opinion

Are You a Pornographer?

Q. Boyer

At a party a few weeks back, one of my older sisters introduced me to a friend of hers in part by identifying me as “a successful Internet pornographer.” After the obligatory grimace and sigh, I quickly noted that my sister was wrong on at least two fronts in that statement; I’m neither “successful” nor a “pornographer.”

What followed was an epic bit of semantic grappling, in which my sister asserted that to the extent that I have used the Internet to promote pornography, it follows that I am a pornographer. I objected on several grounds that my sister dismissed as hair-splitting, but I believe to be important distinctions. There was less disagreement about whether I’m successful; my sister readily conceded that this had been a bit of sisterly rhetorical charity on her part.

I think to call myself a pornographer would be to claim a mantle that’s not mine to hold, and to usurp the rightful place of the pornographers who actually made the porn that I’ve promoted and marketed over the years, and the place of the various owners I’ve called “boss” over the last couple decades, as well.

From the start, I think my sister incorrectly assumed the reason I objected to being called a pornographer is that I’m ashamed of the label, but the truth is I’m simply unworthy of it.

As I see it, a pornographer is someone who makes pornography, something I’ve never done — and probably wouldn’t be any good at if I tried. People often scoff at the notion of pornography being an expressive medium, but to the extent that it is expressive, clearly the pornographer is the one whose vision is being realized.

It’s also true that in over 17 years working in the adult industry, I’ve never once been on a porn set. The closest I came was serving as a kind of glorified temporary referee at one of those legendary “content shoot parties” that TopBucks hosted back in the day — and even then, it was Ron Jeremy really running the show, while I mostly tried to stay out of the way and keep hotel personnel appropriately in the dark about what was going on inside a couple of their suites.

One important caveat to my definition: people who own the companies that make and distribute porn are pornographers, too, even if they have no direct involvement in its creation, like writing the script or barking instructions on-set. At the end of the day, these owners bear much of the legal responsibility (and potential liability) for the creation of the porn in question, and often hold the copyright as well, so I feel compelled to shoehorn them into the definition on that basis alone.

In light of the above facts, I think to call myself a pornographer would be to claim a mantle that’s not mine to hold, and to usurp the rightful place of the pornographers who actually made the porn that I’ve promoted and marketed over the years, and the place of the various owners I’ve called “boss” over the last couple decades, as well.

Of course, as a practical matter it’s not particularly relevant whether I consider myself to be a pornographer; what really matters is what other people think. If I change career directions and seek work in another field, will prospective employers even care about such a distinction, or will my history in the adult industry be enough to send my resume to the bottom of the pile, regardless of whether I meet the definition of “pornographer”? Would my work history be the subject of office-wide gossip? Would coworkers care, one way or the other?

I suspect the answers to those questions would vary a bit from person to person, place to place, but in the main, my hunch is that my sister’s definition would prevail.

There’s no question how certain critics of the porn industry would classify me, I think. In the right-proper minds of the folks at Morality in Media, I’m quite sure I’d be considered a pornographer — or perhaps worse, an abettor of pornographers, the silver-tongued assistant sitting at Mephistopheles’ right hand, helping to lead astray the world’s few remaining innocents. (Come to think of it, that job description would sound pretty pimp on a resume …. )

Working in other fields before starting in the adult industry, I didn’t really encounter this sort of ambiguity. In the music industry, it’s clear who the “musicians” are — and equally clear that the PR guy who can’t reliably locate C on a piano keyboard ain’t one. In software, a guy like me can’t call himself a “programmer” just because he managed a team of programmers; that’s just not how it works. Thus far, the adult is unique within the context of my employment history in that way; it’s the one industry in which I’ve worked that people outside of the field seem entirely comfortable painting with one brush. Not only are those of us working in the porn industry perceived to be of one mind, it’s generally considered to be a depraved and perverse mind, at that.

Having said all of the above, I’m inclined to stick to my guns where my definition of “pornographer” is concerned, if for no other reason than out of respect to the actual pornographers I know. To wit, my former colleague Matt Morningwood is a pornographer; I’m just some schmuck who helped market and promote the finished product — more like a porn-gopher, if you will.

I’m OK with that. Whether the rest of the world is … that’s another story.

A 16-year veteran of the online adult entertainment industry and long-time XbIZ contributor, Q boyer provides public relations, publicity, consulting and copywriting services to clients that range from adult website operators to mainstream brick and mortar businesses.

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