Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
HOW MODERN MONEY WORKS — Economist Alan Nasser presents a slashing indictment of the vicious nature of finance capitalism; The Bio-Social Facts of American Capitalism: David Price excavates the racist anthropology of Earnest Hooten and his government allies; Is Zero-Tolerance Policing Worth More Chokehold Deaths? Martha Rosenberg and Robert Wilbur assay the deadly legacy of the Broken Windows theory of criminology; Gaming the White Man’s Money: Louis Proyect offers a short history of tribal casinos; Death by Incarceration: Troy Thomas reports from inside prison on the cruelty of life without parole sentences. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on how the murder of Michael Brown got lost in the media coverage; JoAnn Wypijewski on class warfare from Martinsburg to Ferguson; Mike Whitney on the coming stock market crash; Chris Floyd on DC’s Insane Clown Posse; Lee Ballinger on the warped nostalgia for the Alamo; and Nathaniel St. Clair on “Boyhood.”
The Case is Closed

The Miss Delaware Teen USA Scandal

by AMIEN ESSIF

I’m still reeling. I may not sleep tonight.

For some reason–probably because there was the word “porno” involved–I compulsively clicked a link on Huffington Post’s website to find a story about a teen beauty queen accused of making an amateur porn film. Miss Teen Delaware USA has since handed in her title, though she maintains that it wasn’t her on the hotel bed.

The first clue that no one gives a damn about ex-Miss Delaware herself is that the Huffington Post filed the story under “Weird News.” Sure, the story reads like the latest loose adaptation of Shakespeare, what with the removing of a crown, the sex tape, the contradiction of simultaneous denial and admission.

And I’ll admit that it gets even more sensational. After the scandal disgraced her, the amateur porn site YouPorn.com sent Miss Delaware a letter (published, in part, on Huffington Post) inviting her to become their poster child.

But it’s not so weird to me at all. In fact, it’s tragic because it is so obvious. The girl is eighteen years old and, as a teen beauty queen, has likely lived her life in the custody of her good looks. What are the virtues of a beauty queen? Grace, innocence, and good skin. Here’s the Weird News flash: The virtues of a teen porn sensation are exactly the same.

I don’t know who this girl is. I don’t know the reasons why she became a beauty queen before finishing her teens or why she appeared in a porno (or even if that’s her in the video). But it’s not hard to guess at some answers. She is beautiful and the world took advantage.

Now, my turn to fall from grace. I watched the porn video. It was at the top of the Google Video search, okay? If you’ll buy my excuse, I watched it so that I could write about it. And I say this completely humorlessly because the fact is, it was more than a little traumatizing.

There are two very different categories of pornos. There are professional pornos made by porn stars who, beneath the veneer of pleasure, seem quite bored. Just another day at the office.

Then there are amateur pornos in which the subjects are either filming themselves privately with or for their partner (which unfortunately leak on to the Internet more often than their stars realize); or the subjects know they are going public and have simply abandoned themselves to the suggestions of a charismatic stranger with a camera. Think: Girls Gone Wild.

As one might guess, sometimes the subjects of amateur porn are comfortable with it, consistently going a step beyond what the coercing male voice instructs from behind the camera.

But Miss Delaware is none of these. I don’t know how much money they offered her, or what they said to her, or how they found her, or how she found them. But the five minute video is essentially a document of a teenager being raped.

I don’t use this word to shock. The observation, however, is unavoidable.

In the first few minutes of the film, as she sits coyly on the bed answering questions, she seems excited, if a little nervous. “I thought it’d be fun,” she says, “and it sounded like I needed the money.” The older, all-male film crew certainly arranged it that way, but she seems, at this point, to know where she is and what she is doing.

There is a point in the video, however, when you see that she doesn’t want to be there anymore. She realizes she is trapped. It’s horrifying to watch if you’ve not had every one of your sympathetic instincts dulled by a life of watching internet porn. This moment is in the beginning of the video when things start to get rough and obviously uncomfortable and then her soul, it seems, retreats from her eyes. How could she stop, after all? What would you have her say? “Excuse me, sir. I just don’t feel like doing this anymore”?

At the end, the camera man asks her a few questions and she gives the smile a beauty queen might muster after losing her title. She sounds like she is about to cry and can hardly talk. She gives some short answers and then runs for her clothes.

Why is this not the story, that there is a video online of an 18 year-old girl suffering a violation she will never forget, something that goes far beyond the violence of date rape, and which is now public so that the world can watch it, get off to it, repeat the violation a few thousand times more?

Don’t tell me no one at the Huffington Post watched the porno. It’s on the first page of a Google search. The reason they aren’t taking this angle is because it’s not “weird news.” It’s not a light little story that can produce more and more scandalizing updates and generate clicks. It might be written off as “feminizing.” People would have to take sides. The laughter would die down.

Also, they would have to do some of their own investigation.

But even when YouPorn offered to give ex-Miss Delaware $250,000 if she would join the porn world for good, the Huffington Post reported that story as just so much more weird news. They accordingly republished an excerpt from the letter to Miss Delaware as a curiosity. “While you may have surrendered your tiara for Miss Teen USA, we’d like to keep that pretty head of yours topped with ours, and name you Miss Youporn,” the letter reads.

We can only guess at what plans they have for her “pretty little head.” But instead of raising an eyebrow against YouPorn for continuing in the tradition of offering this young girl money in exchange for the use of her body, the Huffington Post keeps its eyebrow raised against her, recapping her fall from grace in this way:

“The woman in the video says she is 18 and explains that she competes in pageants; she can also be seen performing sex acts on an unidentified man. According to Delaware Online, [Miss Delaware] denied she is the woman in the video, but she handed in her resignation anyway.”

This is followed by a slide show in which personal photos of the young beauty queen are shown alongside a photo from the video as evidence of her guilt. Busted!

So that’s the role of the news media? To shame a young girl into admitting that yes, it was her underneath that anonymous older man twice her size? Whoever wrote the piece may have watched the video, but to characterize her role as “performing sex acts on an unidentified man” is bad reporting at best. At worst, it’s another violation against the girl.

It’s a violation because it joins the rest of the world in mocking her. She made a bad choice, is the general slant, and she’s paying for it. As if she hasn’t been paying for something her whole life, something she didn’t know she brought on herself–a female body.

The case is closed. Miss Delaware will never go back to being just Miss Delaware. But before we all forget about her entirely, I’d like to know one more thing. What I would like the Huffington Post to find out for me is who are the men in the video? If the Post’s team of journalists has made a positive identification of Miss Delaware, then maybe they can at least find some leads toward another bit of weird news: Who raped Miss Delaware?

Amien Essif writes for In These Times and maintains The Gazine.