Porn Safety

porn safety

By Phil La Duke

Two days ago I visited the porn capital of the world; no I wasn’t making a pornographic film. The fact that my business in the area seemed lost on friends and colleagues, who saw fit to ask with a smirk if I was going to provide safety services to the porn industry.

The matter got me thinking if, ethically speaking, it is right to turn down business because of one’s personal beliefs. Naturally there has to be a moral line one needs of which one must be cognizant when doing business, but can one politely decline saving lives just because one finds an industry distasteful? I understand that many of you have already made up your mind and are ready to quit reading before really asking the really hard (no pun intended) questions.

Over the course of my career I have worked with clients who have run the spectrum from those who want me to take their already exemplary safety programs to the next frontier to those who want to do the bear minimum to be compliant without the quietest whisper of concern for the safety of their workers. If I turned down every client because of my politics, moral indignation, or personal preferences I would be derelict in my duties.

Who is the moral reprobate? The professional fornicator or the safety professional who refuses an industry in need because they find the product morally objectionable.

“Conscious Do Have a Cost”—Bunk Moreland to Omar, The Wire

Perhaps it’s easy to shy away from porn—it’s not like most of us have an off-the-shelf course in fluffer safety —but where is the line? Can we shun the porn industry on one hand and accept jobs in other industries that are guilty of worse sins? To be sure pornography is obscene, but how much more obscene is war? If it is okay for us to provide safety services to companies that build missiles, land mines, and bullets how is it not all right for us to provide safety services for the adult entertainment industry?

The Slippery Slope Argument

Some would argue that providing safety services to the porn industry starts us down a slippery slope. If, they ask, we provide services to the porn industry, then where does it end? Should we provide safety services to prostitutes and pimps? Should we sell safety to drug cartels and contract killers? Well for starters the production of porn is legal, and no one can ethically provide professional services to criminal enterprises without aiding and abetting a crime, so I think this argument is moot. Again we come back to is it okay for us to refuse to provide services to individuals and industries simply because we find them distasteful. The other side of the other side of the slippery slope argument is this: can you refuse to provide safety services to a company because of their gay friendly policies? How about refusing to provide services to hospitals that perform abortions? Conversely, can you in good conscious refuse to provide safety services to companies who discriminate against gays, blacks, midgets, albinos, or women?

The Hypocrite’s Oath

While it’s true no one (at least no one I know) in safety has taken an oath to provide services to any and all that need them, I feel an ethical responsibility to not refuse work on ethical grounds. Perhaps I sound like a morally vacuous whore, but it’s often the worst of companies that need me the most. I often work with companies who don’t really see an issue with killing workers provided that they don’t kill too many. Many more companies just don’t understand safety and how to manage it so they need me to help them mature as an organization. It seems like everybody and the neighbor’s monkey is out their preaching “change the culture” and “we have to change the way we think about safety” mantras. Who better to serve than the rogue’s gallery of companies who are making the news for gory butchery of their employees? If we say that every worker has a right to go home unharmed, how then can we pick and chose which workers won’t get the benefit of our services simply because of the job they do? Is a bull semen collector (an actual job at breeding ranches) that far off from porn? Is the manufacturer of the gun of choice to street gain killers that different from the sociopath who pulled the trigger?

If We Don’t Have a Moral Code Who are We?

I am not suggesting that each one of us doesn’t have the right to refuse work if said work is so at odds with one’s value system that to agree would deeply conflict with one’s value set. I am suggesting that we as safety professionals routinely turn a blind eye to the ugly realities of our business. We can’t make manufacturing weapons of war more effective and not acknowledge that we blood on our hands, so in that respect if we oppose a company’s business (or politics) and we still provide services one could justifiably brand us hypocrites.

For my part I see myself as akin to a criminal lawyer who believes that even the worst of society deserves competent representation and that defending loathsome criminals does not abet the crime, rather it is in furtherance of justice and results in the betterment of society. I will work with anyone who will have me, not because I believe in their products, purpose, or politics, but because I believe that everyone has a human right to be safe on the job and if that means that I have to do business with organizations that others (or even I) loathe (all though I have found that it’s tough to loathe anyone writing you checks) so be it. My job is to help companies protect their workers, their profits, and their very existence; a noble calling to be sure, even if there is nothing noble about customers that I serve.

Quick disclaimer: My existing client base is in no way engaged in politics or practices that I find objectionable but that doesn’t mean I won’t sometime soon.

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