Frenchie Gets Fingered

Will someone please let me know what is up the asses of network TV executives and so-called journalists? It's certainly not a vibrating butt plug, that's for sure. Perhaps members of the media are so stressed out attempting to comprehend the looming war with Iraq that they have become hell-bent on taking potshots at the sex industry.

In the past month, we've endured more than our fair share of televised anti-sex orgies. Diane Sawyer kicked it off with her vicious, one-sided ABC Primetime special "Young Women, Porn and Profits: Corporate America's Secret Affair," which did not include a single person, moment, or sound bite that was positive about the adult industry. Sawyer and her crew probed the life of rising starlet Belladonna not once, but many times over a period of two years. The slick editing of this gang bang, I mean exposé, made her look like a hysterical, helpless victim, which is not the impression you get when you actually meet her. Then came word, followed by smug judgment, that Sarah Kozer, one of the final two women on Joe Millionaire, appeared in bondage and foot-fetish films like Bound and Dominated and Dirty Soled Dolls. Most recently, American Idol finalist Frenchelle "Frenchie" Davis was disqualified by Fox for posing in lingerie/topless/nude (depends who you ask) on an adult Web site four years ago. Co-executive producer Nigel Lythgoe insisted, "We have to be very careful. This is a real family show. It's now a brand," and went on to say that Frenchie "made a moral mistake."

Apparently, Fox has some moral meter that only its executives know how to gauge. Nikki McKibbin, last year's third-place American Idol finalist, worked as a stripper in Texas, but that didn't irk Fox enough to pull her off the air. Fox saw no need to silence Kozer and toss her off Joe Millionaire for her duct-tape-covered mouth. Then again, this was a show with a premise more questionable and tawdry then guys licking pretty girls' dirty feet. And a network that used subtitles like "Ummm" and "Slurp" to imply that when Evan Marriott and Kozer went off in the woods together, she had her mouth full, and not with his toes.

In the case of Frenchie, what seems to be at issue is not simply her baring some or all, but the site on which her photos appeared; (now defunct) showcased women who were 18 or older, but implied through poses and text that they might be underage. As the media sunk its teeth into the story, some reporters irresponsibly called it "kiddie porn"—a cheap tactic to lure readers to an otherwise flimsy story. There is a difference between porn that portrays the fantasy of young girls by adult models and for consumers over 18, and porn that actually exploits kids and takes money from pedophiles. The fact is that Frenchie does not run a Barely Legal knockoff on the Web, and once she signed the model release, owners of the site could sell, market, display, and, pardon the pun, position her photos however they wanted.

Fox execs (and media that covered the scandal) placed great emphasis on the fact that many of American Idol's viewers (and voters) are under 18, implying that its moral compass is for them. Hello! These are the same kids who watch music videos in which Britney Spears dresses like a Catholic schoolgirl, Christina Aguilera gropes and is groped, and various rappers objectify scantily clad women who may as well be strippers. Is Fox really going to take the moral high ground on this one? Or is the issue the cash at stake? Fox has big advertisers like AT&T, Coca-Cola, Ford, Old Navy, and Clairol; perhaps some of them threatened to pull their dollars if certain family values were not upheld.

If the argument is that mainstream America will be offended to learn that a woman they watch on TV has done some work in the sex industry, well, then who in America is renting and buying $4 billion worth of porn videos each year? That figure doesn't even include the money spent on mail-order video sales, adult Web sites, satellite, cable, and pay-per-view porn, phone sex, strip clubs, escorts, magazines, and other sex products and services. As an insider once told me, "It can't be four people spending $1 billion each."

People were outraged, but not by revelations of Frenchie's past. Her fans mobilized at once, organizing and dozens of other fan sites where they screamed, "It's hypocrisy! It's racism! It's size discrimination! It's because she has short hair!" The majority of folks on Internet message boards have indicted skinny white Hollywood beauty standards and the focus on style over actual talent. (One of my favorite rants from "Italy elected a hardcore porn star to government office. Chile is considering doing the same thing. How is Frenchie any different than say . . . Marilyn Monroe? Marilyn started her career with a nude calendar and then went on to make dozens of movies . . . ")

Frenchie went on Entertainment Tonight to explain how she was broke and homeless (not enough to just be broke), and she posed for the pics to pay her college tuition. Single mom McKibbin told ET she worked at Frank's Wildlife Gentleman's Club in order to support her son. Kozer reminded people she was fully clothed in her videos (um, so is Spears) and said she needed the money to pay student loans. All three have said that they were up-front with producers and Fox from the start about their naughty activities. They were granted 20 minutes of fame for their sordid pasts in exchange for their public flogging—Frenchie has done the best job of milking her disqualification into a media blitz—so I am not crying for them.

They didn't exactly apologize, but they definitely rolled out their best sob story to justify their choices. Why are the only acceptable excuses in America for working in the sex industry a desire for an education, the support of children, or potential financial ruin? Just once, I'd like a woman with a mainstream media platform "caught" taking her clothes off to say, "Yeah, I did it. I am proud of it. There is nothing wrong with it. I did it as an adult for other adults. What exactly is the problem here?" Don't worry—I am not holding my breath. But I am turning off my television, and surfing over to to buy myself a pair of "Bring Frenchie Back" panties. Then I can put my money where someone else's mouth will be.

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