December 7th, 2013

On Porn and Professionalism: The Staggering Hypocrisy of a Rarely-Questioned Perspective

Upon someone’s recommendation (I am sorry that I don’t remember whose right now), I took a look at an article several days ago by which I found myself feeling quite annoyed. Not that I wasn’t already aware this happened, but Salon.com was reporting about former porn performers being fired from jobs because they’re former porn performers. A judge quoted in the article justified upholding this behavior by stating the following:

“[…] the ongoing availability of her pornographic materials on the Internet will continue to impede [Halas] from being an effective [middle school] teacher and respected colleague.”

Not for the first time, I am faced with the inevitable question: why the flying fuck (no pun intended) would seeing someone have sex preclude that person from “being an effective teacher [or whatever] and respected colleague”? What, seriously, is the matter with people? As maddening as I find this, I also feel truly bewildered, because I simply do not understand this phenomenon.

First of all, according to our people-under-18-don’t-think-about-and-shouldn’t-have-any-exposure-to-sex culture, the students shouldn’t be seeing her work in its “ongoing availability” anyway, so I’m not sure why it would affect her capacity to teach them even if I did find her past profession relevant. But mainly, if you don’t want to see other people having sex, I recommend not watching porn. If you do, then why the hell would it seem to be a problem that the people you watch having sex also do other things in their lives, including making a living in another industry? What, truly, is the problem here?

As an aside, for anyone not recognizing a potential gender double standard here, please consider what might happen if a straight, cisgender male was found to have performed in porn in the past. Do you suspect he would be fired? I don’t know, and the answer probably varies, but it certainly seems to me relevant to consider. (Similar threads could be continued by considering the response to a gay cis male performer, a female cis lesbian performer, performers with body shapes that don’t look like the mainstream industry standard, trans* performers, etc., etc.)

In any case, I find this unacceptable. If we are going to partake in porn, and we apparently do (especially, ironically, if someone is recognizing a former porn star!), why would we not correlatively recognize that people indeed perform in it in order for us to be able to partake in it? That is a service they offer as such, and they appropriately get paid for it within the strictures of the capitalistic system in which we live. How can we possibly not recognize the inappropriateness of rendering their labor—in which, again, we seem to culturally partake heavily—somehow “less than” or invalid to a degree that makes their very offering it a fireable offense in other industries?

What we could really use, as I see it, is more of what Megan Andelloux shares here. What this woman who doesn’t appreciate slut-shaming and recognizes it as the nonsensical and potentially harmful phenomenon it is has to say. What this father sees about being a parent. What Veronica Monet perceives about violence and sexual repression (a topic on which I myself have written as well).

I could offer much further reading material, but the point is that perhaps if we didn’t act so collectively pubescent and puritanical about sex and opened to the appreciation that 1) sex is not some strange foreign phenomenon that we should all fear and feel embarrassed that we have anything to do with, and 2) each person chooses how to express her/his/their experience of the sexual instinct (which encompasses everything from actually having sex to painting a masterpiece to intensely wanting that piece of fresh apple pie) and how to earn a living in a capitalist system uniquely and individually, we could get to the point where we don’t act like 12-year-olds in our cultural interaction with it. We could, perhaps, further recognize that as long as unambiguous consent is involved, judgment, punishment, and intervention around the chosen combination of sexuality and labor don’t really seem life-affirming or helpful.

If we did, I suspect a number of double standards would drop off, our profound shame around our bodies, relationships, and sexuality would decrease, and people who have offered their service as porn performers would not be fired or not hired in the first place in other professions because of it. Such is an aspiration I hold dearly for all of us and to which I continue to personally commit myself.

Love,
Emerald

“Well this is just a little hatin’ place and you’re all Harper Valley hypocrites…”
-Jeanne C. Riley “Harper Valley PTA”

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8 Responses “On Porn and Professionalism: The Staggering Hypocrisy of a Rarely-Questioned Perspective”

  1. Thank you Emerald! I tweeted your blog. Your readers might also enjoy this article I recently wrote about Slut Shaming and the Modern Woman:
    http://www.yourtango.com/experts/veronica-monet/shame-and-modern-woman-how-slut-shaming-hurts-you

  2. Mr SM says:

    As a man, all I see is the hypocrisy of our society. Sadly, there is a double standard & it needs to go. What people choose to do or did with their lives is no one’s business. Our society is terrified of sex to the point it is seen as a plague. Sex is an intimate act between individuals nothing more, it’s not mind control and it’s something that shouldn’t be feared. Rather the focus should be, can you do the job? Are you qualified? These are the questions that need to be dealt with.

    Sex is sex, nothing more. Just like science is science or teaching is teaching. It is a job or a skill. The past life of a porn star is just that, a past life. It doesn’t define them, it’s a chapter of their life. I have had three distinct phases in my adult career, one should not affect the other. I have grown and moved on to the next chapter just as this young woman apparently tried to do. Who knows maybe the school board was more threatened by her, than the students would be, because they couldn’t control their sheltered behavior.

    I find women absolutely gorgeous & beautiful, I am in no way attracted to men, but both sexes need to be treated equally. Nudity and sexuality are things to respect without fear, they are a part of who we are. I agree with your conclusion, if a male porn star would have another career after their acting days are over 9 out of 10 probably won’t bat an eye, most would probably be envious. Why a female porn star should be looked down upon while their male counterparts aren’t is vindictive. People freely throw words such as slut, whore, tramp and so on when they find out a woman was porn star this behavior needs to go or it needs to apply equally as the male porn stars are the same.

    I personally respect anyone who chooses to go into that profession because it takes inner strength and confidence that most people do not have. I think with my brain first and my dick second, these twits need to remember that lesson and let her teach. Base it on merit not the bed.

  3. Shae Connor says:

    Men (straight and gay) have also been fired from jobs for porn backgrounds. I don’t have links handy, but there was one in the news within the past week or so. I’m actually kind of surprised that the Salon article only talked about women.

    At any rate, if anyone should be punished in these cases, it should be the adults who allow minors to watch porn. Where the hell were there parents??

  4. Emerald says:

    Veronica…I am sitting here unsure how to express what an honor it is to see you at my blog. When I saw your name on it tonight, my breath caught a little! When I first started becoming interested in sex worker rights activism around 2006, your name was one of the first I encountered (I think the first piece I ever read on the issue, actually, was your article titled something like “At the Movies with Sex Workers” that talked about Pretty Woman). I have viewed you as a hero in the sexuality awareness and awakeness realm, and I am truly honored that you are here and commented. Thank you also so much for Tweeting. And thank you for the link! I had missed that one myself, so I am glad to have had the chance to read it. I agree that my readers would find it of interest, but frankly, I feel any readers of this blog would (and should!) find interest in everything you write.

    Hi Mr. SM! Thank you for reading and for commenting. :) Yes, as I alluded to, I’m not sure about the male performer/female performer question, but I think it’s an important one to ask. Certainly the double standard seems dismayingly present in general (still!) in this culture, and this seems to me another area it might appear.

    Hi Shae, and thank you for reading and commenting as well. I’m not completely surprised that male performers have faced that repercussion as well (I can understand your surprise that the Salon article only spoke of women performers)—I do wonder if it tends to be meted out to an equal degree; either way, though, I find it uncalled-for to fire people from other jobs because they were (or are) porn performers. And indeed, in the case I specified above, I really don’t understand why the judge feels it would affect the teacher’s teaching when kids that age are clearly not legally supposed to be seeing her work in porn in the first place.

    Thank you all again very much for coming by and for commenting.

  5. Susana Mayer says:

    Well-stated Emerald. I encourage you to write an article regarding erotica and professionalism. The last scheduled featured presenter for the Salon cancelled her appearance. She feared her professorship status would be compromised with the publicity she receives. I am overly protective of attendees of the Salon since I have been informed on numerous occasions that “if my boss knew I were here I would be fired.” The shame of sexual pleasure, either from physical act, fantasy or sex memoir is being perpetuated by society. I have been told on numerous occasions I am doing a brave thing by offering a space to share uncensored words. The first few times I heard these words I truly thought it was an exaggeration, but I now realize it to be true. It is a sad commentary that one has to be brave in order to allow people the freedom to express themselves sexually, while doing no harm to others.

  6. Susana Mayer says:

    I apologize for no photo being attached to my commentary. I am not trying to hide, just can’t figure out how to add one. I thought the Salon’s website would be automatically added so I didn’t refer to it by full name in my comment – The Erotic Literary Salon. I would like readers of your post to know you have been a featured presenter at the Salon on several occasions. The attendees as well as myself always love when you share your wonderful erotic stories.

  7. Emerald says:

    Oh, dear, I’d had no idea you’d had a cancellation. :( I’m sorry to hear that. I agree that you are and have for years done a brave (and so useful) thing, and I agree too that it is sad that we are in a position to consider it such.

    Regarding the picture, yes, I think it’s because this is a WordPress blog and thus requires a separate log in rather than using your Google/Blogger profile, as many blogs do. I, ironically, have had the same thing happen to me at other WordPress blogs! Clicking on your name links right to the Salon, though, so that’s great.

    Thank you so much for reading and for commenting—as well as for linking to me from the Salon’s site! I find The Erotic Literary Salon a truly inspired venture well worth the time of attending—repeatedly.

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