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Op-ed: Investigating Porn

Op-ed: Investigating Porn

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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.

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