What the fuck is wrong with Portland?

This whole vegan strip club thing has really gotten me thinking about my old hometown of Portland, Oregon, and I think there might be something seriously wrong with the citizens of that riverside burgh. I say that because Portland has spawned not only the most ideologically screwy idea of the month, the vegan strip club, but also the fucking Suicide Girls, a company/group of renobs that offends my sensibilities on so many levels that I may have a hard time getting to all of them in one post. There is clearly a screw loose in the collective minds of those that make up Portland’s counterculture milieu that both of these phenomena bring to the fore. To wit: the young people of Portland have found a way to be fashion and culinary iconoclasts without having to deal with any of the complexity and uncertainty involved in actual iconoclasm.

It’s pretty easy to get all indignant when your boss forces you to take out your stupid piercings when you go to work or to feel a tinge of remorse for eating a fuzzy cow, but it’s not so easy to come to terms with the larger forces at work behind those discomforts, because doing so requires a fair amount of intelligence and usually results either in uncontrollable rage (if you’re into nu metal) or a feeling of weltschmerz and utter hopelessness (if you like Morrissey). What I am referring to, of course, is the patriarchy’s not-so-invisible hand in nearly all of the small oppressions these pseudo-punks find so uncool. Talking about resisting authority is fairly embarrassing at this point in our cultural development, but I think it’s important to realize that there is a difference between resisting authority in superficial ways while still perpetuating the patriarchal status quo and actually seeing oppressive authority for what it is, wherever it may crop up, and resisting it in a meaningful way. I’m not claiming that doing so is easy, or even that I’m doing it (although I’m trying to in at least a small way with this blog), but I’m also not going to congratulate people for a bunch of bullshit posturing that revolves more around dumb tattoos and ugly haircuts than thoughtfulness.

And that’s exactly what the Suicide Girls phenomenon is all about: superficial and cliche rebelliousness masking a tired rehashing of the pornographic exploitation of women. The idea that the women involved are empowering themselves is revolting; the company is owned and operated by a man, the women are paid nearly zilch for the honor of degrading themselves for an audience of perverts who listen to Reverend Horton Heat, and the company locks its “models” (prostitutes) into contracts that forbid them to “model” for any other sites and rob them of any rights to their own images. Where’s the empowerment? Is it in the fact that they don’t adhere to the mainstream blond porn ideal? Then I guess that means that women who participate in any kind of non-mainstream porn are empowering themselves. If that’s so, then what’s the criterion by which to judge how empowering a particular kind of porn is? The less mainstream, the more empowered the women are? Snuff films must be empowering as fuck, then.

I had a friend who was in a band that I won’t name, who were opening for another band that I won’t name, and when they went on tour the headlining band brought a few Suicide Girls along to go on stage first to, uh, warm up the crowd. I went to see my friend’s band when they came to town and was unfortunately exposed to the absurd and insulting spectacle of the Suicide Girls before I was able to get drunk enough to not notice. It was quite possibly the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen. Two emaciated women with black electrical tape over their nipples and generic rockabilly tattoos came out and danced around, pretended to molest each other, and flailed their arms around to the tune of Peaches’s “Fuck the Pain Away.” The audience included more women than men, but I still felt like I was one of about four people in the room who thought it a bit odd that I had gone out to see a rock band but had instead ended up in a strip club in which the strippers all looked like Murder City Devils fans. The dudes who were there, despite considering themselves to be some countercultural motherfuckers, acted just like any NFL-loving asshole at Dirty Dan’s and whooped it up whenever the women pretended to make out with each other. Punk as fuck.

Talking about what is and isn’t punk in 2008 is pretty silly, mainly because whatever was going on in the punk scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s has been supplanted by marketing campaigns that have brought us to the point where Panic at the Disco is called a punk band, but I do know that dressing up everyday sexual exploitation and patriarchal gender roles in flaming cherry tattoos isn’t punk. It’s fucking nonsense. What Suicide Girls are doing is meeting a market demand created by dudes who want porn that matches their “alternative” hairdos and love for the Misfits, not representing an alternative kind of sexuality in which women are seen as sexually autonomous human beings, which is where the real sexual revolution is at. The mere fact that a large proportion of the Suicide Girls are Bettie Paige impersonators should tip even the most brainwashed of “sex-positive” “feminists” off to the fact that the company is selling little more than the idea that women exist to be used by men.

36 thoughts on “What the fuck is wrong with Portland?

  1. first of all , i wood like to congratulate you on your findings, a vegan strip club c’mon! i need a ny strip a porterhouse when i look at tail, not sum soy based habachi grill shit. yor right totally bogus

    suicide girls seems silly to me, i like country music, when i go to a club all i hear is rap, no country, and
    this is where the white fellas hangout. talk about superficial, they dont even know there own kind

    i two think that seein skinny girls with the rib cage showin is nasty gimme sum meet i tell you i dont want her to starve more two look at you know what im talking about

    personally i like a good girl on girl thing you know two girls goin at it an your there watchin thats hot maybe throw some some hot nude celebrities in there and some strangers hott


  2. I’m experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance hearing that the suicide girls are considered anything more than tattooed retreads on the misogynistic bandwagon. I’d never heard of them so I Googled the name. I have a difficult time believing that people see anything different here. I guess reinforcing one’s schema is way easier than attempting to see the man behind the curtain.


  3. You don’t like the Suicide Girls because:

    1. They are skinny.

    2. Some look like Betty Paige.

    3. They have flaming cherry tattoos.

    It sounds to me that your aversion to the Suicide girls has more to do with asthetics than with ideology. You simply don’t like their body type.

    Also, you don’t like that the Suicide Girls franchise is owned by a man, which suggests that you’d like it better if it was owned by a woman.

    PS. Considering that the band audience contained mostly women, it never occurred to you that the models up on the stage were there for the *women*, and not the men.


  4. Yes, I did.


    “It was basically the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen. Two emaciated women with black electrical tape over their nipples and stupid, generic rockabilly tattoos came out and danced around . . .”


    “The mere fact that a large proportion of the Suicide Girls are Bettie Paige impersonators . . .”


    “The idea that the women involved are empowering themselves is revolting; the company is owned and operated by a man . . .”

    If it is your intention they’re ill-paid and exploited, then what these women looked liked (that they were skinny with tattoos and Betty Paige hair) shouldn’t have been an issue. Furthermore, you said that you were *embarrassed* by them! If they are *victims*, as you claim they are, embarrassment is not an emotion that you should have properly felt in that situation. Instead, you should have made an effort to talk to them about their situation, if possible.

    And the last quote I posted here strongly suggests that you only have a problem that the Suicide Girls franchise is owned by a man. In other words, you wouldn’t mind if a woman owned the Suicide Girls and exploited the models.

    Next time you see something like this, Nine Deuce, why don’t you try going up to the models and actually talk to them like they’re human beings? Especially if you had concerns about their well-being, as you claim. By being embarrassed by them and focusing on their appearance, I would say that you objectified them much more than the male audience members did.


  5. I was referring to their being emaciated because it looked unhealthy. Our beauty standards are unhealthy, punk or otherwise. And how would I have talked to them? Gone up on stage? I’m sorry, but dressing stripping up in blue hair doesn’t make it revolutionary.


  6. Must_not_critique_the_women. They’re ‘victims’.

    Where does this idea come from that the women have no responsibility for where they are? I suspect it’s my generation of progressive alternative childraising parents. I apologize for all of them.

    I don’t exactly believe in ‘spare the rod spoil the child’ but a little cold water in the face once in awhile might be a good idea. These women are surrounded by praise which keeps them there, while the only people who might wake them up are being bullshitted into being political correct.



  7. To both Sis and Nine Deuce,

    It is the radical feminist viewpoint that *all* women who use sexuality as a means of making money are victims of slavery and trafficking. Are you saying that this is incorrect?


  8. Nine Deuce your blog is awesome. I just discovered it. Just letting you know I am an appreciator. I lived in Portland. The owner of that one strip bar “Dante’s Inferno” is a jerk. I was walking past it one day and somebody stopped me to buy a popsicle. The place wasn’t even OPEN and the owner comes out of nowhere with an asshole condescending smile and tone, asks me to move from in front of his business because I am blocking customers–and the place wasn’t even open. I had been stopped all of five seconds. I went to a show there, because a friend invited me to see a fire show there — that’s when I realized it was actually a strip club. I had previously gone toa rock show there. The owner or manager showed us his “mangina” (to no one’s amusement) and let everyone know that the last act were “only 15 year olds!!”
    I had been there a month before to see “My Morning Jacket” an incredibly talented all male band. Seeing women stripping where talented men had been a month prior was so symbolically depressing. We need more women MUSICIANS not more women getting naked, it’s so passe.
    p.s. Funny comments Sis. :)


  9. For all that the Suicide Girls purport to be an alternative to the traditionally accepted standard of beauty in the West, it seems awfully strange to me that a majority of the girls are thin, young and adhere to a particular style.

    The Betty Paige pin up shit is getting on my damn nerves to.

    One word–POSERS.


  10. i agree that vegan strip clubs suck, and any attempt that animal rights (or other) activists make to appeal to a young ‘hip’ market via the objectification of / misogyny towards women. (like peta… lawd have mercy!)

    that being said, it’s terrible when feminist (or any other) activists perpetuate the torture of animals… like conferences where the snacks are non-vegan.

    anyone who thinks this is an unfair comparison needs to watch this 12 minute video: http://www.meat.org/


    1. dead right. i have a copy of Herbivore (fall ’03) mag. with a SG interview. that’s the only reason i know of them. the pornographer/programmer refers to himself as “pimpin'”– yeh, brother you are.

      same ish replete wit sex/uality-analogous article or column titles– good thing i was already vegan, coz what they’re sellin’ i ain’t buyin’.


  11. Oh Jesus.
    I stumbled onto this site; browsed about, left a few way-late comments… whatev.

    And then, THIS:
    “What Suicide Girls are doing is meeting a market demand created by dudes who want porn that matches their “alternative” hairdos and love for the Misfits, not representing an alternative kind of sexuality in which women are seen as sexually autonomous human beings, which is where the real sexual revolution is at.”

    Now THAT was punk. I’m in fucking awe.
    That shit was… I… it was just brilliant.
    It’s like a thousand freakin’ SUNS.
    Thank. You.
    I was starting to think I was the only one who was able to see the Suicide Girls for what they are(n’t).


  12. Late to these comments, but…all the same, AMEN. I’m so incredibly sick of the ‘alternative’ culture that is no alternative at all…just dressing up the same woman-debasing crap in a package of ‘bettie page’ hairdos, ‘punk’ getups, piercings and tattoos.
    If you want a real taste of what the so-called alternative culture is about, take a gander at some of the “art” (and I use the term in its’ extreme loosest sense) publications put out under the banner, such as ‘Juxtapose’ and ‘Hi-Fructose’ magazines…80% of the alleged counter-cultural ‘artworks’ consist of degrading, heavily porn-influenced depictions of ‘hawt’ babes dressed up as ‘Satanic’ sluts, ‘Bettie Page’ manques, and the depressingly usual run of stripper-chick memes. This is what the ‘alternative’ culture is all about. You couldn’t have pinpointed it better, Nine. This crap is the apogee of liberal-dudism run amuck. This is the idiot-perv’s delight: female ’empowerment’ through dehumanized, porno-powered, plasticized sexual commodification.

    When it comes to the male gender, all of this garbage proves to me that “the more things change, the more they remain the same” is about as dead-on an assessment of men’s eternal and ongoing sense of entitlement to treat women like dirt as one could ever hope to read. The motto of the whole ‘alternative’ movement should be “Plus ca change…”


  13. It’s pretty easy to get all indignant when your boss forces you to take out your stupid piercings when you go to work or to feel a tinge of remorse for eating a fuzzy cow

    I should damn well hope so! Agreed on the suicide girls, but surely they’re redundant anyway, now we’ve got sex dolls who like Joy Division.


  14. Thanks for making this article! I loved it!

    I’m a girl who loves punk and I live in Austin, TX and I, just like anyone else, would LOVE to have some extra money to help myself get through school and make ends meet. I have considered doing something like suicide girls, however, I have been reluctant to do so due to my, dare I say, feminist conscious?

    I don’t even know if I should define myself as a feminist, that word has so many false and negative connotations these days but I do know that I believe in equality for women and I repudiate the idea of women being sex objects rather than sexual beings.

    I feel as if suicide girls only reinforces the stereotypes that women can be presented for men like animals at a live stock show for rednecks. Maybe that’s more of a beauty pageant analogy but I think you know where I am going with that thought.

    I would be horrified if I went to a show and saw “subcultural” girls prancing around in next to nothing while these so called punk rock guys act like baboons. I thought that that was one of the things that separated the punks from the mainstream but as the years pass by it seems as if the idea that women are sex objects is even being reinforced into the very corners of the spectrum of the alternative world.

    I know some guys here in Austin who think they are punk but they treat their girlfriends like crap and still preach that this world is a manarchy. While I know some punk guys who think that is bullshit, no one is there to tell the “manarchist” that he is full of shit, for fear of being called a faggot or lefty by the spectators. Seriously, how lame is that?

    I don’t think I would ever outlaw porn because I’m against censorship but I do think that the idea that it is self-expressive and liberating is a fucking lie. You can’t liberate yourself by being posed in a picture for someone else’s sexual gratification.

    Women can find their sexual liberation by realizing that not only can they please their man but that their man can please them too! (and for the gay people out there, you can too!)

    So if you’re a guy out there and you think that suicide girls is punk, you’re out of your mind and out of touch with your roots.


    1. What is this manarchy business? Tell me it isn’t “punk” dudes who think they are into anarchy arguing for a male-dominated anarchy. I’ll lose my mind if that’s what it is. I mean, obviously people who think they’re into anarchy because they heard about it on some record don’t know dick about the political philosophy, but I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than a male supremacist anarchist. That’s like being a pro-big business communist.


  15. This kind of relates to your BK post, as well as your post regarding Sasha Grey and the left. Corporate influence, being what it is, has resulted in penetrating the exact markets that were constructed to oppose it; namely: Counter Culture. Reducing all possible choices to choices outside the realm of “meaningful choice” is a business plan that is sure to concentrate all the purchasing power of people between these conglomerates.

    There is probably no way to even stop it, as so much of our financial system depends on it. It is likely unsustainable though as well, and so I suppose the only options are to actively participate or passively watch it consume itself.


  16. Andrew,
    I overuse semicolons myself, but you not only used a colon and a semicolon in the same sentence, you put them so close together that the atrocity hurts the eye! I’m impressed.

    More seriously: “Reducing all possible choices to choices outside the realm of `meaningful choice’ is a business plan that is sure to concentrate all the purchasing power of people between these conglomerates”, you say. Are you actually being ironic by reducing all your comments to jargon “outside the realm of meaningful sentences”? There are five or six different ways I could interpret this as relevant to this post or the last one, but on the surface it just looks like some words about big businesses coming out your other ear. Even you will find people more interested in your comments if you think about what you’re trying to say and organize it, rather than concatenate phrases in an effort to appear intelligent.

    (ND, I realize this comment isn’t directly germane to the discussion either so you might not post it. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)


  17. GBX,

    I think you should re-read what I wrote.

    If possible choices are not meaningful, all choices become meaningless. Meaningless choices are those which do not effect any sort of meaningful change. They necessarily serve only the large corporate entities whose intention it was to create this system in the first place. This is a bad thing in many respects because these entities have no other goal than increasing profit.


    Veganism is about respecting the feelings (or rights) of animals as well as ourselves by practicing safe and human food consumption. Strip clubs are about exploitation and coercion. A “vegan” strip club reduces the change one can effect by being vegan by channeling such expression though a contradictory medium. (The strip club) This is the same problem with “punk” and “leftist” pornstars.

    As for your grammar lesson, save it for your 2nd graders. If you aren’t a teacher, save it altogether.


  18. I have an idea! Male farm animals should be hired for labor and other positions, and the females of their species should be hired to do mating dances in another section of the same club! We could teach them to shit on government officials so they can fit in! Sounds great, right? Sorry, I don’t think I have anything constructive to say about counter culture in itself.

    Andrew, I think rewriting what you wrote to make it comprehensible leads to a more efficient use of everyone else’s time, and now your point isn’t stated in such broad generality as to make it entirely vacuous, so thank you for taking me up on that. But 9-2 still wins the conciseness prize for conveying twice the content of your first example in the 6-word title of her previous post, Meat is murder! Women are meat!” What about the point of this article, then, which isn’t about how conglomerates blur the edges of social activism in the way you describe, but is instead about how the people themselves have abandoned “meaningful choices” for the social status accrued in appearing to care about something?

    My previous comment contains no grammatical teaching whatsoever; I was criticizing your bad grammar in the hope that you’d spare the rest of us eyesores next time, and since you’re probably older than a second grader you figured that out on your own.


  19. Can we please just get rid of the concept of beauty once and for all so we don’t have to hear about girls white enough to be constructed from marshmallow whinging about how their boss doesn’t like their kool-aid dyed hair? If Suicide Girls really wanted to rebel, they should try to look as “ugly” as possible. Beauty is boring.


  20. The SG is no different from any other porn company except that they brand themselves as “feminist.” There are plenty of women who have worked for them who take strong exception to that. Just like in other pornography, once your images are on the Internet, you can never get them back. Which means you don’t know which dudes you see have seen them.

    I have read of SG selling women’s images to hardcore porn companies. So, the women get into modeling for them thinking they are working for a feminist porn company, and in reality, they have NO control over where their images end up.

    I encourage anyone who is interested to dig deeper into the history of the SG. That one of their models had to start something called The Porn Liberation Front should tell you
    SG is really just part of the mainstream porn industry.


  21. I’m kinda late to the party here, but I’ve asked myself that question about this city more times than I can count. You bring up a lot of very good points. There’s something seriously fucked up about Portland that really makes no sense, especially in its semi-unofficial moniker of “Pornland.” I’m a transplant from the south, have lived here for a while. I figured that there’d be more general equality and people would be more understanding of others’ rights. What gets me about places like Dante’s and Union Jack’s and so on is how fucking normal people think everything is. Sorta like the Paris Theatre. I’ve managed to dodge ever going to a strip club since I’ve reached adulthood. Attending a strip club makes you partial to ongoing sexual abuse. It’s fucking reprehensible.

    The confusing thing about Portland, to me, is that the city’s social elite seem to pride themselves on how they’ve surpassed the general obsession with pop-culture and the other bullshit that plagues the rest of the United States (and most of western civilization), and yet pornography and strip clubs and the objectification of women ARE part of western patriarchal pop culture. The Suicide Girls thing is just following that same pattern of female exploitation with a gimmicky twist that makes them seem almost sleazier than a porn company would naturally be, if that’s even possible.

    That “manarchy” shit mentioned in the comments above is fucking ridiculous; I’ve never heard that phrase before. Kinda wish I hadn’t.

    Anyway, thank you for writing this. I enjoyed reading it quite a bit. I stumbled upon your blog at random through a reddit post. I’m really glad I did.


  22. I see your full body tattoo, eye piercing and rainbow mohawk and raise you an unshaved armpit! GASP!
    I went to a hipster cafe not long ago and thought – surely I’ll be appreciated for having hair – no-one else has.
    Yeah I think I overestimated.


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