This is How the Internet Responds When a Porn Star is Beaten Up

People may agree that it’s never, under any circumstances, even remotely OK to assault a woman, “porn stars” are somehow exempt from this creed.

Aug 15, 2014 at 2:30pm | Leave a comment

Last weekend, the adult performer Christy Mack landed in the hospital from injuries sustained during an alleged assault by her ex-boyfriend, the MMA fighter War Machine (a.k.a. Jon Koppenhaver). According to a statement she published on Twitter, Mack is currently hospitalized with a broken nose, 18 broken bones, a fractured rib, a ruptured liver, and several missing and broken teeth. She cannot walk, chew or speak. During the attack, “I believed I was going to die,” she wrote in her statement. (Warning: these photos are extremely graphic and disturbing and NSFW.)
To anyone familiar with the psychology of domestic abuse, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that this was not the first time Koppenhaver, an MMA fighter and former adult performer himself, had assaulted a woman. In 2009, he attacked a former girlfriend at an adult industry party, and he has also tweeted about raping and assaulting Mack. (Both Mack and Koppenhaver claimed it was a joke at the time.)
 
To anyone familiar with the psychology of Twitter, it also shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that almost immediately after news broke that Mack had landed in the hospital, there was an onslaught of tweets in defense of Koppenhaver, claiming the fighter had caught Mack cheating on him, which justified the attack. (For what it’s worth, Mack has refuted the allegations that she was unfaithful to Koppenhaver on Twitter.)
  
War Machine walks in and finds Mack banging some MMA fighter. No excuse to be violent or hit a woman. Just putting that out there. Fact.
 
— ~ AmBeR lYnN ~ (@AmberLMatthews) August 9, 2014
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Some of Koppenhaver’s supporters took aim at Mack’s profession, arguing that because she has sex on camera for a living, Koppenhaver shouldn’t have been surprised she was unfaithful:
@ChristyMack @Rhistreakk lol worthless pos pornstar
 
— tom (@iNorthyy) August 12, 2014
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And some people on Twitter expressed sympathy for Mack’s plight—but with the caveat that their sympathy was in spite of her chosen profession:
After spending a good hour combing through the cesspool that was Twitter’s response to Christy Mack’s assault, it was this latter phrase, “not even a porn star,” that truly struck me. The reasoning behind it seems to be as follows: Although we’ve all pretty much reached a consensus in 2014 that it’s never, under any circumstances, even remotely OK to assault a woman, “porn stars” are somehow exempt from this creed.
 
To me, saying “no woman deserves to be beaten, not even a porn star” doesn’t reflect how sensitive you are, or that you can somehow tap into the deepest wells of your humanity to find sympathy for a young woman who got the sh*t beaten out of her by someone she loved. “No woman deserves to be beaten, not even a porn star” says that you consider “porn stars”—or, more broadly, sex workers—as somehow distinct from or inferior to most “normal” women. “Not even a porn star” says you think porn stars are evil and dirty and basically subhuman, but when one of them endures an experience as brutal and terrifying as Christy Mack’s assault must have been—well, you can find it in yourself to summon up the empathy you would’ve otherwise reserved for a “normal” assault survivor.
 
As someone who writes about sex and sex workers for a living, it’s no surprise to me that people think of sex workers as “different” or “less than” other women. But the “not even a porn star” tweet did come as a surprise to me. Apparently, we not only think that sex workers deserve to be treated differently than other people: Many of us don’t even think of them as people to begin with.
 
Following the Rihanna/Chris Brown horror show back in 2009, we like to think that our culture has progressed leaps and bounds in terms of awareness of domestic violence. We all know the stats: that every nine seconds, a woman in the U.S. is assaulted or beaten, and one in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
 
We care, or pretend to care, about abused women. But what Christy Mack’s assault revealed is that we really couldn’t care less about abused sex workers. We cry at PSAs of women with broken bones; we gasp in horror when we see that photo of Rihanna with a black eye. But when faced with similarly horrific photos of Christy Mack’s injuries, we call her a slut, a whore, a porn star. Or we offer her sympathy, but always on the condition that it’s in spite of her chosen profession.
 
This is obviously a problem for many reasons, chief among them being that sex workers are particularly vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse. According to a 2004 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology, sex workers are almost 18 times more likely to be murdered than women of similar age and race. While that number is obviously subject to change depending on various factors—whether sex workers work on the street rather than “indoors,” for instance, with the former category posing the highest risk—sex work is routinely classified as one of the most dangerous professions in the world, with a mortality rate that is higher than those of fishermen, loggermen, or oilmen.
 
There have been many studies devoted to proving that sex work is an inherently dangerous field, some of which are more reliable and less biased than others. Anti-sex work activists, for instance, love to crow about the increased rates of violence and sexual assault for sex workers, because these figures support their narrative that sex work is an inherently exploitative and demeaning field, when in fact many sex workers’ narratives prove that’s far from the case.
 
But you don’t have to be a SWERF to recognize that as long as the stigma surrounding sex work has existed, men have felt entitled to exploit sex workers’ bodies in endlessly horrifying ways. That’s why prostitutes have been targeted by countless serial killers, from Joel Rifkin to “Green River” killer Gary Ridgway, who admitted to police that he targeted dozens of prostitutes because “they were easy to pick up without being noticed” and “I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught."
 
One would think that Mack, as a well-known adult performer—a job that holds considerably high status in the hierarchy of sex work, if such a thing can be said to exist—would be less vulnerable to abuse than, say, street workers or brothel workers. But the fact is that there is a long, long history of porn performers being assaulted by men. There is even an industry term, “suitcase pimp,” used to describe the exploitative, and often abusive, boyfriends and husbands of adult performers.
 
In what is probably the most well-known example of the “suitcase pimp” dynamic, 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace accused her ex-husband and manager, Chuck Traynor, of regularly raping and beating her, claiming he held a gun to her head to make her perform onscreen. And back in 2010, Tito Ortiz—coincidentally an MMA fighter, like Koppenhaver—was arrested and held on felony assault charges after ex-girlfriend and porn star Jenna Jameson told police he was abusing her; that same year, adult film star Capri Anderson accused Charlie Sheen of choking her and threatening to kill her.
 
Clearly, the men who abuse adult performers agree with Mack’s detractors on Twitter: That because these women have sex with other men for a living, their bodies are at best worth less than those of “normal” women, and at worst disposable. No one knows this better than adult performer Kendall Karson, a friend of Mack’s who is currently managing a GiveForward page for Mack’s hospital bills, as most adult performers do not have health insurance. So far, the page has raised a little more than $17,000.
 
Like Mack, Karson is a survivor of domestic abuse. She was inspired to raise money on Mack’s behalf as a result of her own experience, as well as her disgust with the victim-blaming commentary she saw on Twitter. “So many people out there want to attack her instead of being compassionate. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around how people can be so callous,” she tells me. “It shouldn’t matter to anyone whether she’s a porn star. If it happened to your mother, your sister, your daughter, you wouldn’t feel that way.”
 
Christy Mack is a sister and a daughter. She is also a sex worker. No one knows what her relationship with Koppenhaver is like; no one knows if she cheated on him or not, and no one knows what it is like to look into the eyes of someone you love and see them turn cold in a flash, right before their fists and palms and feet start raining blows on your body. But we should all have enough humanity in our hearts to know that no one deserves to experience that kind of fear. No man. No woman. Not even a porn star.
 
Reprinted with permission from The Daily Dot. Want more?