Yesterday, I was contacted by a friend who had once produced a porn series. He had appeared on camera as himself, in full clothing, to interview the actors, but never performed. He last did this several years ago. Since then, he had been offered work for a large, well-known international TV network to present a new series about wrestling. This offer was then rescinded, citing his work in porn. This, by the way, being the same TV network that has, for several years, aired several reality TV series that frequently show young Geordies and New Jerseyites getting drunk, shouting expletives, insults, and having sex, and another re-uniting former couples on tropical beaches in an effort to see if they will get back together or be tempted by one of the other contestants – with plenty of booze and sex, of course. Not to mention the glaring irony that they are happy to air shows about people punching, slapping and kicking each other (acting or not) in the name of entertainment, but deem consenting adults having sex on screen for other legal consenting adults to enjoy as morality unacceptable. Never have the words ‘bankrupt’ and ‘morally’ been better suited.
In 2014, I was contacted by an employee of the then named Foster Carers’ Association (FCA) to help raise awareness of ‘Fostering Fortnight’, after he discovered that I had been a foster carer to a former student of mine. Fostering is something I passionately support and strongly believe that more of us should offer our homes to young people who desperately need loving and caring environments. The employee, who himself had spent years in care, asked if I had ever considered fostering again. Of course, I stated, that I would love to, but believed that the nature of my work would prevent me from being permitted to do so. His response was refreshing: that the most important thing is being able to offer time, attention and a loving & caring home. That anything else was immaterial to these basic priorities and that I should, at least, give it a go and see how it went. So, I did.
Not only did my actions, as a result of my complete honesty during the telephone application about the work that I did, result in me being completely blanked and ignored by the FCA, it also led to the employee, who recommended me, being sacked for having, according to them, allowed a porn performer to be associated with the organisation for simply helping to promote ‘Fostering Fortnight’. At the time, the FCA was proudly posting about former football manager, Mark Wright (no, not the TOWIE one) as its patron. A man who had been dismissed from no less than two football clubs for alleged racist abuse allegations and found guilty of harassing his ex-wife, is not only allowed to be a foster carer to numerous young people, but is proudly banded around as the poster kid for one of the country’s largest fostering agencies. There’s that pair again! – ‘Bankrupt’ and ‘morally’.
Only in the last few months did I learn that this former employee who had been dismissed as a result of my well-intentioned efforts to raise awareness about fostering and to possibly, once again, become a carer myself, won an unfair dismissal case against the FCA. There is some justice in this world.
While the compensation awarded might not bankrupt the FCA financially, any effort by them to cast a judgement on what is deemed morally questionable is entirely corrupt when they permit alleged racists and wife-abusers to be associated with their brand. That racism and domestic abuse are ‘on brand’ for a fostering agency but the fact that someone may work, or have worked, in a legal entertainment industry for adults, makes them entirely incapable of being a decent and responsible carer to young people – no matter how desperate they might be for homes. That their image is far more important than the need to find loving carers and safe homes – how ‘moral’ is that?
Of course, there is also my own case of dismissal. Sacked, as I was, in 2010, from Beal High School in London for having ‘brought the profession into disrepute’. A year later, I challenged it in front of the General Teaching Council and won the right to remain on the teaching register and return to the profession. But who, in reality, in this current moral climate, would hire me?
The sad fact is that, as we all know, no school would probably wish to take that risk. Not because I am not a good teacher. Not because I do not have the necessary skills and qualifications. Simply because they know that there are some who would not approve and it would not fit in with the image they are trying to promote. Or, as they prefer to state, it would bring the ‘profession into disrepute’.
Time and time again, both in the UK and USA, we are seeing examples of individuals being dismissed for other work and activities they have been involved in either in their past or in their time outside of their main job. Again and again the term ‘bringing the profession into disrepute’ is touted as the motive for their removal. And the rest of us in the society just roll over and accept it. Just like we used to when gays were sacked from the military or teaching or a multitude of other professions in the past.
The fact that a job in pornography is singled-out as a justifiable reason to sack someone is a gross hypocrisy. While, at the same time I was being dismissed for having worked in porn, other colleagues at the school were permitted, in their free time, to be a kickboxer, work in pubs (pedalling the most ‘dangerous drug’ in society, as deemed by the Parliamentary Independent Scientific Committee), worship in mosques, preach in catholic churches (promoting the non-use of contraception and, at the time, the sin of homosexuality – despite being gay himself!), smoke in the (tax-payer) provided smoking room (until it was legally removed in 2007), to over indulge in fatty foods to the point of carrying dangerously excessive body weight – nearly all of which has PROVEN negative effects on individuals and society (the most important being death – can’t really think of anything much worse than that). And yet, pornography, the legal production of entertainment involving consensual sex between adults, is deemed to be the only activity which is worthy of a sacking. No PROVEN negative effects – and certainly no hypothetical link to physical deterioration or death or the promotion of violence or death (such as the likes of the Old Testament or Qu’ran).
Why do we permit this hypocrisy to continue? Why do the winds blow so strongly in this direction against the moral barometer when the evidence simply isn’t there and the rationale is so contradictory?
Even if there is a logical argument to continue this discrimination of porn actors and workers in the general labour market, what is the legal basis for those in positions of authority to do so? Is there any?
In an article by Simon Jones for Ariadne Associates on 24th February 2015 entitled “Straw and Rifkind show the problem of managing staff with “second jobs” ” on whether employees can hold second jobs, Jones highlighted three main areas of consideration:
Firstly, you can’t impose a blanket ban on individuals doing work when they aren’t working for you. Individuals have a right to spend their time outside work in whatever way they wish, which includes earning money. However, you do have a right to ensure that they are not doing anything which could damage your business –so you can legitimately prevent them from working for a competitor, or other organisation which might want access to your commercial information (a supplier or customer for example). As with all these things, should matters be challenged by the employee, you’d need to show that there was some clear impact on your business.
There is no mention of the notion of ‘bringing an organisation/industry in disrepute’. For this to be argued, it would have to be proven, which it is impossible to do. The concept is, of course, wholly subjective. What one deems to be capable of causing ‘disrepute’ is driven by the whims and fancies of individuals, dictated by their own sense of morality and which way they believe the barometer of cultural ‘norms’ and acceptability is being blown on that day. This is usually down to perception, backed by zero evidence and frequently changes over time. The perception is also often wrong. In the case of porn actors, poll after poll conducted by newspapers in the UK and abroad overwhelmingly show that the public do not believe that working in a porn is a reason that individuals should be dismissed from employment – including several polls specifically on the teaching profession. While newspaper polls may not be scientific or particularly reliable, they are considerably more so than an individual, or collection of individuals, in one organisation simply deeming it to be so based merely on their own sense of perception.
In previous decades, individuals were sacked from their employment, or not hired in the first place, because of their homosexuality. Up until recent years, homosexuality was deemed as an immoral and unacceptable ‘lifestyle choice’ by significant numbers of people in society, including those in power or positions of influence in organisations and places of employment. I specifically remember that in in the mid-nineties, being homosexual was a bar to entering the diplomatic service, as it was an area of employment I was curious in pursuing. Teachers at that time were still subject to the controversial ‘Clause 28’ which aimed to prevent the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in British schools, which led most in the profession to steer well clear of even mentioning the topic to young people and caused most gay and lesbian teaching staff to lie and hide the truth about their sexuality from students and staff alike.
While gay and lesbian teachers do still suffer, usually in silence, within the profession, fearing how they might be treated, particularly by the young people, if they were to ‘out’ themselves, it would be unthinkable that an openly gay or lesbian person would not be hired or were to be sacked for being so. If it happened, here would be an uproar. Homosexuality is widely tolerated and accepted (and often celebrated) within large sways of British and western society, particularly amongst the metropolitan elite who run, and influence, large sectors of government, political offices and the media. Fortunately for the LGBTIQA community, although much still needs to be done, the barometer is now pointing in the right direction so that any discrimination thrown their way is rightfully treated as a serious matter to be challenged and prevented by huge sways of of those in our liberal, democratic society.
However much work still needs to be done to improve the lives and treatment of those within the the LGBTIQA community, it is light years ahead of those people who choose to LEGALLY enter pornography as a performer or producer, or in many other capacities. Let me stress that fact: pornography is LEGAL. Everyone who works within it is working withing a LEGAL profession. Like many other professions, there are guidelines and rules, and while some of these in the UK are controversial and considered draconian by some with the porn industry, it does not change the fact that pornography itself is completely LEGAL – to produce, perform in and purchase.
We are all entitled, on a personal basis, to make moral judgements about individuals and the choices they make about their careers and how they choose to make money. Across our society, there are strong opinions about those involved in the meat trade, factory farming, the betting industry, the alcohol and tobacco industries, the fast food industry, hunting, those who make large sums of money kicking a leather football backwards and forwards, boxing, wrestling, the modelling and fashion industries, defence and arms production, space development agencies, nuclear power, religious education and the religious industry (yes, its an industry), TV evangelists, producers of horror films, action movies, reality TV, the banking industry, the diamond trade, psychics, astrologers, homeopaths, reiki healers and a whole array of ‘alternative’ therapies, anti-contraception catholic charities, high street money lenders, comedians… to name just a few. But how many individuals involved in these industries would be dismissed because their employer found out that they had worked, or had a second job in, any of these? I dare say not many, if any.
For a multitude of reasons, often illogical, society currently deems all those listed industries above as ‘acceptable’, despite being controversial and despite, in some cases, having proven negative effects on our society – both here in the western world and in developing countries. The effects of pornography, oft debated and hypothesised, both negative and positive, are neither proven nor disproven. Despite this, those who work in pornography carry with them a stigma and prejudice that usually goes unchallenged and continues to be deemed acceptable across the board to the extent that employers and other providers can legitimately discriminate against such people, despite any evidence to back it up. Based merely on perception and a subjective and emotive sense of morality.
You can also prevent an employee from doing other work if it would stop them from working for you. So if someone wants to do an evening job starting at 6 but isn’t due to finish their shift with you till 7, then you can of course also prevent them from doing this.
Of course. Seems like common sense.
The third key area is Health and Safety, particularly (and ironically given how much some employers seem to hate them) via the Working Time Regulations. These lay down the rules about the maximum 48 hour working week, rest breaks and time between shifts. If a member of staff works 35 hours a week for you (9 to 5 Mon-Fri say) and then wants to do 20 hours a week in a bar (say a four hour shift Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday) you could try to prevent them from doing so on the grounds that they are working 55 hour weeks possibly without sufficient rest between shifts. Again, if you can show a clear safety risk (they operate machinery for example) it’s easier to do this.
Again, pretty common sensical and appropriate. But, again, this is across the board and non-prescriptive or discriminatory about what kind of LEGAL work it is. Rightfully so.
This is exactly how it should be. Rules concerning other and previous employment should be across the board and not discriminatory based on the nature of the work. If it is legal employment then all employment all is valid and any discrimination based on perception or a moral judgement should not be permitted under any grounds.
Of course, in the hiring process, people are employed based on the skills and abilities they possess. If someone who has worked in porn lacks those skills, then that should be the reason they are not hired in the first place. Not hiring someone because they have done porn, despite the fact it is legal employment and despite the fact they possess the skills, should be deemed entirely unacceptable rationale and reasoning.
In an ideal world, those of us who have worked in the pornographic industry should proudly state it on our CVs. Most of us carry no shame for our pasts or, in some cases, our presents. But we have lives to live, bills to pay and families to feed. We are more than aware of the discrimination that we continue to face. For the same reason that gay people in the past, and in many cases still, do not reveal the truth of their sexualities (not that it is ever relevant when it comes to employment), porn workers are made to hide their careers from the moral police who still deem it acceptable to single out, victimise and rip from their employment simply because they don’t like it.
Its time for us all, especially those who work, or have worked in porn, to stand up against this perception, to challenge those who dismiss porn and sex workers, to change our attitudes to sex, sex work and pornography.
More importantly, all of us who have ever benefited from the products of pornography must also take a stand. Pornography is a billion-dollar industry. Millions of us consume it. In the vast majority of cases, we use it for the reason it is intended – to entertain. It can help us as individuals to understand ourselves, our sexualities and bring sexual relief. It can help our relationships. All of us who have used porn and benefited from it should stand up for the people who put their lives and reputations on the line to help produce it – the sons, the daughters, mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, cousins and grand-children, all human beings with feelings, emotions and ambitions who help produce an under-rated, but over-used, form of entertainment for millions, if not billions, to enjoy. We must do our bit to change the tide, liberalise our societies and their attitudes to sex generally and the sex industry. The more we can unsaddle those of us who work in the sex industry with the burden of life-long stigmatism and prejudice, the more we can all be more open about our sexualities and the more we can help all of us to rid society as a whole of the guilt that continues to plague all of us when we dare to veer from the narrow road of deemed accepted sexual normality.