Mainstream media outlets have never been especially proficient at speaking about sex work or sex workers. Rather, as writer and adult entertainer Arabelle Raphael has recently noted, “Sex workers have constantly fallen into the fractures of public discourse.” Reporters often dismiss sex employees out of hand, treat them with contempt, or, as Raphael observes, release the label “pornography star” as though it was “an epithet.”
Maybe not remarkably, great reporting has actually been tough to find throughout the media firestorm of the supposed relationship between Stormy Daniels and President Donald Trump. There have been hot takes, dismissive takes, mad takes, and lazy takes. Some experts have suggested that the story amounts to little more than titillating fodder, an interruption from larger, more crucial political issues. Others have actually utilized it to lob attacks at an industry they discover morally repugnant or personally objectionable. In these and other instances, hand wringing regularly changes truths, worn clichés stand in for data, and bad puns enter 140 characters supersede journalistic rigor.
I have written elsewhere about the uneven and one-dimensional representations of sex work in Las Vegas. The city’s extremely gendered and sexualized economy implies that strip clubs, cam studios, porn performers, and the politics of sex work are staples of media coverage of the city. But, press reporters, pundits, and op-ed contributors often recreate a narrow set of stereotypes that position sex employees as either victims or social outcasts, while providing the bigger adult market in the most sensationalistic, reductive, or predatory terms. And editors, who are typically desperate for “clicks” on their online news websites, are willing to give up fact-checking and journalistic standards for the bump they hope peddling sex will give them. Rinse and repeat.
This is not just a Stormy Daniels problem or even a problem for those people in sexuality research studies. Finding ways to explain the intricacies of information, evidence and research to the wider public, particularly relating to controversial or misunderstood topics, is a challenge that academics in all fields deal with.
Public Engagement and Media Outreach
Over the previous Ten Years I have talked with upwards of 200 reporters about the politics of porn, the history of sex toys, the state of sex education, and more. I once spoke to a press reporter from the New york city Times in the middle of a getaway because he was on due date. A team from ABC Nightline pertained to my house in downtown Las Vegas to tape an interview about the adult webcam industry. I flew to Los Angeles to film a section for the National Geographic Channel about the history of sex, and I just recently appeared on a popular early morning program in Australia to discuss the growing consumer need for sexual items.
I’ve had a couple of disappointments along the way, but I make time to speak to journalists since I want much better, more precise reporting on sexuality to become the standard rather than the exception.
In late January, for instance, a nationwide reporter from the Washington Post connected to me: Would I be going to the annual Grownup Home entertainment Expo in Las Vegas the following week? And also, did I know Stormy Daniels?
Two weeks earlier the Wall Street Journal had broken the story that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime individual legal representative, had actually paid Daniels to stay quiet about the relationship. The report injected new life into Trump’s reported cheatings, while adding a layer of possible campaign financing violations to the mix.
Although I don’t personally know Daniels, I used to respond to the reporter’s concerns about the Exposition. Numerous days later she was on a plane to Las Vegas. She thought it was the very first time the Washington Post had actually sent a political press reporter to cover the largest adult entertainment showcase in the United States.
It was refreshing to see the Post send a veteran reporter to Las Vegas to learn about the market, and I was more than going to step into the function of academic ambassador. I introduced her to people she might wish to speak with and watched as she took massive notes about the state of the industry. She interviewed performers and directors, spoke to scholastic scientists such as myself, and followed up with fact-checking e-mails. She was intrepid. I was satisfied.
Media engagement can take any variety of types. Often it involves offering a pithy quote; other times it requires a 45-minute telephone call about the history of ladies in adult entertainment. I do not pretend to be an authority on all things sexual and have no problem decreasing a media demand when the topic is outdoors my location of knowledge. Press reporters require good sources who are willing to talk to them and provide fact-based information and reputable data. They also require contacts who can point them in the direction of other specialists. In
my case, that includes sex workers whose voices do not aspect almost enough in either media or policy discussions about sex work. For scholastic researchers, media work is an essential type of public engagement and neighborhood outreach. It includes taking details and ideas that frequently stay within the bounds of academic discussions and making them offered for wider audiences. It is also work that has the prospective to broaden public debates and, notably, affect policy factors to consider. I have actually remained in touch with the Washington Post press reporter. When I recently inquired about the paper’s choice to send her to the Exposition, she noted that our e-mail exchange was “one example of how that see has settled, just as a see to other convention
would. I met individuals who have shared understanding that has actually informed my reporting.”The more that scholastic professionals at UNLV and elsewhere can package their research for popular intake, the better, more knowledgable the conversations surrounding it will eventually be. To riff off the Post’s motto, excellent research study likewise passes away in darkness.