Suicide Girls: rumor-debunking time

Disclaimer: Suicide Girls is a Boing Boing sponsor.

Punk rock pinup site Suicide Girls has been the subject of much internet rumorage recently, on two fronts. First, problems between management and models; second, rumors that an FBI porn squad "cracked down" on SG, ordering the to take down certain images. Let's take these one at a time.

Wired News publishes this account today of claims that about 30 models have quit SG in recent weeks:

A group of angry ex-models is bashing the SuicideGirls alt-porn empire, saying its embrace of the tattoo and nipple-ring set hides a world of exploitation and male domination. The women are spreading their allegations through the blogosphere, raising the hackles of the SuicideGirls company, which has until now enjoyed a reputation as porn even feminists can love. It offers burlesque tours, clothes and DVDs in addition to a sprawling online library of naked punk and goth women.

"The recent accusations are a little upsetting," said "Missy," the co-founder of SuicideGirls. "We think they're all pretty much unfounded."

Link.

Now, about that porn squad. As blogged previously on Boing Boing, this August the FBI's Washington, DC office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad tasked with gathering evidence about "manufacturers and purveyors of pornography" -- not child porn, not bestiality, not porn already illegal under US law. This time, the target is sexually explicit material depicting consenting adults, marketed to adults. Four days after the Washington Post published that news, Suicide Girls model and web engineer Olivia posted this item on the Suicide Girls blog which stated, in part:

SG Removing Pictures, You Can Thank Bush

I just wanted to let you know that, thanks to the "War on Porn," SG will be taking down a bunch of photosets and individual photos today. Even the FBI agents paid to surf for porn find this ridiculous, but apparently sending people to jail for pictures of two consenting adults enjoying a little rope bondage is more fucking important than.... I dunno, pick any one of the million of better causes out there that the government could be focusing on.

So, I apologise heartily for having to do this, both to the SuicideGirls whose art is being fucked over and the members who are being treated like babies, but we really don't want to get shut down and sent to jail. As soon as legally possible, the photosets and pictures about to be taken down will come back.

The language of this post led many to assume the FBI must have contacted SG to order that they take down images. That didn't happen. It would seem unlikely that a still-in-formation antismut force would pick SG as its first target, anyway, given the abundance of far more hardcore sites on the internet -- SG doesn't feature penetration or actual sex acts, just cute goth girls frolicking about in nothing but their tattoos. Despite this, rumors continued to proliferate on blogs and mailing list ("feds shut down suicide girls!!!", "FBI fscks SG!", "Bush bones goth erotica site!").

But today, SG's Missy explains that the image takedown wasn't the result of contact by the FBI or any other authorities -- the site's management chose to pre-emptively remove certain photos. Missy tells Boing Boing:

While we do not believe any of our images are illegal, SG has removed a number of images in order to ensure that we are not targeted by the U.S. Government's new "War on Porn."

We have received no formal government notice to remove these images, however, in the course of our involvement, as witnesses, in a federal criminal prosecution that does not target SG, we have been made aware of the risks posting such content poses the owners of the company.

Given the U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' new war on porn task force and it's intent to bring obscenity charges against their loosely defined "Deviant" imagery, we have removed any images with fake blood and any images we felt could be wrongfully construed as sadist or masochist.

Given the natural disasters in Louisiana and Texas, the U.S. Government's numerous foreign war's and the growing U.S. deficit, we feel there are far better uses of government resources then pursuing the legality of imagery created by consenting adults, but as is usually the case, our opinions are not shared by the Current U.S. Administration. Also, we really miss Bill Clinton.

Update: [redacted] says,
The criminal trial in question involves a dispute between Suicide Girls and Chad Grant of "Deviant Nation." There's a whole 'nother pot of internet rumors around the substance of that dispute, which both sides presumably haven't addressed in public because of the ongoing legal action. The trial was yesterday, Wed. Sep. 28., in LA.
The criminal case in progress is United States vs Chad Grant.

And BMEZine's Shannon Larratt posts his thoughts on the matter(s) here: Link