Jack Ryan has been involved in modeling and/or video projects since 1998, so far as I can tell. He started modeling the same time I started dancing. We’ve had extraordinarily different paths in the same industry, but we’re both still here. Also, we’ve both been called role models recently. And that is something I want to address, because although I agree with that sentiment, it is with a sense of reluctance.
About a week ago Jack Ryan wrote an important article for The Advocate that you can see here. In it he talks about his experience with bareback porn and drug abuse. He also talks about his renaissance as a person who wants to own his past, take responsibility for his actions, and grow toward wisdom and happiness. Jack has had to tolerate a great deal of cynicism from cynical people who cynically (and naïvely) scoff at the notion that adult entertainers could be role models (and that it is, in fact, a sign of the degeneration of people in general that this notion would even be expressed). Well, I’m here to express support for Jack Ryan.
I was a little put off at first when I read that someone would call Jack a role model; however, after reading his story and conversing with him just a tad, I have to admit that I embrace completely what he is trying to do. And although he has already agreed to do an interview for this blog, I wanted to take a moment to weigh in on WHY he needs his story to be discussed.
There is no denying that media informs our behaviors. It is the reason that corporations are willing to spend $1M/minute during the Super Bowl for commercials. It’s the reason there are ads EVERYWHERE. It’s the reason celebrity brands are so important. We are a herd species that needs to belong, and we learn by example as we go along. And that need to learn, belong, and emulate is very often manipulated or exploited.
Is anyone going to deny my assertion in this? Is anyone going to deny that people blamed Marylin Mason for the Columbine High School Massacre; or that people blamed Sarah Palin for the shooting in Arizona; or that Elizabeth Taylor sells hundreds of millions of dollars in perfume every year; or that the news media apply spin to stories to meld public opinion (or artfully exclude information they deem “unimportant”); or that Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired an entire paradigm shift in the United States by way of his speeches on TV, radio, and newsprint?
Bear with me, I have a reason for taking my time here.
This morning on the cover of USA Today, there was a story about a series of studies that show that amongst 18- to 24-year-old college students that committed relationships are down, hooking up is common, and that premarital virginity is on the rise. I invite you to read this before you go on. Okay, did you get all that?
What is the resource people turn to when they don’t feel like bothering to hook up? What is the resource virgins are using? Because virgins aren’t learning with partners, what is teaching them what they know about fucking? What has become so common that young people are “blasé toward sex?”
Whether the fine, upstanding people who have been trashing Jack Ryan on Queerty like it or not, Jack and I are definitely role models. Whether we are modeling behavior worth emulating is the question at hand, not whether or not we have an audience that we influence. Have you ever heard someone make the claim that anyone subject to any degree of public scrutiny is a role model? Well, that applies to adult entertainers, too (for better or worse).
It is inconsistent to blame Marylin Manson or Sarah Palin for mass shootings (or to empower Barney the Dinorsaur to raise polite children) and then say that porn models are “just” porn models and that pornography is “just” pornography. When Jack Ryan admits an error and seeks to reverse it; when I do or say whatever it is I do or say to make @MayckoTheGenius call me “an inspirational person for so many youth;” when @RoccoGiovanni does his annual activities to raise funds for sick kids; when David-SF (my partner from “Morning Wood”) takes his annual bike ride to raise money for HIV/AIDS charities; when your local female impersonators give shows at local bars to raise money for local charities… all of that represents moments when we as adult entertainers are modeling positive behavior and seeking to influence our audiences to join in.
Does it mean we’re always perfect? No. But it doesn’t change the fact that pornography and the people in it, just like any other form of media, influence consumers, and that we have a responsibility to that audience to nudge them toward happiness, not destruction.