A San Diego judge awarded 22 Jane Does $13 million in damages on Thursday in their case against GirlsDoPorn.com. The nearly two dozen Plaintiffs alleged the site had defrauded them and tricked them into participation in pornographic videos with intentionally false information about how the videos would be used.
The men in charge, Michael Pratt, Andre Garcia, Matthew Wolf, are also facing criminal charges for sex trafficking and child pornography. Garcia and Wolf are currently in federal custody, while Pratt has fled to New Zealand, his home country. The child pornography charges he is facing are subject to an extradition treaty between the US and New Zealand.
Judge Kevin Enright details the reasoning behind his verdict in a 187-page document which outlines the great lengths the men went to in order to convince the young women, mostly college students, to participate in the porn shoots:
“Defendants take considerable, calculated steps to falsely assure prospective models that their videos will never be posted online, come to light in the United States, or be seen by anyone who might know them. Defendants’ assurances of privacy and security are reinforced by paid “references”- women hired who are or pose as previous models and (in accordance with a script) provide new recruits with false comfort that the experience is safe and enjoyable, and that the videos have never appeared online or been discovered by anyone in the models’ lives.”
After lying to the women about how their videos would be used, they pressured them into signing lengthy and complicated contracts they did not have time to read. Four women who were used as reference models admitted in court that they had lied, even though this implicated them in the fraud, too.
GirlsDoPorn (GDP) promised the videos would be released on “encrypted” DVDs that would only be distributed overseas and could not be uploaded online. The men also hid the true name of their company, preventing the women from looking up “GirlsDoPorn” to see the true nature of the business.
Their videos were almost immediately uploaded online to free sites such as PornHub, with the intent of driving users to the GDP subscription site — directly in contrast to what the women had been told. Many of them were doxxed (intentionally or at the request of GDP), and the results have been devastating for women with promising educations and careers ahead of them. According to the judge,
“Collectively, they have experienced severe harassment, emotional and psychological trauma, and reputational harm; lost jobs, academic and professional opportunities, and family and personal relationships; and had their lives derailed and uprooted. They have become pariahs in their communities.”
Women were initially recruited into the schemed through Craigslist ads which advertised clothed modeling work, with no mention of nudity or pornography. Once it became clear the job was for porn, the women were attracted by the pay:
“This job also offered notably high pay for what appeared to be very little work. Many Plaintiffs testified that, although they ordinarily would not consider doing pornography, this offer was uniquely enticing.”
Often, the promised pay was exaggerated — and the company never had any intention to pay the victims the promised amount. Sometimes, they were stiffed thousands of dollars.
Once in San Diego, the victims were given drugs and alcohol before the shoot, regardless of age, and multiple women reported feeling intoxicated prior to the shoot. Some were so intoxicated that they do not remember portions of the evening, and are visibly intoxicated in their videos. This tactic was used to make the women less defensive and alert.
The victims were then pressured into doing scenes much longer than they initially had agreed to. According to the judge, “At some point during the shoot, they asked to stop, but Defendants would not permit them to leave until they had the footage they wanted.”
“In fact, ten Plaintiffs reported that they asked or tried to leave at some point before or during the shoot, but Defendants insisted that they complete the shoot because the Defendants had already spent the time and money to get the woman there and to get set up. When Jane Doe 16 asked not to go through with the video shoot, Defendants threatened her to pay the cost of her plane ticket and hotel room-a cost that she could not afford.”
This sex was not consensual. It was rape that they were paid for. For raping girls on film, GDP has an annual revenue of $25 million.
The individual stories of each of the 22 Plaintiffs are detailed in the verdict, and each one is more heartbreaking than the next.
Jane Doe 1 was going to be a lawyer. Now, she struggles with severe mental illness and has attempted suicide twice.
Jane Doe 2 has severe panic attacks to this day, five years later.
A “friend” found Jane Doe 3’s video, and threatened to spread it to everyone she knew if she didn’t have sex with him.
People made fun of Jane Doe 4’s body after seeing the video, and she developed an eating disorder.
Jane Doe 5 was only 17 when she was recruited and asked to send nude pictures. They shot her video on her 18th birthday, cake and all.
Jane Doe 6 had to quit her job due to harassment, and has since also attempted suicide.
Jane Doe 7 dropped out of school, and is too afraid to leave her house most days. She tried to change her appearance drastically to avoid being recognized.
Jane Doe 8 was so intoxicated during her filming that she could barely keep her eyes open.
Jane Doe 9 was fired from her job as a teacher. They said she had “no business working with school children unless she wants to teach them about the fine art of having sex on camera.”
Jane Doe 10 asked to leave the shoot multiple times, and was denied food on set.
Another student harassed Jane Doe 11 and tried to break into her dorm room. Her boyfriend confronted her with a handgun, threatening to kill himself and saying it would be her fault.
Jane Doe 12 was stiffed $1,000 of her promised $5,000 from GDP because “she had cellulite on her legs.” She also dropped out of school.
Jane Doe 13 got her period shortly before filming and, wanting to leave, asked to reschedule. Instead, she had a sponge shoved into her vagina without warning or her consent.
Jane Doe 14 asked to stop filming multiple times during the shoot because she was in pain. She was yelled at and not allowed to leave until they got the footage they wanted. She now has night terrors.
Jane Doe 15 was stiffed $2,000 of the promised $5,000 because she was “pale and bruised.”
Jane Doe 16 was so drunk she doesn’t remember parts of the shoot. She later dropped out of college, and developed an alcohol addiction after her video became public.
Jane Doe 17 had no idea she was signing up for a porn shoot when she arrived in San Diego. She asked to leave multiple times and was not permitted. She cried throughout but was just told to fix her makeup.
Jane Doe 18 also believed she was arriving for a photoshoot. Garcia then forced her to have sex, which caused her to bleed. When she tried to run out of the room, Garcia blocked the door and shoved her towards the bed. She now suffers from PTSD.
Jane Doe 19’s boyfriend started blackmailing her with the video when he found it. She eventually drove her car off a cliff in an attempt to commit suicide.
Jane Doe 20 has had severe physical and mental symptoms since her video became public, and she is scared she will not be able to provide for her child.
Jane Doe 21 was raped by Garcia the evening before the shoot in the hotel. Her family was also doxxed when she was. She now has PTSD, and an eating disorder so severe her organs were on the verge of failure.
Jane Doe 22 was completely desperate for money when she agreed to do the shoot. She has since dropped out of college and had to quit a job due to harassment from the videos.
This is just the tip of the iceberg
The GirlsDoPorn verdict has exposed the coercive tactics used by the porn industry to trick desperate women into participating in something they do not really want to do. What’s important to know, though, is that GDP is not unique.
Viewers of porn have no way to know if the girl behind the camera was tricked, coerced, threatened, or raped. In fact, viewers should assume this is the case. With very few exceptions, women get involved in porn because they are desperate for money and, under capitalism, this is inherently coercive. Sex that you do not want to have is rape, even if you are paid.
As we previously wrote, the porn industry is deeply linked to sex trafficking and other forms of violence against women:
“According to a 2012 report by The Rescue Project, sex trafficking and pornography are deeply interconnected. For example, the report tells the story of one American man who ran a “Rape Camp” in Cambodia where Asian women were trafficked, held captive, and raped and tortured on camera for his website.”
The brutal violence behind the porn industry is coming to light. While the verdict in this case is a win for the women involved, as a society we are not doing enough to combat the spread of violent and misogynistic pornography which both harms the women involved, and the women in the lives of men who watch it.
Despite the fact that prostitution is illegal, it is legal to pay someone for sex as long as you are filming it. The pornographic loophole fails to acknowledge that rape on camera is still rape, just like paid rape is still rape. None of it is truly consented to. Porn victims, however, continue to be victimized over and over again through the distribution of their videos and the sexual harassment that follows.
Hopefully, the outcome of this headline-grabbing case will prompt porn users (men) to start considering the actual people (women) behind the camera. But, since porn is training men to dehumanize, objectify, and victim-blame women, you shouldn't hold your breath.
CC BY-SA 4.0, M. K. Fain