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Guy gone wild

August 15, 2006

I suppose it shouldn’t come as shock that Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis is an asshole. Anyone who makes their living persuading drunk young women to get naked and sign a consent form that could ruin the rest of their lives is already fairly sketchy.

But a recent profile in the Los Angeles Times takes Francis’ questionable ethics to a whole new level of scary.

The piece opens with Francis physically assaulting reporter Claire Hoffman:

Joe Francis, the founder of the “Girls Gone Wild” empire, is humiliating me. He has my face pressed against the hood of a car, my arms twisted hard behind my back. He’s pushing himself against me, shouting: “This is what they did to me in Panama City!”

It’s after 3 a.m. and we’re in a parking lot on the outskirts of Chicago. Electronic music is buzzing from the nightclub across the street, mixing easily with the laughter of the guys who are watching this, this me-pinned-and-helpless thing.

Francis isn’t laughing.

He has turned on me, and I don’t know why. He’s going on and on about Panama City Beach, the spring break spot in northern Florida where Bay County sheriff’s deputies arrested him three years ago on charges of racketeering, drug trafficking and promoting the sexual performance of a child. As he yells, I wonder if this is a flashback, or if he’s punishing me for being the only blond in sight who’s not wearing a thong. This much is certain: He’s got at least 80 pounds on me and I’m thinking he’s about to break my left arm. My eyes start to stream tears.

Charming, huh? You would think that it couldn’t get any worse than this–but you would be wrong. If this is the kind of behavior Francis displays when in the company of a reporter–imagine what he’s like to women to have no public forum to make their voice heard.

Eventually, [Jannel] Szyszka says, Francis told the cameraman to leave and pushed her back on the bed, undid his jeans and climbed on top of her. “I told him it hurt, and he kept doing it. And I keep telling him it hurts. I said, ‘No’ twice in the beginning, and during I started saying, ‘Oh, my god, it hurts.’ I kept telling him it hurt, but he kept going, and he said he was sorry but kissed me so I wouldn’t keep talking.”

I literally felt sick after reading this. Not only because of this poor girl, but I also couldn’t help thinking about how this man is dictating what sexuality is to a generation of young men.

Francis’ behavior–his violence against women, his rage at Hoffman for daring to write an honest piece, and his belief that he’s doing all this in good fun–is the scariest combination of privilege, money and misogyny that I’ve ever seen.

The only thing that’s as disturbing as Francis’ sense of entitlement to women’s bodies (and anything else he wants) is the “boys will be boys” forgiveness poured on him by his friends, fans, coworkers, and even police. And people say there’s no such thing as a rape culture?

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