Public Identity: To Come Out or Not?

I'm at a big crossroads right now.

Given how much I've been talking about it, you probably know that I'm writing an honors thesis on porn for my Women's Studies bachelor degree. It's going to be fifty pages and the culmination of a year's worth of research, as well as many years of thinking about sex, porn, and feminism.

There are so many ideas floating around out there about porn and so much conflict, especially within feminism, over what kinds of visual or cultural representations of sex are okay. I'm making a real effort to absorb and integrate all this information and if I can do it right, I'm hoping my paper will present a moderated view of all the venom on the issue. I really want to make a contribution to this debate.

I face a very serious dilemma, though. I don't think it would be ethical of me not to include the fact that I'm a sex worker, specifically a stripper, in my paper. It colors my opinions on the whole topic and gives the reader some (however inaccurate) idea of where I'm coming from. I don't believe in objectivity or removing oneself from one's academic work. There is always bias and I think the only way to counter it is to admit it and try to be as transparent about it as possible.

However, if I admit to the academic community at large that I'm a stripper, I face the very serious probability of stigma and rejection. Although attitudes towards sex workers are better than they used to be, I know that I'll face some discrimination because of my work. If I try to get a job outside the realm of sexuality and it's public knowledge that I've been a sex worker, it could severely hurt my chances. It also makes it less likely that my academic work will be taken seriously.

There is the possibility that I could use a pseudonym, at least for now. I'm getting to a point where I need a public persona (beyond a blog name of papercutsandplastic) to do my work. I could make up a name, protect my given name for a while in case I change my mind about what I want to do and who I want to know about it.

The good thing about being in the closet is that I can come out at any time. I can always change my mind. I don't have that option if I out myself now.

On the other hand, it really is me doing this writing and doing this work. I don't want to encourage the idea that it's a fake person or an assumed personality. Whatever name I use, it's backed up by a real person. I have a history, I've had education, I have feelings.

I think one huge drawback of the common porn and sex work practice of using pseudonyms is that it makes it easier to pretend or assume that we're not real people. It's making our objectification that much simpler. Nena Cherry (one real and stereotypical porn name) is obviously not a real name, so she's obviously not a real person. It's bullshit, but I think the attitude is there in porn consumers.

I could really use some advice about this, actually, from someone who's had to make the decision her/himself. I don't think people who haven't experienced the Pink Ghetto of sex-related work are equipped to help me decide. It's a special kind of stigma, and one that I could use support to navigate.

*Edit* I just looked and realized this was my 100th post. Woo! I don't think that means anything, but it makes me feel accomplished. :-D


Lady J said...

I have to agree that there is a stigma that goes along with working in the sex industry and it's really not fair in my opinion. I have never been in that line of work but I am a very sexual person and I feel as you said, no matter if it's a pseudonym or the person's birth name the individual is still a person!

In my eyes: you're a stripper and SO WHAT!!! It's a job and an art form that a lot of people wish they had the nerve and skill to do it. I know not all strippers just strip and they do other things which put the bad stigma there but that's their business and who are any of us to judge until we walk a mile in that person's life.

Due to how society is I would advise you to not put your real name out there just in case you decide to change your profession.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

You are right. I wouldn't be able to help. I do know my lifestyle (the way I think) I see nothing wrong with being yourself. Congrats on your 100th...

Errant Gosling said...

Without knowing the details of your thesis (sorry, I'm new) I'd recommend anonymity. I’ve never know anyone to be less honest to the mysterious stranger then the well known inquisitor. Given the subject matter, comfort and honesty are probably at a premium. Ethically, as long as you don’t actually mislead people (be upfront that you’re not being upfront) I don’t see it as a problem. But, again, I lack details. I’ll need to catch up.

Good luck with papers, finals and rest of the end of semester turbulence.

On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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