SuicideGirls.com – the Alternative Rebuttal to Mainstream Pornography

For five years, SuicideGirls.com (SG) has been a staple in the “alt-porn” industry, showcasing women, and more recently men, who live on the punk, goth, industrial, or independent side of life. The models on the site are tattooed and pierced with psychedelic dyed hair and heavy black eyeliner, not exactly what you might find gracing the pages of Playboy, but all beautiful in their own right, if you are into “that sort of thing.”

The site was originally formed in Portland, Oregon, and the name was taken from, or possibly even used in homage of, fellow Portlander, author Chuck Palahniuk’s (Fight Club) novel Survivor. Credit for the name is given to Palahniuk on the site’s frequently asked questions page. The name is also a term that the co-founders used to describe girls they saw at Portland’s Pioneer Square, girls who defied categorization with their skateboards, punk rock band merch, hard core hip hop in their headphones and books of poetry. They weren’t punk, they weren’t goth, they were “Suicide Girls.” The use of the word “suicide” was also, in some ways, a tongue-in-cheek pun for dyed by their own hand (also the meaning of the word in the INXS song title “Suicide Blonde”).

The soft-core pornography featured on the site is only a part of what the site is all about. It has also, over the years, developed into an online community; the first page boasts it as “MySpace for adults.” It has grown to include blogs, profiles of the girls, created by the girls, assorted SG merchandise, and interviews (this month, with the band Coheed and Cambria and comedienne Lily Tomlin). While there are some men on the staff, Suicide Girls is also fueled primarily by women, making it unique in it’s field in that respect as well, also making it “porn even feminists can love.”

Several celebrities have their hands in the Suicide Girls pot as well. Actor Wil Wheaton (StarTrek) is an editor for the SuicideGirls Newswire and keyboardist Zia McCabe (The Dandy Warhols) is one of the site’s most popular models.

Many, however not all, of the models have harkened back to the pin-up girls of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, the Betty Page era, with their style and their poses. There are over one thousand Suicide Girls on the site, each represented by only “their” first name, or, more often, a single word nickname. The girls have the final say over which of their photographs are displayed on the site, they can update their profiles and journals as often as they like, as well as upload snapshots of life outside SuicideGirls.com. They can promote their bands and their writing, many are, themselves, aspiring photographers and artists.

A big media stir has recently surrounded the Suicide Girls and their “career.” Former models “Dia” and “Sicily” are among the disgruntled, stating that site co-founder Sean Suhl is disrespectful and degrading to the models and fails to pay what they are promised ($300 per photo set, according to the website’s frequently asked questions page), drawing media attention to the site. According to the site’s other co-founder, “Missy,” Dia and Sicily’s claims are “rumors and lies,” according to an interview she gave with Wired Magazine regarding the issue.

Dia, Sicily, and other disgruntled ex-models, are not Suicide Girls’ only obstacle as of late. The Federal government has recently begun to crackdown on the pornography industry and in response, Suicide Girls administrators removed three photo sets from the site – “Blood Bathing Beauties,” “Rope-bound Babes,” and “Handcuffed Honeys” – in order to be in compliance with new regulations. According to Wired Magazine, these Federal regulations may pose a larger threat to the life of the site than a few unhappy ex-Girls.

Missy has set up a section of the site called the “Trash Can,” where she personally responds to the allegations made by former models, and by the press, and current models offer their positive experiences regarding the site. Despite the allegations and backlash, the site is still going strong and inspiring the masses. Between the boasts that the site is woman-owned and woman-operated and the images of tattooed and/or pierced women, the site shows 18-year-old girls that they don’t need to have perfectly tanned skin or DD cup breasts to be appealing and beautiful. Whether it was Missy and Sean’s primary goal with the site or not, Suicide Girls has become a one site, 1000 woman fight against low self-esteem and air-brushed mainstream pornography.

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