Are porn workers the last pawns of the morality police?

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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  This offer was then rescinded, citing his work in porn.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.

 

Sources:

https://ariadne-associates.co.uk/2015/02/24/straw-and-rifkind-show-the-problem-of-managing-staff-with-second-jobs/

 

The problem with pornography is…

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… well, just that.

We speak of ‘pornography’ as if we know what each of us is referring to exactly and yet, very often, some of us have quite different notions of what pornography is.

For some of us too, the word ‘pornography’ is highly loaded.  It only takes some people to hear the first syllable and the look of revulsion on their face is enough to make even the most bitter of lemons seem an attractive alternative.

Its porn today and the end of civilisation as we know it tomorrow!  Or that’s what some will have us believe.

The fact is that we seem to treat pornography entirely differently from any other influences, industries and forms of expression in our society.  It is often whipped up with doom and gloom stories and tied, inextricably, to emotional responses that allow all sense of rationale to fly out the nearest open window, or, failing that, the minutest of cracks in the wall.

So, in an effort to try and put some degree of rationale on what is too often disproportionate and hypocritical scare-mongering that could so easily be voiced by the “WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!” lady from The Simpsons, I have compiled a short list (yes, another one of Bendy’s lists – as someone on Ask.fm accused me of doing too frequently) of myth-busting and sanity-inducing statements to, hopefully, reassure you that the end is not quite nigh just yet:

“Pornography is…”  

Well, what exactly?  Saying ‘pornography’ and believing that it is one homogenous thing, is like saying ‘religion’ (there he goes again!) and believing that the grey-haired, cake-making, WI member who attends her local CofE village church every Sunday is the same as a suicide bomber in Fallujah.

The fact is, they are worlds apart in many ways, except for the fact that they both believe, or purport to believe, in a supernatural entity called ‘God/Allah’.

When it comes to pornography, there is a plethora of material ranging simply from displays of human flesh to penetrative sex and yes, on the extreme of the scale, to acts that some would describe as violent.  (When I refer to ‘pornography’ I am speaking of legal pornography within the United Kingdom – much like I am referring to recognised religions, not cults, when I speak of ‘religion’).  The media, and those who are anti-porn (whatever it is they are actually ‘anti’) will frequently have you believe that it is all one thing.   It is not.  At its simplest definition, ‘pornography’ is the visual or literary portrayal of acts of a sexual nature.  But that is all that all ‘pornography’ really shares in common.

You wouldn’t blame a wine connoisseur for the binge-drinking epidemic.

There is a certain snobbery in our country around the wine culture and those people who might call themselves ‘wine connoisseurs’.  It is perceived to be  a real skill and an indication of refinement within our culture.  I have never heard anyone lay the blame for the thousands of young people who go binge drinking every weekend, often crowding our A&E departments, at the doors of the sophisticats we know as ‘wine connoisseurs’.  Perish the thought!

Yet, however you put it, these people are consuming a drug, one that the Independent Science Committee deemed to be the most dangerous of all substances, licit and illicit.  Wine, beer, spirits, alco-pops, they are all a poison that your body does not need.  Taken in excess, alcohol has PROVEN negative side effects on both the individual and on society at large.  In too many cases, it can also be directly linked to deaths.  And yet, the wine connoisseurs of the middle and upper classes can happily sip, suck and spit on their poison, sound in the knowledge that because THEY are able to regulate their intake, they will never be blamed for the suffering of others who cannot, or choose not to.

True, I hear you say, but you might blame individual alcohol companies now and then for products and pricing structures attempting to appeal to the young and most vulnerable.  And yet, when it comes to pornography, yet again, we see quite a different set of rules.

All pornographers, whether performers or producers alike, are usually tarnished with the same brush.  We are ALL responsible for those individuals who may, or may not (because nothing has yet been proven when it comes to porn), suffer negative side effects from consuming it.

While the director of Cobra beer might receive a Lordship for his role in the alcohol industry, which is obviously entirely blameless for any negative repercussions on an individual’s life, we have yet to witness a porn producer receiving similar acclaim for services to the British economy and sexual expression.

– You were / are a BAD role model for our children.

OK, so maybe I have a personal gripe here.  But I have heard it on more than several occasions and the level of hypocrisy here continues to baffle me.

Let me remind you that there are NO PROVEN NEGATIVE EFFECTS from the consumption of pornography.  None whatsoever.  I am not saying that there cannot be, but that none can yet be proven.  Sure, that is not a glowing praise for pornography, of course not.  But just bear that in mind as I rant on.

While the idea that an adult who is a teacher and who also chooses, in their own time (yes, OUTSIDE of the classroom) to participate in a legal activity which is participated in by consenting legal individuals which produces a product for the consumption of legal ADULTS which has currently no proven negative side effects whatsoever is utterly reprehensible in the minds of many, they would take no umbridge in the knowledge that their child is taught by people who, through their own actions and choices, indulge in activities that are life threatening and, in some cases, DIRECTLY so, for young people.

Are we really saying that someone who chooses to consume vast amounts of calories beyond their body’s needs, knowing that obesity is DIRECTLY attributable to DEATH, can be held up as a ‘role model’ more so than someone who performs in pornography?  That a teacher who takes a few puffs on a cigarette at break time and then breathes the toxins over your child during the following period, knowing the huge amount of DEATHS DIRECTLY LINKED to both smoking and passive smoking, is a better ‘role model’ for your children than someone who is comfortable exploring the various avenues of human sexual expression for other people to consume and enjoy?

I’m not saying these people cannot be role models in some ways, but don’t have one rule for one and another for something else.  This is nothing but total misplaced and disproportionate hypocrisy of the grandest scale!  And why?  Because its porn, of course.  D’uh!

– God forbid, my kids might see you naked or having sex!

You know what, despite the fact we know they shouldn’t, they might indeed tune in and see me being naked on screen or having sex in a porn film.

Is seeing anyone in their most natural state doing something which is, undoubtedly, one of the most natural activities, irrespective of the age of the viewer, something that I, or anyone else should be ashamed of?   Should I not be far more ashamed if a young person caught me sipping a glass or wine, chomping on a bag of chips or puffing on a cigarette?

While I can understand that some types of pornography may carry mixed and/or wrong messages, is the simple act of viewing human nudity or sexual intercourse really posing any danger or threat to anyone, including children?  We deem it perfectly acceptable to view animals in all their glory and gawp at them during coital action in the name of ‘scientific research’ or ‘nature documentaries’ and don’t believe that this is something that children should be protected from.  What, and more crucially, WHO are we really protecting here?  Is it really the children who should be growing up in a society that does not estrange sexuality from part of the human experience at any stage or are we actually protecting the many adults, including amongst them the parents and teachers, who lack the confidence and ability to broach the topic with the openness, relevance and maturity that any truly civilised society should be capable of doing?

– It’s the violent and rape porn I don’t like.

And, you know what?  Nor do I.

But its not the porn I don’t like, it the violence and the rape.

Funnily enough, I don’t tolerate violence or rape in any medium.  Which is why I have little tolerance for such activities as boxing and wrestling.  But, yet again, I don’t tarnish all sports with the same brush.  I recognise that while violence may exist within some sports, it is the principle of VIOLENCE that I oppose and not the fact that it is a sport.

So, there you go.  A few statements that so many often band around without taking the moment to think about the, as is so often the case, hypocrisy of their ill-considered statements.  So, next time you decide to jump on that band wagon, just take a brief step back and ask yourself – is this really what I mean to say and, if I do, am I consistent in my opinion?

Most importantly, hopefully its made you realise that, as a result of the proliferation of pornography in recent years, the end is not quite as nigh as some may have you believe.  At least, its certainly not any nearer because of the porn.

Is it racist to ask you to turn your spine sideways?

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There aren’t many times that my son and I burst out laughing simultaneously while listening to the Radio 4 midnight news together.  Come to think of it, there aren’t many times we listen to Radio 4 together.  Much to my son’s annoyance, on the odd occasion he hasn’t already turned the dial to Radio 1 or Kiss FM, when we are in the car together, I do subject him to the national institution that is BBC Radio 4.

Tonight’s news ended on a story about a lady in Hawaii who had been fined for not having her name correctly written on her driver’s licence, despite the fact the licencing agency was not able to fit the final character within its 35 letter limit.  Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele is equally frustrated that the final ‘e’ is not able to be included on the official documentation, but state officials are urging her to change her name.  What caused my son and I to break out in a brief fit of giggles, as well as the news reporter’s two attempts to (pretty successfully, I must say) read out the entirety of Janice’s last name, was her final comment:  “officials have suggested using her maiden name: ‘Worth’.”

It always amazes me how attached people do get to a name, particularly a last name.   For several reasons, my son opted to change both his names by deed poll.  But while others see a name little more than an identifier, others see it as deeply attached to their personal and cultural identities.

The story of Janice Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele reminded me of my time as a teacher and the array of names I encountered while working in the multi-cultural setting of various east London schools.  There is, of course, a lot you can tell from someone’s name.  On several occasions, I would go through the register greeting students in their various native languages based on what their last name might be.  Usually this was a reliable method, but occasionally there were anomalies.  Then there is the issue of stereotyping and making assumptions based on names, which could lead you into awkward situations.

In one of my attempts to be a more humorous teacher, when giving out new folders at the start of the year to the students, I would ask them to write their names on the card in the middle of the spine of the folder, then I would add “if you are Sri Lankan, you may have to turn the folder on the side to do this.”  Most students would titter at this comment, a few would gest that I was being ‘racist’, although the majority of Sri Lankan students were impressed that Mr.Garrett even recognised what a Sri Lankan surname was, let alone to be able to take the ‘micky’ out of it.  The fact is, many Sri Lankan and Tamil last names are long, several syllables long in some cases –  although nowhere near as long as Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele.

For your information, the longest name ever goes to Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior.  Rather sensibly, he would go by Hubert Blaine Wolfe+585, Sr. .  Now, there’s a man with a bit of common sense!

Stop the BNP – vote!

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When I was still a teacher, I was publicly told off by the Headteacher for placing posters around the school urging students of a voting age, and others, to pressure their parents to vote in order to prevent the BNP from winning a seat.  Of course, as a government employee I was supposed to be impartial and fighting against discrimination and hatred, when it emanates from a legitimate political body, is not the responsibility of a teaching professional.  It didn’t, however, prevent me from writing a little blog on my old website, that went like this:

“Save laughing at, and feeling superior to, the idiots who vote for, and the air-wasters who belong to, the British National Party, one feels powerless to do much about them.  In much of the country they pose little threat.  But in the London Borough of Redbridge, in neighbouring Barking & Dagenham and in Epping Forrest, they are unfortunately a real, and in some cases, growing force.  What can you do to stop them?  Simple!  Get out there and vote in every election you can.  It doesn’t matter who you vote for, as long as its not the BNP.  Use your vote wisely – stop the BNP!  Visit www.stopthebnp.org.uk “

My written statement to the General Teaching Council

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Below is a copy of my written statement to the General Teaching Council, submitted as part of my evidence to the GTC in preparation of, and consideration in, their hearing against me.  It is not a written version of my oral statement that I gave on the day:
I am not going to deny or dispute any of the facts of the case:
Yes, I engaged in communication with a number of Year 10 students.
Yes, I undertook work of a pornographic nature.
Yes, I performed as a stripper in public places.
Yes, I owned a website which contained details of my work as a stripper.
Yes, I left voicemail messages on the Assistant Head Teacher’s telephone on the 4th July.
These are the indisputable facts.
However, much of this case does not hinge on fact, but on perception.
I am simply going to challenge a perception and interpretation and to offer an alternative point of view.
Let me also state that, whilst there are many aspects of the profession that I deeply enjoyed and am grateful to have spent almost four years within, it was my intent, when tendering my resignation, not to return to teaching.  This is still my intention.
Let me start by focusing on what I believe to be the most important role of a teacher and what the focus of the General TEACHING Council should be: his/her role as a ‘teacher’.
As a teacher, I definitely had faults.  I was not the most organised or the most thorough.  Sometimes I arrived in the classroom after the bell.  Occasionally I raised my voice at students.  Now and then I forget when I was supposed to be on lunch or break duty.  But, despite my faults, I believe I was an inspirational and knowledgeable teacher who provided thought-provoking, enjoyable and challenging lessons.  I went out of my way to ensure that I took an interest in each and every one of the pupils I taught.  As was the nature of the subject of which I was a Head, I also ensured that my PSHE lessons fostered an environment whereby students felt comfortable to talk, discuss and share opinions.  As a result, I was also a member of staff that several students felt they could come and talk to about a variety of issues and concerns.  I do not apologise for this in any way.
I contributed to the school community on many levels and was an active participant in many events throughout my time there.  As a record of some of the things that I was involved in whilst at Beal High School, I have compiled the following list:
–       organising the very first sexual health day fair to be held in a borough school
–       participant in three school musicals
–       participant in at least two school music concerts
–       organised sixth form trips to the Houses of Parliament
–       starting and running of the Jewish Society
–       introduced the East London Out Project (ELOP) into the school to aid in the combating of homophobia
–       introduced the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy as visitors into PSHE lessons
–       introduced Ashiana, an Asian women’s charity, as a visitor into PSHE lessons
–       allowed the ‘Romance Academy’ to hold workshops
–       hosted a show on Radio XL which included visitors from ELOP, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, Hope Not Hate and Ashiana
–       set up an international schools twinning project with each tutor group of a specific year group
–       member of the school choir
–       hosted, upon request of the media department, the school’s media awards event
–       hosted, upon request, two school talent shows
–       accompanied trips to Germany, France and Spain
On top of these achievements, during my almost three years employed at Beal High School, as well as being the Head of PSHE & Citizenship, I was also teacher of A level Politics, GCSE Religious Studies, GCSE Sociology and lower school teacher of French, German and History.  In the academic year 2009-10, I was responsible for the on-going teaching of six subjects in total.  I knew of no other teacher at that school, or any other I had ever worked in, who was charged with anywhere near that number.
I do not believe that I can therefore ever be accused of having taken my role of a teacher lightly.  I was committed, capitalised on my skills and talents and took on more than my fair share of responsibility, perhaps even when I should have pushed back a little and said ‘no’.  But no-one can ever accuse me of not being an enthusiastic, pro-active and positive member of the teaching staff.
But this case has absolutely nothing to do with my teaching.  No reference has ever been made to what I did in the classroom or in my role as a teacher within the school day.
This case is not about teaching.  It is about the perception of the role of a teacher within society and the perceived impact his/her ‘private’ life can or cannot have on the institution, its students and on said society.  All of which is entirely subjective.
In this case, the main thrust of the case is the extent to which an individual who is employed as a teacher could be, or indeed should be, involved in the acts of pornography and stripping outside of his/her work hours.
I am not here to argue whether pornography is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  There are arguments both ways, but there is no evidence to prove either the positive or negative effects of pornography on an individual or on society.  It is simply a matter of opinion.  We all have our own opinions and values.  I live my life according to what I deem is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, the General Teaching Council must come to its own conclusion about what it deems ‘right’, ‘wrong’ and ‘acceptable’.  I believe it would be remiss of me if the General Teaching Council were to reach this conclusion without taking on-board the full range of views and opinions, accompanied by the relevant evidence to support these views.
In order for you to state that a teacher who involves him/herself in pornography is guilty of “undermining public trust and confidence in the teaching profession” you must therefore have evidence to prove this assertion.  If there is no evidence then it is simply a matter of opinion.  It is my opinion that it does not undermine public trust and confidence in the teaching profession.  However, this is just an opinion.  I will be providing evidence to support this opinion, to demonstrate that it is an opinion shared and supported by many and to demonstrate that there is indeed increasing evidence to demonstrate that there is an increased acceptance of such behaviour across the board within British society.  This is not proof of this assertion, but evidence of a shared opinion.
I will also be raising questions about, and highlighting inconsistencies in, your allegations and in the conduct of my previous employer and of the General Teaching Council, reviewing past cases where precedent may have been set and similar examples from other schools.
Whether you agree with it or not, since leaving Beal High School, I have remained in contact with many students from the school.  The majority of which communicate with me via Facebook.  They have absolutely every right to do so and so do I.  I have had countless students, and several parents, message me with messages of support.  I have had several others who have come to me with questions, concerns, problems and seeking advice.  No I am not a qualified counsellor, or doctor, or therapist.  I am an ex-teacher and most importantly a human being who cares and clearly, a human being that many of those people feel they can confide in and trust.
I defy anyone, anywhere in any capacity whatsoever to find any evidence to prove that I have harmed or abused a young person be it physically, sexually or mentally.  I am perfectly happy to accept that sometimes I behave in ways that some may deem ‘immature’ and ‘overly familiar’.  I accept that I have done, do and am happy to continue talking to young people about matters of a sexual nature.  But no-one can ever accuse me of abuse or involving myself either sexually or romantically in any anyway with a young person in any jurisdiction.
Beal High School, Redbridge Borough Council, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and the Child Welfare office of Hackney Council have all conducted their own investigations into me and have discovered no evidence at all to prove that I should not be permitted contact with or responsibility over young people.  Indeed, Hackney Council, in consulting with Redbridge Council and Beal High School, are entirely satisfied that I am able to look after a 17 year old boy who is currently in my care.  A boy who was an ex-student at Beal High School, who continually reported physical abuse by his step-father, was subsequently sent to Pakistan where he was further physically abused and sexually assaulted and then contacted me out of desperation in order to assist him.  A boy, who was told by his former Head of Year only weeks before he was sent to Pakistan, that he was lying about the situation at home.  A boy who was continually failed by Beal High School and Redbridge Borough and who, out of sheer desperation, has turned to me because he felt he could turn to no-one else.
It is also noteworthy that the member of staff who was this child’s Head of Year is the same member of staff who, from the moment I was a Beginner Teacher at Beal High School, disliked the fact that I had, what she called, an ‘over-familiar’ approach with the students and, as it also so happens, is the same member of staff who was my Head of department for Politics and Sociology but gave little to no support in either subjects whatsoever save for collating predicted results and in carrying out two lesson observations in my last year, the only lesson observations I ever received by any member of staff while at Beal High School.
In response to the specific allegations laid against me:
1. engaged in communication with a number of Year 10 students via text messge, email and Facebook, which was inappropriate because it fell outside the boundaries of the professional teacher/student relationship.
This was addressed over a year before I left.  I admitted absolutely to these charges and the school decided, at that time, to give me a final warning on the basis that I did not repeat the offence (which I did not between the time I was given the warning and the date that I was suspended) and to offer me counselling, which I took up.  If the school had decided that this warranted dismissal and a recommendation for proceedings with the GTC, they should have decided that at the time.  I fnd it utterly disgraceful and inappropriate that this is taken into consideration at this hearing.  It is, in my opinion, an attempt at clutching at straws in an effort to seal my guaranteed and likely removal from the register.
I have very little more to add to these allegations that I did not already cover when the investigation was conducted back in 2009.  However, I have included, as part of the evidence, messages I received from Student A, the main student involved in the investigation, after she voluntarily contacted me soon after I was suspended.  While this evidence does not in any way take away from the fact that I was the adult and that I did indeed communicate with students in Year 10, it is evidence that goes somewhat against some of the sentiments that Student A expressed during the investigation.
2. you undermined public trust and confidence in the teaching profession by:
           
            a. undertaking work of a pornographic nature;
            b. performing as a stripper in public places;
            c. owning a website http://www.johnnyanglais.com which contained details of your work    as a stripper;
It seems to me that there are several other issues which need to be considered in determining if taking part in pornography constitutes professional misconduct or conduct likely to bring the profession or professional institutes into disrepute.
Firstly, there is the issue of if someone did discover my participation, whether they would be offended by that. Presumably, the main way someone would discover my participation would be if they viewed pornography, which, in this country, you must be 18 or over to do legally. It seems to me to be highly unlikely that a consumer of pornography would be offended by the porn, and therefore the nudity and sexual intercourse, they are viewing or would consider the participation of someone in the porn as being morally wrong. Certainly social and cultural attitudes towards pornography are more accepting at present- so much so that the Liberal Democrats had a female candidate (Anna Arrowsmith) in the 2010 general election who is a director of porn films. Political parties generally try to avoid situations which they consider scandalous or likely to cause public outrage. It seems to me to be a reflection on current cultural and social attitudes that a political party is happy to endorse a candidate who has a long involvement in the porn industry. Furthermore, this candidate actually had an increase in votes from the previous general election for her party’s candidate which seems to me to be an indicator of the public attitudes towards pornography and those involved in pornography.
Secondly, there is the issue of whether someone who did discover my participation in the porn would consider this as a reflection on the profession of teaching or any institute that I might be involved in. I tend to think that people are more sensible than this, and cannot see how if someone did find out about my involvement how they would consider it to be any reflection on my profession, on any institute I am associated with, or indeed any reflection on my professional competence. As it stands, any participation I have had in porn (or any other aspect of my personal life) bears no relation to my professional competence.
My understanding is that ‘bringing the profession into disrepute’ would most probably apply to certain criminal activities and criminal convictions. In this instance, no criminal act has taken place. Might I also add, that I never approached any representative of any media outlet in the first instance.  My first involvement with the media was after The Sun, closely followed by the Daily Express, had been tipped-off and then hounded me outside my property.  The only people who were aware of my situation were employees of Beal High School.  When I enquired as to who had notified the newspaper, I was simply told that it was a member of the school.  I also never mentioned the name of the school in the first instance.  When I was asked to name the institution by the journalist from The Sun, I refused.  She quickly researched on the internet on her mobile device and asked me if it was “Beal High School?”, to which I responded, “If you publish that, it was not me who told you”.
Since then, I have indeed made numerous public appearances, for which I do not apologise in any way.  I am happy to offer any media outlet who is interested in my story an alternative perspective on the opinion that what I did and do is wrong.  For, as I stated earlier, this is not about ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ it is about perception.  As well as participating in interviews for various forms of press across the world, I have been invited by the BBC on ‘Sunday Morning Live’ and ‘The Big Questions’, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Queen Mary College and the University of Cambridge Union to participate in debates about the issue of pornography and sex.  Interestingly, the students of the elite University of Cambridge passed the motion that ‘porn is good for society’.  Clearly, if a majority of the most intellectual of our society believes in the virtues of pornography, it cannot simply be dismissed as an activity that ‘undermines public trust and confidence’.
Therefore, various questions need to be raised if this is indeed the conclusion that the General Teaching Council is wanting to arrive at.
What is it about an individual who works as a teacher and participates in pornography and/or stripping that ‘undermines public trust and confidence’?  Is it the activity itself or theknowledge of the activity which is the problem?  If so, why would or should any human being be ashamed of being viewed in a state of nudity or in the act of sexual intercourse except for the fact that it has become a cultural ‘norm’ for human beings in this society to think along these lines, without any real justification or rationale except for a widespread embarrassment that many human beings in this society share if and when they are viewed in such a manner?
Why does the GTC find this form of legal activity unacceptable but tolerates other, but equally (if not more harmful) activities amongst its registered members?  (Including smoking, drinking, over-eating,cage-fighting and being a Dominatrix, among them.)
From where, which belief system or institution does it derive its value system to reach the conclusion that participation in these activities ‘undermines public trust and confidence’?  Is it based on a religion (if so, which one and why?), or is it based on the adherence to societal ‘norms’ (if so, where does it collate its evidence to support this majority-backed opinion)?  And if it is based on their support of what they believe to be a majority-based opinion, would they therefore admit to pandering to a ‘mob rule’ mentality?
More crucially, why is pornography perceived as something that is worthy of a sackable offence in the context of other regularly committed (and tolerated) offences by teaching professionals?
Where is the consistency in the opinion and actions of the General Teaching Council and where is the evidence to support the conclusion?
3. left inappropriate voicemail messages in the Associate Head teacher’s telephone on 4 July.
I do not believe any of the message(s) I left to be inappropriate.  Obviously, I was somewhat emotional and reactionary at the time, although perfectly polite and civil and I raised various points and questions which I considered at the time, and still now, to be extremely relevant.  I do not apologise for raising them or raising them in the manner that I did.  I have every right to express myself, my concerns and my opinions in whatever manner I see fit.
I am grateful to the General Teaching Council for giving me the opportunity to voice my concerns and giving me the opportunity to express my objection to the allegations laid against me.
However, whilst I recognise that there are far more important issues confronting the world and, indeed, the teaching profession and the education system today, I believe this case has raised some important questions about perceptions, norms, priorities, common sense, hypocrisies, double-standards, rights and privacy, that should be addressed across our society.  I very much doubt that this case will be concluded in my favour, but, whatever the decision of the General Teaching Council as a result of this case, I am happy to raise these questions and to continue raising these questions in whichever forum I am invited to participate in the future.

Porn and teaching: Is it really incompatible?

I recently read an article in The Independent by Julie Burchill entitled, ‘Why is it respectable to watch boxing, but weird to watch pornography?’ (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/julie-burchill/burchilljulie-burchill-why-is-it-respectable-to-watch-boxing-but-weird-to-watch-pornography-2282512.html).  

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As the title would suggest, Burchill questions our general acceptance of a brutal sport and at the same time wonders why it is still perceived as a taboo to view people ‘making love’ on camera:

“I still have more respect for someone who pays money to watch pay-per-view porn or a live sex show than I do for someone who pays to watch one man injure another, on the screen or in the flesh.”
Its during moments like this that I once again re-examine the circumstances in which I was sacked as a high school teacher for having been involved in pornography.  According to the school, this act brought ‘disrepute’ onto the institution.

As far as I am aware, the only person or thing who’s reputation should have been in question, was my own.

More crucially though, why is pornography perceived as something that is worthy of a sackable offence?

I am perfectly willing to accept that there are those of a religious persuasion who disagree with it on grounds of going against teachings of monogamy.
I am perfectly willing to accept that there are those who believe, in their own opinion, that it is wrong and threatens the fabric of a monogamous, family-centric society.
I am perfectly willing to accept that having sex with numerous people increases your health risks, potentially contracting lethal STIs, and could therefore be interpreted as wrong.
All of this, I can totally accept.

However, where is the consistency of opinion?

What about teachers who participate in boxing, cage-fighting, kick-boxing or a martial art in their spare time?
Are there not those of a religious persuasion who might disagree with these on grounds of violence?
Are there not individuals who might argue that these activities are potentially brutal and violent and therefore wrong?
Are there not increased health risks, particularly related to brain damage and possible death, associated with these activities?

What about those teachers up and down the country who smoke?
Are there not those of a religious persuasion who might disagree with it on moral grounds?
Are there not individuals who might also argue that is a morally questionable activity?
Are there not health risks, potentially lethal, associated with smoking?

What about those teachers who drink and many of whom drink excessively regularly?

Are there not those of a religious persuasion who might disagree with the consumption and abuse of alcohol on moral grounds?
Are there not individuals who might also argue that it is a morally questionable activity?
Are there not health risks, potentially lethal, associated with alcohol and particularly binge drinking?
What about those teachers who are fat or obese through over-eating?
Are there not those of a religious persuasion who might disagree with the over-consumption and abuse of food on moral grounds?
Are there not individuals who might also argue that it is a morally questionable activity to allow oneself to become obese?
Are there not health risks, potentially lethal, associated with over-eating and being obese?

So, why then, is pornography, a perfectly legal activity, just like the others, seen as a ‘special case’ within the teaching profession?  Is it simply because it can be ‘seen’ as opposed to a teacher smoking out the back of the school or outside the school gate?  Or a teacher entering a boxing or cage-fighting competition and their face being plastered on posters to promote the event?  Or a teacher having a few too many drinks in an after-work binge session within the vicinity of the school?  Or an obese teacher eating chips and burgers from the school canteen?

Is a teacher who cage-fights or boxes allowed to discipline students who get into fights?  Of course they are.
Is a teacher who smokes allowed to teach PSHE, which includes teaching about the effects of smoking?  Yes, indeed.
Is a teacher who drinks excessively most weekends allowed to teach PSHE, which includes teaching about the effects of alcohol?  Without a doubt.
Is a teacher who is obese allowed to teach home economics and about the value of a healthy diet?  For sure.
Is a teacher who perform in pornographic productions allowed to teach PSHE, which includes teaching about sex education?  Apparently not.

Where is the consistency here?  Surely, if you have an issue with porn and the repercussions that appearing in porn may have on your teachings (if indeed you believe it will be negative even though there is no proof that it will) then you will have an issue with teachers who box, cage-fight, smoke, drink and over-eat.

Surely the only difference is that pornography involves sex.  Thats it.  Pure and simple.  And for some reason, ‘we’, as a society, seem to have a problem with the public viewing of this activity.
And yet, of the five activities it is the most natural and the one that, for the vast majority of instances, unites people, bringing pleasure and releasing stress, rather than destroying and adding stress to the body.

From a personal perspective, it was because I did porn that I ever got tested for STIs, an experience I was able to share first-hand with the students I taught.
It was because I did porn that I understood the variation in women’s bodies, that everyone is different and that no-one should feel strange or ashamed of themselves or their genitals, another valuable lesson.
It was because I did porn that I could talk with ever-increasing confidence about sex and sexuality and address any question, in an appropriate manner, that was thrown at me by any student.

I’m not advocating in any way the mass cull of teachers involved in any of these activities.
But on reflection, Beal High School, is being a teacher and a porn performer really so incompatible?  If so, on what basis and according to whose values?  Or are you simply pandering to the religious or the societal ‘norm’ and expectation?