Porn Past/Present Tense II :: When a XXX-past enters the classroom
Across the country, teachers are being held job accountable for legal activities conducted privately outside and away the classroom. How about for controversial, yet also legal, moonlighting far removed from school?
These questions are coming up as the Internet as hallowed peoples’ past come back to haunt their present. In the case of those some men and women who dabbled in a career in adult films, the evidence is right there, preserved on film and videotape for all to see -- and for all to see all.
But should such a past have any bearing on a teacher’s employment? Why does it suddenly matter if it’s been successfully hidden all these years? And -- as happened in a more than a few cases -- what happens when the "fallen woman "or man overcomes the past and becomes a model teacher beloved by students, administrators and parents alike?
Facebook pics lead to firings
Increasingly across the nation, teachers are losing their jobs when innocuous Facebook connections, personal photos and private video clips are forwarded anonymously to parents and school employers. Often good teachers are caught in the crosshairs of a questionable new standard of personal, off-hours conduct that is often used purely for entrapment.
In Covina, California, Charter Oak High School coach Mike Stein was fired from his job in late August after an anonymous parent sent two photos printed out from Stein’s Facebook page to Principal Kathleen Wiard. One photo, allegedly taken more than a decade ago, showed Stein posing with two drag queens. In the other, Stein poses suggestively, about to eat a corn dog.
Many would argue that these photos are about as racy as what you might see on the Nickelodeon channel, which is why Stein believes that he was fired because he is gay. As of the filing of this story, Stein has not yet been reinstated to his job, in spite of protests and widespread student and parental support.
Shawn Loftis’ saga continues
The website Mommyish reported in late September that a fifth grade teacher, Natalie Santagata was fired after privately recorded video clips of her having sex with another consenting adult were anonymously forwarded to parents and administrators. Website blogger Shawna Cohen wrote, "Naturally, there’s a huge debate over whether or not Santagata deserved to be fired."
As reported in Part I of this report, back in January, Miami substitute teacher Shawn Loftis was fired from the Nautilus Middle School in Miami Beach. Loftis, aka "Collin O’Neal," was the producer and onetime star of the award-winning video series ’Collin O’Neal’s World of Men." Loftis lost his job when his former website World of Men was revealed to School Principal Allyn Bernstein.
The story was first reported on Aug. 23 in Miami New Times News’s blog Riptide. The day after, The Huffington Post picked it up, and, two days later an interview with Loftis was telecast on CBS Miami. Loftis maintains that because he had not appeared in front of the camera since early 2010, his career was in the past.
Key players in the gay adult film industry dispute Loftis’ claim.
Also on Aug. 23, The Sword, the gay adult entertainment and lifestyle website owned by VOD giant Naked Sword, ran a series of threads critical of Loftis. Initially supportive when Loftis began his CNN iReporting in 2010, blogger Zach Sire’s later posts alleged that O’Neal’s adult career was very much in the present, and not the past. In short, he lied.
"While the mainstream media initially got the story wrong by saying that Collin’s porn career was ’in his past’ and that he was a ’former" porn star’, everyone in the porn industry knows that Collin O’Neal never stopped working in gay porn," Sire posted.
Who is a media whore?
On Sept. 5, Loftis appeared on HLN Network’s "Dr. Drew Show." "I went (into the classroom) as a teacher, " said Loftis, "and was I ever going to bring any of this into the classroom? No way." Loftis also cited widespread community and school support for his reinstatement.
Then Dr. Drew questioned Loftis about the refusal of the ACLU to consider Loftis’ case. When asking him if he felt his civil liberties had been violated, Loftis responded that they had. Loftis also described the online backlash from The Sword.
Drew played Solomon, and divided the baby. He called the issue, "complicated," blandly adding, "I think it’s a cautionary tale about the Internet."
A few days after that interviewed aired, Sire was critical of Drew, calling him a "hack fame whore media doctor."
Loftis told EDGE, "I’ve also been called a media whore, that I went after Dr. Drew and others. Actually I gave one interview to Miami New Times. After that they all came to me." To clarify: Loftis did not initially respond to two requests for an interview, and spoke with EDGE but Joanne Cachapero of the the Free Speech Coalition, the adult film industry’s lobbying arm, apparently asked him to reconsider.
"Some of these guys don’t have a whole lotta love for each other," offered Cachapero by way of explaining the often-petty backbiting that occurs within the gay adult film industry.
Michael Lucas opens up
If there is one person who has made a name for himself as much for his readily offered outspoken opinions as well as large film output, it’s New York-based Michael Lucas, the CEO of Lucas Entertainment and one of the big players in the industry.
In a recent interview in his Midtown Manhattan office, Lucas sat back comfortably on the sofa in his well-appointed lair. A handsome young associate offered a cup of freshly brewed espresso served on china to a visitor. Outside the private office, Lucas Entertainment was quietly humming with activity as a dozen employees went about their business.
Lucas, as usual, did not hold back in his feelings about Shawn Loftis. "Actually, Shawn Loftis lied that he had stopped his porn career," he told this interviewer. "You can see this on The Sword - they analyzed it clearly. Remember there are jobs where you have to sign a contract. And if you lie, I’m really not sorry for you."
An "acceptable" past?
Many people in the adult film industry would agree with Lucas, he emphasized: "There are certain jobs where, no, you can’t once upon a time have been a porn star. You can be a firefighter. You can work for The New York Times. You can even be a politician. But if I had kids, I don’t think I would want their teacher on camera saying ’Fuck Me Fuck Me Fuck Me.’"
Regarding Loftis’ allegations of discrimination, Lucas maintained that, "in New York State, as an employer, I have a right to fire anyone without giving him a reason. In fact, if I do give a reason, I’m opening the door. Perfect. Very Capitalistic. Love it."
When informed of Lucas’ comments, Loftis simply responded, "Michael Lucas and I do not get along."
Chris Ward, a GayVN Hall of Fame director who holds a PhD in history from the University of Florida, actually happens to agrees with Lucas: "When one takes the step to being in front of the camera for personal gain or profit, it’s a choice that means you forfeit some of your privacy. This is especially true with porn. Once you have recorded yourself on film or in photography, it’s out there forever."
As president of Raging Stallion and Falcon Studios, Ward resides over the largest gay adult studio in the world. Raging Stallion Studios merged in 2009 with The Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, which is also in partnership with NakedSword.com.
As for his past relationship with Loftis/O’Neal, "O’Neal worked for Raging Stallion for a few years as a contract performer," he said. "When he started his World of Men line of movies, we distributed for him and ran his membership site on the web. Despite the joint venture being successful, we ended our professional relationship because we found it very difficult to work with him.
"As far as I know, he is still actively in the porn biz. O’Neal is all about his own PR. He will say what he needs to say for his own benefit," added Ward.
An "acceptable" past?
Ward was also in agreement with Lucas over career transitioning away from the adult industry. "I do not see this as such a big problem anymore -- unless you are going into the priesthood or jobs working with children. Erotica has become very mainstream and people in general are more accepting. Even so, one should carefully consider the future when deciding upon a career in porn."
Of course, the umbrella term "working with children" can cast a pretty wide net depending on who is doing the interpreting. Does a lawyer who might handle a case where a child is a witness "work with children"? Does a doctor who might have a pediatric case "work with children"? And therein may lie the problem with classifying what does constitute an "acceptable" past working history.
For his part, Loftis had a blanket response to both Ward and Lucas: "All of my productions were 100 percent mine. I had to intervene with the GayVNs one year since they were going to award Raging Stallion for one of my productions. I felt Raging Stallion was getting more credit for my productions than as just a distributor, so I decided to break off ties with them."
The World of Men videos were nominated for GayVN and Grabby Awards in 2007 and 2008, winning for Videography and Best Pan/Am Release in 2007. As of this writing, 11 of Collin O’Neal’s World of Men videos are available VOD on NakedSword.
Even so, in theory, if not always in past personal practice, Loftis would appear to agree with both of the adult video titans. "I always told my models in the US, know what you’re doing. I’ve had models back out, who have said ’Thank you for telling me that -- no thanks.’ Understand the circumstances of doing porn- someone can blackmail you in the future. And ruin your life."
A ruined career?
Does Loftis feel his life has been ruined?
"The school district has the final voice," he said, "and it has ruined the possibility of me being a high school teacher here in South Beach." He added, "I don’t think there are going to be very many people in porn who take a stance against the industry."
Joanne Cachapero noted, "If an adult performer decides he want to transition to some anonymous life someplace, he may find it difficult."
When asked if a porn star has a right to privacy, Lucas said, "If you put your stuff out to millions of people, you’re a public person. That’s it: politicians, actors, TV personalities. If I have sex on camera, can I then five years later expect to have a right to privacy? No. No, no, no."
So where would he draw the line? "I would never lie," he responded adamantly. "And in today’s age where everything can be found on the Internet, we know how easy it is now to get information. It’s a new era. And if someone’s over 18 and doing it of his own consent, and then lies about it, I’m not really sorry for him."
Cachapero added, "The flow of information is so fast. I’ve had so many people contact me and say, ’I’m out of the business, I’m trying to find a job, people Google me, and this is the first thing that they see.’"
"It’s a knotty issue," emailed a literacy consultant with a Masters Degree in Elementary Education from Mount Holyoke College who wished to remain anonymous. "I have seen and signed any number of teacher contracts, which ask whether they’ve been dismissed for inappropriate behavior towards children, convicted of various crimes, etc. But being in porn films is not a crime. I think this gets at a deeper, paranoid misconception that gay people are pedophiles."
Law of Unintended Consequences
"Porn performers have a right to transition to any career they are qualified for," added Ward. "Many people change careers during their lifetime. No problem in that. But having said that, I would urge that anyone considering having both a porn career and a teaching career should think twice."
Loftis now looks back ruefully on the altruism that impelled his decision to effect such a radical career change and the effects of the Law of Unintended Consequences: "The reason I wanted to become a teacher was to help a few kids to make the proper decisions. If kids see a temptation of doing porn for a lot of money, they need to know the implications for their future."
He added, "I’m also trying to reach out to find teachers in Miami-Dade County schools who have been fired from having profiles on, say, Manhunt, Gaydar, or any of those adult social networking sites." He is attempting to assemble what he finds into a book on the matter of teaching and privacy.
Loftis admits to having had conflicting thoughts in in the past three years about what porn and his own past. "I do not think anything is wrong with the majority of the industry, but I believe the industry gives models a false sense of financial security," he says. "What a model does on film these days can prevent any future plans of having a normal job, leaving them in the dust of working just above minimum wage."
When told of Michael Lucas’ comment that porn actors could no longer have any expectations of private lives, Loftis noted that "There, at least, I agree with Michael Lucas."