Theater Critic Fired After “Private, Personal” Photos Taken 22 Years Ago Are Posted On Gay Web Site

Mark Shenton, a theater critic for nearly 12 years at UK’s Sunday Express, announced in a post on today’s web site he was fired. What did Shenton do? Twenty-two years ago, he appeared in some “private, personal (but entirely legal)” photographs taken by a friend in San Francisco. Recently, those images were posted by someone else on a for-pay gay web site. “A malicious third party” alerted the Sunday Express and made their theater critic aware these images were online. Shenton confirmed the pictures were indeed him.

The newspaper then handed him a pink slip.

Explains Shenton in his post:

The Sunday Express’s Head of HR … believes that the existence of any such images could bring the company into disrepute. My sexuality is public knowledge and by revealing this information freely as I’m doing now, it is clear that I do not agree. The editor of the paper also stated, in front of the HR head, that the images were “embarrassing”. Sorry to disagree with his world view, but I’m not embarrassed at all.

Shenton pointed out that the owner of the Sunday Express is Richard Desmond, who once published Penthouse in the UK and something filled with journalistic merit called Asian Babes. The company also owns and operates adult television channels.

Okay, so the company clearly doesn’t have a problem with salacious material. So why is the Sunday Express now concerned? Because all that salacious material was straight. It’s only “embarrassing,” as the editor, Martin Townsend, put it, when the salaciousness is gay. Writes Shenton, “It could be said that the only difference is that these are straight magazines and channels, whereas mine was defined as a gay one.”

How hypocritical. This is nothing but bigoted slutshaming. And in any case, who cares if this man posed for some presumably-explicit photos 22 years ago? Photographs taken in the privacy of our own intimate relationships — come on, we all have them — should not have a bearing on whether we get to keep our jobs. The pics have nothing to do with being a good theater critic.

It would depend, of course, on the stipulations of his contract, but I hope he is able to fiile a lawsuit for unjust firing.

[The Stage UK]

[Guardian UK]

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[Image of computer with porn content via Shutterstock]