On January 19 of this year, retired porn star Cytherea was sexually assaulted numerous times in her own home in Las Vegas, with her children present. The suspects are being held and facing charges as adults, although they are all teenagers. Cytherea released a poignant and very brave YouTube video about the assault shortly afterward, thanking her fans, family, and other supporters for their help.
I am absolutely horrified by this horrific crime. And I am further appalled to have learned about it more than two months after it occurred, by way of a friend on Facebook, who posted a link to a Men’s Rights website that used a brutally violent attack on a woman’s body as ammunition in its rhetoric against the feminist movement–because the mainstream feminist media have so far remained silent about it.
I started poking around on the internet, shocked and somewhat disbelieving that such a heinous crime could go underreported, and became steadily more sick to my stomach as I perused article after article on right-wing anti-feminist websites, skewering feminism–and frequently particular feminists who have spoken publicly about their own rape and abuse–for ignoring Cytherea’s plight. (Of course, there’s the requisite Reddit threat on the subject, too, but it is so heinous I won’t even link to it here because fuck those people.) I discovered with growing horror that, while the adult entertainment community has galvanized to support Cytherea in her time of need, and some porn media websites have reported upon the story, the right-wing nutjobs out to dismantle feminism actually had a point: the feminist media has not made a peep about the fact that a celebrated former adult celebrity was gang-raped and needs the support of… well, everyone, but particularly of sex-positive feminists to remind the trolls on Reddit (and elsewhere) that a career in sex work should have zero relationship to one’s status as a rape victim. And while these other websites are using the physical posture Cytherea assumes in her YouTube video as proof that other women who claim to have been raped are clearly lying, and thus supposedly dismantling the idea of rape culture itself (somehow–let’s not get too deep into trying to follow the logic here)…silence from the corner of the internet best equipped to counter these ridiculous claims. I’d have though that, particularly once the Gamergate crowd rallied behind Mercedes Carrera’s bizarrely rant-y video blaming feminism for not supporting sex workers, that at least a few blogs here and there would have picked up the story or at the very least offered Cytherea some public support, but instead it’s been the Gamergaters and Men’s Rights windbags who have rallied behind her, along with the adult entertainment community, and very few others. It is a bizarre state of affairs, to say the least.
It bears mentioning that if the feminist media tried to give full coverage of the story every time someone was brutally raped in this world, they would have literally zero time to do anything else, because that happens all the time all over the world. But that’s the point, isn’t it? That this type of thing, despite its normalization via its frequency due to a culture that blames victims for the crimes they suffer, is never okay. No matter who it happens to, whether that be a former porn star or a head of state or some accountant somewhere that none of us have ever heard of, or anyone else.
And so it’s the feminist movement’s job to stand up and cry out against the horrible experience that Cytherea has been through. And instead of an outpouring of support from feminists, Cytherea has witnessed her own trauma being used as a soapbox for anti-feminist bloggers to rant about their own politics. A tragedy equals an opportunity, it would seem.
Frankly, I don’t want to give any thought or support to the Gamergate crowd or the men’s rights activists or any of these people who are trying to capitalize on someone’s pain to advance their platforms. I find it all tedious, predictable, and sickening. I have always had a difficult time understanding why, in times of calamity, so many of us rush to throw shade at the other side rather than turning to the person or people who need positivity and offering it. Why must we cause more pain and put more negativity into a world already plagued by violence? I am sickened by it all, and I want to do better.
And so, let me happily report that the crowdfunding account to help Cytherea and her family get back on their feet (please donate if you can!) has made more than double its goal with seven days still to go. So clearly her fan base and the adult entertainment community are neither completely callous nor ignorant of what’s happened. That’s good news. One supporter writes: “I’m sorry terribly sorry for you, but believe in your strength and capability to continue on. I wish you all the best in the years to come! You are a beautiful, strong, independent woman and though I haven’t seen any of your work, I appreciate your ability to take control of your sexuality, your body, and your life while providing pleasure and enjoyment to millions of people. It’s an honorable profession, and you are as valuable and wonderful as every other person!”
That sounds a bit like a feminist wrote it, if you ask me. Even if it’s a tad patronizing, it’s a start. So I’m going to keep the sentiment going:
Cytherea, I am a feminist. I may not be a loud voice on a big-time, mainstream feminist blog, but I want you to know that there are others like me who, if they knew about what has happened, would surely feel the same way I do. The feminists I know care deeply about the rights and dignity of humans everywhere, and they do not believe that sexual assault is ever justified. It is always a crime. It is always wrong.
I am so deeply, deeply sorry about what happened to you, and I am even more sorry that the way I learned about it was by way of hateful groups of people who seek to leverage your experience to support their personal politics. I am so sorry that we live in a world in which not only is it possible for criminals to see you as a victim and your body as a vehicle for their monstrous desires, in which it is so much part of our daily existence that this type of crime is not seen as exceptional enough to garner more attention from those who would seek to support you rather than use you for political purposes. I am so very sorry that you have been treated this way, both by criminals and media. I am so, so very sorry. No matter who you are, what your career was, where you live, what you look like, who you are, or anything else, you did not deserve the heinous crime that was perpetrated against you. I hope that the people who did this to you are brought to justice and that you are able to find some measure of consolation in it when they are. I hope that you have access to resources that can help you heal. I hope that you have the support you need to get you through this time. I hope that you are able to move forward as the strong, intelligent, powerful, beautiful person that you are, and that you emerge stronger on the other side. If there is anything that I can do, please let me know. I want to help.
I hope that others like me, who support the rights of victims of sexual assault, will also offer their support, as well.