THE HORRIFYING WORLD OF INTERNET SNUFF SITES
Jezebel Magazine - Dec. 1, 2011
By James A. Haught
Here's an odd psychological phenomenon that should make women uneasy: Some men get erotic thrills from seeing nude young females killed, shot, stabbed, pierced by spears and arrows, etc. A remarkably large Internet industry has arisen to serve this craving.
Scores of Web sites feature thousands of professional-grade videos and pictures of attractive women gunned down in showers, punctured in knife attacks, hanged from rafters, run through in sword duels, strangled in bed, shot by snipers while sunbathing, impaled on stakes, machine-gunned in groups, sacrificed on altars, electrocuted by wires to nipples, harpooned by spear guns, executed by firing squads, bayoneted as POWs -- you name it. Computer-generated special effects make the action realistic. Even cartoons, sketches and especially digital art scenes depict this "snuff" fantasy.
The woman-killing array is disseminated through sites with names like DeadSkirts, FemmeGore, FemmeFatalities, NecroBabes, Cuddly NecroBabes, Dead Sexy Women, Fatal Fantasies, KillHer Productions, Gladiatrix, Crucified Women, Psycho Thrillers, ChokeChamber, Dark Fetish Network, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Bang Bang Babes, ChokedChicks, and so forth. Others have generic names like Progressive Art Project, Eyewitness Production, PKF Studios, Alpha 7 Productions and Jafa Entertainment.
DeadSkirts calls itself "Your Fantasy Female Death Fetish Site." ChokeChamber boasts: "Where her pain is your pleasure." Dark Fetish advertises: "The best in horror erotic movies -- over 18,000 hours of content." CineDeath is subtitled "Home of Movie and TV Female Demise." A few sites mix X-rated copulation with the murder, but killing women is the essential point. Most display free samples and previews. Some videos are recopied onto YouTube.
The volume is amazing. PKF boasts more than 800 digital videos filmed since 2006, plus a backlog of earlier works. Catharsis Video offers 698 short movies plus 746 "photo play" layouts. Gabrielle's Fighting Girls has 168 videos and 89 photo plays. Both Wicked Works Productions and Annabelle's Fantasy have 158 films. Stranglenail has 151. Bodybag Necromedia has too many to count. SexyAmazons offers 16,400 artist-created scenes of killed young women. DeadSkirts has 31,000 registered discussion board members, many of whom send each other links to their favorite scenes.
Enormous time, effort and expense are invested in the industry. Great numbers of young female performers "play dead" before cameras. Countless artist-hours are spent creating hundreds of death drawings and computer-generated slaughter scenes. Profits evidently roll in from men who pay to see women killed. There's even a Snuffie Awards competition, in which 300 different producers enter their best gore for judging in various categories. The trophy, naturally, displays a nude woman with an arrow entering her.
I discovered this realm by accident. I'm an old newspaper editor who has written nine books, including a novel about the legendary Amazons of Ancient Greece. While promoting it, I found sites named Amazon-Warriors.com, Deadly Amazons, Sexy Latin Amazon, etc. -- all selling brief movies of half-nude Amazons killing each other, with great attention paid to their arrow-riddled, sprawled, convulsing bodies.
(In Ancient Greek sculptures and ceramics, and later in Renaissance paintings, Amazons always were portrayed fighting Greek soldiers -- but this new genre shows Amazons killing Amazons.)
The Amazon sites led me to other woman-killing outlets. None of the little movies has much plot. They're just five- or ten-minute scenes of attractive young women, usually undressed, dying violently. Obviously, there's a commercial market for this material, presumably among men who derive pleasure from watching females die (or pretend to die).
The Freudian symbolism of naked women being penetrated by swords, spears, daggers, arrows and bayonets is obvious -- and when the videos involve bullets, the guns usually have long silencers that look phallic. Psychologists should have a field day with this phenomenon.
Overwhelmingly, the imagery displays young women as sexual objects for male entertainment -- not as individuals with personalities.
One producer of these films has been the center of Canada's longest-running obscenity trial. Donald Smith, who calls himself "Dr. Don," created death movies of his wife. Then he advertised for models in Winnipeg newspapers. He made many quickie films and posted them for sale on a Web site which said its purpose was "to show beautiful women getting killed."
Canadian police investigated in 2000. Smith and his wife were charged with obscenity. When the case came to trial in 2002, counts against the wife were dropped. The defense contended that the movies didn't fit the legal definition of obscenity because no sex occurred in them.
The defense presented an expert witness, film professor Barry Grant of Brock University, Canada, who declared that Dr. Don's videos were little different from horror scenes in modern "slasher" movies shown in theaters and sold in video stores. Dr. Grant testified that grotesque killing has been part of cinema since silent days. He told the court:
"Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' (1960), the pivotal movie that changed the direction of all horror films to follow, brings sex, violence and death together in the famous shower murder scene. ... Exploitation films tend to focus on the human body, particularly the female body, as the site of horror. This is true of cannibal films, gore, splatter or meat movies.... Slasher films typically feature psychotic males who set about systematically killing an isolated group of young people in increasingly gruesome ways, with the torture or pursuit of the female characters given extended treatment....
"Mr. Smith's work focuses on female victims, and in this it is all too typical of the exploitation horror form of filmmaking I have referred to. Many of these films are readily available in Canada from local video stores, mail-order companies and online retailers. ... Since they are short, Mr. Smith's works are not stories or narratives, but merely events that unfold before the camera. ... Mr. Smith has posted his work on his website. In the last few years, the internet has become both a legitimate and significant site for film promotion and self-promotion in the film industry."
Despite the professor's testimony, a jury convicted Smith. He was sentenced to probation, banned from the Internet, and fined $100,000.
The sentencing judge, Helen Pierce of Ontario Superior Court of Justice, wrote that Dr. Don's videos had "the potential to change attitudes toward women, cause psychological harm to anyone who had previously been a victim of sexual violence, and could do serious psychological harm to adolescents." She said his films imply that an attacker "can silence women with his violence, leave them on sexual display, and walk away without consequence." She continued:
"Mr. Smith uses film and special effects enhanced by computer editing to make the visual materials. In them, women in a state of nudity or semi-nudity are shot, stabbed, stalked, executed by bow and arrow, or shown in combat with swords and knives.... The undue exploitation of sex and violence directed at women is a poison in our society. It comes to us increasingly in films, literature and on the Internet. It has become acceptable and increasingly graphic entertainment.... This poison threatens to overrun our conviction that the individual has dignity and worth."
Judge Pierce noted that Dr. Don made plenty of money from his "poison." He had no occupation, yet his family lived in a lavish home and enjoyed a yacht. Testimony indicated that 2,000 people (presumably all men) paid $30 each for passwords to his Web site within a 15-month period. Many sites require recurring monthly fees.
Dr. Don appealed the conviction, and a higher court ordered a new trial. He was convicted again in 2008, appealed again, and the interminable case seems to have no end.
"Equal Justice Under Law" is inscribed above the U.S. Supreme Court entry. Does it mean that all similar sellers of woman-slaughter films should be prosecuted -- or that Dr. Don was unfairly targeted?
Britain's Parliament made a faltering attempt to outlaw snuff films. An "extreme pornography" amendment banned depictions of "injury to genitals or breast, or death." But in the law's first test in 2011, prosecution of a Staffordshire man who downloaded woman-killing videos from Drop Dead Gorgeous fizzled when a jury ruled him innocent.
Both the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization define "sexual sadism" as a mental disorder, and the specialty has a publication, the Journal of Sexual Aggression. But such specialists focus almost entirely on violent criminals who attack women and children -- not on voyeurs who relish watching make-believe enactments.
Various scholars, such as Dr. Grant of Brock University, have written about female victims in horror films. But their analyses address only full-length features presented through public theaters, television movie channels and video stores -- long stories with elaborate plots and many characters.
Many books and commentaries have been written about pornography, even brutal sexual materials in which women are bound, tortured or gang-raped. But as far as I can learn, this report that you are reading is the first ever written about the little-known, half-private industry of snuff videos and Internet picture displays that serves only one purpose: to show attractive young women dying violently. The online porn world is gigantic: 400 million pages by one count, most of it crude and gross. Death fetish sites are a disturbing fringe.
If I were a woman, it would make me nervous to know that some men get erotic excitement from watching females being killed.
( Haught is editor of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and also is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal Web site is http://www.wvinter.net/~haught )