Recently, there’s been some discussion of folks with adult industry histories and/or presents and what happens when they attempt to cultivate mainstream careers (either post-sex work or, in some cases, simultaneously).
Usually, nothing good.
Just ask Michael Verdugo and Sandra Margot, or Tera Myers and Shawn Loftis. Ask the unapologetic Benedict Garrett, and ask the likely countless others who never make it into the news… and these are just examples of people with adult performance pasts; never mind the all the other sex work occupations – then the numbers and the stories of stigmatization certainly get astronomical.
I received several comments on this topic, but two in particular really made me think. The first was sent to me via private message:
Comment 1: “I see porn/dancing (which I miss) the same way a lot of people see tattoos: beautiful/hot art that I would love to do but worry about how it would affect future employment. What I have done is a drop in the bucket, yet I still have people I don’t really know (just a couple months ago) recognize me…”
Another came via twitter:
Comment 2: “If people did porn once, knowing it’s a visual medium, why do they try a diff[erent] vis[ual] medium? Do they think no one will find out?”
I’ve been thinking about these comments, both of which I feel were offered generously and sincerely by thoughtful readers, a lot over the last few days (when I wasn’t thinking about Portrait of A Call Girl, that is ;) They, and their implications, have prompted me to wonder…
People do all sorts of illegal, wrong,* bad,* and downright evil* things. And although many may (claim to) think adult performance is evil or wrong, each of the above mentioned persons (Michael, Sandra, et al) engaged in a perfectly legal iteration of sex work. Evaluation of their former or coincident workplace experiences as the pan ultimate perfect storm of pariah-generating possibility seems, then, to drift into morality territory.
[*always remember to control for/acknowledge subjectivity, especially in instances of “evil” and “bad,” among others]
Why is that ok?
It’s also interesting to consider the varying degrees of pariah-generating possibility (read: stigma) different sex work occupations are subject to, along with the variable ways in which that stigma manifests. Comment 1 gets at this. Dancing, which the commenter has apparently done, is conceptualized as a less-stigmatizing “drop in the bucket” iteration of sex work in comparison with adult performance. Still stigmatizing, yes; but not “as bad,” so to speak.
It can’t be because of il/legality… Is it because of the visual record?
Comment 2 touches on this idea. In asking why people who have worked as adult performers choose to move on to some other form of visual media and in asking “Do they think no one will find out?,” it seems like the finding out with proof – a permanent visual record – is the issue. In other words, porn performance is so stigmatizing because it never goes away.
To which I also wonder: why?
Nothing we do ever really goes away. Life is a process wherein every experience informs the overall. This seems to make fairly good sense to most people, but what is it about porn performance that renders a person’s informed experience dismissible, questionable, and stigmatized? Well, I have a guess…
It’s sex, the culture’s discomfort with sex and varying forms of sexual expression, and the fact that a version of sexual expression is captured and archived for public consumption.
What’s *supposed to be* private becomes public, which violates some form of social order (??). This “transgression” then seems to trump all other sex- and sex-work related “transgressions.” But it’s not just the sex per se (although it is, in part), nor is it the sex work only (although it also is, in part)… at least I don’t think so.
I think it may be the public part – it may be the fact that porn performers do something “in public” that the culture is, in some way of endless ways, afraid of and/or made uncomfortable by. Judgement then comes from a place of individual and/or collective discomfort, rather than absolute wrongness (which may or may not be a word)… at least in part.
We should totally get over that.
What do you think? (email me)
(pictured: this girl won’t likely kill you, but she’ll sure mess you up)
Dear Lovelies Who Offered Comments 1 and 2 – thank you!! xo
You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage/PVVOnline, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”