Trigger warning: suicide
If you didn’t know who Courtney Stodden was two days ago, you probably do now. Everywhere you turn online for the last couple of days, a headline is screaming that Chrissy Teigen has issued a public apology for the reprehensible, horrifying way she chose to bully and berate Courtney Stodden years ago online. (She told Stodden to “take a dirt nap” and “kill yourself” among many, many other horrible things.)
And you know what? The apology is a necessary thing.
Courtney deserves for the world to remember that Chrissy did, in fact, say some truly horrifying things to a struggling teenager going through the most confusing time of their life. Even though her apology could have used a lot of work, Chrissy might actually feel sorry, and that’s fine. She should. But a simple apology can’t erase the damage she did, and even though a lot of people (like me!) really enjoy Chrissy now, she was a total shitbag to Courtney Stodden a few years ago. If people are disgusted with her for it (and a lot of us are) or if she loses opportunities because of it, well, that’s her burden to bear. What can I say? Be better, and people will like you better.
But this isn’t about Chrissy. This is about Courtney Stodden.
In case you’ve somehow missed the news every time they were in it for the last ten years, Courtney Stodden skyrocketed to fame in 2011 when then 51-year-old actor Doug Hutchison (you may have seen him in The Green Mile) chose to groom, manipulate and legally marry them— a then 16-year-old trying to make a name for themselves as a pop singer.
For some reason, when he married a child, instead of calling for his head on a spike, our society decided this literal child would be a great person to objectify, sexualize, insult, mock, slut-shame, and relentlessly taunt.
A normal person would have looked at Courtney Stodden and seen a child with a complicated relationship with their parents. A normal person would have seen their mother as a woman in a difficult marriage who was vulnerable and in no position to give consent for her child to marry a grown man.
Hutchison is not a normal person. He is a sexual predator.
When he saw a vulnerable, bullied kid in a complicated family, he decided they’d make a perfect third SPOUSE. Excuse me while I dry heave.
Hutchison has always maintained that he didn’t know Stodden was sixteen in the beginning of their relationship. If you believe that, you’re as stupid as he is vile. Courtney Stodden alleges that they know of another young woman that Doug Hutchison is currently grooming, and I fully and completely believe they are telling the truth. Time will tell, I guess. I think the man is and has always been a creep.
In a Zoom interview with Marlow Stern, senior entertainment editor for The Daily Beast, Courtney revealed some truths about their life with Doug Hutchison that should turn any adult’s stomach, and bring shame to anyone who ever contributed to the public humiliation they endured. (It is a must-read. I’m going to give you some highlights here, but Stodden’s whole story deserves to be heard.)
Courtney revealed that their relationship with Doug Hutchison was not gradual or progressive, saying, “I was 16 years old when I received his first email, and from the second or third email, I knew that he was interested in me.” Stodden was also sixteen years old when they married; Hutchison wasted no time locking down his child spouse.
Grooming Courtney was one thing; grooming the whole family was another.
Hutchison was great at both.
“I feel like there were so many things going on in my parents’ marriage that they were in an easy place to be groomed. My mom wasn’t happy in the marriage, my dad knew my mom wasn’t happy, and my dad and I weren’t that close,” Stodden explains. They gave their consent because “they thought I was going to be saved and protected, and that it was this big love story. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth.”
Once Courtney Stodden was married to a man more than three times their age, the real nightmare started.
Imagine undergoing an ultrasound on television to confirm that your teenage breasts were real? (What the FUCK, Dr. Drew?!) How about doing a “skit” with Jason Alexander that involved him rubbing an iPhone all over your bikini-clad breasts while your husband sat by and watched? (Again, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.)
I’m not linking to the videos because you shouldn’t need to see it for yourself to know that the adult men who thought this was okay failed and publicly abused this very young, very vulnerable person.
It didn’t end there. Courtney Stodden submitted to all manner of publicity stunts and media circus acts over the years they were married to Doug Hutchison to make money and bring their husband the level of fame and money he was unable to procure for himself via actual talent. Some would argue that Stodden “consented” to these stunts, but again, Courtney wasn’t old enough to vote, join the military, or buy cigarettes, so I can’t agree that they consented to things like grown men making a spectacle of their underage breasts on television. They didn’t consent; they relented.
“[Doug Hutchison] referred to me a few times as ‘the Golden Goose,’” Courtney divulges.
And later, “People have this misconception that I was with him for money, but I was the sugar mama—or rather, the sugar child.”
Courtney Stodden seemed to adopt a stereotypical, overly flirtatious “dumb blonde” persona in interviews with their husband, sometimes even appearing drugged or drunk.
The reality of why they appeared dazed and giggly, at least in the beginning of their fame, is heartbreaking.
While discussing a 2011 TV interview with ABC’s Lara Spencer, Courtney explains, “I felt like I had to stick up for Doug, and that’s what that interview was for. It was to make Doug look better and make him look like he’s not a predator. That was my role that day, and I like to say that I malfunctioned sitting there because it was too much for my brain to handle.” They also reveal, “I didn’t drink then or had ever taken a pill. Later on, I developed a Xanax and alcohol dependency. But I was sober. I was just drunk on fear and being taken advantage of in that interview.”
They didn’t escape all of this exploitation unscathed.
Courtney admits, “I have a lot of trauma from that entire chapter in my life, and that’s the time where you’re developing—your brain’s developing, you’re becoming a woman. And as I’m forming, I am being mocked, overtly sexualized, abused—not only in my home, but internationally—and it really did a number on my self-confidence and my sense of worthiness, which I struggle with today.”
Courtney Stodden didn’t only suffer exploitation.
They also dealt with years of domestic abuse at the hands of the much older man that promised to love them.
“He never hit me—and a lot of the reason why was because the paparazzi were always outside of our house—but he would be psychologically and mentally abusive,” Stodden explains. “He would get wasted every day and then corner me for hours, spitting and screaming in my face. I couldn’t move. I would be in a corner for hours. And I was so scared, and so young. He was absolutely terrifying.”
Unsurprisingly, this unholy union did not stand the test of time.
Hutchison and Stodden separated in 2018, and their divorce was final in March of 2020. After almost a decade of chaos and manipulation, Courtney, now twenty-six years old, is legally free from their abuser.
It looks like Courtney Stodden grew up. They got brave. They chose themself. But it hasn’t been easy.
“Even though I’m out of that relationship, I still feel heavy. I don’t feel light. I don’t feel like things are so much better. I hope that eventually I’ll be able to find genuine happiness and shed the traumas of my past, but I just feel very pessimistic,” Stodden confesses.
What society and the media did to Courtney Stodden is UNACCEPTABLE.
We can’t blame this on the fact that it was “another time,” either. When Courtney Stodden first entered the media spotlight, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” was the number one song in the nation. “Bridesmaids” was one of the top grossing films of the year. Casey Anthony was on trial. Charlie Sheen was melting down. Prince William married Kate Middleton.
We all remember those things like they happened yesterday— 2011 is not exactly ancient history. We were very much capable as a society of not being complicit in terrorizing a wounded child, but we didn’t choose that, did we?
And why? Because they seemed like a caricature and not a human being? Because their boobs were big and their persona was “sexy?” Because “they knew what they were doing?” Guess fucking what? They were a KID. The fact that anyone saw them as sexy or capable of consenting to all the shit that happened back then is criminal. They were a victim, and we treated their abuse like entertainment.
We should have done better. We didn’t. Courtney Stodden can never un-live the hell they endured, but we can damn sure be certain that we don’t make the rest of their life as hellacious as the last decade. They have a lot of life left to live. Why don’t we decide as a species to show them that the “genuine happiness” that feels so impossible to them in the aftermath of their trauma can be a reality after all?
In April of this year, Courtney Stodden revealed that their pronouns are they/them. Any references to “girl” or “woman” are direct quotes from Stodden themself.