It has been peculiar for me to see the latest conversations with regard to the PornWikileaks controversy. A large part of me reacts with concern, because it touches the lives of a lot of people I regard as friends. Even more so, it affects a lot of people that I have 2257 forms on. The first time I found myself with a complete set of information on someone, I remember thinking “Wow, you could totally mess somebody up with this information.”
For those who don’t know, a 2257 refers to part of the US Code requiring you to document, and record HOW you documented, that a person who appeared in an adult production is 18 or over. You have to keep a photo of them, a color copy of their government issued ID, and a form that connects the person’s legal name to their stage name, with their address. In short, everything you need to cause a lot of damage if you want to. These laws were implemented to protect performers and artists from breaking laws with regard to child pornography. There was a time when this information was supposed to be posted, but today you only have to post where you keep it.
As a photographer, and someone who has worked with “talent” in the adult industry, I have always been careful with this information, simply because I want to take care of people who are generous enough to work with me, and I want to work with them again. But now, someone has chosen to be outright destructive and dump all of this data, connecting every stage name to every legal name they had. And the data came from the AIM clinic, which was started to protect the performers in this industry from communicable diseases, just to add to the irony.
There’s a lot of threads going to the debate, but I’d like to pick up one of them in particular:
If you’re doing something you don’t want people to know about, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.
I see this thought come up in a lot of comment threads and it really gnaws at me. Maybe it’s just because I can hear my mother saying it. :-) Setting aside the slut-shaming aspects, the arrogant moralizing, and the whole Glenn Beck bombast of it, I want to just take a look at the practical aspect:
Why have a stage name in the first place?
One story that comes up a lot are the people who tried to do one or two movies, and moved on, and don’t want to be rejected for jobs simply because they once did porn. Fair enough, but let’s set that aside, too. That’s too easy.
A lot of people who are adult performers acquire fans. Fans that masturbate to the sight of them getting impaled (or impaling others). The fact is that a nonzero number of these people cannot handle knowing the names and addresses of the people they see on the screen.
I think back frequently at this point to our friend, the dominatrix. We were fortunate to really be friends, not just professional acquaintances. And just like everyone else, she has a home life she lives for, and that is what she works for. This is the life that could be endangered if some of the people who get too attached (and there are a few) could find out where she kept this life – a lot of people could be hurt by this. And it’s not that it’s a secret from her family. But there are innocent people that could have to deal with some deranged people with boundary issues, including children. Why should they suffer because someone doesn’t like porn?
This is really where it hits the broader issue: the marginalization of porn. Ever since we have had money, we have spent it on sex. Porn is here to stay, and it always will be. Porn was the first thing that made money on the internet, and thereby paved the way almost all of e-commerce. Yet, somehow, the entire industry has to live on the fringe. When a debacle like this happens, where a member acts wildly unethically, somehow everyone thinks it’s okay to snicker and laugh and watch people’s lives be destroyed without the faintest hint of sadness. These people…are people. And they are entitled to the same legal and ethical protections the rest of the world enjoys. But, somehow, it’s just okay to point and giggle.
And the consequences run longer than that – they are why things like this happen. The marginalization of this industry causes it to turn to people of question ethics, and put them in roles of responsibility. By forcing them to the margins, the quality people are scared way or forced underground. By threatening stage names, many more lives are endangered than the people on screen, and it’s lazy and unfair to simply assume anyone near porn deserves it. Those branches reach farther than you think…