"So has your mom seen the site?" Missy asks, as if sensing the curiosity.
"Yeah," Nixion laughs as she lets one strap fall down her shoulder. "She wants to know why it's called SuicideGirls. Ya know, she's a mom."
Missy and Sean came up with the idea for a sexy marketing venture. Missy had background in freelance photography and Sean in web design and television production, so they combined forces and took a stab at the adult entertainment industry. They started out photographing friends in the Portland area. Missy's goal was to shoot pinup-style photographs that were more sensual than sexual. Since the beginning, the models on the site have chosen the themes of their photo sets, often taking the pictures themselves, styling their own hair, and picking the makeup and clothing.
But wait -- there's more. On SuicideGirls, you don't just get to ogle naked chicks; you get to know them. Each girl has a journal that she updates periodically -- not Penthouse-letters style either. There are no gauzy "last night I was so horny" entries. The journals are introspective, witty, and at times very personal. The girls list why they decided to join the site -- one answering with the subtly stinging remark "to make myself feel fat" -- as well as more diplomatic responses ("Nudity isn't always about sex"). The models also list their favorite books, music, and movies. Among the common favorites are Catcher in the Rye, The Bell Jar, and works by Charles Bukowski and Chuck Palahniuk ("suicide girls" is a phrase taken from Palahniuk's second novel, Survivor). Members can leave remarks for the girls, and they can also post photos of themselves to see if they're worthy of being an SG.
So if punk rock has always reveled in nonconformity, the antibeauty, and a do-it-yourself spirit, is this just porn dressed in lacy pink undies, fishnets, and a fancy bra? Are thousands of "punk" girls logging on to become the next "(t)it" girl because of self-esteem issues or just as a big punk "fuck you" to everyone who said they couldn't?
For Nixion, it's a little of both. Becoming a SuicideGirl has given her validation and the feeling of being part of something special. "I've never really been picked first or above anyone," Nixion says as we sit on the patio, watching the city lights flicker on. She is still dressed in her white skirt, the sunset reflecting the glitter on her eyes. She seems unfazed by all the attention; the realization that 15 minutes ago she was posing naked in someone's bedroom is jarring. "So to get picked for the site made me feel better about myself," she continues as she eats a slice of the pizza that Sean bought for the girls. "When my mom found out about the site, she mentioned something about having to deal with the fact that I'll have those pictures online forever, and that when I meet a nice boy, he probably won't want me because of SuicideGirls, and that when I go for a job, they'll look back on it and not want to hire me. It's fucking dumb, because I would never want any guy or job that looks down on what I'm doing. I'm far from remorseful for anything I've done on the site."
In addition to validation, Nixion explains the "fuck you" aspect: "The site is our way of showing ourselves and not being ashamed of who we are," she says. "SuicideGirls makes me feel more empowered. The fact that I'm not being picked at or teased for being a SuicideGirl definitely gives me a lot more self-esteem to do a lot of things I wouldn't have been able to do before. Like, I feel more confident to go up to a boy and start a conversation without the constant thought of him thinking I'm weird or ugly."
Other SGs also talk about getting positive feedback and the growing self-esteem.
Quinne, 19, a petite girl with honey-brown hair from Tennessee, got involved after a friend told her she had the "nice boobs" to qualify for the site. "I lived in a Catholic household and went to Catholic school until I was 18," Quinne says, "and when you're an awkward teenager in those surroundings, you don't really get to know your body. I was really shy and self-conscious about the size of my breasts. So the site was a way to try new things and feel comfortable with my body. It was really liberating."
Later that night, at the burlesque show, Nixion and Quinne proudly stand behind the SuicideGirls merch table, seductively eating candy and schmoozing with guys and girls who are there solely to say they met a SuicideGirl.