Love & Sex

What It’s Like to Be the Only Girl on the “Girls Gone Wild” Crew

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I should've said, "RUN!" but instead I said, "Would you like something to drink?"

I wake with a start to the sound of a girl's voice. Though I can't immediately place it, I have the sensation that it's vaguely familiar. Her nervous laughter peppers the conversation; she's got a handful of brazen retorts, though they all fall flat.  

I rub my groggy eyes, pull back the curtain, and roll out of my bus bunk, stumbling eight feet through the kitchen/dining room/lounge, closer and closer to the sound, until I almost bang my head into a big screen TV.

My eyes search the screen as things come into focus, but I don't see a face right away – I see a vagina, and then a delicate hand thrusting a dildo into it. On one of the fingers is a ring. Suddenly, I remember whom the voice belongs to: the naïve blonde I met the night before, the poor man's Kirsten Dunst who seemed to think that a threesome with her two best friends would make her at least as famous as her Doppelganger. The one (like many others) who didn't even get paid.

The only way to realize that you're a much bigger prude than your parents could hope for is to get a job selling tank tops on a Girls Gone Wild tour.

I know because at age 21 I stuffed my naïve invincibility into a rolling suitcase and hopped on a plane to meet up with a GGW bus where I would make my brief foray into the soft-core porn industry. I didn't do any naked stuff myself; in fact, I'd say I wound up more uncomfortable in my own skin.

I'd recently moved to L.A. to be an actress, and though, like many before me, I thought Hollywood would be clamoring to meet me – SURPRISE! – they weren't.

Amid the drudgery of my bottom-of-the-barrel temp gigs, I got a call from Girls Gone Wild. They wanted to meet with me about my 'Merch Girl' submission. I scurried down to their office in Santa Monica where the "interview" was basically one of the head honchos making his introduction spiel.

Him: Hi, I used to be VP of Online Jizz at Hustler and now I'm here at GGW in charge of the Hand Job Infomercial silo. I make a looootta money doing this.

Me: Sucking in my stomach.

Him: So basically the most important part of your job is to make the girls feel comfortable. If a girl's waiting and you're on the bus, get her a drink. Really just having another girl around makes everyone more comfortable.

Me: Laughing at whatever he said.

Him: And you're cool with working in Canada without a work permit? Because we don't really have time to get that straightened out.

Me: Oh yeah. Totally, totally cool.

I would have said anything to get a job. Any job.

They wanted me to board a flight to Vancouver the next day. So I packed up my scale and a wad of clothes and got on the plane. I was broke and I could not wrap my not-yet-fully-developed brain around how to get started in L.A., so I felt like running away. I hadn't considered the consequences of where I was running, though. I was 21; I thought I was a badass, made of metal. I'd fucked a few dudes, done some drugs, and worked in several restaurants—what can you possibly show me that I haven't already seen?

Anytime you ask yourself that question and you're not on the front lines of a war, you need to stop and look around because you are in over your head—and it's at least partly your own doing.

The first night I was introduced to the outrageously branded bus, then, in an attempt to live up to the hype, I squeezed into some GGW short-shorts, my rumpus poised to rip the ass-seam with one wrong move.

I tottered into the club on the heels of one of our cameramen and was instantly greeted with a crude display of idolatry that I would see replicated time and again throughout the tour. A beer-gut-laden forty-something came running up to us, dragging his pregnant wife behind him. He was a huge fan. Eager for an invitation onto the bus, he dropped to his knees and started fingering and performing oral sex on his wife.
He raved, "She's wonderful. She even lets me fuck her in the ass!"

It became glaringly obvious that I wasn't the sort of wild woman fit for this job, and my feeling like an outsider became constant. On a few of the club nights, between hawking t-shirts, I manage to score something mind-altering. The first time, it was weed and a very cute boy. While one of the last girls on the bus was jiggling her tits and saying "Hi, Daddy!" to the camera, the sweet boy drove me to perhaps the most romantic Pacific Ocean lookout in all of Vancouver Island. We smoked and flirted and he tried to kiss me. But already the constant exposure to this depressing brand of sexual exhibitionism was leaving me feeling divorced from my sexuality, and I just couldn't do it.

At a club in Red Deer, the next province over, some ecstasy made its way into my possession, so I did a little experiment to see if I could still feel the positive spectrum of emotions. The cameramen were simultaneously making a score: a threesome scene featuring the poor man's Kirsten Dunst, a professional stripper — who wore a wig, got paid $300, and cried afterward when she told us her life story — and their friend. The friend's soft body and bad skin weren't up to Girls Gone Wild standards, so the cameramen were instructed to, "Shoot around her."

It seemed like every time I tried, the conversations revealed something tragic about their lives.

As everything wound down in the wee hours of the morning, I closed my eyes and became one with the hum of the bus, a welcome respite. The real life behind those bright, bouncy infomercials is bleak.

There was another girl in Red Deer who quizzed me about Hollywood while I poured her a drink, "I bet it's really nice," she said, eyes wide, eagerly asking, "How often do you see famous people?"

That night she fucked her hand for the camera and had sex with the smallest, weasely-est camera guy. She thought it might be her ticket out of town and that made me sad. The eighteen-year-old mom, four weeks postpartum, who had a tryst with another cameramen, made me even sadder. Her baby's father was in jail for something meth-related and she felt lonely. As time I went on, I concentrated less and less on making the girls feel comfortable. It seemed like every time I tried, the conversations revealed something tragic about their lives.

How do you incentivize shooting really great footage of hot chicks playing with their labia or eating out their best friends? By giving the camera guys bonuses for shooting those scenes. Most of these guys had either no goals or highly ambitious goals (a lot of them had gone to film school), but either way, they wanted to go home with as much money as possible, so all they did was scout for pussy. Most dinner conversations involved rating every eligible female within their field of view. Who these guys rated (and who they didn't and why) rang in my head like a steady bell. I would buy a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of queso and try to crunch at a volume loud enough to drown it out.

I don't know what I expected. I knew it was a GGW tour, but I just thought it would be more sophisticated. Girls Gone Wild is an empire that our economy has supported for the past fifteen years, elevated to the status of cultural institution. I grew up with their infomercials on late night TV—full of white smiles, censored boobs, and a light-hearted steel drum theme song. Before experiencing it first-hand, I'd been blinded by the same glimmer as the girls we would shoot on the road.

I lasted just shy of six weeks on the tour. I left with what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders and a cloud over my head; I felt dirty and guilty. My presence had been tacit approval and, in a way, made me a traitor to the other women – the silent kind, the kind you thought you could trust. I should've said, "RUN!" but instead I said, "Would you like something to drink?"

My flight landed safely back in L.A. on my 22nd birthday, but I couldn't stay—another close friend from college had taken up residence on the futon where I had been crashing. It was fine; I didn't think I could handle it anyway. I wound up briefly back in Chicago, then made my way to St. Louis where I found a cheap haven to hole up in.

I got an $8/hour job at a dry cleaner's where they treated me a lot like the dirty laundry, and I couldn't blame them, because that's how I felt. It was six arduous months before I'd forgiven myself enough to go home to Minnesota. Finally, two years later, I made it back to L.A., this time older, wiser—and knowing infinitely more about my limitations.