Op-ed: Investigating Porn

BY Advocate Contributors

December 07 2011 5:00 AM ET

Whenever a porn hopeful asks me for advice about getting
into “the industry” (and it is, surely, an industry, a workplace), I often
respond, “Make sure you can tell everyone about it. Otherwise, don’t do it.”

The world, in understanding the effects of the Internet and a
newly globalized consciousness in our everyday lives, is still in its
pre-adolescence. So if you make porn movies, it becomes your responsibility to
stand up for and calmly explain your actions.

For those who consume and watch porn, the same
responsibility, to talk openly about it, exists.

The problem is that whenever pornography is debated
publicly, statements of self-evident truth gather like clouds and obscure
reason. And in the case of Kevin Hogan, who was recently suspended from his
teaching job at Massachusetts’s Mystic Valley Regional Charter School for his
gay porn past, these obscuring clouds all but completely blot out the light.

In a Fox News report exposing the teacher's past, instead of merely contacting Hogan, he is
ambushed by local reporter Mike Beaudet, imparting an unearned sense of urgency to the story. Then
there are close-up shots of Hogan’s (gasp) tattoos, followed by distant shots
of Hogan, who is wearing (very suspicious) sunglasses, talking on his phone
with God-knows-who. By inflating the differences between Hogan and the viewer,
the “urgent” story is dramatized. The emotional effect is meant to impress so
much weight that no true substance need exist.

No real arguments about why he should be reprimanded are
advanced. Instead, invective stands in for substance.

When a porn star is recognized or publicly “outed,” a
question is left unanswered by the investigating party: How did you know he was
in porn, anyway?

Does Beaudet watch gay pornography? If not, who was Fox
News’s source?

And if this educator is fired for his participation in porn,
what becomes of the person or persons who must have been watching porn and came
across his image — aren’t they participants?

Shouldn’t they be equally investigated for supporting and
participating in the porn industry? Of course, their identity is amorphous, while
the accused’s is specific. We live in a world where millions are involved in
pornography but not willing to admit it. And when someone does admit it — when
they openly participate — too often the millions oppose this person.

For these opposers — “investigative journalists,”
demonizers, and so-called “upholders of moral value” — there’s a separation
between sex and pornography. Sex is meant, at best, to be natural but
unmentioned. For surely, the parents of the students at Mystic Valley have had
sex, as have the reporters and CEOs and affiliates of Fox News. Who knows what
sort of sex they’ve had and continue to have, just one room down the hall from
their children?

But certainly, they’ve done it. So the problem lies
somewhere in crossing the line from private to public. But where that is, no
one seems to know.

Arguments against pornography are in general incomplete and
contested by sociologists, psychologists, and even religious figureheads. This
isn’t to say there’s nothing to criticize, just that there’s no uniform opinion
to point to about porn and its merits or problems. Not only is the opposite
always assumed in cases like Hogan’s, but also arguments against the phenomenon
of pornography are leveled against individuals without considering whether or
not this is appropriate.

Fox was able to — correctly — air their story as an
uncovering of a hidden truth. Hogan didn’t reveal to the school that hired him
that he had performed in three pornographic films (a relatively small number
considering that some performers appear in hundreds). No doubt, he thought it
would harm his chances of being hired.

Earlier this year, Sean Loftis, a gay porn performer and
producer, found himself in similar circumstances, and was fired from his job as
a substitute teacher in a Miami Beach middle school. He also concealed his work
in porn. On gay porn blog The Sword, he
defended his secrecy, echoing his accusers’ arguments of self-evidence: 

“...How many people involved in porn will state on their
resume...Porn Actor...Porn Producer or any other job that includes ‘porn’ or
‘adult entertainment?’”

It’s not just the objections of the schools, Fox News, or
some parents that prefer obfuscation to thoughtfulness; it is also Loftis’s and
Hogan’s secrecy. These truths do not deserve to be self-evident.

Hogan and Loftis could have been open about their work in
porn. It was once open, available to all on the Internet, then concealed during
hiring interviews, only to be uncovered again: this empowered the uncovering.
Like clothes stripped away, a sort of power arises from unveiling. It would be
hard to resist the feeling of revelation there — the feeling that an urgent
secret had been found.

On the other hand, our culture has not yet taken the
necessary steps to receive the truth openly. If you’ve ever been in a
relationship with someone who responds in anger to your true feelings, you’ll
know what I mean here: Some people, some societies, make it difficult to be
honest.

And then there are the truths thought to be self-evident in
those who defend Hogan. In comment fields, many wonder why Hogan should be
denied a job when porn is in his past and he probably regrets it. Translated:
Hogan must realize what he did was wrong for these commenters to understand and
forgive him.

In short, we’ve dug ourselves too deep here.

We don’t know why porn stars should not teach children, why
it’s OK to watch porn but not be in it, why we should have to hide our
involvement in pornography, or why we should be ashamed of it. These arguments
apply, in differing degrees, to sex itself.

All of these fumblings and misunderstandings are symptoms of
a world coming to terms with new openness and connectivity. What could once be
private can no longer be.

The line between porn consumer and performer should not be
so stark; it is only so because we still hide away our sexual feelings. Being
open is part of being honest.

As the world changes, our rights — no matter how
self-evident we think they are — begin to change as well. The firing of Kevin
Hogan would be a shared responsibility. It should not happen, but unless we
begin to talk openly about pornography and sex, we’ll never really understand
why that is, or even why we feel the way we do. If no work is done to clear
away deeply-held but clouded and unclear assumptions, we’ll continue to feel
uncomfortable when someone else shines a light on us.

  

Conner Habib is a writer, teacher, and porn actor, and
he’s pretty sure he’s the only person who’s won awards for all three. His
writing has appeared in print and online journals, and his first play is
currently in the works. His blog is connerhabib.wordpress.com and his adult
site is connerhabib.com. Follow him on twitter @connerhabib. He lives in San
Francisco.
 

Tags: Commentary

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