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Teen Porn Survivor: “Cuties fails miserably”


As the movie Cuties, from the French word “mignonnes,” launched on Netflix on September 8, social media exploded in reaction. I watched it Thursday, posted about it Saturday and spent the weekend in the firestorm of reactions from both sides. I speak not from a side, but as the survivor and feminist that I am. Cuties, despite its feminist billing, communicates a perpetrator’s view of young girls’ sexuality.

Amy is an 11-year-old Muslim girl who is completely isolated from sexualized culture and social media at the start. Finding out her father is taking a second wife and that her mother is powerless initiates her rebellion, understandably. What is most confusing in the movie is her accelerated sexual escalation. Even in rebellion, to go from zero exposure and experience to teaching your friends dance moves from stripper videos in a matter of days seems extreme.

The dance costumes Amy and the Cuties wore were skimpy, and watching 11-year-olds dance like strippers was nauseating.

As a survivor, though, when I see young girls overtly acting hyper-sexually I look for a cause outside of them, often abuse. I see the expression of sexuality in young girls as a sign of the hijacking of their will and sexuality.

Abusers, underage sex buyers, and porn producers, on the other hand, view girls’ sexuality a little differently. Trafficked at 11 in a brothel and at 14 in the hardcore porn industry, I grew up with these men. They see through the needs of their own perversions. They see girls of any age as consumed by a wild sexuality that justifies their perverse actions.

The 11-year-old main character is called a whore at least twice audibly and her sexuality is depicted as out of control. In one scene she pulls down her underwear and takes a picture that she posts on social media. But the most disturbing scene comes later in the movie. After being caught by her family in her dance outfit they “clean her up” by ritually sprinkling her with water. About a minute into this she falls down and begins writhing sexually on the ground.

The scene is never explained or resolved, but it does not feel like a compassionate view of her. It is not a survivor’s view of her. It is a perpetrator’s view of her. It is the solidification of the perpetrator view of her that has been building through the film.

In historical slavery there were shared delusions that kept slavery going, for instance that “the slaves like it” or that the “economy would fail if we abolished it.” The view of children as inherently hypersexual is one of the delusions that perpetuates the underage sex industry. Porn, both the “barely legal” category and actual child sexual abuse material (CSAM), is fueled by this delusion.

Gail Dines, renowned porn expert, put it this way: “Watched ‘Cuties’ last night and what an awful film on every level. The director says she wants to highlight the struggle girls have growing up in a porn culture yet uses the visual grammar of porn to critique the very same images she says she wants to critique. The result is a mess of a film that further normalizes the pornification of girls.

Gail nails it with this quote. The writer has actually created scenes that are reminiscent of a porn film both in dialogue and theme. In porn, the scenes always began with me “expressing” my hypersexuality, which then led into the attacks and violations of men.

RELATED: A Survivor of Teen Porn Trafficking Speaks Out on Pornhub

In the last 5 minutes of the movie comes the “I choose moment”—meant to save the movie. Amy chooses a pair of jeans instead of either the dance outfit or a traditional dress. In the context of the perpetrator view of Amy that has been building, this moment of choosing actually implies that the hypersexuality she previously expressed was a choice as well. In the eyes of perpetrators, sex buyers, and pornographers, if children are choosing to express their inherent hypersexuality then all the perpetrator’s actions are justified.

Reactions to the film bombarded social media over the weekend and were wildly varied.

Axios initially reported that “outrage at the movie could be linked to the QAnon movement,” but later retracted this report.1

The Guardian said that “Netflix’s controversial child exploitation movie is bold, flawed, and misunderstood.2

#CancelNetflix was trending on Twitter in response to Cuties’ release.3

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican Senator from Texas, called on the Department of Justice to investigate the movie for child pornography.4

The question is, when does shock value become the destruction of innocence that it says it is critiquing?

Writer and Director Maimouna Doucouré in response to the controversy over her film said, “I just hope that these people will watch the film, because then they will realize we are actually on the same side of this battle against the hyper-sexualization of children.”5

Lina Nealon, from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation said, “Netflix wants to have its cake and eat it too: it’s underwriting a coming-of-age story by a woman of color, which is laudable, but it has given a home to a film that depicts the oversexualization of children in a way that adds to the problem of child sexual exploitation.”6

New York Times reported that: “Reviewers at the Sundance Film Festival didn’t find the film exploitative. ‘The sight of twerking preteen bodies is explicitly designed to shock mature audiences into a contemplation of today’s destruction of innocence,’ said film critic Fionnuala Halligan.”7

The question is, when does shock value become the destruction of innocence that it says it is critiquing? All porn revolves around escalating shock value. That is why the porn we have today is almost entirely hardcore porn. The use of young girls to create this shock value reminiscent of porn is way out of bounds.

Doucoure, director of the film, reported getting death threats and I want to be clear that it is not her I am critiquing. I am critiquing her movie and the message it communicates. Like she said, “we may be on the same side.”

RELATED: Pornhub on the Defense: How They’ve Responded to Traffickinghub

But Cuties is not a feminist view of the hypersexualization of girls in our culture, as it was billed to be. It is a glimmer away from porn itself. And as a film, Cuties fails miserably at calling into question the hypersexualization of our children who need our protection.

“We desperately need commentary on the massive problem of the hyper-sexualization of children in our culture, but #cuties is not it,” tweeted Laila Mickelwait, Exodus Cry’s Director of Abolition.

If you want to fight against the sexual exploitation of our children, one way to get involved is through our campaign to shut down Pornhub, the world’s largest porn site. This hypersexualized view of children runs rampant on Pornhub where “cuties” is now a common search. Pornhub has come under fire this year for hosting rape and trafficking videos of women and children. #Traffickinghub #shiftculture

With your help we can shut down Pornhub. Click below to sign the petition or give to the fight.

 

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We’re building a dedicated community of Traffickinghub Premium Partners who are giving $10/month to sustain this long fight till Pornhub is brought to justice. Will you join us? Start here.

Footnotes

        

  • 1. Sara Fischer, Stef W. Kight. “Republicans Target Netflix over ‘Cuties.’” Axios, 14 Sept. 2020, www.axios.com/netflix-cuties-boycott-ea72373a-666c-4cee-a8bc-2834073d0f91.html.
  • 2. Bradshaw, Peter. “Cuties Review – Netflix’s Controversial Child Exploitation Film Is Bold, Flawed – and Misunderstood.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 Sept. 2020, www.theguardian.com/film/2020/sep/14/cuties-review-netflixs-controversial-child-exploitation-film-is-bold-flawed-and-misunderstood.
  • 3. Nolan, Emma. “Ted Cruz Says ‘Every Pedophile in America’ Will Watch Netflix’s ‘Cuties’.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 14 Sept. 2020, www.newsweek.com/ted-cruz-netflix-cuties-fox-1531777.
  • 4. Nolan, Emma. “Ted Cruz Says ‘Every Pedophile in America’ Will Watch Netflix’s ‘Cuties’.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 14 Sept. 2020, www.newsweek.com/ted-cruz-netflix-cuties-fox-1531777.
  • 5. Haynes, Suyin. “Cuties on Netflix: Maïmouna Doucouré Interview on Backlash.” Time, Time, 11 Sept. 2020, time.com/5886184/cuties-netflix-maimouna-doucoure/.
  • 6. “STATEMENT – Netflix Must Stop Providing Platform to Film That Has Sexually Exploited Children.” National Center on Sexual Exploitation, endsexualexploitation.org/articles/statement-netflix-must-stop-providing-platform-to-film-that-has-sexually-exploited-children/.
  • 7. Morales, Christina. “’Cuties’ Sparks a Firestorm, Again, After Its Netflix Release.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/09/12/movies/cuties-netflix.html.
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