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3 Cases of Crass Sexual Exploitation by Misogynist Internet Manipulators

Technology has opened up the world so much—but it’s also provided another avenue for the most nefarious brand of misogynists.
 
 
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Technology has opened up the world so much—but it’s also provided another avenue for the most nefarious brand of misogynists. No, not the blustery commenters on your blog. Not even straight-up pornographers, the best of whom are straightforward about what they do. We’re talking about those creepy tech misogynists who masquerade under the guise of being cool, edgy and/or subversive by objectifying and shilling women’s naked bodies for their own mean-spirited ends.

Luckily, these people usually have a shelf-life, a point of peak popularity before they inevitably succumb to lack of interest whether by a sea change in culture, or through their legal woes (because exploiting people is very rarely legal). In honor of recent developments regarding our least favorite internet creep, Hunter Moore (see #1), here are the top three major Internet d-bags to emerge since people stopped calling it “cyberspace.”

1. Hunter Moore. Hunter Moore is infamous. The tattooed bro is the arbiter of “Is Anyone Up,” a “revenge porn” Web site he recently shut down in reaction to being investigated by the FBI. What’s revenge porn, you ask? Moore encouraged scorned youth to send the naked, often salacious photos their exes and rivals sexted them, so he could post them and they could enact vengeance. Not only were the naked photos not anonymous, they were accompanied by a screenshot of the nude’s Facebook page, identifying their full names, location and often, their place of employment. He also encouraged people to send in photos of themselves—which many did.

So when people whose photos had been posted without permission wrote him to complain and take them down, he posted their emails and ridiculed them, having fostered a community on the site that if your nude shots ended up online, it was your own fault for sexting them in the first place. Yes, ladies and gentlemen: Hunter Moore managed to become both a pornographer and a slut-shamer! A feat of only the most despicable misogynists, and he made a reported $10,000 per month on advertising.

Moore posted photos of men and women just about equally, but even sicker was the gif or jpg he would post at the end of each post, meant to be a judgment on whether said nude was hot or not—and when he deemed them “not,” it tended to devolve into cyber-bulling at its most heinous. Meanwhile, he might not have received all of his posts from jilted lovers; the FBI’s investigation surrounds his possible involvement with “a hacker who has repeatedly broken into the inboxes of countless victims, rifled through their attachments, and submitted the accompanying nudes to Is Anyone Up,” according to the Village Voice. In the same article, Moore claims that he did not close Is Anyone Up as a result of the FBI investigation, but instead that he was donating the domain name to bullyville.com, an anti-bullying site.

Like most of these fellows, Moore was never just an online misogynist. Last weekend in New York, he was arrested at an event he was DJing after he allegedly punched a go-go dancer in the face while she was trying to break up a fight (which started after Moore yelled “homophobic slurs”). It seems Hunter Moore is headed for an end not unlike that of our next big-time tech scumbag....

2. Joe Francis. Who can forget this guy’s particular brand of slithery exploitation? In the late ‘90s, just as Internet porn was establishing itself but had not yet supplanted the DVD industry, Joe Francis took his seedy show on the road, convincing barely (if even) legal, off-campus girls across America to show him their bare breasts. Targeting archetypically “wild” sorority-type spring break refuges, like Daytona Beach and New Orleans, Francis seemed to have a knack for finding the most inebriated, youngest-looking ladies to strip, and sometimes go back to his bus for more explicit sexual activity.

Meanwhile, Francis and the franchise were in and out of court throughout the early-aughties, facing charges that he had filmed women who had not given express verbal or written consent, and that they had also bilked customers into receiving (and paying for) items they did not order. By this point, everyone knew Francis was the ultimate skeezeball, but he hadn’t even gotten to the capper in his public skeeviness. That would be 2008, after images of Ashley Dupre—the call girl that Eliot Spitzer lost his job for—appeared on the Girls Gone Wild Web site.

Claiming that she was only 17 when they were taken, Dupre sued Francis for $10 million, but dropped the suit when he could provide footage with her consent. Meanwhile the specter of “implied consent” loomed—a dark, terrifying concept that emerged when a different woman filed a suit saying she had been filmed without consent. Francis' lawyers introduced the term—"implied consent"—even though the woman's breasts were exposed because a man had come behind her and pulled up her shirt. That was a lawsuit filed in 2010, and this year she the woman awarded over $5 million. At least four other women came forward after that, and Francis began to fizzle. Enough women now know to stay away that he hasn’t released a film since 2010.

3. Sean Suhl. In 2001, Sean Suhl had one wish: to look at chicks naked. Not the regular types you see in pornos, though, with their silicon lips and Hollywood vibes, but women like the girls he knew in his then-hometown of Portland, Oregon. Punk women, women with tattoos and piercings, rockabilly women, goth women, otherwise unconventional women.

Suhl and his partner Selena Mooney began the Web site SuicideGirls.com, in which those women—not just representations of them, but the real women he knew—began posing nude and social networking, usually in pin-up style shots reminiscent of Bettie Page or occasionally fetish scenes. It was not altogether the most offensive thing in the world, in the scheme of things, and certainly Suhl didn’t seem to be as grody as Moore (the worst) or Francis (second worst).

But eventually it came out that Suhl was using his punk rock credibility to prey on young women’s misunderstanding of the most un-punk-rock fair compensation, paying his models way too little for the rights to their images ($300 a photo set) and personas while exerting a disproportionate amount of control (including non-compete clauses). Suicide Girls became exactly like what it set out not to be: just like every other porn site, exploiting women’s labor for barely livable wages.

In 2005, the site faced a mass exodus of models after a number of its most popular women accused Suhl of being a raging misogynist, while perpetuating the image that Suicide Girls was women-owned and operated. (The photographs of two of the models who quit, Dia and Sicily, are still up on the site seven years later.) Ex-Suicide Girls posted tales of being lured in by the illusion of feminism, only to discover that the whole premise was a sham. If there’s anything worse than misogyny, it’s subcultural misogyny that acts like it’s not. To these three skeevers, we say, fall back.

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is an associate editor at AlterNet and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. Formerly the executive editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, New York Times and various other magazines and websites.