Guy with a video camera approaches two comely young women on a Florida beach offering “Girls Gone Wild” tank tops in exchange for a flash of personal assets.

Well, no good can come of this, a reasonable person immediately would recognize.

But it’s no big deal, the video sleaze baldfacedly lies to the reluctant lasses, it’s just for a private film

Oh, but we’re really older than 18, the teenage ninnies lie just as brashly, even though they’re really 16 and 17 at the time.

Sign this, he says with Snidely Whiplashian villainy, and it will all be just between us kids.

Are you sure? Because, like, we won’t participate unless, like, we know your movie will be, like, private.

Then, displaying even less sense than modesty, they do what “Girls Gone Wild” girls do: display their most obvious attention getters to, well, get attention.

Could there have been any other reason? If vacation photos had been their aim, asking their moms to snap a few would have been the better option by far.

But, no. These Denton County, Texas, naifs trusted a pushy, deceitful prowler with a free show.

And then, they were shocked, just shocked, when those March 2002 “smiles” ended up on videos, DVDs, posters and ads for one of the most voyeuristic, exploitative lines of low-brow entertainment devised to agitate male hormones and fatten the producers’ wallets.

The cameraman, it turned out, worked for Mantra Films, notorious maker of “Girls Gone Wild” videos that feature babes at Spring Break beaches, at Mardi Gras balcony parties and at other venues conducive to uninhibited, lewd and lascivious behavior.

Had no idea?

The tank tops and the release form weren’t, like, a clue?

Did someone really have to spell out, s-l-o-w-l-y, that when you lift your shirt for a stranger on the beach, no … good … can … come … of … it?

Soon – oh my gosh! – it became a huge deal after all.

Distressed and humiliated, the young women and their parents did what anyone would do.

They sued.

Sued Mantra, Sam Goody and Suncoast Motion Picture Co. for making money off the women’s images but not paying them anything for the privilege.

Sued them for causing the women to lose “exclusive use of their identifies and reputation,” for exposing them to “contempt and ridicule” at school and work, among friends and relatives.

Sued them for engaging in what the lawsuit called conduct “so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

Is that reference to the women’s baring all or to Mantra’s manipulation?

Goodness, you say, what parent wouldn’t be angered, embarrassed and seeking rectification if some slimeball were making money off her daughter’s naked bosom?

Yes, indeed, but what parent wouldn’t be furious that her daughter had not the decency to keep her clothes on when some lech wielding a camera asked her to display on a public beach what ought to be private?

Don’t for a minute consider this a defense of Mantra’s despicable tactics, which don’t stop at taking advantage of youthful idiocy and exhibitionism.

In 2004, the company agreed to pay $1.1 million in civil penalties and refunds to settle Federal Trade Commission claims that Mantra set up a scheme by which consumers who bought a single “Girls Gone Wild” video by mail then had their credit cards billed for monthly videos they didn’t order. Mantra didn’t admit wrongdoing, but the settlement speaks for itself.

Mantra CEO Joe Francis faces a criminal trial this summer after being arrested in 2003 on numerous charges stemming from filming during Spring Break in Panama City Beach, Fla. Several young women sued Francis and his company in federal courts after the arrest, including two who had told police that, at age 17, they were paid $100 each to be filmed performing sex acts in a shower, according to online archives of The News Herald in Panama City.

It will be curious to see whether those plaintiffs get sent away empty-handed like the Denton women did last week. A Texas state court jury of six women and six men concluded that the women signed a valid consent form and weren’t entitled to damages from the film company or the stores that sold the videos, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. There was deception on both ends of the deal, but legally the women (now 20) gave away their rights to use of their images.

The criminal law can and should smack malevolents who prey on foolish underage teens, and if Francis is flouting the law, then throw the bum off the beaches and make him pay for contemptible conniving.

But it’s hard to see how a civil damages bonanza would help immodest maidens comprehend the real costs of giving away their privacy, their dignity and their families’ peace of mind.

Campbell is a columnist and editorial writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]


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