Why Do People Feel the Need to Hide Their Adult-Related Career Past?

Why Do People Feel the Need to Hide Their Adult-Related Career Past?

Were you to switch away from the adult industry, how much detail about your current work would make it to your CV? Would you be up-front about what you’re doing, or would you hide your adult industry experience behind euphemism to get yourself an interview? I think our industry is a fantastic sector in which to work — it presents unique challenges, often requiring great flexibility and skill. Yet organizations in other sectors often look down upon what we do, to the point of discriminating against those whose work involves sexual pleasure.

I was reminded of this recently during a discussion with the Hot Octopuss team. We realized that plenty of us had stories about hiding our interest in the sex industry when working for other organizations. One team member shared a horrible experience they had when interviewing for a writing role: during the interview, they were extensively (and critically) quizzed on previous erotic writing they had done. They’d been up-front about this in their CV, so it definitely didn’t come as a surprise to the interviewers, but this person left the exchange with the distinct impression that they’d only been invited in so that those interviewing could indulge their prurient curiosity.

The hurdles involved in our work mean our employees have valuable skillsets that are tricky to develop elsewhere.

Another team member, sex blogger Girl on the Net, began sex writing while juggling a full-time job elsewhere. She told me one of the key reasons for being so strict about her anonymity was a clause in her contract that demanded she not do anything which might “bring the company into disrepute.” Broad brush-stroke statements like that give the company legal protection if they want to dismiss employees for their online behavior, which seems fair when you are faced with an employee who makes violent threats or joins racist hate groups, far less so when that employee is simply running a sex blog. Luckily she’s now working in the sex industry full-time, but she says she does worry about what might happen if she ever wants to make the switch back:

“Could I get a ‘vanilla’ job again? I don’t know. I’d hope that if I did want to go and work for a non-sex industry company, there would be at least a couple who would recognize the skills I have honed over eight years writing for and marketing an incredibly successful website. But who knows? The fact that I still hear stories from people who have been fired — or turned down — from jobs because of their sidelines in the adult industry does give me pause for thought, and make me nervous about what could happen if I wanted to go back to other sectors later in my career.”

I experienced this kind of stigma myself; several years ago, I was running a U.K. family and parenting charity. A disgruntled staff member complained to the Board of Governors that my involvement with Hot Octopuss made it inappropriate for me to run the charity. Sadly, the Board decided to “investigate” my involvement and at one point I was asked whether I was engaging in sex work and selling pornography — as they simply equated manufacturing sex toys with any other aspect of the “sex industry.” Although the Board was not able to find anything that would justify removing me from post, I totally lost trust in them and left the charity shortly after.

Luckily, not all workplaces are as squeamish about working with adult industry professionals. A fantastic sex writer with whom we’ve worked in the past told us recently of a horrible incident at her own workplace — a member of the public found out about her erotic writing and work within the adult industry, and took it upon himself to share that information with her employer and others who frequented her place of work. However, her employer was entirely supportive — recognizing that what she does on her own time does not impact her ability to do an excellent job during working hours. If only more places were like this! Not only would it benefit employees to be welcomed into a sex-positive, supportive, stigma-free environment, it would have a huge benefit to employers in other sectors too.

The truth is that working in the sex industry is not only as legitimate as working for a bank, a charity, or any other “mainstream” organization, but actually, the hurdles involved in our work mean our employees have valuable skillsets that are tricky to develop elsewhere. A social media manager working for a clothing brand might think they’re at the top of their game, but an adult industry social media manager will have had to overcome far greater challenges — ducking and weaving through the restrictive terms of service on social platforms before they can even begin to get their message out. A finance director from our sector who has had to navigate payment processors, banks and nervous customers will have extra skills that their “vanilla” counterpart may not. Those of us who work in the adult industry have to use the same tools and techniques as other industries, but we’re often doing it with one hand tied behind our back, as we bump up against stigma and discrimination at every turn. It makes our jobs tricky, sure, but it also means that we have bags of resilience and flexibility — not to mention usually a good sense of humor to carry us through the trickier parts!

It’s frustrating to hear stories of sex industry professionals being denied employment opportunities because of their work in this sector — doubly so when those people are colleagues who I know would be valuable additions to any team, adult or otherwise. But it doesn’t look like things are going to change any time soon. The rule these days seems to be “if you want a job, keep sex separate,” which doesn’t really help the millions of us for whom sex is our job — writing about it, doing it on camera, making sex toys, and all the myriad roles in between. I’d love for us to have a solution to this — we in the sex industry are creative and resourceful, after all! But I think here the answer has to come from outside: we need those in other industries to welcome us, speak to us, and learn from us — to stop seeing us as “outsiders,” and bring us into the fold.

Julia Margo is the co-founder of Hot Octopuss.


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