another thing that bothers me is the teenage girls who grow up to be adult models. Convincing yourself that you had to do it (or made the choice, or shouldn't report your abuse, etc...) is one thing, but sitting quietly while the next generation goes through it is hard to accept. It's hard to blame them (and doesn't absolve the abusers in the slightest), but it's also hard to excuse their silence.

3. The elephant in the room that no one is mentioning is how drugs play a role in the industry and these situations.

4. Are there crimes being committed here? Surely the shoots in NY are in violation of US Laws, but I don't know what the age of consent is in places like Brazil, Paris, the Caribbean, etc... Morally, I agree it's wrong, but does anyone know if it's actually a crime, or is the only option for the model to go home and never work again in the industry, with zero repercussions for their abusers?
posted by ShadowCrash at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


When you are young, your ideas of what you can free yourself from is a far cry from our notions as an adult. Think of how many kids stay quiet about abuse in the midst of their salvation. If I had been isolated in an unfamiliar environment as a 16 year old, I would have probably gone along with whatever the adults around me had in mind and I was a pretty independent minded girl.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:45 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Another thing that bothers me is the teenage girls who grow up to be adult models. Convincing yourself that you had to do it (or made the choice, or shouldn't report your abuse, etc...) is one thing, but sitting quietly while the next generation goes through it is hard to accept. It's hard to blame them (and doesn't absolve the abusers in the slightest), but it's also hard to excuse their silence.

I think a lot of people who go through this sort of thing rationalize what happened to them as a necessary part of the process. "I had to take that shit when I was your age, and you didn't hear me complaining..."

That's not an excuse at all, of course, but it does help explain how this sort of thing perpetuates itself.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:46 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


lazaruslong: "For the industry, I would say that due to the highly sexualized nature of modeling to begin with, there should be an independent watchdog model protection agency with unfettered access to all shoots and monitors and stuff like that, especially in situations where young children, especially those unaccompanied by their parents, keep an eye out for the sketchy folks."

Such monitors could be bribed. And "unfettered access to shoots" would certainly be appealing to predators.

Inevitably, some men will fail to help their daughters develop the self-esteem necessary to own their beauty - rather than trading it for money or male approval. Other men - acting from greed or something worse - will abet pimping them out.

I don't see any solution to parents fucking up their kids.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:47 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Parents, no matter where they're from, are still parents with parental obligations and responsibility. Every culture has their own sense of morals and what should be tolerated in exchange for money.

That's all very nice, but the mind still boggles at how you could claim that sexually-assaulted young girls don't deserve your sympathy because they're accepting a paycheck for it. "But their PARENTS!" does not explain this. Nor does it matter where the hell these models are from - the only reason anyone's mentioning that is to suggest some of the MANY challenges teenage girls face and why they don't - or don't understand that they can - speak out. It's great that you were able to speak out about what you suffered, but not everyone is you. Not everyone had your parents. Not every parent has your morals.
posted by katillathehun at 1:50 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Huh, where are the parents? Mine were in a different country when I was being offered a modeling gig at 17. Not everybody stays home and has the classic American teenage life until they go off gently to college. There's not always a ton of money for the models, either, or at least not immediately. The first nude shoot I did I was paid with an antique Indian print. That was supposed to lead to international stardom - "Don't smile. It's cheesecake if you smile. This is art." - but somehow, it didn't.

Then along came the scouts. There were large and scary looking contracts to sign, in Spanish, and once they were signed, my life would belong to the agency and not to me anymore. Five years, they said. Five years before you can leave without being sued. I was told that once I signed the contracts, they would have to fix my teeth and that money would come out of my first few checks. I also was told I'd have to live in a sort of dorm full of models in Barcelona and money for my room and board would be subtracted as well. They said I wouldn't actually start making money for a year or two. They said I'd have to lose 15 pounds - I'm 5'10" and at that point in my life I weighed around 130 pounds. And this was not going to be the big glamour modeling either - this was bread and butter basic commercial modeling for billboards and supermarkets and things like that. I was wholesome looking, they said, American looking and meant for the markets where you don't make a million dollars, not the magazines and catwalks.

I didn't do it - they did want my parents' signature and, to give my parents credit, they refused. In fact, they freaked out and became hysterical when all of this was explained and I ended up back in South Carolina, my modeling career over for all time. Which is for the best, because among other things I never did get my teeth fixed or lose those 15 pounds. I do want to say that I don't feel as if I was victimized, really, either. Nudity has never bothered me and I was modeling for life drawing classes for years before and afterwards, and nude photo shoots were fine. Nowadays I just wish I had some of the pictures. So I didn't feel like a victim - it felt like an opportunity to me. At 17 though, you're not always the best judge of what's a good and what's a not so good opportunity. I'm glad that I didn't sign away five years of my life although at the time I was furious. The models I have known haven't really had such great lives and I've heard a few horror stories; I suppose we all have.

It's a really strange feeling to be a teenage girl standing in a room with a couple serious, cranky, old, male photographers aiming cameras at you. It's a weird feeling to have total strangers peering in your mouth and pinching your waistline. It's peculiar to have adults telling you that you're going to be rich and famous so just stand still and let that shirt slip off your shoulder a little further. It doesn't really make you feel particularly empowered or strong or as if you're going to go complain about anything but it does make you feel as if you're living some kind of dream: the kind of dream that you and your friends might have made up for Barbie when you were nine. You're the youngest person in the room and everyone acts as if you're a chair or something and you just sort of assume that they know best. They keep telling you that it's a great opportunity and you believe them.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:53 PM on June 8, 2009 [34 favorites]


I'm guessing that in many cases, the parents don't believe their child isn't chaperoned. Instead, the parent may be under the false impression that their child's agent is acting as a chaperon. In reality the agent is trying to impress their client, encouraging them to act grown up, or trying to better their own career.

Also, even if the parent or watchdog agency could attend the shoot, it's hard to believe they'd be welcome at the industry parties.
posted by ShadowCrash at 1:54 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this was about overweight kids who don't understand proper nutrition getting obese on McDonalds hamburgers because their parents don't have the time or money to get them the right kind of food, or the education to know you shouldn't eat that way, we'd have the same sort of comments. But that's how things are -- unless you have the exposure, the time, or position to really be introspective about your life, then you might never realize you're being exploited or undereducated or being killed by your lifestyle when alternatives exist.

We people on the outside of these situations can judge quickly, based on our own life experiences, since we're so much wiser and more worldly. I'm not beautiful so I'm not a model, so if you're beautiful and bad things are happening to you, then it's your own fault for not being educated, right? I'm educated, so I have the upper hand here, even if you make all that money. Because you're being exploited and I'm apparently not.
posted by mikeh at 2:00 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


mygothlaundry: "...when I was being offered a modeling gig at 17. ... I was modeling for life drawing classes for years before and afterwards"

You were modeling for life drawing classes for years before you turned 17? I find this flabbergasting.

How young a model were these classes willing to use? 13? 8?
posted by Joe Beese at 2:03 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's all very nice, but the mind still boggles at how you could claim that sexually-assaulted young girls don't deserve your sympathy because they're accepting a paycheck for it. "But their PARENTS!" does not explain this. Nor does it matter where the hell these models are from - the only reason anyone's mentioning that is to suggest some of the MANY challenges teenage girls face and why they don't - or don't understand that they can - speak out. It's great that you were able to speak out about what you suffered, but not everyone is you. Not everyone had your parents. Not every parent has your morals.
posted by katillathehun at 1:50 PM on June 8

I glanced back through my posts and didn't see where I said I don't sympathize with the children. I don't sympathize with the adults (and older teenagers) who don't speak out. The option to speak out is always there, and even the models who are now in their 50's and long gone from the industry with no fear of repercussion, why don't they speak out? Why all of the silence? I DO believe the majority of it comes from fear of losing all of that money. So no, no sympathy for people who are old enough to make decisions to try to change things and simply don't and continue to let this cycle go on and on and on.

No, of course not everyone is me, but in my experience it is best to not continue to tell these kids that it's OKAY if they don't speak out by offering complete understanding and sympathy. IT IS NOT OKAY AND YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO TELL SOMEONE. And if that someone doesn't listen, tell someone else. And some one else. Until SOMEONE HEARS YOU. End of discussion. If more kids are told this, maybe less abuse would go on.

Also, I have no clue where you got the idea that I had great parents from.
posted by Malice at 2:08 PM on June 8, 2009


“This is the ugly, sleazy side of the modelling industry,”

I wasn’t aware there was another side…

But here’s the thing, I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the 'dark side'. I don’t buy into the “they can walk away” argument because that ignores the systemic problem.

I mean – you have this big evil haunted house on your block and every week some kid walks in or is lured in or grabbed and the argument is, what, they have a choice, they should know better, blah de blah – howabout, y’know, blaming the freaking house and burning the thing to the ground whether most kids are smart or strong enough to evade it or not.

I wouldn’t let my kid model on general principles, whether there was a ‘dark’ side or not. That people do, I think, is indicative of a social problem – whether its youth obsession, screwed up sexuality or the idea that the possession of money is somehow an end in and of itself.
(Of course, the upside of being a cast iron son of a bitch on most things means my kids already hate me for not allowing them to do any of the things they’re socially pressured by television and advertising to want to do)
But this is a systemic problem that exploits that weakness.
Instead of laying hate on the kids for not knowing better or the parents for being dumb enough to buy into some of the stuff being pushed on them 24/7 – why not look at how this whole system of exploitation is set up and say “gee, maybe that shouldn’t be that way”?
I mean, my kid says “They’re heeere” and glasses start breaking, forks bend and the chairs start moving by themselves - my family is out of there and in a hotel room inside 2 minutes while I’m headed back to the place with a can of gas and a set of flares.

People fail. Just how it is. I blow things all the time (cast iron son of a bitch - lots of downsides). Not everyone can see every moral hazard just like not everyone can physically or mentally achieve at the same levels as someone else. Certainly they can be taught, and should be, but in the meantime they shouldn’t be cast to the wolves as prey whether the wolves are child slavers or a less obvious kind of predator.
I don't buy into modeling at all, but if it's going to exist, and whether it should or not - it currently does exist - children should not be sexually assaulted as a matter of course within it.
Pretty simple really.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:15 PM on June 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


So, I may be indulged, the blame priority scale goes something as follows:

1. Parents
2. Scum sucking model industry cretins
3. Agents
4. Victim

Number 5 could be the consumers of fashion mags and the like, but they would also seem to share culpability at all points of the scale so society gets a bit of blame everywhere.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:18 PM on June 8, 2009


(please note that 2 and 3 are obviously interconnected but for academic purposes will be classified separately)
posted by Burhanistan at 2:19 PM on June 8, 2009


If anything, I imagine the money just makes things more difficult and wrapped up in emotion. The girls probably end up feeling complicit in their own assault along with everything else.
posted by ODiV at 2:21 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the rapist is number 1 there bud.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:25 PM on June 8, 2009


God, why did I even respond to that?


So glib. Okay. Obviously, if we're really going to play a surreal blame game here, there's 2 separate questions: Blame for the sexual assault, and blame for the child being in that position to begin with.

The blame for the assault is on the assaulter.

The blame for the child being there in the first place is complex and a question that merits discussion but is not served by pointless reductionism.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:28 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I see what you're saying, Malice, and I agree that children should be taught to tell someone. But if they weren't taught this or they have some other reason for not telling, we can't point fingers at them and tell them, hey, it was their responsibility. That's like saying it was their fault it happened in the first place, and that attitude only perpetuates abuse.

What the article touches on but never says flat out... these women put up with it for the money. The money is good, and they're afraid of losing the money. Sorry, no sympathy when they choose this lifestyle for themselves and are too afraid of losing money to try to change it.

...


I glanced back through my posts and didn't see where I said I don't sympathize with the children.


Were you not aware when you made your initial comment that this article and documentary was about children?
posted by katillathehun at 2:28 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


And then there's the creepy boy band producers: 'Mad About the Boys' (previously - 1, 2).
posted by ericb at 2:35 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Optimus Chyme, I'm pretty sure you're misrepresenting my position. By exploitation I was lumping everything in that article into one category. Everybody seems to be focusing on the sexual assault, when as delmoi points out, it was only one of the many egregious aspects of this industry. There is a far cry between not feeling bad for someone and condoning the behavior. For the record, at no time did I use "exploited" as a "euphemism for sexual assault."

I guess I wasn't clear when I said in my followup comment, "And to be clear, sex assault is horrible no matter where it happens."

Honestly, is there one sentence in that article that wasn't predictable? I don't get why anyone would choose this life, knowing full well what is involved, so yes, it is hard for me to empathize.

And the plucked off the streets of poverty story is such a rarity that I would call it a unicorn. For the most part these are people choosing to do this, or at least choosing to put themselves in situations where horrible things happen. If they were doing it out of ignorance then I would feel bad, but as Burhanistan points out, who doesn't know this industry is a cancer?
posted by cjorgensen at 2:41 PM on June 8, 2009


I think the rapist is number 1 there bud.

Yeah, that was me being glib about blame in some misguided effort to make sense of this. But not to sound like a conservative broken record, I perceive the whole fashion modeling industry as a kind of skin cancer with the sexual predations being the active festering pustules on the surface. There is cancerous tissue underneath the surface, so scraping off the sores doesn't do much in the long term. The best we can do is to not buy magazines or clothing that is modeled in such a way. Why do we need fashion models anyway? It's really seems like a actual form of vampirism.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:50 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't get why anyone would choose this life, knowing full well what is involved, so yes, it is hard for me to empathize.

There are television shows now based around people doing disgusting shit for money. You don't believe that money holds any power or what?
posted by ODiV at 2:59 PM on June 8, 2009


I really have no idea how many of these girls are "plucked from poverty" and I wish it was easier to find demographics. In this video (warning: myspace video, from the official myspace page of the documentary) both of the women they are talking to are from Belarus, one is now 18 and came over when she was 16, and one is now 16 and came over when she was 14. The 16 year old actually refuses to discuss her living conditions in Belarus other than to say that her family lived in a small room together. Now obviously this doesn't prove anything regarding it being a common story or not, but it is happening and it seems like something the film makers may be trying to highlight.
posted by primalux at 3:07 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's weird is this. Kids under 16 aren't allowed to consent to anything at all. So, this aspect of the industry could be cleaned up by simply requiring the parent or a designated monitor to be there on the set, as is done with child actors for whom there are serious child labor laws. Do these not apply to models? What's the deal here?

Maybe they just shoot outside the US to avoid this? That said, people can be bribed, etc-- but there is a level of looking the other way and assuming that the whole thing is like the casting couch and will never go away that is rather bizarre. Certainly true that there will always be predatory men trying this-- but it could be made a bit less acceptable and easy.

The fact that people are willing to do virtually anything for fame and fortune-- no matter how old they are-- won't go away, nor will the fact that others will exploit this. But it can be made harder, I think.
posted by Maias at 3:08 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


A previous MeFi thread (with similar "hate") regarding pretty boys.
"Financially speaking, male modeling is not unlike being a straight-male porn star: The men have always made less than the women, and very few become big names."
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on June 8, 2009


Fucking sickening. More people should speak out about this.
posted by agregoli at 3:10 PM on June 8, 2009


And you know what? Some of the comments in this thread are making me physically ill. Metafilter, I am so disappointed in you...yet again.
posted by agregoli at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


The fact that people are willing to do virtually anything for fame and fortune-- no matter how old they are-- won't go away, nor will the fact that others will exploit this.


On this point, we disagree.

The issue is that we put children in a position of being motivated by profit, either for themselves or others.

Children should not, in my opinion, be interested in doing shit for money. They're children.

They have a whole life ahead of them to work for money, and chances are that they will probably choose a better more wholesome career for themselves if they have lot's of constructive time as kids to, you know, learn stuff and play with bugs and figure out an identity for themselves that does not have a dollar sign attached.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Think about all of the "stage parents" who throw their kids into that limelight...
posted by allymusiqua at 3:22 PM on June 8, 2009


I don't get why anyone would choose this life, knowing full well what is involved, so yes, it is hard for me to empathize.

What I don't get is why you think everyone, intuitively, would know what was involved.
posted by agregoli at 3:25 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


The option to speak out is always there...IT IS NOT OKAY AND YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO TELL SOMEONE.

Um, victims of sexual assault often times keep silent due to shame, trauma, etc. And that slience can last for decades!

Speaking anecdotally, an ex-boyfriend when in his mid-20's revealed to me that he had been raped at 15.y.o by his father's friend. I was the first person he had ever told. He kept silent for over 10 years. Facing the memory of such caused him a gut-wrenching downward spiral -- nothing I'd wish on anyone.

There are no clear-cut rules as how to respond to sexual assault -- especially when one is a minor teenager. As others have pointed out, it's not about the money. It's about the imbalance of power, etc.
posted by ericb at 3:26 PM on June 8, 2009 [8 favorites]



What I don't get is why you think everyone, intuitively, would know what was involved.


hmm well if it's the parents doing the not knowing,
that's pretty much as damning as knowing and still allowing their children to participate without supervision or guidance.
posted by sloe at 3:29 PM on June 8, 2009


Another thing occurred to me while watching some of the other videos on that myspace page and is along the same lines as what mygothlaundry said upthread.

Many of these girls become immediately monetarily indebted to these agencies. They have to work to pay them back for things like housing, plane tickets, photos for their books, the printing of the books themselves, etc. This could be another reason why many of them don't feel like they have the freedom to just up and quit.
posted by primalux at 3:33 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Look, I hate otherwise rich and successful woe-is-me types just as much as any of you guys, but reading a lot of these comments turned my stomach. Fine, feel indifference for the young women in this situation. Voice it, I guess, if you feel you have to. If this was really about the abuse in question and you really, really didn't care, then I doubt you'd feel the need to engage in all these convoluted rationalizations and rebuttals.

A lot of you in here are contorting your logic to cover up for your prejudices. Generalyl I suspect these kinds of prejudices come from a place of insecurity. You jeering nerds with your scars left over from middle-school who can't wait for bad things to happen to people who are prettier or luckier than you are. I fight these sorts of feelings too, all the time, but I would never defend them. Great, your worldview is validated by seeing pretty people who make questionable decisions receive the great cosmic kertwang. If only everyone had YOUR common sense, the world would be such a better place!

In a way, I think that's why it's so great that we have AskMe next door. Anytime I read a comment by someone who sounds like they think they've got it all figured out for the rest of us, I click through their questions and read all about their broken car and their debt and their loud neighbors and the unsightly mysterious lump that has suddenly formed on their neck. It's relaxing to know that you're all eyebrow-deep in the same shit as everyone else, and I wish that some of you would try to extend other people the same benefit of the doubt BEFORE you find out how pretty or rich or stupid they are.
posted by hermitosis at 3:40 PM on June 8, 2009 [33 favorites]


In most jurisdictions, these girls aren't old enough to consent to these advances. People keep saying they made a choice to go into modeling. In some sense, they didn't, their parents did.

So, we have a young girl that didn't always choose to be a model, being assaulted by people that would be committing statutory rape even if she said yes.

Yeah, she really set herself up for this one.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:44 PM on June 8, 2009


I'm reading this article with Handsome Boy Modeling School on at full volume. I've always loved this album, and with this article in mind, it's only gotten better.
posted by VikingSword at 3:51 PM on June 8, 2009


Regarding the role of the parents, yes, some of these young models are coming from foreign countries and have no way of getting help from their families. But even aside from those girls -- some of you would possibly find it hard to believe just what a good American "stage parent" might allow their child to go through when money, and the prospect of fame, is involved. Some of these stage parents are like pimps, and they have power over their kids like you wouldn't believe.
posted by OolooKitty at 3:56 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


hermitosis: "You jeering nerds with your scars left over from middle-school who can't wait for bad things to happen to people who are prettier or luckier than you are."

As a jeering, middle-school-scarred nerd, I assert a distinction between wishing ill on someone and being unmoved when ill befalls them. Especially if it arises from their having unearned power and opportunities that I'll never enjoy.

Looks-wise, what you're doing is the equivalent of berating a slum kid in Delhi for not caring if a Manhattan prep school kid's friends only hang out with him because he's rich.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:07 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Shit, man, before I could work with minors as a social worker I had to get my state child abuse clearance run and get finger printed by the FBI. Why doesn't Franz Make Sexy With the Camera For Me Baby have to?
posted by The Straightener at 4:08 PM on June 8, 2009


What gets me is that no one complains to the authorities.

What gets me is that you can possibly be this naive.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:09 PM on June 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Looks-wise, what you're doing is the equivalent of berating a slum kid in Delhi for not caring if a Manhattan prep school kid's friends only hang out with him because he's rich.

And if power fell along ugliest-to-prettiest lines, that would be a great analogy. And yet it's the same old powerless-vs-powerful story except some people can hate on the powerless because they're pretty. What struck me was that pretty much all these girls had was their looks which wasn't enough to get them money or power or whatever without having to worry about getting assaulted by some opportunistic sleazebag.
posted by jessamyn at 4:13 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's like those women in the military who keep complaining about harassment and rape! THEY put themselves in the situation of high-stressed men who haven't seen their wives/girlfriends/etc lately; why should I feel sorry for them? But I'm not blaming the victim, amirite? -- olinerd

To put it into perspective, what if a graduate student's advisor started telling them they had to have sex with them? I mean, they don't have to be a grad student, right? There are too many grad students anyways, they can just leave if they aren't happy with the system. -- jb

I don't really think those situations are comparable. No one deserves a modeling career, whereas people in the army don't have that much autonomy. They really can't just leave if they want too. The grad student can't quit without losing all the time and investment they've put in. The model can leave and have a 'normal' life at any time. Obviously the situation is different for underage girls, though.

Also, there's a question of how accurate the depiction is here. I mean, there's this comment at the beginning of the thread.
I've worked on tons of fashion shoots and never heard of anything remotely like this (and I've heard plenty of horror stories about big egos, assholes, and drama queens of all kinds). I'm sure it happens, but saying this is common or typical is ridiculous.
If you take all the worst stuff, the worst abuses you heard about over a decade or so, then obviously you'll have a lot of material, but that doesn't that the entire industry is essentially a prostitution/sleaze factory. It would be nice if we had actual the actual incidence of abuse -- but in this whole movie/article we only hear about actual non-consensual sexual assault (or would have heard, if it had not been edited out)

There are television shows now based around people doing disgusting shit for money. You don't believe that money holds any power or what?-- OdiV

And should we feel bad for those people? If people were abducted and had done to them some of the stuff that's done on fear factor, we would probably call it torture (I recall one segment that featured contestants sticking increasingly large needles through the skin of their arms). But all of those contestants are choosing to do that, just like these models are for the most part choosing this lifestyle. For anything that's not a choice, that's a problem and it should be dealt with. And again, lets consider the actual frequency of non-consensual assault here, compared to overall creepiness, as well as the tons and tons of modeling that involves no creepiness at all. It would be helpful if we had statistics on this, but we don't.

There are a lot of different scenarios here: non-consensual assault (which seems very rare), consensual creepiness involving underage girls, adult models, girls from poor countries and so on. It seems like people want to pick out either the worst or the least bad to either attack or, if not defend, claim they don't particularly care about. In addition, there is lots of modeling activity that doesn't involve any of this stuff.
posted by delmoi at 4:14 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


And yet it's the same old powerless-vs-powerful story except some people can hate on the powerless because they're pretty.

Hmm. My spidey sense says it's the "huge money + shallow glamor" part, not the "pretty" part that causes that reaction in some people. Of course, my spidey sense may be all out of whack - back to Handsome Boy Modeling School.
posted by VikingSword at 4:17 PM on June 8, 2009


Looks-wise, what you're doing is the equivalent of berating a slum kid in Delhi for not caring if a Manhattan prep school kid's friends only hang out with him because he's rich.

Let me know the next time you drink sewage-contaminated water from a pump, pick through garbage to find scrap to sell for food, sleep with six others in a 6 x 8 tin-roofed hut, and/or have a minimal chance at learning how to read, let alone any form of higher education or escaping the hellhole into which you were born, because you happen not to be a 5'11 ectomorph with perfect skin.

Christ almighty.
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:19 PM on June 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm going to be so freakin' glad when we humans can just keep all of our creepy fucked-up shit in the Matrix, instead of actually exploiting other humans (children and adults alike) for our disgusting base prurient instincts.

/ VR isn't just technology, it's a goddamn moral imperative.
posted by PsychoKick at 4:23 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fuck, doing bad shit to people is just fucking wrong. WTF it takes a mefi thread 6 feet long to hash this out?

^^^
Cut and paste this out, and slap it into every applicable thread.

And the blame should start with the parents. You never leave a minor girl alone with a man period. Sit there and read a magazine. If he complains, you get your daughter and walk out the fucking door.

It really is that fucking simple.
-----

Oh, and my actual contribution to the thread, instead of just venting - there are lots of situations where women are sexually harassed and abused. I heard the story of a local architect who asked every woman he interviewed to show him her tits. He got slapped, walked out on, and the like - but allegedly he said about 10% of them did it.

He did get sued, as I recall. I don't think that affected his behavior much.
posted by Xoebe at 4:28 PM on June 8, 2009


jessamyn: "pretty much all these girls had was their looks which wasn't enough to get them money or power or whatever without having to worry about getting assaulted by some opportunistic sleazebag."

I don't think it requires a great deal of worldliness to deduce that men who give teenage girls money for the sole reason that they're pretty will, more likely than not, prove to be opportunistic sleazebags. Getting money from such men will perforce assume a high risk of encountering opportunistic sleazebaggery.

As I've said upthread, it is the parents' job to keep their children far away from such a sordid milieu. Some girls become victims of their parents' failure in that respect. Still, other girls become victims of their parents in far more horrible ways. And they will not have "earned the kind of money other twentysomethings can only dream of" to help them deal with the consequences.

Human sympathy is in fact limited - however much we might wish otherwise - and they are far ahead in line for the available supplies.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:34 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Looks-wise, what you're doing is the equivalent of berating a slum kid in Delhi for not caring if a Manhattan prep school kid's friends only hang out with him because he's rich.

Oh yeah, except you forgot to factor in that it's the sexual abuse of minors that you're hardening your heart against, not some totally unrelated thing that has nothing to do with anything.
posted by hermitosis at 4:38 PM on June 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


It's an excellent thing this young woman, Sara Ziff, has decided to disclose the sexual abuse in the modeling business. I commend her on her courage and determination to talk about this issue publicly.

Yes, people may have assumed the modeling biz was corrupt, taken it cynically as routine as the "casting couch" abuses of young actresses or actors. But truth telling such as she is doing has a way of making people more aware, making the abuses less abstract, changing something distant into a reality more personally meaningful, worthy of taking legal action to stop. It's my hope that her film and whatever public speaking she does can make positive, constructive changes, maybe even in the minds of other young girls who did not know that the modeling biz is ugly.

When a person turns to or works with a professional in a business transaction or relationship, the professional taking sexual advantage of their client is not an entitlement. It is not legal, it is criminal. There are laws now in place in America, and likely Europe as well, to protect a client from being taken sexual advantage of in a work or professional setting. Taking sexual advantage of a minor adds another, darker and more criminal, dimension.

A professional has a legal obligation to not take sexual advantage of their client, who is in a position of need. Sexual misconduct, especially of a minor constitutes an actionable breach of fiduciary duty.

Personal anecdote: In late December 1963 I had just turned 10, my little sister was 5 years old. We were both photographed naked by Bob Richardson, in what was his first commission for Harper's Bazaar, an entire month traveling with him in Spain for an article called Young Americans in Spain. It was not fun. It was disturbing and scarring. Here is one of Richardson's photographs taken during that trip and you can see how young both my little sister and I were when this man took advantage of us.

He is now known to be notoriously badly behaved. He had, a few months before, asked my mother, who was very much a stage mother type who wanted the attention and money that getting her children photographed might glean, to put me in a taxi and send me to his studio. I went alone. He asked me to take my clothes off. Having been an abused child, I didn't know I had any rights to say no. I didn't have healthy boundaries, didn't know what grown-ups were allowed to get away with.

Taking sexual advantage of children in the modeling biz is not just behind the scenes and not just by men either. This is an example.

Thanks for the post chunking express.
posted by nickyskye at 4:44 PM on June 8, 2009 [24 favorites]


As a jeering, middle-school-scarred nerd, I assert a distinction between wishing ill on someone and being unmoved when ill befalls them. Especially if it arises from their having unearned power and opportunities that I'll never enjoy.

Joe, I have a lot of respect for you and you're one of my favorite posters here, but you do realize these are kids we're talking about; not grown-ups, right? That a lot of these are lured away from poorer countries, away from their families, with the promise of being able to make lives better for their families? And even if these were kids from typical middle-class American homes, that it's not alright to exploit and degrade someone just because you're throwing cash at them?

Looks-wise, what you're doing is the equivalent of berating a slum kid in Delhi for not caring if a Manhattan prep school kid's friends only hang out with him because he's rich.

That's a pretty strong belittling of what a lot of these girls are going through here. I can appreciate the fact that there are people worse off, but since when are we given a limited allotment of compassion?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:45 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


hermitosis: "it's the sexual abuse of minors that you're hardening your heart against"

Is it OK with you if I feel sorrier for the sexually abused minors who don't collect a paycheck afterwards?
posted by Joe Beese at 4:50 PM on June 8, 2009


And the blame should start with the parents.

What? The blame should start with the sleazy fuckers perpetrating the abuse.
posted by gaspode at 4:54 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, just another data point I suppose, but I've worked as an assistant both to fashion and soft-core porn shoots, and have never seen anything like what the author describes. At least with the models I've met, if you tried to pull some of the shit that's described in the article you'd have your ass blacklisted in a heartbeat, not to mention a kindly visit from some guys in blue uniforms.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:55 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, there's a question of how accurate the depiction is here. I mean, there's this comment at the beginning of the thread.

To elaborate on my initial comment, I have worked for dozens and dozens of fashion photographers as an assistant (in addition to stylists, set designers, and a brief stint at a fashion agency). I have been on set for everything from very small editorial shoots to huge advertising productions. Besides the very rare primadonna, all the photographers, models, and other crew members I have worked with have been nothing but the professionals that they are. The photo industry is extremely competitive - especially fashion photography - and there is a lot at stake on these high-end shoots. The idea that someone would risk their career or a big client to grope a girl on a go-see is ridiculous. These shoots are jobs - everyone is a professional, and they are not the glamorous drug-fueled sex parties or whatever it is some people here seem to think they are. I have never even heard the hint of a rumor of sexual assault going on, on or off set. I don't know how you would pull it off even if you wanted to - photo shoots are busy and there are lots of people there. I mean, the client is usually there on set.

Besides that, out of all the photographers I've worked for I'm having trouble even thinking of one male fashion photographer who isn't gay.

Most of the comments here seem to be people acting out their rage against the fashion industry or pretty models or whatever. I don't like fashion or the fashion industry - and I don't really work many fashion shoots anymore - so I am not defending it. It's fucked up in a lot of ways, but rampant sexual assault or exploitation of minors is not one of them.
posted by bradbane at 4:55 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is it OK with you if I feel sorrier for the sexually abused minors who don't collect a paycheck afterwards?

Since you asked, I think that's disgusting.
posted by hermitosis at 4:56 PM on June 8, 2009 [22 favorites]


delmoi writes: "If you take all the worst stuff, the worst abuses you heard about over a decade or so, then obviously you'll have a lot of material, but that doesn't that the entire industry is essentially a prostitution/sleaze factory. It would be nice if we had actual the actual incidence of abuse -- but in this whole movie/article we only hear about actual non-consensual sexual assault (or would have heard, if it had not been edited out)"

And on top of this it's hearsay evidence by an unidentified victim of an unnamed molester. Without the sexual assault this story really would be about rich whiney women complaining how bad they have it, and Sara Ziff knows this. If this accusation wasn't an attributable quote the Guardian wouldn't even print it without more corroboration. As it is they aren't saying this happened, just that Ziff says it happened. Forgive me if I question the credibility of someone with something to promote.

"A very, very famous photographer, probably one of the world's top names."

That "probably" bugs me. Ziff of all people should know if he is or not.

And I don't know for sure, but I bet abuse situations are rare. Probably rarer than for the average woman. These women are commodities, and as such are protected and coddled. Handlers and bodyguards and entourages.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:01 PM on June 8, 2009


To elaborate on my initial comment, I have worked for dozens and dozens of fashion photographers as an assistant (in addition to stylists, set designers, and a brief stint at a fashion agency). I have been on set for everything from very small editorial shoots to huge advertising productions. Besides the very rare primadonna, all the photographers, models, and other crew members I have worked with have been nothing but the professionals that they are. The photo industry is extremely competitive - especially fashion photography - and there is a lot at stake on these high-end shoots. The idea that someone would risk their career or a big client to grope a girl on a go-see is ridiculous. These shoots are jobs - everyone is a professional, and they are not the glamorous drug-fueled sex parties or whatever it is some people here seem to think they are. I have never even heard the hint of a rumor of sexual assault going on, on or off set. I don't know how you would pull it off even if you wanted to - photo shoots are busy and there are lots of people there. I mean, the client is usually there on set.

Most of the comments here seem to be people acting out their rage against the fashion industry or pretty models or whatever. I don't like fashion or the fashion industry - and I don't really work many fashion shoots anymore - so I am not defending it. It's fucked up in a lot of ways, but rampant sexual assault or exploitation of minors is not one of them.


I've been to a lot of churches and never once saw any kids getting molested. In fact, I've met thousands and thousands of people in all walks of life, and never never seen anyone get molested. Must not have happened.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:05 PM on June 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


These women are commodities, and as such are protected and coddled.

Think more like cattle and less like tiny purse-dogs. Also a supermodel might get a handler and a bodyguard, but your average teen (or even adult model)? They're lucky if there's a car waiting to meet them at the airport.
posted by hermitosis at 5:05 PM on June 8, 2009


Again, I really don't see the dichotomy here. One can be upset about the reprehensible actions of individuals and still see that it is part and parcel of the larger disgusting whole of fashion modeling. If someone is in favor of modeling as it is practiced and sold now, and think that it is a good thing to be continually assailed by all forms of media with images then I frankly think that someone is part of the whole problem.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:10 PM on June 8, 2009


Here are excerpts from a Guardian interview with photographer Terry Richardson.

I seem to have offended him by suggesting that the recent photographs he has taken of himself having sex with various young girls might be pornographic.
...
The girls who now come knocking on the door of Terry Richardson's studio to take part in what he calls his 'spontaneous sex acts' may be young or impressionable, exhibitionist or insecure, or all of the above
...
Everyone in fashion had heard about the 'spontaneous sexscapades' that occurred from time to time when Terry and a model hit it off....[his office assistant] is up there on the wall with the rest of them, captured for posterity fellating her boss from inside the office rubbish bin.
posted by zippy at 5:22 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Think more like cattle and less like tiny purse-dogs.

And unlike either cattle or dogs, humans who retain their humanity are harder to train. Strip them of that humanity and they're easier to control.

Though Elyse Sewell seems to have retained her humanity, she describes repeated attacks on it though more on the level of cold outdoor shoots, uncomfortable poses, no lunch breaks, too many garments to model in too little time, than sexual assault. It helps that she started later. The treatment strikes me as not just for the convenience of the photog, but because the model must be kept in her place as a human doll.

I hope she reviews Ziff's film.
posted by morganw at 5:26 PM on June 8, 2009


Here are excerpts from a Guardian interview with photographer Terry Richardson.

Jesus. That little shit got published by Taschen? But hey, it must be "art" since it provokes a reaction right? Bullshit.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:28 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everyone in fashion had heard about the 'spontaneous sexscapades' that occurred from time to time when Terry and a model hit it off....

Oh my...
posted by Tenuki at 5:33 PM on June 8, 2009


Models are animals to be controlled and stripped of their humanity? Terry Richardson is representative of anything other than Terry Richardson? Please, much like this article we have departed the real world and are simple slinging mud at a target people love to hate. The only people on set who are routinely degraded are the assistants (that was a joke).

she describes repeated attacks on it though more on the level of cold outdoor shoots, uncomfortable poses, no lunch breaks, too many garments to model in too little time, than sexual assault.

Well, they shoot the garments the season prior so summer clothes are shot in the winter and winter clothes are shot in the summer, there is no grand conspiracy to kill her spirit with the weather. I can remember one shoot I worked where we did giant fur coats on a roof in the middle of a heat wave - no one had fun on that shoot. No lunch breaks and too many garments are calls the client makes, not the photographer. And complaining about uncomfortable poses? I don't particularly like carrying heavy Profoto packs up and down stairs but I know what I'm signing up for when I book an assisting job.
posted by bradbane at 5:48 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know about the fashion business but I've been on dozens of photo shoots for advertising and design and about half the male photographers tended to cross the line with young female models. I mean that in terms of using their position of authority in very creepy ways.

It's pretty awkward to have to explain to a grown up professional (that seems reasonable in every other way) that he absolutely cannot meet up with the 18 year old model later for "informal" shots on the beach. Not if he ever wants to work with you again. We had one photographer come completely undone and storm off the set, like schtupping the teenage model came with his Per Diem.
posted by tkchrist at 5:51 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I should have added in the intro to the Guardian interview with Terry Richardson that I linked to above that I posted this to give an example of one well-known fashion photographer who is also known to become sexually involved with his subjects during the shoot, rather than an example of a photographer abusing underage subjects (the author uses the phrase 'young girls,' but does not give ages or otherwise unambiguously state 'child' or 'underage.')
posted by zippy at 6:00 PM on June 8, 2009


Terry Richardson is representative of anything other than Terry Richardson?

He seems to get plenty of high profile work in the industry. From his bio:

"Terry has lensed campaigns for such clients as Gucci, Sisley, Miu Miu, Chloe, and his editorial work has appeared in magazines such as French Vogue, British Vogue, i-D, GQ, Harper's Bazaar and Purple, and his impressive list of subjects includes Daniel Day Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Vincent Gallo, Tom Ford, Jay Z, Kanye West, Johnny Knoxville, Karl Lagerfeld, Pharell Williams and many others."
posted by zippy at 6:05 PM on June 8, 2009


A 16-year-old has no business being unchaperoned. More so in places where bad things are more likely to happen. Which is why I also wrote that kids shouldn't be modeling. I know I am being unrealistic, since when you have that much money being thrown around, people can't resist.

Hmmm. Now I never worked with any girls under 18 very often. but I saw situations where it might be confusing even for a chaperon.

I have witnessed cases of stage moms who, however subtly, actively pimp their teen age daughters sexuality. Not in the sense they consciously propose a quid pro quo. But you know it when you see it. Then you have the models themselves naively flirting with these grown men becuase they think it will get them work. These young women I saw were new to the business but seemed adult enough to fit in. But they were with out fully formed mature appreciation of consequences and just don't fully grok the position they can get themselves in. Professionally or personally. But the photographers and clients DO know.

So the issue is the professional grown men WHO KNOW BETTER than to take advantage of a person in less powerful position. The onus really has to be on them. For god's sake their supposed to be professionals.
posted by tkchrist at 6:16 PM on June 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


And I looked upon this thread and I did see an endless field of straw men waving in the breeze
posted by tehloki at 6:19 PM on June 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


I was particularly intrigued by the parts where she mentioned feeling like a doll or plaything, that she was being made into an inanimate object. You often hear models described as walking clothes-hangers, and the description of the ideal model shape as being one upon which clothing drapes off.
I don't think I ever really understood the concept of "objectification" until now. What I find most interesting is that you often hear the same sort of language being used in cases where rape is used as an act of war, such as in the ongoing atrocities pretty much all over central Africa. When you dehumanize someone, objectify them, turn them into a thing, all manner of despicable acts can be done to them without consequence.

It's sobering to think that this is equally true of war-crimes in Africa as it is true of the runway in Milan. There's something deeply messed-up with us as a species, and I worry what will happen if we don't do something about it eventually.
posted by nightchrome at 7:03 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


He seems to get plenty of high profile work in the industry.

I know who Terry Richardson is and what he's shot. He has made a career out of Being Terry Richardson (tm). Personally, I think his images are a lot of hype that is sometimes briefly punctuated by moments of brilliance that occasionally make up for some of the publicity stunts and mountain of crap he churns out. But regardless of his work, he has carefully created this rockstar persona/brand and that is not representative of the photo industry or any other photographer anymore than Dennis Rodman or Micheal Vick are shining examples of every athlete.
posted by bradbane at 7:06 PM on June 8, 2009


But the respect of him despite his creepiness is a kind of implicit approval. By many, many people in the industry.
posted by agregoli at 7:11 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


You could say the same thing about Andy Warhol or any other artist who has done questionable or creepy sexual things. I don't think everyone who likes Pop Art is implicitly approving the sex tapes Warhol made or any of the sex-drugs-and-partying or weird things that went on at the Factory.

I think Richardson's success says more about consumers than "the industry". He has shot for basically every single publication that exists because people are buying into it. You go ask random twenty-somethings who their favorite photographer is and they would probably say him and not be able to name a single other working photographer. I remember being shocked at recognizing him in some TV ad a while back - they didn't even name him or anything, it was just a short montage of him at some cokehead hipster party living up this fantasy he projects.
posted by bradbane at 7:30 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


MeTa.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:31 PM on June 8, 2009


I've worked on tons of fashion shoots and never heard of anything remotely like this (and I've heard plenty of horror stories about big egos, assholes, and drama queens of all kinds). I'm sure it happens, but saying this is common or typical is ridiculous.

Take off your blinders. My cousin experienced just this thing. This business is child abuse incorporated.
posted by caddis at 7:44 PM on June 8, 2009


Coming late to this party, but nickseye wrote:

Taking sexual advantage of children in the modeling biz is not just behind the scenes and not just by men either. This is an example.

I notice the headline blares "tasteless use of 10-year-old girl in skimpy bikini." And then there's a picture of the girl in question, wearing the bikini. Reminded me of this recent Sociological Images post, "What Warrants a Slide Show?", another example of "Look at this disgusting objectification...look closely...we've included pictures." An interesting phenomenon, no?
posted by not that girl at 8:24 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sexual assault of underage models and underage slaves is related: both are part of the objectification of women generally and young women in particular. Just because one happens in the north Atlantic and the other happens in the south Pacific doesn't mean they don't stem from the same impulse.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:56 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bob Richardson, mentioned upthread in a personal account by a Metafilter user, is Terry Richardson's father.
posted by zippy at 9:05 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm distressed by the argument that 'we know it is a sleazy business'. It is almost as if the industry has created its own world and morality where showing the sexuality of child models is okay, and that somehow the sleaziness of the industry that goes along with this has become the status quo, and through some warped logic, it is therefore somehow acceptable, or at least taken for granted, even by the police.

They need to be rudely shaken out of their little world. Any 'world class' highly paid, photographers who molest a child should be thrown in jail and then have to register with the police in any town they live in. Maybe shut down the high and mighty agencies that allow these children to be put into these situations. Maybe set up some undercover young looking agents. Just shut these guys down.

It is even in some of the threads here: "oh, that's just what the industry is like".
posted by eye of newt at 9:20 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is even in some of the threads here: "oh, that's just what the industry is like".

I'm not sure why this is so hard to grasp for some people here, but saying that "that's just what the industry is like" does not mean one doesn't feel compassion or outrage for what happens on an individual level. But the fact is that it is a thoroughly corrupt undertaking so these kinds of incidents are going to continually recur until the whole thing is either regulated very closely or nuked from orbit. I'd prefer the latter, personally, but would gladly settle for the former.

This outrage/compassion police thing going on here is worthless, and doesn't address the core issues of why sexual abuse is endemic to fashion modeling.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:26 PM on June 8, 2009


These young women I saw were new to the business but seemed adult enough to fit in. But they were with out fully formed mature appreciation of consequences and just don't fully grok the position they can get themselves in.

I'm pretty damn ancient now, but jesus god, reading the linked article, I can remember what it was like to be a 14-year-old girl, more smart than wise, a kid who was incredibly naive, frighteningly foolhardy, on the one hand utterly sure that everyone would see and respect my wonderfulness, on the other hand desperately unsure of myself, and craving, *craving* assurance that I was cool, that I was grown-up and capable and hip, and willing to do all sorts of insane and self-destructive shit to appear that way.

It was only through sheer dumb luck that I made it to adulthood intact, without becoming a victim of predators and of my own stupid vulnerability. Now I can look back on that time and say What was I THINKING?? but -- at the time, I hadn't a clue. More than anything, I wanted to be extraordinary, I wanted to be beautiful, I wanted to be hip and sophisticated. Since I had no idea how to actually live in the adult world, I looked to those who appeared to be extraordinary/sophisticated/hip for my cues. Had I actually been given the kind of "opportunities" that child models are--singled out, made much of, treated like a grownup--I'd never have had a clue about where to set my own boundaries, or how to draw any sort of line. I'd have been toast. My heart goes out to all these young women.
posted by Kat Allison at 9:27 PM on June 8, 2009 [15 favorites]



What gets me is that no one complains to the authorities.

What gets me is that you can possibly be this naive.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:09 PM on June 8


Enlighten me, Grasshopper. And if you're about to say that the authorities do nothing, that's complete and utter bullshit, because I've experienced that they, infact, do for these particular situations in most cases, and that's not even on the rich side of town. That's in the "too poor no one fucking cares about you" side of town.

Most cops don't like when adults take advantage of little girls or boys.
posted by Malice at 11:17 PM on June 8, 2009


Is it OK with you if I feel sorrier for the sexually abused minors who don't collect a paycheck afterwards?

Rape isn't part of the job description for models. These girls get the money for modelling, but they get the assault because society in general, as well as several people in this thread, don't think they're worth protecting.

Why don't these girls speak out? Look at the response this article got when the author spoke out - trashed and ridiculed. More girls everywhere would report sexual assault if they hadn't seen a hundred others dismissed before them. Every time you handwave away an instance of assault, you're giving implicit permission for another similar one to occur.

The parents are to blame? Sure, for being greedy or naive or crap at their job. But since when is raping their daughters the appropriate punishment for greedy, naive people?
posted by harriet vane at 1:12 AM on June 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


cjorgensen - These women are commodities, and as such are protected and coddled. Handlers and bodyguards and entourages.

I'm so angry and disgusted reading this thread that I could spit, and I know I should quietly shut the browser and walk away, but this...this needs to be addressed.

You know nothing of what you speak, and it's clear to anyone who does have some knowledge. Handlers? Bodyguards? Are you serious?! Your standard model is treated like your average piece of meat. Often with about as much respect. Protected, coddled...rarely. More often they'll be ignored and talked over. There's often no time given to eat or sleep, or call your loved ones.

Because unless they're one of the top girls, a Name Girl, they are easily replaceable and the people with the power in these situations know it. And the girls are made to know it, too. You perform, you please the people in charge (and whether that means delivering on the shoot brief to a high enough standard, or putting up with being treated like dirt on someone's shoe in humble [professional!] silence is entirely up to chance) or you get sent back to your agency with a stinging report that they'll never use you again, and you acquire a bad name and don't work anymore. Sometimes it'll cost too much to fire the model on the spot and get a replacement, but you won't get far banking your career on that.

All models are not equal, and your fantasyland idea of what models experience is just that - a fantasy, enjoyed by, what? Maybe the top few girls?

In case this diatribe hasn't made it abundantly clear - you have no idea what you are talking about.
posted by pseudonymph at 3:49 AM on June 9, 2009 [16 favorites]


Kat Allison has nailed this, too.
posted by pseudonymph at 3:51 AM on June 9, 2009


Yeah. Wow.
posted by LittleMissItneg at 5:46 AM on June 9, 2009


> This outrage/compassion police thing going on here is worthless

So is everything you're saying here. Why do you bother? Why aren't you out cleansing the world?

And Joe Beese, I used to think pretty well of you.
posted by languagehat at 7:47 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why don't these girls speak out? Look at the response this article got when the author spoke out - trashed and ridiculed. More girls everywhere would report sexual assault if they hadn't seen a hundred others dismissed before them. Every time you handwave away an instance of assault, you're giving implicit permission for another similar one to occur.
posted by harriet vane at 1:12 AM on June 9


This, a million times.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:04 AM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Enlighten me, Grasshopper.

Here we go, enlightenment on demand: sexual abuse can screw with your head, and the mental and emotional results can be much more damaging and scarring than the physical assault itself. As you ought to know, rape and other abuse has a pretty low reporting rate because people are ashamed and damaged and terrified. It can take years for people to admit that they were abused - and to stop blaming themselves for it. These things are complicated, and difficult, and an uncountable number of factors play into how easy/hard it is for someone to admit their abuse, to report it, and to get over it.

You say:
However, I was 8 when I told that I was getting molested. It's not that freaking hard to do, and at 14 I probably would have beat them down with something large and heavy.

That's nice. Not everyone is you. Not everyone is in whatever situation you were in that made it possible to tell the authorities, both emotionally and practically speaking.

You then say, as if in response, yet missing the point entirely:
No, of course not everyone is me, but in my experience it is best to not continue to tell these kids that it's OKAY if they don't speak out by offering complete understanding and sympathy. IT IS NOT OKAY AND YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO TELL SOMEONE. And if that someone doesn't listen, tell someone else. And some one else. Until SOMEONE HEARS YOU. End of discussion. If more kids are told this, maybe less abuse would go on.

See, when you start saying it is a kid's responsibility to tell someone, you start implicitly blaming them for being too terrified or hurt or ashamed to tell someone, because that is by your definition irresponsible. Yes, in a perfect world, kids would not be ashamed, and every kid would have someone they they trusted enough to tell, and of course they should (and should be emotionally able to) tell someone. This is not that world. By offering kids complete understanding and sympathy, we're telling them that they are worth something, that the sexual assault hasn't destroyed them, that it wasn't their fault. We're making it possible for them to have sympathetic people to speak out to. When you start harping on the responsibility of children to speak out (possibly to several disbelieving people in a row, as if that's easy, as if it's always possible!), you are crossing the line and blaming the victim. You are helping to uphold the disgusting idea (unfortunately extant in modern society) that if someone is too terrified/ashamed/etc. to speak out, they are effectively complicit in their own (often continuing) abuse.

Your statements here provide a neat parallel to the statements/(in)action of people who were abused as kids and then, as they grow up, stand by as others are abused. In both cases, overgeneralization of your own experience ends up creating a hostile environment for abused kids: because you spoke out, anyone who didn't must somehow deserve it (or at least deserve it more than you did, because it was their responsibility to tell someone and stop the abuse, and they didn't); because some abused kids who never spoke out blame themselves, they now feel that younger kids must also somehow deserve it, that the younger kids should be able to survive it since they did. Both of these attitudes may have their roots in trauma, but the practical effect of both is to blame kids for their own abuse (and thus to make it harder for them to speak out). Which is no-holds-barred disgusting.
posted by ubersturm at 8:43 AM on June 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


My sentiments regarding the modeling industry as a platform for child rape and exploitation have been thoroughly covered by hermitosis and other good posters, so I'm just going to attack this notion that cjorgensen and his ilk keep bandying around about the "unicorn" nature of exploited foreign models.

I used to work as a reporter during Fashion Week in New York City, and while my experience was very different than that of the models on the catwalks, I did see a lot of behind the scenes footage of top-tier fashion shows. Along with the Italian and French couture shows, Fashion Week (yes, it's capitalized in those circles) in Bryant Park is the peak of Mount Everest for most of the models. The big names--Marc Jacobs, Herchovitch, Vera Wang--generally employ the famous girls, but the smaller designers generally employ one or two middle-tier "It" girls and a slew of anonymous human coat hangers.

First, cjorgensen, tons of those girls are indeed plucked from the streets of Estonia, Bulgaria, Poland, the Ukraine. Look at this relatively comprehensive roster of models that walked in the Fall 2009 fashion show. Rich girls from Connecticut aren't named Anja and Olga and Oxana. Wherefore the emphasis on non-American girls? Well, photographers and fashion writers will rhapsodize about their Eastern European exotic looks (or Asiatic or African, whatever) but really it's because those girls are cheap cheap cheap. It's far more convenient for a head hunter to pluck a couple leggy Ukrainian girls out of a lower-class post-Soviet apartment building, and reassure their parents that their daughters are getting flown to faraway America where they'll earn lots of money and get their teeth fixed. And the parents say yes, because the families are poor and know nothing of the industry except that apparently it's lucrative and glamorous and maybe it'll give their girls a shot at a better life.

So Anya and Vlada and Snejana are shipped over to NYC, where an agency fixes their teeth and glazes their hair and gets them all waxed up, and then the girls realize the truth: they've signed away their rights and their lives to an agency in a foreign country where they have no friends, no family, often abysmal language skills, and a huge debt to pay off the agency. So when an unchaperoned photographer circles them in a room and tells them to take off their clothes, no like this, no like that, they do it.

The question that I kept asking during my stint at Fashion Week was, "What happens to these girls when they turn 19 and they're no longer young enough and boyish enough to look like androgynous skeletal zombies to hang clothes on?" Honestly, no one seems to care where those girls go after 5 years of drugs and not that much money, lots of debt and no proper education. Do they go back home and return to their pre-modeling lives? Do they model smaller gigs and try to make it in New York? I asked a lot of people and literally, no one had thought to wonder about the girls' welfare after they stopped getting casting calls. In the fashion world, unless you are Agyness Deyn or Siri Tollerod, models are literally on the lowest wrung. Lower than makeup artists, lower than the writers and editors. They are universally dismissed as stupid and uninteresting, because nearly any 14 year-old Croat who can't speak English comes off as stupid and uninteresting to all the big important photographers and designers and agents milling around her. And NYC is crawling with them, shipping in fresh blood every season, forgetting to ask when the former ones fade away.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:50 AM on June 9, 2009 [30 favorites]


Modeling, ah, yes. For the late seventies/early eighties picture, try Mary Gaitskill's Veronica.

It may be a novel, but if truth is sometimes stranger than (truer than) fiction, surely sometimes it also goes the other way around.

BTW, liked the grad student analogy way up in the thread, and child abuse is always child abuse.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:50 AM on June 9, 2009


A lot of people seem to think it's the child's responsibility to point out abuse to some kind of authorities. Well, here's the other thing about reporting sexual abuse when you are the victim - as NickySkye pointed out eloquently upthread, it's really fucking hard sometimes to tell what's abuse and what's normal. Kids think their lives are normal. They don't get that some things are not supposed to happen. I remember an anecdote I read somewhere about a five year old with food allergies who finally got diagnosed. The child had never thought to tell anyone that her head hurt because she thought it was supposed to hurt. If it happens routinely then it is normal. If you object to it, there's something wrong with you. Add to that the desire that all teenagers have to be glamourous and in control, cool and sophisticated and adult - anything but gawky and too tall and 14 and you have a perfect situation for abuse.

When a friend of my parents groped the hell out of me at age 12 or 13 during a cocktail party, I told my mother and she told me, horrified, to never tell anyone else and okay, I could stop passing hors d'oeuvres, go to my room and stay there. When a drunk bum grabbed me in the Met lobby at about the same age and smeared his mouth all over my face, my teacher yelled at me for not staying with the group. This kind of thing is so common for girls; it happens to almost everyone and girls really do believe that it is their fault. And if they do report it, the adults, who are often women, who often grew up being groped and grabbed and hassled themselves, think exhaustedly that well, you know, it is just life. And so, frankly, it is, but that doesn't mean that it is right.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:02 AM on June 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


I also should add, Malice and cjorgensen, just because you all feel that you have so richly mined the uncharted territories of model-hating: all the moneymen who peddle unrealistic expectations of beauty and manufacture questions over whether cyan or cerulean is the season's newest blue, in short, all the people you think deem superficial and Part of the Problem hold the exact same opinions you do about those girls.

Everyone, everyone in the fashion industry talks down to those girls, throws them around like garbage, and everyone on top of the fashion hierarchy thinks the girls have more or less "earned" the shady liaisons and unwelcome touching and forced sex and ambiguous gestures of consent. One time my colleague was talking to the assistant of a very famous photographer who admitted she'd scheduled numerous "outings" to beaches, hotel rooms and spas with underaged models or model-wanna-bes that had nothing to do with work. My co-worker asked her how she could stand doing that, knowing what she was arranging. The assistant rolled her eyes and said, "Those bitches make money in a day than I did last year."

The old, creepy, power-glutted men who fondle and harangue and demean those girls have used the very same excuses you have to dismiss child rape as the price a girl pays for being pretty and "lucky." You are in populous (if not good) company with the very same narcissists who manufacture and control the beauty industry complex. Enjoy.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:43 AM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


This business is child abuse incorporated.

Right, and Thailand's chief export is underage sex slaves.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:56 AM on June 9, 2009


zoomorphic, And you're in the same shrill self-righteous and taking comments out of context camp as Optimus Chyme. I don't see anyplace where I or Malice are getting down on models, nor do I see either of us as dismissing child rape.

I'm not going to restate either of our positions, but I went back through the thread and at no point did either of us state these people got what was coming to them.

By accusing us of this you come off as irrational and disingenuous. I got enough flack for what I actually did say to have you distorting what was said.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:20 AM on June 9, 2009


mygothlaundry: "...when I was being offered a modeling gig at 17. ... I was modeling for life drawing classes for years before and afterwards"

You were modeling for life drawing classes for years before you turned 17? I find this flabbergasting.

How young a model were these classes willing to use? 13? 8?


This doesn't ring true to me. Sorry, but this just wanders into the territory of unbelievable and making up stuff to overstate your case. A nude model for life drawing classes at 13 or 14? I just don't see it. Maybe Europe is different.
posted by anniecat at 10:50 AM on June 9, 2009


I don't see anyplace where I or Malice are getting down on models, nor do I see either of us as dismissing child rape.

ORLY?

> "I have a real hard time caring about how a model is exploited... it sucks that parents will do this to their kids, and sucks that pretty women do it to themselves, but I can only muster empathy for the kids....Life is so rough when you are beautiful and rich."

Do it to themselves? To me, that sounds a hell of a lot like, "it's her fault she got groped/fondled/assaulted."

> "Boo hoo hoo, they want me to take my clothes of for 150k. Sexual assault aside it seems like these women seek out victimhood."

Ah, they "seek out victimhood," got it. See comment above

> "I don't get why anyone would choose this life, knowing full well what is involved, so yes, it is hard for me to empathize...And the plucked off the streets of poverty story is such a rarity that I would call it a unicorn. For the most part these are people choosing to do this, or at least choosing to put themselves in situations where horrible things happen."

This "unicorn" was handily proven to be very, very real, as evidenced by zoomorphic's excellent, first-hand account.

> "I bet abuse situations are rare. Probably rarer than for the average woman. These women are commodities, and as such are protected and coddled."

Again, another example of you spouting off about shit you know exactly nothing about, as pseudonymph rightly schooled your ass for doing so.

cjorgensen, you've done little more here besides being down on models and willfully disregard the very real -- and all too prevalent -- scenarios that directly contribute to women and girls being abused and taken advantage of. Your accusations of zoomorphic being "shrill" and "irrational and disingenuous," are, frankly, laughable.
posted by shiu mai baby at 10:54 AM on June 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


This doesn't ring true to me. You're right, anniecat. I way overstated that in retrospect. I started modeling for life drawing classes at age 16, so, it had only been a year. My bad. Anyway, I did continue doing it here and there into my twenties. I like it actually; it's kind of meditative to stay still even when your muscles start to cramp. Besides, I've taken a lot of life drawing classes, it's good to be on both sides of the sketchpad.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:14 AM on June 9, 2009


shiu mai baby, If I wanted to write "it's her fault she got groped/fondled/assaulted" I would have written that. I still think it sucks that for fame or money people will put themselves in situations where bad things are more likely to happen, whether this is a runway, a meatpacking plant, or a reality show. Not one of your pulled quote says I condoned the behavior of anyone in this industry, nor am I minimizing anything that happens to a person.

"Again, another example of you spouting off about shit you know exactly nothing about, as pseudonymph rightly schooled your ass for doing so."

You mean in a self-describe diatribe? Forgive me if I feel less than schooled.

And you did exactly what I figured someone would. Pulled every sentence that could possibly support the position that I think these women "got what they deserved" without preserving anything I wrote to the contrary. That's pretty much what I meant by disingenuous. And by irrational I meant accusing me of taking stances I've never taken.

If the article in question had bothered to make the points that zoomorphic made here I think my response would have been much different. As it is I think it failed, and I think zoomorphic undermined her position by coming back and making what I perceive as unfounded personal attacks.

Just me.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:23 AM on June 9, 2009


[Did you guys miss the part where this was in MeTa? Back and forth personal shouting type stuff needs to go there, not here.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:31 AM on June 9, 2009


“And NYC is crawling with them, shipping in fresh blood every season, forgetting to ask when the former ones fade away.”

Talked to a buddy of mine about the idea that vampires could live among human beings and mask their being. He didn’t think it would be possible at first. Undead monsters feeding off human blood wouldn’t be tolerated. But that fails to connect to the big picture. As that kind of monster you’d have centuries of experience with human nature to draw from as well as massive amounts of wealth. Once you had a system in place, it wouldn’t be so hard to maintain. And you’d have people who were complicit and deluding themselves otherwise. If it can be done by people with horrors like genocide, what’s a few pints of blood? Done in increments even the most horrific things can be rationalized and even the most ferocious outrage can be assuaged.

“And if they do report it, the adults, who are often women, who often grew up being groped and grabbed and hassled themselves, think exhaustedly that well, you know, it is just life. And so, frankly, it is, but that doesn't mean that it is right.”

Went after some drakes the other day that were gang tackling a female duck. Brought my daughter along. Three drakes were jumping on this little brown duck and I got close, my hands were gloved because I was chopping wood, and clapped loud as a gunshot and they all bolted and flew different directions. Neighbor of mine said “It’s nature, that’s just how they mate” I said “Not in my backyard.”

On the one hand, you’d figure there’d be some sort of ingrained resistance to abuse. On the other hand, there’s the thin ends of the bell curve. You figure there’s a reason abusers do this kind of thing privately.

On the other hand I sometimes suspect it’s partly the fault of people like myself that some, perhaps well intentioned (to be charitable), people look to cover it up or ignore it. Because if I saw an adult groping a 12 year old, party or not, I’m putting him through a wall. For starters.

That’s not macho posturing or white knightism, I’d do it on general principles. It’s bad for the environment. One of my kids is a girl. I don’t want that kind of thing perpetuated. I think it’d be better for her to see her dad stomping on someone than to see me ignore something like that. Bad for men everywhere. I don't want any women looking at me with fear in their eyes.

And even beyond that – there are things for which there are no compromise. And further - it is about you, not them. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a drunk or some ducks. If it comes before me, I can choose to do something or do nothing.
If you do something, maybe you get in some trouble, maybe you choose the wrong method, maybe you can’t do what you really want to do (break someone’s nose) but you can call the cops or alert people to the problem (which is what’s happening here) – something. There are myriad ways. Hell, even giving a shit is doing something. You might be a dick or look foolish, but at least you got involved on some level.

But if you chose to do nothing, you pretty much have to come up with excuses why. So it becomes the victims fault. Or you don’t care. Or whatever – anything to mask the fact that you –chose- to do nothing.
So, ok, I’m petty and a dick for scaring some ducks. Probably a useless gesture anyway. They probably just moved on down the treeline.
But I didn’t just sit there. And that’s good practice. And that’s something I want my kids, especially my daughter, to be plugged into.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:48 AM on June 9, 2009


I knew one of those models who came from nearly nothing--her name was Jennifer rather than Svetlana or Ana, but she went to Paris with just the clothes on her back and all the money her folks could throw together, a whole $250, at the age of 16, because she'd been "discovered" and they lived in a trailer and figured she should "take her shot", though she didn't speak a word of French and the guy who "discovered" her was in his thirties and they ended up sleeping together before her first photo shoot hit the stands. She never made a cover but was in a lot of Vogue-type ads.

I worked with Jennifer once she was back in the States, when I was in college. I was an assistant manager at the time, and she was in her twenties, and her eyes were still this vivid blue (the feature that got the scout's attention) and she was still rail thin with hair to her waist, but her face was hard and she was whitening her teeth because all the nicotine had stained them yellow (an old model's trick, then, smoking to stay thin, and she had kicked the habit by the time I knew her). She had lots of stories about creeps who'd tried to make her "do stuff" and lots of praise for the "bona fide" photographers that were beyond that crap.

Anyway, I was her manager, and she was working for me in a video rental place, making a little more than minimum wage and still going on magazine shoots for crowd scenes. She had a "classic" look that worked for cocktail parties and big hats, summer croquet shoots and the like, standing behind the new young thing holding up the perfume or wearing the newest eye shadow. She got turned down more often than she was accepted, though her name still had that recognition factor for the photographers, who threw her a bone now and then. She shared a cheap apartment with another girl we worked with and had no real savings but she still considered herself luckier than most of her friends, who had gotten into drugs and "ruined" their looks.

She understood, very clearly, that she was a commodity, and one already past her shelf life.
posted by misha at 12:18 PM on June 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


@mygothlaundry: thanks for correcting. A part of me was worried that there are thirteen year olds posing nude for art classes and I was thinking, Good God, call the police!
posted by anniecat at 6:36 PM on June 9, 2009


I just watched all the clips they have on MySpace and don't understand something: how exactly do fashion houses afford to pay a 16 year old $50,000 a day? I didn't think anybody bought tons of the expensive catwalk clothes, so I'm trying to understand where all that money comes from when they hire the new girl/No Name model from Belarus.
posted by anniecat at 7:13 PM on June 9, 2009


anniecat: [photo] models don't just work for the big fashion houses. But for e.g. Gucci I'm guessing a lot of money rolls in from perfume and accessories. (The markup on a $400 bag must be like...$385.)

And yeah, the amounts sound crazy. But I remember a stock broker buddy who moved from Stockholm to work in London some years ago. His rise in pay was chocking to me. And he was already doing very well. So many jobs pay a lot more in Milano, London, NY et al. 'cause that's where the "action" is, due to higher living costs, etc.

(Also, for the new/'noname' model it's probably be pretty unusual to get $50k for a day's work.)
posted by Glee at 1:38 AM on June 10, 2009


John Casablanca moving in with Stephanie Seymour when she was 14...
posted by jessicajulie at 3:52 AM on June 16, 2009


jessicajulie, wikipedia disagrees. According to them, Stephanie began modeling when she was 14, but didn't even start dating John Casablanca until she was 16. Not that that is much better, especially since John was married, but still (slightly) better than moving in when she was 14.
posted by ShadowCrash at 12:30 PM on June 17, 2009


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