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Does Violence Against Women Rule on The Real World?

Does Violence Against Women Rule on The Real World?

MTV’s aging but venerable Real World franchise is under fire from fans after two women experienced violence or threat of violence by men on the show. On a recent episode of The Real World: San Diego, Sam, the self-described lesbian stud, had a disagreement with ping-pong playing straight housemate Zach about him getting ready to go out. Meanwhile, Tonya Cooley, a castmate on The Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Ruins has filed a lawsuit against MTV, Bunim/Murray Productions, Kenneth Santucci, Evan Starkman and others alleging her fellow castmates raped her — while producers watched and the cameras were rolling.

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MTV’s aging but venerable Real World franchise is under fire from fans after two women experienced violence or threat of violence by men on the show. On a recent episode of The Real World: San Diego, Sam, the self-described lesbian stud, had a disagreement with ping-pong playing straight housemate Zach about him getting ready to go out. Zach didn’t want to and accused Sam of instead wanting to play with the ping-pong table. When she said that she didn’t care about ping-pong and could just as easily throw the paddles over the edge of the porch, Zach retorted, "I will beat the gay out of you if you throw these paddles off the porch. Don't play that game with me."

Whether Zach was being literal (Would he hit a woman? Or is she less of a woman because she’s gay?) or just homophobically comical, Sam felt frightened in a way that any LGBT kid facing bullying have. It wasn’t cool at best; it was criminal at worst.

Meanwhile, Tonya Cooley, a castmate on The Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Ruins has filed a lawsuit against MTV, Bunim/Murray Productions, Kenneth Santucci, Evan Starkman and others alleging her fellow castmates raped her — while producers watched and the cameras were rolling.

According to TMZ, the lawsuit alleges that two cast mates “took another male participant's toothbrush and rubbed the toothbrush around plaintiff's genitals, including rubbing her labia and inserting the toothbrush into plaintiff's vagina” while she was passed out. In addition, the suit claims that male cast members were encouraged by producers to “inappropriately touch female cast members bodies, including in intimate areas.” When they complained, nobody took them seriously. According to Cooley, who was kicked off season 11 of The Real World for slapping an cast member, the men who assaulted her were never punished.’

Of course, MTV probably isn’t too worried. According to Jezebel, the contracts cast members of The Real Word must sign now include stipulations that say MTV is not responsible if women get raped on the show as cast members might have to deal with "non-consensual physical contact, of which MTV is not responsible.”

In fact, Cooley isn’t the first to claim rape. During the first Real World: San Diego (in 2004), a cast member said she had been roofied and raped — with fellow cast members supporting her claims — although arrests were never made.

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Diane Anderson-Minshall

Diane Anderson-Minshall is CEO and editorial director of Pride Media, the parent company of PRIDE, Out, The Advocate, Plus, and Out Traveler.

Diane Anderson-Minshall is CEO and editorial director of Pride Media, the parent company of PRIDE, Out, The Advocate, Plus, and Out Traveler.