Site’s breast intentions

on Dec 04 in Portfolio by

Originally published in the Chronicle Herald, December 2007.
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N.S. women among thousands using ‘friendship’ page to pay for their implant surgery

It might sound like a scam, but the people behind say it’s no booby trap.

Since its launch in July 2005, the site has paid for 37 breast augmentation operations and another 13 women are waiting for their surgery, the organizers say.

“I was always called Little Raisins,” a Dartmouth woman named Christina, who appears on the controversial website, said in an interview. “I sort of grew a complex for my breasts at a young age when I probably shouldn’t have. But kids can be cruel.”

The 31-year-old single mother, who didn’t want her full name used, heard about the site from a friend and signed up almost three weeks ago. Her goal is to raise $10,000 to pay for surgery that will take her from an A cup to a D cup.

Christina, who uses the name SexyCanGal31 on the site, said she’s always been self-conscious about her breasts and has wanted implants since she was 13.

Motherhood has taken a toll. “I’ve always wanted big boobs – always, always, always,” she said. “And since I’ve had my daughter, they’re worse now.”

The website works like this: women post profiles that note how much their surgery will cost. People whom the site calls “benefactors” must pay to communicate with the women.

Each message costs $1.20 and site organizers say $1 of that goes directly to the woman.

For more cash, women may send videos and pictures, which can include nudity, to their clients. The two parties agree on the price.

Some women even sell their clothes to people online.

“The fetishes are probably the biggest thing getting these girls donations,” Christina said.

While her friends know she’s on the website, she hasn’t told her family, fearing what they might think of the nudity.

“It’s not a porn site,” said the computer technician and self-described shy Roman Catholic.

So far, Christina said, she is pleased with her experience and and the men have been respectful.

“They really want friendship, they really do,” she said.

About 4,000 women are on the site from more than 30 countries. More than 100 are Canadian, co-founder Jay Moore, 29, said in a telephone interview from California.

Mr. Moore and co-founder Jason Grunstra got the idea while attending a bachelor party in February 2005 at a Las Vegas nightclub. He and his friends were chatting with two of the cocktail servers and learned one had implants that her boyfriend paid for. The other server wanted implants but couldn’t afford them. After pledging donations, the guys decided to start a website to help pay for her implants.

In July 2005, the site opened up for all women.

There are just over 22,000 benefactors, hundreds of whom are female, Mr. Moore said.

He said the site is non-profit. The 2006 tax returns for the website show that the founders did not draw salaries. They also show that 84 cents of every dollar went into a trust account to pay for the surgeries, 15 cents paid for expenses such as computer servers and consultants, and the remaining penny was reinvested into upgrading the technology.

Letitia Meynell teaches gender and women’s studies at Dalhousie University.

“It’s interesting that it’s my free implants and not, for instance, my free breast reduction or not my free tuition or not my free penis extension for men,” she said.

She questioned whether the website encourages women to value themselves primarily in terms of their appearance.

“I worry that it reflects a tendency for women still to see themselves in terms of being sexual beings, as existing for men as sexual beings, rather than having their own sexuality exist for themselves.”

The term “benefactors” makes it sounds like a charity, Ms. Meynell said.

“I mean you think of all the terrible need in the world where we really could use some· benefactors. You know, the starving children…”

Jessica Levine, 27, of Tampa, Fla., is one of the website’s “success” stories. She joined in May and reached her fundraising goal of $7,500 in September.

Her surgery was two weeks ago. She went from a B cup to a D cup.

Ms. Levine said in a telephone interview that she was always self-conscious about her breasts when she wasn’t wearing a padded bra or a water bra.

“I’m so happy now,” she said.

Her boyfriend supported her decision to use the website and didn’t say anything good or bad about it, she said.

“I don’t think he’s a breast man,” she said.

Curt Levine of Orlando, Fla., is the attorney for the website. The former Florida state representative has another interesting connection to the website – he’s Jessica’s father.

“The owners take a lot of pride in making sure it’s a functional website and that people can achieve their goals and it’s a very professional operation,” he said by telephone. “All the money that’s raised goes directly to the doctors.”

One disgruntled woman lost interest after signing on to the website and not raising enough money. She wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle Herald that soliciting donations had a painful price for women – a loss of dignity. She said most of the time women receive $20 of 10 pictures or one or two videos.

“These men who are members, and along with the men that run it, have no respect for the women,” she said.

“What is the price someone should pay in becoming an object and not a person?”

Ms. Levine said she reached her fundraising goal without sending a nude photo or video.

“Nobody forced me or any of the other girls to be on the site,” she said. “The site’s not for everybody. I was happy with the site. I had a great experience with the website. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to be a part of the site.”

Mr. Moore said the site doesn’t exploit or degrade women, noting that his own mother, a feminist, approves.

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