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‘2 Girls, 1 Cup’: An Investigation Into the Web’s Shittiest Mystery

What shocks me most about the scatological porn known as “2 Girls 1 Cup” in the cruel year of our lord 2017 is that not everyone on the internet has seen it.

I have to remind myself that this extreme fetish video went viral a decade ago, when phones were dumb, MySpace had more users than Facebook and Generation Z was about to plug in. That even among jaded millennials my age, some managed to avoid it. That the video itself depicts one woman defecating into a cup, in a manner frequently compared to that of a soft-serve ice cream machine. That this woman then messily licks and sucks on her own whipped shit with another woman. That the two of them go on to make out, rubbing their shit-smeared faces together, finally taking turns vomiting the shit back into the cup as well as into each other’s mouths.

And that, oh right, there’s no good reason for anybody to watch that shit.

But watch it we did. And perhaps more surprisingly, it brought us together. In 2007, the web was at an inflection point — where streaming content met social media — and the frontiers of this new world were strange, gross and exhilarating. We logged on just to collectively recoil at the very worst of what we found. From disturbing flash cartoons like Salad Fingers to graphic sites like Goatse (which hosts an image of a man’s gaping asshole, circulated since 1997), we delighted in forcing ourselves to bear witness to humankind’s depravity.

Brad Kim, the founder and editor-in-chief of Know Your Meme — a singular resource on the history of web ephemera — recalled exactly this response to 2 Girls 1 Cup. “I think there’s a bit of reverse psychology involved in it,” he writes over email. When you’re presented with something in a negative imperative, as in Don’t Google 2 Girls 1 Cup, “you almost feel challenged to do the opposite.”

Kim first saw the video in college, around his junior year at NYU, when one of his suitemates rallied up a crowd for a group screening. This was back when videos were still going viral through word of mouth. “There’s a weird appeal in volunteering [for] a relatively benign traumatic experience as a group. It’s a cheap thrill,” he explains. “And more than anything, I remember the reactions of other people in the group screening.”

No discussion of 2G1C can get far without acknowledging this, the communal basis of its legend — which is, no doubt, what makes me assume that everyone has seen it. At the time, there were only two paths to the video: deceit and curiosity. For those who weren’t baited, pressured or otherwise tricked into watching the clip, it was the deluge of reaction videos that prompted a nervous click. As my friend Jené put it in a Facebook thread where I invited people to reminisce on the phenomenon: “I was like, what could possibly make people react like this? I had to know. Then I understood. And kept watching reaction videos.”

Today, the reaction genre is a staple of the YouTube economy; we watch kids react to Michael Jackson and fantasy fans react to the fatal twists in Game of Thrones. A sibling duo known as the Fine Brothers even tried to trademark the word “react” for their popular channel built around the concept and had to back down amid outcry. But these videos, sanitized for mass consumption and maximum shareability, have somewhat grimy origins. The first slew of reactions for their own sake arrived in 2006, when YouTubers produced footage of people freaking out over a “Scary Maze Game” that lulled players into deep concentration before abruptly replacing the screen with a ghoulish face, accompanied by a piercing scream. A year later, 2 Girls 1 Cup reactions became the new gold standard in reactions, propelled by viral hits like this:

Jackie Leigh is the granddaughter behind this video, which went on to rack up more than 10 million views, cementing 2G1C’s status as indescribable filth.

“Since as far back as I can remember, my grandmother had always had funny or crazy reactions to even the smallest things,” Leigh tells me in a Twitter DM. “Once that video became popular, and people’s reactions started being posted, I knew I had to see what hers would be. I never expected it to go viral at all! My friends find my grandmother funny, so I was really just uploading it for them to see.”

The next day, Leigh woke up to a call from one of those friends: Grandma Marlene was all over the web, forever a part of shock-porn lore.

Needless to say, Leigh’s poor grandmother is too scared to look at anything she asks her to watch online anymore. “But on the bright side,” Leigh adds, after the video got big, Grandma Marlene started to get recognized in public. “I remember the first time she told me about it. She was at the casino and someone asked her for an autograph. She loved it!”

The reactions kept coming, and no matter who was watching — whether it was the rock band Mars Volta, a group of marines, or porn star Ron Jeremy, who called the scene “absolutely disgusting” — they all followed an unspoken script. Because 2G1C is exactly a minute long, it’s easy to chart that progression. There comes a moment, always, when eyes dilate and the soul evacuates. This is the crest of the first wave, when our subject sees the startling shit dispensed. A second spike of revulsion follows when they realize what’s to be done with that shit — and the last 30 seconds are a scrambling to make sense of it.

Why, if nobody wants to admit to watching poop erotica, did we record ourselves doing precisely that? This is what I’d like to ask Fartenewt, who uploaded YouTube’s first 2 Girls 1 Cup reaction video in September 2007 and continued to churn out several more, all set in a college dorm room. Looking at Fartenewt’s abandoned account, you can see he enjoyed documenting his buddies’ stricken horror; he’s often visible in frame, the blond guy chuckling as he casually infects another mind. These pranks are anthropologically essential, revealing both an explosion of access to niche smut and a heightening desire to turn the camera on ourselves in the heyday of MySpace.

Like everyone else, Fartenewt had a page there. It says he lives (uh, lived) in Indiana. The username migrated to Instagram, where it’s attached to a blond man who resembles the kid in Fartenewt’s YouTube videos. This page is a ruin as well: It’s private, and he’s only posted eight times total. The dude is named Chadwick Woods, information that together with the Indiana clue brings me to a Facebook account I’m sure must be his — though it hasn’t been active since 2013. He doesn’t accept my friend request, and he doesn’t read my message.

Having already left an indelible footprint online, he simply logged off. And he wasn’t the only one: My investigation into 2 Girls 1 Cup was littered with these vanishing acts, trails that went cold all at once, people who played key roles in this cyber-hysteria and have never spoken of it again. Even as recently as 2007, I doubt that many of us understood the web’s permanence. It was, we assumed, a giant sandbox where whatever we said and did was soon to melt away.

Time used to move slower. Nowadays, the life cycle of viral content is complete within the 72 hours it takes a star to book their appearance onEllen. But 2 Girls 1 Cup (and the reaction craze it inspired) simmered for months, with the film eventually taking its rightful place among the canon of outrageous web imagery, which includes spectacles like Tubgirl, Meatspin, Lemon Party and the cache of “really fucked up” gore and perversity on Rotten.com.

It wasn’t until 2010, three years into its burgeoning myth, that Coca-Cola had to apologize for referencing 2 Girls 1 Cup in a Facebook promotion for Dr Pepper. This was the unlikely result of an ill-conceived advertising push designed to leverage the burgeoning power of Web 2.0 contagion: For the chance to win $1,000, Facebook users would give the Dr Pepper brand (actually, a third-party ad agency called Lean Mean Fighting Machine) control of their personal Facebook accounts. Then these marketing geniuses would post embarrassing status updates for them, like “Lost my special blankie. How will I go sleepies?” and “What’s wrong with peeing in the shower?” The campaign took a prophetic tagline: “What’s the worst that could happen?” they asked.

One eager participant in this dubious scheme, only possible in a moment predating our current paranoia about digital privacy, was a 14-year-old girl from Scotland. Her mortifying status, plucked from a bank of far more innocuous options: “I watched 2 girls one cup and felt hungry afterwards.” Her mother railed against the soda company’s negligence in a post on a parenting message board called Mumsnet: “For anyone who doesn’t know what this means, please stay ignorant, for those who do, you can imagine how I felt. This was compounded later on when a quick search through [my daughter’s] internet history revealed she had tried to find out what it was for herself.”

Under fire from other livid parents and customers, and now acquainted with the sort of seething backlash that companies court whenever they attempt to make a splash on social media (see also: Pepsi, Kendall Jenner), Coca-Cola immediately fired LMFM — despite having signed off on the material without understanding what it alluded to or how it appealed to a young, web-savvy demographic. And it tried to compensate the girl and her family with a free hotel stay in London, complete with tickets to a play in the West End. “Fat lot of use to me, we live in Glasgow,” the mom scoffed to the The Guardian.

It’s an amusing tale of a corporate gaffe, but the fallout eclipsed something altogether perplexing. A hardcore fetish video that had appalled the entire internet with its blasé but unshakeable vision of a shit-and-barf-spackled lesbian encounter was, at some point, deemed a profitable vector for the internet’s true currency: attention. Imagine the conference room where this was decided, the whiteboard it was written on. Imagine the LMFM associate who thought 2 Girls 1 Cup had been normalized enough to use as an in-joke to sell soda. Imagine how little anyone, at any stage, scrutinized this choice.

I view this basic indifference as symptomatic of a broader trend. Because for all the prurient interest in 2G1C as a rite of passage, people didn’t interrogate the fact of its existence. They didn’t care who made it, or how the two girls, “Latifa” and “Karla,” wound up performing these acts. They took it for granted that the video was hosted on a standalone website offering no other context. They screamed “Why?!” at their screens — but they didn’t want an answer. 2G1C was gestalt from nowhere, a signifier and pit of our own morbidity.

Yet it must be said: This video was, in fact, created. So I set out to find its creator, Brazilian fetish porn director Marco Fiorito. 2 Girls 1 Cup was merely the laconic title given to a trailer for his hourlong masterpiece, Hungry Bitches, which boasts a 5.0 rating on IMDb and can be purchased on DVD for $7.80. Everything I read about Fiorito and Danilo Croce, a fellow Brazilian arrested in Orlando in 2006 for the distribution of obscene films including Fiorito’s (marking the first appearance of the word “bukkake” in a Justice Department press release), suggested they’d be in South America today. Fiorito had given a statement about Croce from São Paulo, where both men are from and Fiorito has resided his entire life, explaining how he came to make such unusual movies:

In 1994, I became interested in producing films and on my own; I learned the art of filmmaking. In 1996, I started a business with my wife Joelma Brito Fiorito who used the artistic name Letícia Miller. The business was producing fetish films. At that time, my wife and I did everything; we were the actors, the producers as well as the filming. Sometimes we hired other people to operate the camera. We made these films to sell. When we started, the only films that we made were about feet fetishes.

Fiorito goes on to detail how he placed ads for the videos in the newspaper, took calls from customers and told them what they had in stock, personally delivering whatever they ordered and collecting his money on the spot. It sounds, in this telling, like a quaint form of entrepreneurship, and by all indications, Brazilian authorities had no problem with it. Only when Croce began selling Fiorito’s films through media companies established in the U.S. did Fiorito run into any legal trouble — though since he never left his home country, he wasn’t charged. For his part, Croce copped a plea, paying a fine of $98,000 and returning to Brazil for three years of “unsupervised probation.” Fiorito was surprised and apologetic about the international incident. If he’d known that Croce was breaking U.S. law by distributing there, he claimed, “I would have stopped because the money is not the main reason that I make these films.”

None of the Danilo Croces I turned up online were a potential match for the one I was after. But Marco Fiorito I found on Facebook, which says he’s from São Paulo. This Fiorito is around the right age (born in 1971, he’d be in this mid-40s now). Promisingly, almost all the photos on his timeline are lovingly framed close-ups of women’s — or maybe one woman’s — feet. In more than a few photos, Fiorito is shown kissing or sucking the ringed and painted toes of these feet with a tenderness held in artful contrast against his tough-guy looks: He’s muscular, tattooed, and shaved bald. Finally, he’s friends with “Letícia Fiorito,” the wife mentioned in his legal statement, who’d adopted his surname along with the nom de pornographie Letícia when they partnered.

Marco accepted my friend request, which meant my messages wouldn’t be banished to Facebook’s “other” inbox, rarely checked by normal humans. Sadly, though, he never replied to an invitation to chat about the legacy of 2 Girls 1 Cup, not shocking given that he’s never done an interview about it. Assuming there’s not a glitch with Zuckerberg’s receipts system, he hasn’t even read the message — which I sent well over a month ago. Letícia, for her part, hasn’t responded to my friend request, though a search for her name on porn tube sites brings up a wealth of apparently new material; some videos hew to a foot fetish formula, though in one she straddles a man’s face while farting, and in another, titled “Ass Squirting in Your Mouth,” she aims to recapture the magic of 2G1C.

Although Marco’s official filmography begins and ends with Hungry Bitches, he’s still in the fetish game, too. The company that produced that film, MFX (as in Marco Fiorito’s X-rated movies) has since rebranded as NewMFX, a web portal replete with sections for every deviant interest: piss, vomit, spit, farts and more worrying stuff like “trample” and “bellypunch.” If you click around, you’ll even find recent videos starring Karla and Latifa, who are billed as the site’s “best actresses.” In short: Yes, the two of them continue to eat shit.

Without a reply from Marco or Letícia, it’s difficult to say what they (or Karla or Latifa) make of 2 Girls 1 Cup’s impact in the U.S. Who knows if they even think about it; after all, they’re busy working on the next scat scene. And one gets the sense that business is booming at NewMFX. If anything, 2G1C is something the gang occasionally brings up over drinks, laughing about the uptight Americans who couldn’t process their paraphilia. I certainly wouldn’t blame them — we took their art, such as it is, and made it all about us.

Ira Isaacs did not direct 2 Girls 1 Cup.

“You understand, I didn’t direct that,” he tells me when we speak by phone, before I can get a question out. “Because, you know…”

Oh, I knew. In 2008, the Department of Justice’s fun-sounding Obscenity Prosecution Task Force had brought criminal charges against Isaacs, an American filmmaker and self-described “shock artist,” over a number of movies he’d directed — the titles Gang Bang Horse and Mako’s First Time Scat should give you some idea what kind. Two mistrials later, Isaacs was convicted on five federal counts of selling and distributing obscene material. But in a bizarre twist, media outlets aggregating the story of his sentencing erroneously reported that he was the creator of 2 Girls 1 Cup. Gawker, for example, went with the irresistible headline “2 Girls, 1 Cup, 4 Years in Jail.” It and several other sites had to correct their articles to reflect the truth: Isaacs had at one point planned to cite the video in his defense.

“I think [the jury] would’ve loved it. I had a 20-minute tape of the reaction videos,” Isaacs says. “I still have the materials I prepared for the defense.”

The issue, he informs me, was in how the judges for his three separate trials wished to classify his testimony, by which he hoped to establish that his films didn’t lack serious artistic “value,” per the obscenity standardestablished in part by the 1973 Supreme Court case Miller v. California.Presumably, the 2G1C reaction videos could’ve demonstrated the value of shock art. The first judge was supposedly willing to admit Isaacs as an expert on said value but had to recuse himself from the case when it came out that his own website featured “sexually explicit images,” which the judge attempted to blame on his son. The second and third judges declined to consider him as an expert witness, Isaacs said.

Isaacs mentions creative titans like Marcel Duchamp and James Joyce (“not that I’m anything like them”) to argue that cultural norms have frequently been at odds with explorative, envelope-pushing art. He likens his surreal legal experience to Kafka’s The Trial. He says that he feels like he “did get the Academy Award,” except for the part where he went to prison for two years, “which wasn’t actually that bad.”

He got out in September 2016, then lived in a halfway house until March. He’s working on a nonfiction account of his case and conviction titled Obscene: The People v. Ira Isaacs. He has encouraged me to share his email address in case people want to get in touch; you can reach him at bach3017@gmail.com — a nod to the Baroque composer whose music he included in his films “for contrast.”

“No one ever admits that they watched the movies,” he says, “but they agree on the First Amendment.” It was clear how he saw his own work — as free expression that challenged prevailing morals — but I wanted his opinion on Fiorito’s notorious oeuvre. 2 Girls 1 Cup was “nothing special” in Isaac’s opinion: Having sold fetish videos since 2000, he’d had the opportunity to see it “way, way before the reaction videos.”

Did it leave a lasting impression?

Not really.

“What I liked about it was the soundtrack,” Isaacs says with a chuckle, referring to the painfully incongruous piano ballad “Lover’s Theme,” by the French composer Hervé Roy, who died in 2009. (Not of shame, I hope.) “The muzak in the background,” he calls it. “That was nice.”

“But the reaction videos were great,” he adds. “They were like a roller coaster.”

What you hoped after finally watching 2 Girls 1 Cup was that the whole thing was fake, and a lot of the discussion you find on the web takes this artifice for granted. Fiorito has admitted to using ice cream as a fecal stunt-double in his films, and a book about porn and criminal justice assures us that the coprophagia of 2 Girls 1 Cup was merely “simulated.” You can even get the gist of this take on a bodybuilding message board:

“It’s hard to imagine people doing this, but this fetish has been around for thousands of years,” Isaacs says. There’s no accounting for the particular appeal (or repugnance) of this video, but: “If you knew how to do it, if you knew the formula, you’d make it yourself, right?” Then, of course, you’d profit from it. In 2011, someone claiming to be the creator of the site that rehosted 2 Girls 1 Cup in 2007 told Reddit that after scoring 32 million hits in six months — while barely breaking even with server costs — they’d sold the domain for six figures. (They posted the contract and escrow figures.)

Nowadays, 2girls1cup.com is a pretty vanilla porn tube site. And sites like 2girls1cup.ws and 2girls1cup.info capture search traffic but don’t provide the video itself. Only 2girls1cup.ca, the top Google hit, delivers the goods. Canadian registration notwithstanding, it’s associated with an IP address of a server in San Francisco. Though the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force was dissolved in 2011 by Attorney General Eric Holder, sitting AG Jeff Sessions said in his confirmation hearing that he’d consider bringing it back. In that case, the Justice Department would theoretically have grounds and means to prosecute the site’s operator the same way it went after Isaacs.

“I’m not going to do anything like this again,” Isaacs says when I mention the political climate, which he suspects is more repressive than the one in which he was tried. Nevertheless, he’s “absolutely” sure the nation will experience something like the 2 Girls 1 Cup mania again. Brad Kim mentions that the shock media we tend to see today “are more subtle or abstract, things that are oddly repulsive or unsettling (e.g., pictures of lotus pod holes, cysts), rather than flat-out disgusting.” This could mean we’re primed for an eruption of alarm brought on by a visceral class of content — ponder the glittering promise that is Trump’s fabled “pee tape.” The shocks that lie in store “will always be more traumatic, as long as technology continues to further the extent of voyeurism and culture of fascination around it,” Kim says.

Yet an undeniable quality of that obsession is our continued resistance to the grave reality in which the events of 2 Girls 1 Cup transpired. We watched it to assure ourselves that it cannot be how it looks. The internet is a filter that conveniently downgrades everything upsetting to mere urban legend, a cluster of pixels with no substance behind it. Wikipedia absurdly proposesthat the scene might have been “created with advanced computer graphics,” setting a high bar for clinical denial — unless that’s an editor mocking the truthers.

Unable to grill Fiorito about his methods, I ask Isaacs what he makes of the theory that 2 Girls 1 Cup was faked — a claim he quickly dismisses. “Probably in the 1980s,” he says, when the fetish video market as we know it first emerged in Japan and Germany, filmmakers relied on crafty techniques to achieve an uncanny resemblance. But that’s cheating; why not be genuine? “Most of the people I know who do this, it’s all real,” Isaacs says. “You don’t need to make it fake. There are people who are willing to do it.”

This is a sobering take with the weight of accuracy behind it. After all, people commit murder on Facebook, kill themselves on Instagram and post jihadi beheadings on YouTube. Video of the 2012 stabbing and dismemberment of a Montreal student, when it found its way to a gore website, was labeled 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick in homage. Eating shit, in the age of livestreaming atrocity, is basically a sideshow attraction, not worth the effort it takes to copy and paste a URL. However Latifa and Karla arrived at this line of work, they’re committed to the spectacle, and 2 Girls 1 Cup is solid evidence of Isaac’s claim that these things happen for real, on purpose and on camera.

In other words, I finally rewatched it, and I have to say: Believe.