Everywhere I go, when I run into people I’ve known for years, they often ask me, “So what are you doing these days? Are you still writing on the same things?”
And I usually answer, “Yeah, I’m still writing mainly about Jewish stuff.”
Most of my writing since 2001 has been on Jewish themes.
But that’s never what they mean. They always want to check to see if I am still blogging about the p*** industry.
I haven’t written about the p*** industry since October of 2007, but I understand I am best known for the reporting I did there.
It reminds me of the old joke. You could build a big bridge and people wouldn’t think of you as Joe the Bridge Builder. But if you suck one little c***, you’re suddenly that c***sucker.
Sexual norms are universal. Every community has sexual norms. If you deviate dramatically and publicly from those norms, that will usually overtake every other identity you have.
If you were convicted of getting oral from a 15-year old girl, people will think of you as a child molester. If you made one sexually charged movie and then everything else was as benign as Disney, you’ll be widely known as a pornographer. You could blog about 20 different topics, but if one of them is the p*** industry, then that is how you’ll be known.
We only have a small amount of space in our heads for 99% of people in our lives. We give them one primary identity. They’re either a teacher or a mother or a clergyman or a sports fan.
I was thinking this morning that I wanted to ask my friend, “Do I look like I write on the p*** industry?”
Your choice of profession writes itself across your features. Lawyers tend to think and talk in certain ways. Accountants have a similarly logical manner to them. They’re also the group of people with the highest ethics, on average, of any group I know.
Clergy tend to have an aura about them. Police have a certain manner and a certain energy.
Your choice of profession is emblazoned over time on your face and on your thinking and on the way you move. People can pick up subliminally on what you’re thinking about and how you think. And they will tend to start thinking of you the same way you think of them.
As I get older, I have more equanimity about reality. I have less resentment. I rarely get terribly annoyed any more if people choose to still think of me as “the porn guy.” I understand that my writing on that topic is scandalous and I accept the consequences.
I’m equally poised between introvert and extrovert. I went to a networking breakfast this morning and much of the time I wanted to retreat into myself and then on occasion I wanted to expand and to meet people. Whether I’m feeling more introverted or extroverted largely depends upon my life position. When I’m thriving, it is easy for me to be extroverted. When I’m struggling, I tend to retreat within.
When I’m happy with myself, I tend to have a much more positive view of others. When I’m struggling, I tend to have much darker thoughts about others. I’m much quicker to dismiss them. I’m much quicker to tell myself, “I have no interest in talking to that person.”
Greg Leake emails:
The thing is you didn’t simply blog about porn. You also published books about it and appeared on TV numerous times discussing it. You weren’t just a guy who blogged about porn; you became one of America’s foremost experts about the industry.
Writing about Jewish subjects is simply too low-intensity to overcome the reputation you had as sort of a sociologist of the seamy side. Like it or hate it, porn is a high-intensity subject. Judaism is low-intensity and primarily of interest to other Jews. Porn is interesting to everyone either to apologize for it or to condemn it. Judaism becomes pretty monotonous if one doesn’t happen to be a Jew.
In my view, the way to meet your kind of challenge would have been to use your reputation, but take it in another direction. Maybe become the low-key, intelligent dissenter about the porn industry. Maybe become the anti-HughHefner. Take the whole thing to a different level.
I don’t think the attempt to simply shift from the celebrity you acquired to a guy who writes about Jewish subjects will ever challenge the work you did on the adult industry. I think you should sort of be the Dick Clark of the anti-porn world.
Either that or latch onto another subject that can accrue the intensity that porn possesses and has the ability to elevate your status as expert on something else that is vivid. Judaism will always be a lot stodgier than porn.
You know, a lot of your readers would not realize anything about the cultural milieu that you came out of. You were a Seventh Day Adventist, and I grew up as a Protestant. You made a transition to Orthodox Judaism, and I got into philosophy and am now sort of a hybrid of spiritual humanism and neo-reform Christianity. What most of your Jewish buddies don’t realize is that had you wanted, you could have become Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s kid). You could have been speaking at hundreds of Adventist churches around the world for remuneration. You could have been lauded, conceivably with your own TV show. I do not think a lot of your Jewish friends exactly realize the possibilities inherent in your father’s success.
Because you mentioned it, my wife and I have now gotten interested in Friday Night Lights. It creates some anxiety for us, however, because we grew up at dead center of this cultural milieu. Naturally, decades ago there was a lot less fooling around and a lot more guys wanting to be Tim Riggins. Outside of that, things are about the same. (So far it looks like we basically have one Alexander Technique teacher here in town.)