I’d like to think we live in a growing enlightened age. I’d like to think that. I can’t.
And for an author in M/M erotica, it’s a serious question to ponder.
The reason I think we are still somewhat bassackwards when it cums to sex is that we still can’t put down the whole ludicrous morality issue over it. This is where I think gay men have the slight advantage in coping with society’s overall view with regards to sex. As gay men (of which I am a solid card carrying member – got the toaster oven and everything), I think we are fully cognizant that we’re outside the mainstream box. In a way, that’s completely liberating. We’re sort of expected to be out of the norm. In a real way it can be absolutely terrifying for those not ready to deal with the whole maverick “go your own way” label that gets slapped on you.
This whole inner debate I am having about this was furthered this morning when I happened upon a huffpo gay voices article regarding a gay porn sex worker (Levi Michaels) who had decided to put some of his un-porn life on the web via a YouTube channel.
It was a short, if refreshing, read. I find I am often more fascinated with what these guys do with their non-business life – and not because I am working on my stalker cred, either. Porn is so fleeting for the workers in the business. I have, like many, heard several horror stories of men who couldn’t cope with being in the industry and succumbed to it’s pressures and social stigma’s often associated with it. Sometimes I worry about these men (Arpad Miklos, much? Who I really, really liked as a performer) who may not be planning for their future beyond porn. So it’s sorta refreshing and a sigh of relief that a segment of them do think beyond tomorrow (you go, Levi).
But there is a disparity in how some men approach the business and how it can back fire on them if they aren’t truly forward thinking in their careers. After all, the cock or the ass or a rockin’ bod aren’t the real sexual elements in this equation. We’d like to think it stops there – but it’s the mind that is the truly powerful sexual “organ” we possess. What makes Michaels so off the rails sexy, I think, is his brain. Ditto for Colby Keller (who’s blog I follow religiously) – I fucking love that guy’s mind.
So here’s the reverse side of that:
I mean, take one such individual who for all intents and purposes is gay for pay (but seemed to be doing fairly well at first): Cody Cummings. He presented himself as a fantasy for gay men. Yeah the guy is hot, but ultimately it was very clear that he wasn’t into having sex with men. His ‘gay’ site had a fair amount of straight sex on it. How many gay men love to watch that – I am guessing the numbers aren’t that high. (It’s the same reason why I gripe on Pingay when we get guys posting straight porn pics of guys with mammoth cocks next to some pussy – um, where’s the gay in that?) It was during that whole miserable phase in the industry “Straight Guys for Gay Eyes” bullshit where a number of cross-over guys who were straight in their own lives thought they could fake it well. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few who do it quite well (I could wax eternal about G4P Bo Dean over this very point).
What is so sad about this scenario is that for a couple of years was that gay men were following him – were subscribing because the guy is hella hot (gay, straight, or whatever) but soon discovered just how un-gay he was.
However I think Cody found himself in the crosshairs of his own audience who really weren’t interested in his having sex with women (we are gay after all, big guy) – in that he had for the most part only let guys suck him off and barely touched another man’s cock (using his toes to do so). There’s a built in homophobia in this sort of phoned in performance. I’m reminded of my high school drama teacher who advised we doe eyed future stars and starlets – “give yourself to the performance 110% – if you phone it in, the audience can tell.” (Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Ray) This is what I believe happened to Cody and it apparently did a number on his numbers (read: subscriptions) and a backlash started to take place (in blogs and in the reviews of his site). In short, he went into damage control mode. But here again is how the whole mainstream morality regarding sex hounds we gay outsiders (sex workers are in with this bunch – gay or g4p). We fall for this sorta shit because we want to believe the fairy tale of it. Even if these fae boys/men wouldn’t dream of actually carrying on a real relationship with a man in their daily lives.
Gay for pay isn’t new. That much is evident. But when you stack someone up like Cody with someone who is also straight (but thankfully gets the whole 110% in the game mentality) like Bo Dean, then the tissue paper facade of Cummings offerings begin to really become apparent.
And before detractors and haters comment on my calling out Cummings on his meager offerings – let me be clear: I don’t wish him any real harm or ill times in his future. I truly want all performers to succeed. Having a theatre background, I get the whole putting your shit out there for ridicule or reward mentality. Sex performers get aces in my book because the go where most actors don’t publicly. Cody (or whatever his real name is) is probably a very decent guy just trying to survive and pay the bills (of which I guess also have to deal with a rather hefty alimony to his ex). He knew he had the looks and could play well to the camera (which isn’t always a given in the industry – you may have looks but fall flat because you don’t have that spark that lights up and takes notice when the cameras are turned on). Bo on the other hand gets it. It’s clear from his early work over at Cock Sure Men that he was a straight guy trying to break into the gay porn business. He has a rockin’ look and seems pleasant enough to be around (this from the behind the scenes vids I’ve observed). So Bo Dean gets the gig. He understands and works towards what Cody simply misses the point on. I’ve seen some of Cody’s latest offerings and while he has ‘pushed his limits’ a bit, it is a little bit too late in cumming (sorry, I couldn’t resist – I’ll try and restrain myself).
So how does this go back to that article from Levi Michaels in HuffPo? Well one thing I got from Levi’s interview was that even he sees the change in society’s perception about sex industry workers. Wonder of all wonders: sex workers are people too! Holy shit! Stop the presses (do we even say that anymore?)! Whoda fucking thought, right?
This is some serious good gay man sex going on here!
But what I find so refreshing is that, though it isn’t the prevalent opinion yet, that Levi sees some of the stigma of being a sex worker is being lifted the more accessible the performer becomes to his audience. It is this interactivity that humanizes the performer with his fans. Personally, I think this serves the actor as much as it does the audience member. I find that there is a very gratifying feeling with that veil being lifted just a bit. I mean, I am not one of those porn stalker types who can’t separate the fact from the fiction (I work in fiction for Chrissake). But that Levi would ponder doing this himself and finding that others are open to it is really remarkable. Perhaps a small faction within the larger community will sexually liberate themselves from the oppressive social mores and find their own path to sexual awareness and freedom. This is why I like what Levi is doing. Why he is putting a bit more of himself out there. Plus I love his playfulness while doing it. I know it’s not the whole enchilada. I wouldn’t be so bold to ask that of him. I want his privacy for him as much as he does. Maybe that’s because of my many years in semi/pro theatre. I get it. The public vs. private persona. Yet, Mr. Michaels is finding a way to make media work for him personally. I think that’s great. I wish him nothing short of success in that (even if it only is a personal one) I’ll be cheering from the sidelines.
This is something that I think some of the earlier performers never had a chance to connect with their audience and use it to not only further their careers but also to ground them a bit in ours. That’s bloody brilliant, I say. I wish some of the other actors had this much insight or fortitude to do something like that. I think it would completely humanize the industry – and in turn, I would hope, de-stigmatize it.
Okay, I fully get that I may be asking too much.
But like my takeaway from Michaels HuffPo interview, I think what he has set out to do is a win-win for not only him but for the industry at large. Not that everyone in the biz should run out and do it. Like coming out, each will have to find their own way, find their own thread to tug upon and put their spin on their public persona. For some it stops at Twitter, others it maybe to tweet and instagram. Who knows where this will all lead? I’d like to think gradually to an enlightenment and acceptance that sex is not dirty – it is integral to who we are as humans. That it is no longer the thing that titillates us because of the ‘dirty’ status that the mainstream conservatives want us to hold onto. But that trip is all about control. I don’t know about you, but I’d welcome a little true freedom – a little sexual liberation. It’s been a number of decades since the last big hoorah for sexual liquidity and acceptance.
Here’s a thought that I’ve always held about porn – when its REALLY good, then its fucking art. And you can tell the difference. It fucking smacks you in the face like the porn actor just spewed his love juice all over you. A fucking shower of erotic sensations. THAT’S ART! Why? Because of the work that goes into it. These guys really do work at their craft (and believe me – most guys probably couldn’t take the hours or the upkeep to stay vital and desirable in the industry). So yeah, in my book, guys like Antonio Biaggi (my personal go-to), Colby Keller, Anthony Romero, Bo Dean and Levi Michaels are all guys who get their craft and apply their talents and work at making it all work for us. It may be titillating art, it may be provocative art, but it is ART nonetheless. But ONLY when it’s good (sadly, a large chunk of it is purely out for the commercial buck schlock).
So as I contemplate my characters in my books, I am thinking about this. Indeed two of my characters decide to document their love by recording it digitally. For one of the guys, it is because no porn around will equate to watching him making love to the one person he cherishes above all others. He thinks that capturing that is the greatest expression of his love. It’s defiant against the norms, it is forging their own path – and in their case, it won’t devolve into a nasty get back at you if we ever break up moment. My guys get their Ever After, Happily. So for them, it is a way of keeping memories alive. For my football quarterback so enraptured with the geeky gayboy on campus, he can think of no other deeply moving thing than to wrap himself around the love of his life, to know he has him in every way possible. It’s freeing and totally terrifying. The not knowing what new heights they’ll reach together – that’s the adventure he’s signed up for.
So thank you Mr. Michaels. You’ve given this author something to chew on – I mean, I’d already had my boys toying with the whole new media thing in their lives at any rate. You’ve given me something else to ponder. A new trail in the forest that I didn’t realize that was there. By letting my boys in my story explore what it means to be in this technologically enlightened age (even if we’re still striving toward that enlightenment), your musings will give me some of my own. And for that I am grateful – you’ve liberated me.