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10/28/2021

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DS

For what it's worth, my colleague wrote a book about her time as a stripper and she seems to have been fairly successful. Of course, she wrote the book after she had secured a permanent position:

https://theknow-old.denverpost.com/2018/10/07/strip-catlyn-ladd/197393/

grad school hobbies

Best of luck to the OP in facing this issue. That we as a discipline study human sociality and the economic reality of our world and yet still stigmatize sex work, rather than supporting it every bit as much as other lines of work, is truly regrettable. We should work to improve this.

Some quick thoughts to expand on Marcus's point (3) about hobbies in grad school, speaking as a fellow former touring and recording musician. I agree with his points and would add that having a hobby *that does not take over life and impede on progress* is essential in grad school. Doing one other thing on the side is great, like playing music with others once or twice a week with an occasional gig. But I myself pushed my luck as a grad student when the hobby started to take over via extensive touring and recording, and if I could do it over again, I would still have the side hobby but would do less of it to allow for more productivity in grad school. And if the hobby can lead to extra cash (which is usually sorely needed in grad school), better still.

I honestly have no idea how time-intensive an OnlyFans account would be. My partner is still ABD (in an adjacent discipline) and has become a TikTok celebrity, and her very active and popular account is starting to eat into her productivity a bit, as she and I have discussed. So do with this cautionary advice what you will.

Jonathan Ichikawa

It's hard to be sure about question 1 — I'm sure you're right that (a) some people would have a problem with it, and (b) some people would be fine with it.

Here is a horrible story about a related experience an English PhD student had a couple years ago:
https://www.chronicle.com/article/i-told-my-mentor-i-was-a-dominatrix/

(The author is @MistressSnowPhD on twitter, who generally has interesting perspectives the OP might find helpful.)

As for question 2, it's hard for me to entertain any serious question about whether it is just for for people to refuse to hire someone for an academic position due to a history of sex work. Obviously it is unjust. Whether one has an onlyfans with sexually explicit content has no bearing whatsoever on one's ability to be a good philosophy professor. (Unless one's philosophical work draws on that experience, in which case it is a qualification, not a disqualification.)

anon

This is a fascinating query, and I agree with everything that's been said already.

I'm sure OP knows this, but it is certainly possible to have an OnlyFans page that allows you to blur your face, withhold your location, use a pseudonym, etc. Unless you have a very immediately recognizable body—e.g., tattoos, etc.—then with these safeguards in place, I can't imagine anyone would be able to link you to this page, especially because the market is quite flooded already.

Maybe doing all this involves losing out on profits that one would otherwise gain from being more 'open' in these ways; I really don't know. But it could be a way of having both the income and the security/peace of mind.

Obviously, this does not eliminate the risk entirely. But it does seem like it would mitigate it substantially.

Risk averse

Hmm. I'm sorry to say this, but I suspect both the OP and Marcus Arvan are vastly underestimating the risks here. The posts above give me the impression that there are worries above about what 'the others who don't get it' might think, where these others are boomers, administrators, and non-philosophers.

But my impression is that sex-negative attitudes, and in particular anti-porn and anti-sex work attitudes, also are reasonably common among philosophers of all ages - and among students. In many places, such attitudes are even seen as progressive: few embrace the label 'sex-negative', but people will think of themselveas as being anti-objectification, anti-exploitation, pro-equality, etc. Whether those are the right attitudes to have is of course another question, but they are very common and likely to affect both colleagues' and students' impressions of someone who has or has had an onlyfans account.

Here is also a fairly recent case from the UK that the OP also will want to have in mind: https://metro.co.uk/2016/03/13/porn-star-professor-old-nick-suspended-from-university-job-5748892/

former adult actor

When I first started graduate school in the mid-2000s, I made adult films with a major gay male studio for around two years. The money was amazing, and I honestly loved doing it. The year before I went on the job market, someone linked my real name to my stage name in an online database. For a few years after that googling my real name pulled up my work in the adult industry.

No one ever mentioned it when I was on the job market. I did quite well getting interviews and landed a TT job after one year in a VAP position. I don't think it has ever impacted my promotion or tenure.

However, it's an open secret on my campus (in a very liberal part of the country). Each year, a new group of first year students find out and pass around screenshots, etc. Some students find it funny, others tell their parents (admin has always supported me in those cases), I get asked questions about it fairly frequently, and I have had students make inappropriate remarks, innuendos, and advances connected to my content.

I don't regret doing it, but 15 years later the fact that I made porn is a part of my present rather than my past, especially on campus. OP should bear in mind that they can't guarantee they will remain anonymous and that students will always be fascinated with the porn-star professor.

anonymous for obvious reasons thanks!

I am an assistant professor at an R1 who did some sex work in the past (mostly before grad school, but some during grad school). For what it's worth, I of course support the reader here, but I don't think that my relatively stuffy department would have hired me had they known this. I do think it's a risk, and like some others above, I definitely do not think it is only older or less "with it" faculty who will object. Many, many of my students have negative moral views of sex work, and I work at a relatively liberal, secular institution in a liberal part of the country. I happen to have a dean who I think would fight anyone who objected, but that's just randomness about who happens to be my current dean, and I very much doubt that the rest of my administration would be supportive. I don't think I will ever reveal that I did this work to my colleagues or students, and I think even post-tenure it would have a negative impact on how I am seen and engaged with. I am, however, heartened by former adult actor's story above. Still, I think it's probably true that I would not have a job today (I only had one offer the year I got my job) had I been open about my own situation or had easily findable info about the internet about it.

Tim

I think it would seriously harm OP's chances, if a search committee would find out. I agree with a previous comment that the risk here is being under described. In my experience, many philosophers are 'pro-sex' in the abstract. But as soon as it becomes concrete, involving particular people or activities, they become uncomfortable and slightly moralizing. I have observed this, not just with "baby-boomers," but young PhDs. The job market is crazy, so there's no guarantee that it would "destroy" one's chances. But I think for most people on most search committees it would be held as a mark against OP

Bill Vanderburgh

My guess here is that many faculty colleagues would not be bothered by it and wouldn't see it as disqualifying in itself. You'd have to take it as a given that you won't be able to keep it secret, and that means that you have to be okay with your students knowing about and perhaps viewing the content. I could see even a sex-positive search committee convincing itself that this would be a pedagogical distraction at the very least, and perhaps even something that would undermine the professor's authority, etc. They might pass on such a candidate as "too much hassle" even if otherwise qualified. Search committees are risk-averse and often looking for reasons to distinguish between highly qualified candidates many of whom would be excellent in the job. In that regard, anything that raises a possible doubt (it doesn't even need to be an actual doubt) could count against an applicant.

I heard someone give advice once to the effect that you should try to imagine telling the story of your life from the end, as if you were writing your own obituary. If the thing you are deliberating about would fit with the rest of the story that comes after it, go for it.

Liz

Assuming the OP is female, I would also worry about how students perceive you. I suspect some of the poster above’s experiences are tinted by the fact he is male. Young female professors already have a tough time getting students’respext and I can imagine students passing around screen shots of their female professor naked would make that virtually impossible.

Amanda

I don't think it would hurt, overall. I don't know. I've been on several searches, and I don't get that impression. But it depends on the area of research and the best schools for that area. 80 to 90 percent of religious-affiliated schools would be out. And that can be significant depending on one's AOC. Other than that, I don't see people under 60 holding it against anyone. I think the person above who did well on the job market is a good testament to this. As for the older people, they probably won't know - they aren't too good at the ol internet.

I also think that adverse reactions would be balanced out by positive. Again, I see this helping some candidates, making them stand out and potentially bringing the discussion to the university and department. Lastly, I know a lot of colleagues who would be so concerned about not having a negative bias that they would have a positive one.

Amanda

I think the issue with students Liz brings up is possible. But against the odds overall. Especially when students don't know each other. At my uni I am pretty sure any attempt to gossip this way would be meet by askance glances from other students. But at a small liberal arts college where students do know each other maybe. I think it would depend on how the professor handled it. IF they were confident I think it would blow over real fast. Regardless, I think that is separate from hiring. I don't see the potential problem with students influencing search committee decisions.

Amanda

Re my comment students - that is about the actual classroom. I do think outside the classroom people might gossip - a lot at small schools and a small amount at bigger ones. We have some faculty here where that happens and I think the trouble they get is always just around campus while in class students are respectful.

I am curious about the size of the school with the former adult actor. That sounds like what would happen at a smaller school to me but maybe a mid sized one too. Perhaps being at a giant school skews my perspective.

former adult actor

former adult actor here. In response to Amanda's question, I teach at a non-elite public university with about 12000 students.

I agree with Liz that the situation might not be tenable for a woman. Absolutely. Slut-shaming and sexual objectification don't work the same way. I don't know how to articulate this well, but there is a difference between a straight male viewing a gay male's content and a straight male viewing a female's content.

I'd also like to clarify that I don't consider my situation to be awesome. In other parts of my life, people find out, they ask a few questions, and it recedes into the past. That's not the case when thousands of new students arrive each year. It's gotten easier because I don't identify as much with my 23 year old body, if that makes sense. It doesn't feel like they are seeing me or my body as much now as it did when I started in 2011.

What I wanted to convey to the OP with my first comment is that if you're identified or doxed, your sex work and the content you produce might be a part of your life at the university long after the hiring process. Liz's point at the end of her comment is a really good one. If you can't imagine lecturing to students or talking to colleagues in a meeting knowing that they may have viewed the content you produced, then you probably shouldn't start an OnlyFans.

Prof L

If I found out about it, and were on a search committee, I would hold it against you, and I am *well* under 60. I don't think I'm a weirdo or a prude. This seems to pretty obviously undermine the professional relationship between student and professor if that kind of content is available to students. If it is available and becomes known even to a handful of students, students will talk about it forever.

There are other reasons I think this is perfectly justified, but per the terms Marcus set out, I'm not sure if I can say why.

Evan

Some cautious and proactive measures: 1) If you are going to do it, then blur your face to stay anonymous. There are online tutorials on how to do that. 2) If you have tattoos, you should cover them by using a full coverage foundation.

philosophy aint everything

This is, of course, a philosophy blog, and you're asking philosophy-related questions, but I think non-philosophy-related concerns are probably far more important. For example: is this an economic necessity (and if so, are you freely choosing this type of work, or would you prefer other options)? Are you prepared/willing to deal with potential consequences of this type of work? Have you sought out the perspectives of those who have done this kind of work, both those who regret it and those who don't? Job market concerns pale in comparison, I think, and those who are treating this as purely a job market question are doing the question-asker a disservice.

Another ethical perspective: regardless of the morality of discrimination against sex workers (immoral, I would agree), as a person who takes the ethics of this situation seriously, I think it's worth considering that onlyfans isn't an ethically awesome platform - it's structured like a pyramid scheme, provides little to no protection for its users, and has facilitated the distribution of revenge porn and contributed to content theft.

Prabhpal Singh

Having a history of sex work does not in any way shape or form "undermine the professional relationship between student and professor". What happens if students discover their professor used to be a sex worker? Does the professor suddenly become incapable of carrying out their duties? If students are bothered or distracted by it then it is the students' failure to maintain focus on their studies. Anyone bothered by this would be acting unprofessionally. If you are a snowflake that gets bothered by something like this, you aren't ready to participate in professional relationships and certainly aren't in a position to lecture others on professionalism.

Original Poster

Original Poster here! Wow, I was not expecting this post to get so many thoughtful and sincere responses. Thank you all for your honesty, considerations, and well wishes. And thanks Marcus, for being willing to post my question!

Legal sex work is something I've been considering for years now off-and-on, long before graduate school, and every time (so far) I have come to the conclusion that the financial stress I am in at any given moment is ultimately not much worse than the stress of dealing with the stigma for years to come (or worrying about it potentially affecting me).

This time, all of your responses have led me to think this conclusion is most likely once again the right one for me. I think I need some more time living at the poverty line to see whether I can adjust further to being on such a tight budget, or whether the stress will get to the point that the risks outlined by you all become worth it. (Of course, I do agree with the majority of posters that anti-sex work stigma is quite unfortunate, and I hope one day such risks will be marginal!)

Thanks again!

a fan

I think people are misrepresenting how conservative philosophers are on matters of sex.
See the following story from the BBC, where someone in the entertainment business is paying for their Only Fans work:
https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-59161371
Further, I think the way Marcus set up restrictions on what is acceptable to post on this thread has given people the opportunity to post generalizations about philosophers that are quite ungrounded.

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