In Defense of Paris Hilton

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I was once in possession of an amazing sex tape. My rock-star-thin ex-boyfriend made it while we were still dating. He looked incredible in it, and watching it made me long for the days when my body was still that taut and pliant; when I had little or no sexual shame, and I never gave much thought to the consequences of taping things you didn’t want anyone else to see. In the case of my ex’s video, this would include me. See, I wasn’t supposed to see the tape because I am not on the tape having sex with my boyfriend. Other braver, dumber, hotter girls are.


    Needless to say, it wasn’t a long relationship. We broke up over this tape, over the fact that he so callously left it out for me to “accidentally” find while he was out of town. After some harsh words and tortured phone calls, I tearfully returned the original video to him. I have no regrets about keeping our sex off-camera. But I also don’t have any evidence that I was once a recklessly drunk, stupid, skinny, daring, bold young woman, just as the women on his tape were, and just like Paris Hilton, the socialite and hotel heiress, is now.
    I am in my mid-thirties. The first time I held a videocamera was in high school media class, back when the idea of owning one was as remote as having a big white yacht, a fluffy mink or a summer house in Biarritz. Once, I was allowed to take the camera home after I signed a waiver promising that if I broke it I would be responsible for bankrupting my family. I walked around the house taping my sister and brothers eating, watching TV, fake-picking their noses, smoking, laughing and talking. It was a masterpiece of banality. But later, watching it play back on our VCR, we were transfixed. Even after I returned the camera, we played the tape over and over again. To this day, we trot it out at Christmas because it’s the only video we have of our mother, who died years ago. In it, my brothers, sister and I look so young and unself-conscious, so innocent and beautiful. When I watch my sixteen-year-old self on tape, some part of me laments those tiny, pert breasts, the days when I didn’t need a bra to play soccer.
    Fast forward fifteen years. I now make a living as a freelance video journalist. I own a fancy Canon XL-1, top-of-the-line Sony wireless mikes and a light kit. Since I bought the camera five years ago, not one boyfriend has picked up my camera without implying that it could be put to much better use in the bedroom. I always laugh it off, pull the thing out of their grimy paws and place it safely back in its bag.

If I were twenty-one now, my own embarrassing fare would be on the internet.

     I would never do it. Why? In part because I know the consequences of committing sex to tape. It will be shown to others. It will end up in the wrong hands. It will come back to haunt you. But mostly, because it’s too late. The days of being unself-conscious about my body, of recklessly having sex with reckless boys and their anxious cameras, are over.
    But I tell you, if I were twenty-one now, if I’d grown up inured to the role videocameras play in most young people’s lives, there would be a smattering of my own embarrassing fare out there online — entirely because of booze, balls and the pushy, horny boys I tended to attract back then. Girls Gone Wild should have seen us in Acapulco, me and my friend Belinda, both of us sexy and seventeen, drunk, stupid and half-dressed at the end of every ladies’ night. We drank for free, stumbled home and woke covered in mystery bruises, our makeup shifted one inch down our faces, a couple of guys from Oklahoma sneaking out of our hotel room, the two of us muffling our giggles under the blanket. There might be a photo or two documenting how stupid, young and beautiful we were in Mexico, on spring break, snapping the heels of our Candies on the cobblestone roads in Old City. But I doubt it. For the most part, these debauched episodes are mere mental images, blurry memories only rarely fondly recalled.
    These days, there are cameras on computers, cameras on cellphones, cameras on cars, in taxis, and on practically every street corner. In Toronto, outside the studio of MuchMusic (Canada’s MTV), there is “Speaker’s Corner”, a twenty-four-hour video booth designed to let people vent their frustrations and leave feedback for the channel. As a student, I once bartended at the network’s Christmas party, where a continuous loop of “Speaker’s Corner” outtakes was projected on a giant screen. I watched footage of drunken frat boys getting blowjobs from stoned tarts, their faces digitally blurred to preserve their anonymity. One young woman pressed her tits to the screen; while her nipples stayed in place, she moved the enormous flesh of her breasts around in mesmerizing circles, then vomited and left the booth. Who knows how many of those people are now happily married, running for office, and changing diapers? They certainly knew someone was going to watch this. It’s doubtful they’d look back on this with the kind of regret Paris Hilton is no doubt feeling. But she’s famous for being famous, so to watch this tape is to watch her shoddy kind of fame reach its hollow, sordid apex (or nadir).

Paris is a willing starlet, a masterful director, not a girl so drunk that she’s being taken advantage of.

    Judging from the three-minute Paris "sampler" that’s been circulating online, you can’t help thinking she must have known these tapes would be distributed. Her demeanor, her coy asides, her shrewd positioning, her tipsy preening completely give her away. There’s no sense she’s enjoying the actual sex, only the anticipation of being watched. The guy she’s with is a creepy prat, someone who comes across as a rotten lay, a thrusting, grunting knucklehead who’s memorized the awful banter of professional porn and transplanted it to his California bedroom. It doesn’t help that it’s shot on night vision.
     But you can still tell that Paris is a willing starlet, a masterful director, not a girl so drunk that she’s being taken advantage of, as her family needs and wants you to believe. (She’s so thin and pliable, she should register her body as a font. Our Times New Vixen, maybe. Or Hellcatvetica. She’s a sideways N while giving head, a P on its spine taking it from behind, her head conveniently cropped to complete the picture. I anxiously await the alphabetical possibilities in her rumored threesome tape.)
     I did make a copy of my ex-boyfriend’s documented infidelities. I watched it once or twice, and when it no longer made me angry or sad, I destroyed it. But jealousy lingers. Not because he cheated on me with beautiful women, but because he has something I never will: evidence that he used to be ridiculously attractive, decadent and foolish.
    Along with the rest of the world, Paris Hilton will always have those images looped and playing in her brain. I’d like to tell her that when she’s pushing forty, and a stroller, perhaps lining up for Botox injections and fat extractions, she should think of this awful episode only as a reminder that she was once young and beautiful and stupid. There’s no sin in that. The sin is that being young, beautiful and stupid is sadly and terribly fleeting. 

©2003 Lisa Gabriele and Nerve.com