Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Few Words About

This is a companion piece to yesterday's blog about Chairem's shady history

Devotees for some reason, more than other pervs, seem to have latched on to Yahoo! Groups as a way of congregating and sharing materials. I'm not sure who came first or why, but there are plenty of them, in English, Spanish, some German, a few I think were in Czech or Polish but I'm a bit fuzzy on that.

There were attempts at a Google group once as I recall, and for a while in the late 90's, when Geocities web rings were still the hip happening thing, there was a decently successful group run through, I think, the Excite! search engine etc. though I might be getting that wrong. It could have been Lycos or AltaVista or another one nobody remembers or cares about.

Somehow all of them managed to be less embarrassing than this...

In any case, for over a decade now, probably longer, the Yahoo groups have played a pretty big role in supporting the dev community. There have been too many to count that came and went over the years with just as many themes. Some were dedicated to particular athletes and models, or discussion, or picture trading, or a selection of three or four disabilities, and many combinations thereof. Predictably though the most common groups centered around trading pictures.

For a long time small groups would spring up where some guy would post a smattering of his favorites. A few even achieved some slight degree of longevity, eventually though someone else would come along and create a new group with new favorites and so on and so forth. It went like this for a while leading to a very disjointed network of groups hosting clippings from magazines, brochures, encyclopedias, and of course stolen and candid pictures as well. You'll remember, this was before social networking was even a shadow of the beast we know today.

At one point whose date I can't recall, though I'm sure this was at least on or after 2001, things began to change, and a structure emerged amdist the chaos. “Ordo Ab Chao” as they say.

There was, and still is, a group called 'aestheticalparaplegicgirls' or APG for short. The name is kind of silly. Never in my lifetime have I heard someone append an '-al' to the end of 'aesthetic' to render it adjectival. However, the purpose of language is to effectively communicate an idea which that name, despite its quirky interpretation of grammar and overall clunkiness, does just fine.

Most groups prior to this had been open to the public, or merely required you to register so spammers and other undesirables could be screened out. This had a new catch. To join APG you were required to first submit to the group owner via email three new pictures of disabled women. They couldn't be 'old' pictures which had been in circulation before. Additionally the women had to be sufficiently attractive, though this was left to the moderator's discretion.

The group, though drawing smaller membership than others before it, was a success and soon the mod began creating new groups to keep up the flow. APG2 came, and then APG3, and it went on up into at least the 40's as I recall. Most groups containing around twenty or so pictures. What I found most interesting about these was the utter absence of pictures stolen from existing dev porn vendors. Oh sure there were plenty of lifted vacation pics from someone's personal website and other ethically vacuous “prizes”, but these groups, even the clones dedicated to sharing video clips, never seemed to cotton to the idea of stealing from someone who was selling. Though with everyone else it never seemed to matter.

I don't know if they are still making new groups, the format seems largely defunct at this point. I stopped paying attention years ago and finally left once I realized there was something more important than myself, but I gather that devs have moved on to other web 2.0 destinations. However, these groups are still operating.

Now the problems with this are obvious. It continues and encourages a pattern of coercion and exploitation of disabled women by devotees (men and women alike). It does more than that though. In a very literal way it treats them as currency, reducing them to their physical attractiveness. They are treated as an abstraction, a means to an end and not an end in themselves, and thus robbed of their humanity in the service or chasing yet another twinkling of ephemeral bliss.

This same quasi-Kantian horror I have been complaining about since this blog's inception is wrought into something greater than itself not only in terms of its ability to produce content, and thus exploitation, but also in that it exaggerates the negative aspects of the relationship between devotees and disabled women. In a nutshell, APG is a feminist's nightmare. Through it, men become very literal literal hunters, and women, or their representation, very literal prey.

The same way deer are prized for their antlers these women are prized for their bodies (albeit here through a somewhat different set of values than the dominant culture). A whole economy was generated around these women as expressed through various media. Three pictures earned you access to three groups showcasing twenty more pictures apiece. Ten pictures or one sufficiently long video clip earned you access to three groups with a few video clips. It is worth highlighting the fact that candid and stolen material was held in equal regard to others. There was no distinction.

At this point it would be expected of me to point out, as I have before, that there exist plenty of websites where disabled men and women will gladly share of themselves what they care to for a nominal fee. They do, and it is generally agreed upon that these are preferable in terms of ethics, consistency, and quality, to networks which trade all sorts of media including stolen or candid pictures. However, that paints far too rosy a picture of the status quo.
In 2007, not long after Madonna Long made her departure from Chairem official and founded Roll Modelz emails like these began being posted to the first APG's utterly desolate message board, and thus forwarded to anybody who hadn't opted out of receiving emails from the group.

Oct. 22, 2007

Funny story about Rob by the way, he had been posting in dev groups on Yahoo for years and was that rare open minded person with a disability who didn't care what devotees thought. He finally started modeling for Roll Modelz and put out two videos before someone recognized him and told them he was a pretender.

Jun. 3, 2008

Even Shannon, from tried advertising like this. 

 Dec. 4, 2007

When Madonna, Zaria, Kim Barreda, and others tried producing 'Chloe' their magazine for disabled women, they used the same account to advertise in the same way.

Feb. 5, 2009

Madonna is an intelligent businesswoman, and took the right step, as practically every other dev vendor has, of setting up a promotional group on Yahoo. Hers was called 'meetdisabledmodels'. It served as a hub for announcements about upcoming Roll Modelz releases, sales, and new models.

It's not uncommon for models and agencies to release promotional material solely through their Yahoo group. ParaPrincess releases exclusive video previews that way, Shannon posts periodic update photos through hers, and Candi used Yahoo and YouTube before settling into Facebook as well. In fact you'll quite often see different vendors advertising on each other's pages.

The problem though comes when you advertise on dev pages like APG.

It makes good sense to advertise to your target demographic where they will see your ads. Most devotees convene in groups centered at least in part around trading pictures etc. However, when these groups are exploitive, mechanistically so in regards to APG it is difficult to justify drawing a profit from groups like these without soiling one's hands. The devotees, whose presence you rely on for effective advertising, have congregated for the sole purpose of consumption, coercive, exploitive, and otherwise. They would not be there if it were not for the given media present, and they draw no distinction between that which was obtained with the model or photographer's consent, and that which wasn't. What does it say of a vendor who refuses to distinguish between groups which make this distinction?

Advertising in these groups has the subtle effect of tacitly condoning their activities. If instead Roll Modelz, Shannon's Den and every other vendor were to publicly decry this coercion
and refuse to advertise in these places it would send a very different message. Moreover, by placing itself alongside these images stolen and otherwise, it embeds itself within the stream of coercive devoteeism. These sites are just another hub for yet more images distinguishable in practical terms only by their price. 

Pay sites are often referred to in arguments over devoteeism as proof that the exotic attraction to non-standard bodies is not inherently coercive. The problem is that, in the case of these two vendors, it isn't. It recalls Foucault's rejected thesis in his History of Sexuality:Vol. 1 speaking of all manner of repressed sexuality in the Victorian era (a large part of which was LGBTQ sexuality), “If it truly was necessary to make room for illegitimate sexualities, it was reasoned, let them take their infernal mischief elsewhere: to a place where they could be reintegrated, if not in the circuits of production, at least in those of profit.”

Devotees have a knack for seeking out their desired content online. I've seen TV shows and movies in over five different languages get passed around; obscure stuff, hidden or forgotten and dredged up again. More to the point, they already have their own networks devised for keeping each other abreast of every new development on the web including those in the Yahoo groups.

Even then these networks still catalog coercive groups. What I think we're missing here is an opportunity to recreate devoteeism, or at least take that which is healthy and respectful, and separate it from that which is not. Individual vendors, and agencies have an opportunity to help change the face of devoteeism in a real way instead of simply offering lip service to notions of change.

It's not likely to put a dent in profits either. One of the best examples of a dev porn agency, and indeed one of the most well known outside of devotee circles, is Gimps Gone Wild (GGW). I don't keep extensive records or anything, I've just been milling through an inbox bloated with nearly a decade of unread emails. However in this meager record and my own naturally flawed memory I can not find evidence of GGW or their now defunct non-nude counterpart Enabling Elegance advertising outside of their own space. Neither can I find evidence of Candi, Leah, or most of the other individual vendors doing it.

So, while it's hard to accept that Roll Modelz may be helping encourage and profiting from coercive devotees, one out of three massive agencies (all disabled owned and operated), plus the majority of individual vendors, do not take advantage of these. Chairem has been exploitive under past management, Roll Modelz hasn't thought through their advertising, but by and large exploitation among vendors is the exception, not the rule. There are problems in the devotee community and we ought to bring them to light and try to find practical solutions, but thankfully most of them seem simple enough. Generating the will to implement them is another story.

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