It's hard to believe, but pro-anorexia websites have taken an even more disturbing turn. The Guardian reports that enthusiasts of anorexia pornography are using the sites to find ill women to pose for sexually explicit pictures, often against their will.
Though we're well aware of the online rule that "if it exists there is porn of it," we hadn't given much thought to people with a sexual fetish for protruding spines and ribs. But along with the 470% increase in pro-anorexia websites between 2006 and 2008 came more porn sites devoted to emaciated models.
Sasha McDonald tells The Guardian that while involved in the online pro-ana community as a teen, another user emailed her and asked her to join a pornography agency. She says:
"My anorexic friend was actually a 46-year-old male with a fetish for skinny women. He had pretended to be a young girl and persuaded me to share sexually explicit pictures and tried to convince me to join his modelling agency for the super-skinny."
Later McDonald found that photos of herself that she thought were only seen by other girls suffering from eating disorders had been posted on anorexia porn forums with comments like:
"Beautiful girl – much prettier than all those meat mountains. Bones and ribs must be very visible. If their BMI [body mass index] is above 15, they are not attractive."
The forums offer men tips for grooming the users of pro-anorexia sites to share photos of themselves. A so-called "skinny scout" told McDonald in an email, "I pay the owner of this pro-ana community a donation for every model I found here."
Ronny Bi, another woman recovering from an eating disorder, claims that a man she befriended on a pro-anorexia site held her and a friend captive and starved them before taking explicit pictures of them. She says:
"He forced me to pose for photos both in revealing clothing and nude, it was sickening. I was too weak to fight back because of how thin I was. I was completely powerless."
Bi believes that it should be illegal to publish sexual photographs of people with a BMI under 17.5 because the models "are so far into their illness that they are easily manipulated and extremely vulnerable," and essentially can't make a decision for themselves. Instituting a BMI range for consent seems problematic, but obviously some of the activities the women describe are already illegal (the article doesn't say if Bi's captor was prosecuted). Even attempts to ban anorexic models from the fashion industry have been met with resistance, and online porn is infinitely harder to regulate. It's already difficult for government agents to crack down on child pornography, and sadly it's hard to imagine that efforts to identify exploitation in pro-ana communities would be successful.
Anorexic Women Targeted By "Super-Skinny" Porn Websites [The Guardian]
Image via Olga Ekaterincheva/Shutterstock.