Yet Another Educator Suffers Sex Work Stigma

Yet Another Educator Suffers Sex Work Stigma July 26, 2016

Oh no – porn cooties! That’s the first thing I have to say about this case.

Image in public domain from Pixabay.
Image in public domain from Pixabay.

The second thing is, this is part of why I’m thrilled to be representing the Woodhull Foundation as a blogger for their 2016 Summit.

The brief version is, a person who used to act in adult films has ceased doing so, and has since gone into tutoring. Someone made the connection, and had his banners advertising his tutoring services removed. Hence this case – is it a free speech infraction?

The longer version is, Dave Mech has multiple degrees in teaching and math, and according to Woodhull’s reporting, “The banners had been displayed for some time and there were no issues with Mech’s tutoring.” None of the kids he tutored were aware of his connection to the adult industry, since obviously he didn’t, like, make the kids he tutored watch porn. He advertised alongside other tutors by paying the school system for space for his banners, some of which were posted on a schoolyard fence. A local tavern also used the same space to advertise, leading to questions about whether this case is really about enforcing what’s appropriate for children.

This is a classic case of stigma, or an unwanted association “sticking” to someone and tainting their identity. The Woodhull report calls this “porn cooties,” where “anything that’s in the vicinity of, or in any way connected to, an adult performer or production company is seen as having been contaminated by that proximity.”

Many consensual expressions of sexuality attract stigma, which then negatively impacts people who are otherwise just living their lives and trying to get by. As an educator I take issue with this, since it stems from unexamined bias and negative stereotypes. This is all stuff we can fix through critical thinking and better education.

See also: We Could Reduce STI Stigma & Improve Public Health…But We’re Not

Anyway, I’m waiting to see how the case turns out: will the Supreme Court rule that the school board engaged in content-based discrimination, thereby violating Mech’s First Amendment Rights, as the Woodhull brief suggests? For the time being, however, I’m pleased to be affiliated with Woodhull, since the organization is doing important work in sexuality advocacy.

Hope to see some of you at Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit in early August in Washington D.C.!

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