Claire Hoffman’s LA
Times article on Joe Francis reveals the Girls Gone Wild entrepeneur
to be a raging id. This is unlikely to come as a great surprise to anybody who
knows much about who he is and what it is that he sells. It also, however, reveals
a lot about the morals of US journalists.
The article is certainly less than flattering to Francis, who could certainly
be arrested for the things he did to the LA Times reporter alone. (Indeed, one
police officer advises her in the article to press charges against him.) At
the same time, however, Hoffman herself is more than a little bit exploitative
– of exactly the same girls who have already been exploited by Francis.
In the article, Hoffman talks both to Francis and to the girls who get naked
for his videos in return for little more than a free t-shirt. Why do they do
it? 21-year-old Jillian Vangeertry talks about her "15 minutes of fame".
Kaitlyn Bultema is more explicit about her motives:
"Most guys want to have sex with me and maybe I could meet one new guy,
but if I get filmed everyone could see me," Bultema says. "If you
do this, you might get noticed by somebody—to be an actress or a model."
I ask her why she wants to get noticed. "You want people to say, ‘Hey,
I saw you.’ Everybody wants to be famous in some way. Getting famous will
get me anything I want. If I walk into somebody’s house and said, ‘Give me
this,’ I could have it."
We read this, and we are saddened by the delusions and naïveté
of these girls. No one is likely to become an actress or a model through appearing
on a Girls Gone Wild video. If people do see you in the video, they’re likely
to label you as a slut long before they will give you "anything you want".
Later on in life, when you’re working at your job, your subordinates or your
superiors might find video footage of you and a couple of other girls having
sex on camera. This will not be good for your career. And yet given the enormous
potential downside and the nonexistent potential upside, girls still flock in
their thousands to be feature in GGW videos.
Hoffman then tells the harrowing story of Jannel Szyszka, described as "a
petite 18-year-old". Acccording to her acccount, she was plied with alcohol
before she got naked for the GGW video cameras, masturbated with a dildo, and
told the cameraman that she was a virgin. Then Francis himself takes over.
Afterward, she says, Francis cleaned them both off with a paper towel and
told her to get dressed. Then, she says, he opened the door and told the cameraman
to come back, saying, "She’s not a virgin anymore."
At the end of the night, Szyszka has three pairs of underwear, and at best
unpleasant memories of something which might well have been rape. Six weeks
later, however, things go from bad to worse: she agrees to talk, on the record,
to Claire Hoffman. Until that point, her downside to appearing in a GGW video
was confined to what might happen if someone she knew saw the video –
something which might well never occur.
Now, from here on in, anybody googling her (she has a pretty unique name) will
see first and foremost that she was the girl seduced / taken advantage of /
raped by Joe Francis. It’s something which will follow her for the rest of her
life, long after her episode of Girls Gone Wild has stopped being watched
Hoffman didn’t need to use Szyszka’s real name, and certainly didn’t need to
use her surname, but doing so gives her (Hoffman) added brownie points at the
LA Times. After all, getting people on the record is always preferable to granting
We don’t know how Hoffman ended up talking to Szyszka. We know that Szyszka
first "came out" about her experience to her family a month after
the events took place, and that she seems to have first spoken to Hoffman between
that point and the point a couple of weeks later when Hoffman confronted Francis
about what happened. Who approached whom is unknown. But even if Szyszka approached
Hoffman, I think that a responsible journalist would have taken it upon herself
to shield this vulnerable young woman from this kind of posterity.
As it is, Szyszka ends up as not only a notch on Francis’s belt, but a notch
on Hoffman’s as well. Yet Hoffman comes out with nothing but accolades for her
story. She exposed Joe Francis as an exploiter of young and innocent girls;
has it occurred to her that she could be described the same way?