Porn Past/Present Tense :: XXX-Work Haunts Performers
How much should an employee’s past influence his current job when there was nothing criminal involved? Should someone suffer for the rest of her life for a youthful indiscretion? These questions are being raised as former porn stars make their way into the workplace -- interestingly often as teachers.
On February 26, Miami-Dade County public school substitute teacher Shawn Loftis, 36, received a letter from his boss, Allyn Berstein, the principal of the Nautilus Middle School of Miami Beach that informed him of a meeting "in accordance with Article XXI, Section 1 of the United Teachers of Dade Contract concerning your non-compliance with School Board Rule 6Gx13 - 4A-1.213."
The cited School Board Rule is a code of ethics. Appearing under the name "Collin O’Neal," Loftis, who received his Masters Degree in public administration from the University of Miami, was outed as an ex-porn star and an active producer.
As O’Neal, Loftis appeared in such films as "Mirage," "Humping Iron," "Banging the Bar Man," "Desperate Husbands" and "Mo’ Bubble Butt." O’Neal is also one of the many men featured in the 2005 book, "Hot: The Men of Hot House."
The resulting action was quick and decisive. Mr. Loftis was immediately fired. Mr. Loftis’ Florida teaching certificate has not been revoked. His case is currently under review with the Florida Board of Education.
Collin’s World of Men
Beginning in 2004, Loftis began producing his own well-received adult video series, "Collin O’Neal’s World of Men." Initially distributed by Raging Stallions Studios, the series was nominated for several GayVN Awards.
Loftis created his own membership website, World of Men, where he sold his DVDs, offered regular streaming content, updates, and blog reports of his travels and shoots.
Loftis claimed that he had sold "World of Men" before he began his employment with the Florida Board of Education and that he had not appeared as a performer before the camera since he just before he began teaching. All the same, he appeared to his employers to be an ongoing contributor to the adult film industry.
Loftis acknowledges he continues to receive residuals and supervise new production. "It was what I consider a ’soft sale’ and transfer of assets," he told EDGE. "I still produce and receive residuals for ’World of Men.’"
A quick review of the website reveals Loftis in blogged video caps and a banner image as "Collin O’Neal." There does not appear to be explicit video content of O’Neal in the free section.
The 2257 certification of WorldofMen.com reveals ownership listed by a Phoenix-based company, Mania Media LLC.
Meet CNN iReporter Shawn Loftis
In 2009, the Miami New Times News began publishing ongoing investigative reports on the booming South Florida adult industry. In the tech boom of the last few years, South Florida has become a highly trafficked center of activity in the adult industry. The Miami New Times News was focused on the local impact of the economics, the industry conventions, and the social connectivity of South Florida’s XXX-business.
Initially, story sources were difficult to come by. However, by 2009, Loftis had gained some attention as a citizen iReporter for CNN. His multiple online stories for CNN included reports on Colombian drug trade, the auto industry bailout, and flooding in South Florida. Loftis also captured a CNN iReporter Photo of the Day while shooting in Australia.
On December 20, 2009, The Sword.com, the Gay Porn Star blog run by Zach Sire, identified iReporter Loftis as ’Collin O’Neal’, with a favorably titillating blog entry. The Miami Herald picked up the item. "Say what you will about CNN’s ratings," wrote the Herald’s TV critic Glenn Garvin, "the network isn’t standing still. Newest innovation: gay porn correspondents. As first revealed by the authoritative Gay Porn Blog (be careful about clicking on that at work, by the way), this fellow delivering one of CNN’s new "citizen journalism" iReports is noted gay porn star Collin O’Neal. You no doubt know him from his groundbreaking work on World of Men."
According to Loftis, a Miami New Times reporter came to him because he was doing a special on the adult entertainment industry in South Florida. "They came to me in February, and I told them, ’This is what I used to do, and I don’t mind talking with you a little bit about sometime,’" he noted.
In May, CBS -TV’s Miami affiliate had picked up on the story. Loftis did two interviews with them, the first about the porn industry in Florida. In the first interview, Loftis appears as "Collin O’Neal."
"If you make a little bit of noise, then you may dig up some problems," he then said. He made, however, no reference in the interview to his career as a teacher, nor was his real name revealed. Because by then, Loftis had already been fired from his job.
"I kept everything quiet," Loftis told EDGE. " By then, I was dealing privately with ACLU. I didn’t say anything to the media."
Enter The ACLU... Exit the ACLU
Feeling the schools had discriminated against him, Loftis initially turned to the Florida chapter of the ACLU to represent him.
In June, the ACLU declined to take his case. According to e-mails received from a volunteer, Loftis was told his case "would have been stronger if your job did not involve supervising children. It’s clear that you had a career in pornography. It’s just a difficult hurdle in view of the state’s role to protect children. For these reasons, our chapter cannot take on your case at this time."
"When the ACLU came back to me, it made me so mad," Loftis said. "If you read between the lines of the ACLU e-mail, you get: ’Potential Child Molester.’ I took that job so seriously, it’s not even funny. But the e-mail was saying, ’We can’t go any further. We’re done.’"
"Adult performers are often judged to be immoral by American society, with no real basis in fact," said Joanne Cachapero, membership director of the Free Speech Coalition, the lobbying organization for the adult-film industry. "I saw a video interview with Shawn, where he stated that the judgment of school officials against him was almost like implying that somehow, because of his background, he is some sort of pedophile. I think Shawn is right when he says that.
"It seems that for adult performers, you are always judged guilty without any opportunity to prove your "innocence," and that you’re not allowed to pursue non-industry occupations despite being skilled and professional," she added. "That is job discrimination, in my opinion."
The Story Breaks
Not long after, the Miami New Times came back to Loftis to do a second story.
"I was traveling in Egypt, and the Miami New Times said they wanted to do another story on the porn industry in South Florida, and I said, ’Sure, I’ll talk to you about it, but I have a better story. How about you do a story on a teacher that gets fired for their porn past?’ They got more excited about that kind of a story."
The Miami New Times News blog Riptide first broke the report on Loftis’ firing on August 23. On August 24, the Huffington Post picked up the bare facts of the story, and on August 26, CBS Miami broadcast a largely sympathetic video interview with Loftis.
In the CBS interview, the two parents questioned appeared mildly dubious and yet forgiving of Mr. Loftis’ professional involvement with porn. Cachapero herself says of Loftis, "I know Shawn personally and he has always behaved as a complete professional, a smart business man and also an articulate guy."
The Miami New Times went on to feature a comprehensive list of adult performers fired from their jobs when their involvement with the industry was revealed.
"It’s not surprising that the school board in Florida decided to dismiss Shawn based solely on his background as a former adult performer," Cachapero noted. "This is a stigma that gay and straight performers face when they try to transition to employment outside of the industry, even when there is no indication of misconduct in their professional of personal lives.
"Generally speaking it’s adult performers who are held to that moral standard, these standards that conservatives want to shove down everybody’s throats," she added. "But by the same token, when you are a civilian -- a person who is not in the adult industry -- can you allow yourself to be filmed doing activities that might be considered controversial? Your good reputation will not save you. It’s a point of view type thing. Either you self-censor, or you take the risk. In America, if someone finds out, it’s not going to work out for you."
For his part, Loftis doesn’t think anyone still active in the porn industry should be teaching children, adding, "I haven’t filmed myself in front of a camera for over two years. In addition, I don’t own and operate my own website. I only receive residuals. I don’t think the state of Florida is going to remove my certificate, but a review will show that World of Men.com is owned by another company."
At the same time, an unrelated, similar story was unfolding in Great Britain. The parallels between the two cases, and how they have played out in the public forum to date, are striking in their contrast.
Benedict Garrett, aka "Johnny Anglais," was the British tabloid sensation of the summer of 2011. In January 2010, while engaged in his teaching position at the Beal High School in Ilford, East London, students reported seeing Garrett in a trailer for an adult film. It was then revealed that he had also had an ongoing career as a stripper, and was the owner of a Naked Butler service. Mr. Garrett also has his own website.
Originally suspended in July 2010, Garrett will not be allowed to return to the classroom for two years, following a committee decision by the General Teaching Council of England in early September. However, Garrett is free to continue to teach, should he choose to do so.
"The committee is content that you have sufficient insight and would not repeat this behaviour should you resume teaching," read part of the statement by GTC Committee Chair Derek Johns.
Mr. Garrett responded in a column posted in The Guardian on September that read in part: "Yesterday, I was informed by the General Teaching Council this week that I would be permitted to return to teaching, a pleasant surprise after the increasing controversy about my persona. While I disagree with any sanction being imposed, I am content and satisfied that it is a fair decision under the circumstances. I believe the GTC’s decision is a recognition of the strength of the arguments that I raised to challenge the view that activities in adult entertainment might ’undermine public trust and confidence’ in people working in the teaching profession."
The Debate in the UK
Since his firing, Benedict Garrett has successfully debated issues concerning the adult industry, including Cambridge University and Trinity College in Dublin. Moreover, some columnists British columnists have spoken out in favor of immediately reinstating Garrett as a teacher.
"Teachers should not BE role models. They’re there to impart knowledge," wrote columnist Rachel Cooke in the Guardian. "Teachers are not role models, unless your sole ambition in life is to be one yourself; they are there to impart information, to maintain enough tranquility that this information might be imparted, and to help one gain qualifications. I did not consider even the most inspiring of my teachers to be my role model."
Part of the reason for Garrett’s original suspension was also related to his Facebook activities, where he regularly engaged in social networking with students, contrary to rulings from the advisory board.
"I was sacked a year ago from teaching, and a year before that I had been under investigation for the fact that I had communicated with some students on Facebook," Garrett admitted to EDGE in an interview. "The school decided as a result of that investigation, that I would be given a final warning, and that I would be offered counseling, which I took up, and help would be place to help me with other related issues as well. I didn’t repeat the offense.
As far as he was concerned "if the school had wanted to believe that it had been sufficient enough to lose my job, then they should have decided that at the time and recommended it to the General Teaching Council at the time." Garrett now believes that it was only added to his hearing to buttress the argument against him.
Garrett did concede that the General Teaching Council of England treated him fairly: "I think that the hearing was conducted very professionally, I was allowed to put my point across." Even so he disagrees with the outcome: "I don’t believe that what a teacher does outside the classroom, as long as it is within the laws of the land in which you reside should have any reflection on your teaching ability."
For Garrett, his whole imbroglio brings up once again the hoary question of what effect porn has on the society at large, as well as impressionable school kids. "Personally I think it is a can of worms that should be opened," he said. "But I recognize that would have caused quite a lot of difficulty for the General Teaching Council."
Secret Lives of Teachers
Loftis also believes that his situation brings up once again the question of the relationship between porn and the larger society: "I always knew that going to the media could cause more problems than bringing up benefits to myself. But I think it is something that needs to be debated.
"First of all," he noted, "teachers don’t get paid a lot of money, and so there are a lot of secret lives of teachers. A woman can be dancing at a bar. She hides it from the school to make extra money on the weekend. Why should anyone know about anybody’s private life?"
Cachapero sees the contrast between the two cases as an example of a more relaxed, enlightened attitude in Europe contrasted with the States: "I think it’s a real commentary on England that they can overlook that Johnny Anglais is also a really hot guy, and can enjoy his sexuality. It seems to me that they can keep it in perspective. That would never happen in the U.S. People here are so jacked up around the idea of anybody doing anything sexual. Here in the United States your credibility is destroyed forever."
Calling Johnny Anglais "a really smart guy," she also complimented . "And Collin [i.e., Loftis] had a unique niche. He really would go to these countries that were dangerous, and would shoot there, and, you know, that’s exciting. Collin was good for the industry, I felt. He never struck me as one of the shady types."
Next up: Porn mogul Michael Lucas. In the next report Bob Sanders looks at some surprising criticism from a surprising quarter: the gay adult industry itself. Gay porn mogul Michael Lucas argues privacy issues surrounding porn stars, and debates the truthfulness of Loftis’ claims.
Read more: read this news story from the British newspaper the Daily Mail.