JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

copyright 2013, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
Jump Cut
, No. 55, fall 2013

Dire straights: the indeterminacy of sexual identity in gay-for-pay pornography

by John Paul Stadler

This essay explores the conventions of contemporary online gay-for-pay pornography to examine the specificity of this genre not just aesthetically and narratively but also technologically. In the process, I seek to apprehend the reeducation of gay male desire that gay-for-pay elicits for its viewers through its conventions but also to locate the unique feedback loop it instantiates with and through its online mediation. Here is a pornography constituted by a narrative of purported straight men engaging in so-called gay sex acts that proliferates online but has not yet adequately been accounted for as a cultural object. The alignment of this proliferating narrative structure with amateur online mediation constitutes a unique gay male erotic, one that disorganizes the authenticity of narrative identity and simultaneously validates the authenticity of image. In the process of interpreting this pornography, the role of technological medium specificity must be elevated, then, to an equal and integrated status with performance and narrative, as it is now a constitutive component of the desiring body. In this complex manner, gay-for-pay pornography educates, disciplines, and ultimately complicates received notions of homosexuality and heterosexuality both through the pornography itself and its delivery mechanism.

I.

On July 9, 2009, The Tyra Banks Show aired an episode titled “I’m Gay For Pay!”[1] [open endnotes in new window] In the show’s lead-in, Tyra Banks teases her audience,

“They look like two average all-American guys. But there’s something about Aaron and Kurt that you might find shocking. They are both straight guys who for the right price have sex with men on camera.”[2]

Banks’s provocation invites surprise and implies a certain novelty in the intersection of straight identity and gay sexuality, but soft- and hard-core gay pornographies have long undermined hyper-masculinity and conventional renderings of heterosexuality. For instance, gay pornography has frequently appropriated the stereotypical sites of straightness for its backdrop, such as military barracks, college fraternities, and gym locker rooms.[3] The tension of the hetero/homo binary in online gay-for-pay carries forward this trope. Without acknowledging this tradition, Banks overestimates the novelty of this pornography and assumes its import for an audience largely unfamiliar with it. In the process, she not only fails to articulate its specificity and historical context, but more troublesomely she relies on heteronormativity and a spectacularization of the gay sex act to propel her inquiry. Gay-for-pay pornography is significant not because it actually threatens heterosexuality, nor because it is a new genre of pornography.[3] Rather, what marks it significance is its current popularity in the cultural imaginary as a pornography that disrupts received notions of sexual identity.

This episode of The Tyra Banks Show reveals the conflicted position of gay-for-pay pornography in U.S. culture that simultaneously exhibits interest in and repulsion to gay sex.[4] In the hour-long program, Banks interviews three well-known gay porn stars[5]—each of whom identifies as straight[6]—ostensibly to shed light on the gay-for-pay phenomenon. However, Banks’s line of questioning quickly turns indignant when it becomes apparent these so-called straight men refuse typical categorization. Porn star Aaron diagnoses Banks’s and the studio audience’s discomfort as follows:

“I think people have a problem with gay-for-pay because they have a problem with homosexuals.”[7]

An audience member lends credibility to Aaron’s allegation, telling Tyra he, “ain’t gonna do no nothing strange for a piece of change.”[8] As stated above, these and other heated exchanges in this episode suggest gay-for-pay pornography poses a threat to and deviation from the monogamous heterosexual couple. So it is the gay male figure that becomes the show’s unspoken menace.

While the specter of the gay male produces much of Banks’s and her audience’s anxiety, it is precisely this figure that Banks fails adequately to take into account. Rather than pursue the viewer’s desire that mobilizes this genre of pornography—or what I suggest constitutes its gay male erotic—the Banks episode fixates on a failed endeavor to reconstitute these gay-for-pay porn stars as “true” straight men. It is this failure to consider the gay male viewer’s relation to and investment in gay-for-pay pornography that propels my own inquiry.

As I have suggested, The Tyra Banks Show develops a conflicted relationship to gay-for-pay. On the one hand, the episode validates gay-for-pay pornography as a significant contemporary pornography worthy of mainstream media scrutiny, but on the other, it neutralizes the perceived threat to heterosexual identity through moralism and homophobia. The show’s refusal to move beyond the supposed threat to heterosexuality limits its insight. Hereafter, I focus on this question of why gay-for-pay pornography compels the gay viewer’s gaze.[9] Considering gay male desire helps us to overcome the limitations of Banks’s analysis and allows us to ask how that desire shapes the pornography in question and how the pornography in return reeducates gay desire.[10] In asking these questions, we will need to examine in what ways its recording and online dissemination, or its medium specificity, have altered and facilitated this genre. As a result, this inquiry will offer a more expansive—although by no means comprehensive—exploration of contemporary gay-for-pay pornography before closely attending to particular examples, both to reveal the diversities of and, more importantly, to develop provisionally an underlying logic to the genre. In this pursuit, I posit a classification for gay-for-pay pornography that brings its narratives, aesthetics, and medium specificity to bear on what I see as a gay male erotic that honors a conflicted alliance between identity-thwarting sex acts and supposedly authentic mediation.

II.

The following definition of gay-for-pay pornography concerns this genre's deployment online within the last decade, with the knowledge that this definition must necessarily evolve as we examine our examples. This narrow approach allows us to locate its current specificity, rather than explore the broader and more complicated genealogy of its pornographic production. Tentatively, gay-for-pay can be said to be a contemporary genre of gay pornography that foregrounds the alleged real-life straightness—itself a site of contestation—of its performer(s) as an integral component to the form’s grammar. In its narrative, one or more of the performers self-discloses as straight, yet he agrees to engage in gay sex for the camera (typically, though not always, he takes on the sex role of the active penetrator in anal sex or the passive recipient of fellatio). This genre of pornography normally begins with a narrative gesture, often a scene or an interview that establishes the performer’s straightness.[11] If the burden to prove swiftly one’s own alleged heterosexuality seems an odd introduction to gay pornography, the narrative provides various explanatory strategies for why the performer might be willing to engage in gay sex. The most frequent explanation, as suggested by the genre’s name, includes monetary reimbursement,[12] but other explanations include being tricked into the act[13] or losing a bet or game.[14] In each of these instances there’s a displacement of what typically compels—desire—and the gay identity often ascribed to such acts is bracketed. It may be assumed that the viewer derives some kind of pleasure from the disjuncture between the so-called real identity and performed sex acts, although this assumption itself should be pursued further.

Although monetary reimbursement putatively serves as a strong motivation for performers of this pornography, the economics of gay-for-pay are less generative a consideration than how money comes to operate as a narrative strategy that displaces desire. While the performers on the Tyra Banks Show claim to have made a great deal of money through gay-for-pay,[15] the evidence as to just how much more than straight porn remains unclear, and the likelihood that less well-known performers make an equivalent amount is even less certain. I contend that amateurism,[16] harkened by DIY technologies like smart phones, flip cameras, and webcams, dominates online pornography, and gay-for-pay has largely adopted this model of recording and its consequences. As a result, everyday and unknown users feature heavily. So the question of how money operates outside of studio-produced pornography becomes crucial.

Amateur gay-for-pay pornographies flourish on websites like cam4, which do not simply transfer money to performers upon completion of the pornography.[17] Rather, cam4 facilitates the democratized purchase and dissemination of tokens to webcam viewers who then gift them to performers, who must in a final transaction exchange them back into money following the act, but only if the site’s administrators deem that the performance has met expectations (meaning it has not resulted in complaints from viewers). The incentive here has a policing effect, both for the performer to the website and the performer to the viewer, and it requires a series of conversions to deliver remuneration.[18] The viewer does not always know whether a performer is paid and if so, at what amount. But as a narrative device, money serves an explanatory function as a form of willful coercion. It is as though these straight men could not refuse money, that in a post-recession United States, the precarity of daily life makes it unethical to turn down any work. So unsurprisingly the amateur performer is commonly depicted in dire straits, barely making ends meet. Gay-for-pay encodes itself nominally in the logic of poverty,[19] and in the process substitutes money for desire, making thinly veiled prostitutes of its performers. With the fantasy of mutual lust swept away, the fantasy of prohibition takes up shop, replacing reciprocity with an uneven power dynamic of straight men in compromising situations.

With this register in mind, perhaps it should not surprise us that The Tyra Banks Show focused so heavily on the economics of gay-for-pay pornography while failing to recognize the eroticization of poverty. Despite this shortcoming, by looking at the definition Banks’s show provides, we can further clarify the determining logic of this genre. Near the end of the episode, Sean Kennedy, at the time an editor of the U.S.-based LGBT news magazine The Advocate, defines gay-for-pay as follows:

“it basically means guys who are pretending consciously or unconsciously to be gay in order to take advantage financially of gay guys.”[20]

Kennedy forecloses the possibility that the straight man too might get something out of the scenario other than financial gain, but he also inadequately describes the straight man as performing a kind of “gayface.” Would it not be possible that a gay man might want—or indeed desire—a straight man who participates in sex with other men without identifying as gay?

Kennedy misapprehends the critical structural tension inherent in gay-for-pay. Performance gains prominence in the act of the straight man negotiating the terms of the sex—even as DIY and amateur renditions of porn replace performance with something closer to documentation. But this emphasis on performance should not be viewed simply as an enactment of gayness. Rather, gay-for-pay puts gay and straight identities into tension with one another when viewed through what Foucault famously termed bodies and pleasures.[21] Kennedy reduces this notion to “pretending to be gay,” which for our purpose is too reductive. To claim the viewer of gay-for-pay fools himself into thinking the performers are indeed gay fails to consider how the narrative structure complicates the performance of the so-called gay sex act with an overlaid performance of straight identity. There is an intentional confusion of performance and documentation at play.

I insist that the actor is crucially not pretending to be gay; it is his identification as a straight man that he performs. The pornography here dismantles gay identity from what is thought of as gay sex acts. This pornography raises the viewer’s consciousness to a level not typically demanded by pornography, so that the viewer must constantly weigh the “real” sexual identity of the actor, which is its own performance, against the audio-visual performance of sex. The question we are left with is rudimentary, but pivotal: what constitutes gay identity, if not the gay sex act? Gay-for-pay deconstructs a key link between identity and act, positing the gay subject as primarily an identity-formation rather than a set of acts. In the process, it also complicates our knowledge of straight identity, which it implicates in the gay sex act. It is this untethering of act and identity that I wish here to grapple with, not because such an untethering can be substantiated outside of pornographic representation—although it may exist in certain instances—but rather because pornography represents the space of fantasy. The question of the viewer’s desire for such an untethering of identity and act deserves consideration. What does it mean for the gay viewer to desire and indeed to get off on the fantasy of sex with straight men and the fantasy of sexual identity’s resistance to sexual acts? What does it say about both gay and straight identity formations, and why has this fantasy proliferated so widely and rapidly in its online instantiation?

The question of performance helps to clarify the definition of gay-for-pay I have put forth but also provides an important objection to consider. One could easily argue that all pornography is performed, and as such, the actors’ lives outside of the production are of little to no consequence to the performance. However, we must consider the ways gay-for-pay pornography differs from mainstream cinema and conventional studio pornography in its conceptualization and deployment of performativity. I am arguing that what renders gay-for-pay unique from the aforementioned modes of performance is a juxtaposition of meta- and realist techniques. The classical Hollywood film aims for verisimilitude in representation and unobtrusiveness in access. Furthermore its diegesis—or the representational world within which the narrative occurs—is closed, hermetic. The viewer of such films should have an immersive experience of a fictional world that is richly imagined but not reflexive of its own status as film. Much classical and pre-Internet pornography subscribed to this ethos.

As I suggested above, contemporary gay-for-pay pornography typically fuses meta-narrative and realist techniques. A meta-narrative draws attention—much like the amateur format of gonzo porn highlights the performer as camera operator—to its own status as porn.[20] A realist technique, however, strives for authenticity and unobtrusiveness. Gay-for-pay porn makes use of both. The amateur DIY recording technologies strive for authentic, realist representation—often mirroring the documentary genre. At the same time, the meta-narrative highlights a second storyline that undermines the performance of the first, suggesting another reality beyond the pornographic representation. Similar to how Bertolt Brecht’s alienation effect would break the fourth wall in theater through various techniques, online gay-for-pay pornography breaks the immersive quality of pornography by making the reality outside of it a part of its performance.[23] Combining the two forges a simultaneous dissonance. Brecht’s purpose in alienating his viewer was to bring awareness to the circumstances ordering society and to bring about the potential for a change in them, but it is unclear whether gay-for-pay’s reflexivity offers any substantial payout beyond irony. Just how the viewer makes sense of these two competing forces determines whether one finds gay-for-pay to be disconcerting or liberatory, a binary we will return to later.

Gay-for-pay pornography presents a complex argument. It relies upon standard societal notions of sexual identity at the same time that it disrupts these categories. I hypothesize that the disruption of traditional categorization garners this pornography its compelling status. If we take as true the supposition that homosexuals and heterosexuals are oppositional categories required to define the other against,[24] then gay-for-pay challenges this seemingly necessary division by bringing these two categories into direct contact and contention. In addition, this pornography contests the idea that the signifiers of arousal verify sexual truth or pleasure. Gay-for-pay upends the claim that the body unlike the mind cannot lie. The logic follows that for a straight man to maintain an erection and climax with another man would disprove heterosexual identity. But gay-for-pay insists on the suspension of that assumption. There are any number of props and supplements a performer might use to elicit an erection or orgasm, ranging from the use of erectile-inducing pharmaceuticals like Viagra to the viewing of offscreen pornography. While conventional pornographies might shirk at the idea of revealing such accompaniments to arousal, these erectile technologies, though by no means staples, play soundly into the narrative logic of gay-for-pay explanation strategies.

This last point is evidenced when early in the Tyra Banks Show Kurt Wild reveals that he prefers to perform the role of the “bottom” during gay-for-pay sex shoots. Tyra Banks reacts as if she has finally caught the culprit red-handed; this man could not possibly be straight. Her disbelief that Wild could still claim straightness in performing the submissive role in anal sex reinforces the commonplace assumption in the rubric of homosexuality that the penetrated partner is more effeminate, and so gayer, than the penetrator.[25] Wild counters that the submissive role requires almost no arousal on his behalf and so is in fact easier to perform than that of the top. To be submissive and “receive the gift,” as Banks euphemistically refers to it,[26] does not even require an erection. From this example, we see that gay-for-pay challenges the assumed naturalization and inviolability of sex roles. There is a very intricate orchestration about which sex act a performer undertakes when, if at all, and in what order. For instance, a performer typically would not jump right into bottoming—or being “broken in,” as it is sometimes referred to for the uninitiated—because to do so would raise suspicions that the performer was not actually straight from the outset. And yet a performer like Wild, who—having completed his fair share of penetrating—now prefers to bottom almost exclusively due to the passivity of this role, counterintuitively reaffirms his heterosexuality because passivity can be performed without arousal. Within pornography, the signs of arousal do not necessarily substantiate desire or pleasure.

III.

To add complexity to the definition I have provided for gay-for-pay pornography, I want to turn now to contemporary online examples, ever proliferating, and offer three close readings of gay-for-pay narratives to develop a tentative classification and to distill its underlying logic and tension. These three examples demonstrate what we might think of as variations on a theme. This triplication reveals the expansiveness and diversity of the genre, while simultaneously illustrating its guiding logic in reeducating gay desire.

The first example, “Gay Chicken,” originally produced by straightfraternity.com, can now be found in its abbreviated format on a number of porn hub websites like XTube.com.[27] As far as online videos go, which are notably ephemeral, this one in particular has been disseminated frequently and still remains online, a testament to its popularity. In the video, an unseen pledgemaster informs two pledges, Noah and Duncan, “We’re going to play a game. The loser of the game is going to get cummed on.” Immediately, Duncan states to Noah, “So you’re losing.” Noah rebuts, “No, you’re losing.” Here, then, is an explanation strategy that defies monetization. It also simultaneously uses the notion of competition both to bolster the participants’ masculine bravado—and so evidence straightness—and to undercut it by revealing an ultimately homoerotic endgame. It is unclear who is the winner and who is the loser in a situation where one straight man must ejaculate onto another straight man’s body. This indeterminacy is precisely the confusion that gay-for-pay pornography relishes.

The pledgemaster, who remains unseen until the very end of the video, asks his two pledges to strip naked and then clarifies the rules. The intention of the game is to engage in increasingly invasive sexual acts until one pledge no longer feels comfortable, at which point he calls out that he’s “chicken.” A series of such exercises ultimately results in a victor who is deemed less chicken or in this instance more willing to engage in sexual acts with the other player. The video takes as its backdrop a fraternity and the associated infamy of various hazing rituals, which lends the otherwise unlikely scenario a modicum of plausibility. As the two men undress, they note to each other how cold the room is, hoping to relay to both the pledgemaster and the viewer that the size of their penises—or their sense of masculinity—has been impaired by the temperature. In this moment, we again encounter an instance where the performers are simultaneously defending their sense of masculinity and yet undercutting it. As so much of their masculinity seems bound to the size of their respective penises, it is telling that Noah, who vocalizes the fear that his penis might be deemed small, develops an erection first. His erection coincides with Duncan touching his knee in the first round of the game. If before Noah had worried the temperature might diminish the size of his penis, here he remains notably silent when the touch of his male companion results in an erection. There is no explanation given, nor does the gay viewer likely need one. This moment speaks to a fantasy the gay male erotic harbors that straight men, too, can be aroused by contact with other men.

The next two sex acts Duncan and Noah partake in consist of giving one another a hand job followed by fellatio. Noah appears more excited by the games both physiologically and vocally, but he couches his sense of enthusiasm in terms of the competitive nature of the game. In the end, the pledgemaster declares Noah the winner because he is able to perform the sex acts longer and with less complaint. The second pledge Duncan performs these games with reservation and opts out more frequently, declaring himself “chicken.” But the very act of losing a round becomes for Duncan an alternative way to prove his heterosexuality while participating in all-male sex acts. In both pledges’ cases, these tests are accompanied by a constant call-and-response wherein the perpetrator asks, “Are you chicken? Are you chicken?” to which the recipient of the action must respond “No” or “Yes.” In this spoken exchange, the act of bullying becomes yet another method of managing of the event, and another performance of straightness overlaying all-male sex acts.

The quality of the video deserves attention, too. The footage here is grainy and the lighting poor. This and the use of unknown, everyday performers give the video an amateur quality that lacks the glossy, finished veneer of typical studio-produced porn. For in the case of its aesthetics, maximum visibility[28] is not the foremost concern, which would require a well-lit set, tight compositions, and spatial integrity in editing. The camera’s unprofessional, jerky motions and the lack of seamless edits reveal a low-budget aesthetic that recalls the spontaneous capture of documentary filmmaking. The documentary-style is no accident. It vouches for the authenticity of the event and the performers’ heterosexuality, even as they engage in sex with one another. In contrast, studio produced pornographies tend to create a clearer separation between the performance and the performer—always presenting to the viewer its uncanny façade. Here DIY technologies make such distinctions harder to discern.

As a second example, I offer the Bait Bus phenomenon for consideration.[29] In name, Bait Bus refers to the bait-and-switch form of fraud that informs this website’s protocol. In one of the most consistently duplicated narratives of any of the pornographies represented here, a crew in a van approaches and picks up a straight man from the streets. The unseen videographer tricks this man through the prospect of having sex with a woman and later through the promise of earning money into fucking a man, much to his confusion and distaste.

All the action in this webseries takes place in a large van that drives around town as the scene unfolds. This unique location presents some striking implications for Bait Bus. First, the boundary between public and private that typically guards the sex act opens up as a site of contention. As the shoot commences, the viewer sees cars pass by on the streets and highways, creating a spatial dissonance that mirrors the sexual dissonance of the gay-for-pay act. That which typically remains private here publicizes itself not just to the viewer at home, but also to the unwitting public. This muddling of the private and public spheres, though, cannot conceal what would otherwise be considered a hostage situation. Certainly, on some level, the viewer recognizes the convenient fiction that—if nothing else than legally—this scenario must be staged. But taken on its own terms, the underlying violence of capture provides a third competing explanation strategy to the promises of sex with the woman and monetary reimbursement.

Upon completion of the sexual act, the perpetrators dump the duped man by the roadside without his promised reward. The same spiteful conclusion recurs in each video; the van speeds away, with its con artists laughing. The Bait Bus website quite proudly flouts its role in facilitating the resurgence of the gay-for-pay phenomenon, claiming to be

“the original site that started a revolution, picking up straight guys, offering a little cash, and seeing how far they would go with a man.”[30]

The site’s second tagline, though, confirms the more sinister undertone:

“Granted, they were always tricked at first to already be with a guy, but once the blindfold came off and the cash came out, every guy was fucking another guy and getting his dick sucked. Join now!”[31]

In addition to these negative insinuations, the presence of the woman in Bait Bus presents a unique variation from much gay-for-pay pornography. Generally, gay-for-pay pornography dispenses with the figure of the woman or promises her as reward for undertaking gay sex without actually following through.[32] However, here the female performer lures the straight man onto the bus, thus serving as guarantor of his heterosexuality. What begins as the promise of a blow job follows with the stipulation that the man be blindfolded, at which point a previously unseen man replaces her and proceeds to fellate the straight man. Inevitably, the straight man takes off his blindfold to see the woman pleasuring him. After the straight man’s shock and protestation at having been blown by a man—and, more horrifyingly, enjoying it—the videographer renegotiates the encounter, offering the woman’s desire or additional money to prolong the all-male sexual encounter. She wants to see him get blown by this man, or she wants to see him fuck this man. In such an instance, the woman’s desire and gaze are elevated above the straight man’s, which must undergo a transference in order for him to go through with the act. It is a short-lived transference, though. After the duped man inevitably agrees to have anal sex, the woman vanishes from the scene until he finishes. She reappears only afterward to repair his embattled heterosexual identity, but more critically to coerce him out of the van.

Bait Bus fabulates a sadistic fantasy for the viewer, whereby the subterfuge that leads to the sex devoid of its ultimate promise—women and money—complicates and competes with the pleasure of the sex itself. Moreso than “Gay Chicken,” which displayed a sense of reciprocity and a fullness of disclosure, here a kind of Schadenfreude—the pleasure derived from viewing the straight man’s misfortune—dominates the scenario. In their calculated alliance, the videographer, female performer, and gay performer hold all the cards, at least in terms of the narrative. But as numerous episodes of Bait Bus proliferate, a unique consequence results. Its repetitive nature lends these videos a similarity and interchangeability that come to belie its cinéma vérité. Although the camera work, unknown status of its actors, and on-the-street environments lend these videos the semblance of authenticity, the recurring narrative structure indicates a kind of mass fabrication. This repetition forces the viewer to decide whether or not to suspend disbelief for the presented diegesis at the same time that formulaic narrative mitigates the recognition that the straight performer here has been—in narrative at least—sexually violated in the process. If the abuse the straight performer experiences is also part of its pleasure, the viewer can rest easy, knowing the duress portrayed is itself an act. But what might this complex depiction suggest about gay male desire? The lighthearted eroticization of homosocial bonding in “Gay Chicken” pales in comparison to Bait Bus, which instead displays the malice of revenge fantasy. And it gives evidence to the difficulty in locating a singular and coherent gay male erotic, even as it pertains to one genre.

Our third and final example concerns the performer Bravo Delta 9 and reveals gay-for-pay pornography that no longer even needs to call itself such, but rather relies on the structure of the Internet to fulfill its narrative strategy. According to his XTube profile, Bravo Delta 9 states he is

“just a straight college guy who likes to show off and maybe make some cash on the side because of it. I keep an open mind and I’m not homophobic, so anybody can watch, comment, support, and get off.”[33]

Bravo Delta 9, whose pseudonym stands for “balls deep, or the act of inserting the penis into the vagina all the way to one's balls,”[34] performs his heterosexuality through his profile and his nom de guerre. But he does not disallow gay men from watching his videos, as though that were something he could control. And indeed Bravo Delta 9 appears to have a healthy gay following. Under “Turn Ons,” on his XTube profile, the very first sentence admonishes—albeit graciously—men who have expressed sexual interest in him:

“Sorry guys, I’m into girls, but I’m an open-minded guy and don’t mind showing off for everyone.”[35]

This simultaneous rejection and encouragement of gay male desire displays the oppositionality common to gay-for-pay, one we already have seen in play in the Tyra Banks episode. Bravo Delta 9 denounces the desire, pleasure, and sexual identity of a gay man, at the same time that he beckons the projected desire of other gay men. In this sense, there is what Tom Kalin has termed a homophobic homoeroticism at play.[36] In his self-shot XTube videos, Bravo Delta 9 never records himself with anyone but himself. In fact, all of his videos on XTube consist of solo shoots where he masturbates by hand or with the aid of a Fleshlight sex toy. Another distinct feature of Bravo Delta 9’s videos concerns his anonymity. If he does not wear aviator sunglasses, Bravo Delta 9 blurs his face. This desire to be seen but not known is consistent with much amateur pornography, where unidentifiable bodies—or bodies without heads—predominate. Other than the vaginal shape of his sex toy and the brief references to his claimed heterosexuality on his profile, nothing about Bravo Delta 9’s masturbatory videos inherently substantiates a gay or straight identity. Masturbation appears to be the universal and unaffiliated sex act, or empty enough as a signifier to be tipped in either register.

Bravo Delta 9 quickly acquired a mass following on XTube. More than two-and-a-half million distinct visitors have watched his videos since they first appeared in June, 2010, and it is precisely his popularity on XTube, a host site for both amateur and excerpted studio pornography, that drew the attention of CockyBoys.[37] The gay-oriented porn website CockyBoys focuses on, as the name suggests, boys who are cocky (although certainly the root “cock” is meant to resonate to resonate as an unsubtle pun), which usually translates into aggressive, domineering “alpha” men forcefully fucking a host of submissive sissy boys. Since May of 2012, Bravo Delta (who has dropped the numeral “9” from his nom de guerre, which was an unsubtle reference to his penis size) has appeared in seven videos for the CockyBoys website.

CockyBoys operates as a membership-only website that notably does not specialize in gay-for-pay pornography. In fact, most of its performers identify themselves as gay men. Bravo Delta is one of the few purported straight men to feature here, and he joins the ranks as a prototypical aggressive top, which falls in line with the assumed homology between sexual identity and sexual role. How his sexual identity comes into play in his videos contrasts greatly from “Gay Chicken” and Bait Bus and most other gay-for-pay pornography. No explicit mention is made of Bravo Delta’s sexual identity within the narrative diegesis of his videos. Rather, the textual features of the website, such as Bravo Delta’s CockyBoys profile[38] or the video summaries and searchable keywords allude briefly to his straightness. But it is not a point dwelled upon or developed in the pornographic narrative, nor is there ever any clear explanation given for why Bravo Delta elects to perform sex with these men.

Instead, CockyBoys relies on Bravo Delta’s notoriety and built-in audience from XTube, where viewers were already familiar with his amateur work, to establish his heterosexuality, thus rendering a kind of gay-for-pay pornography that is more dispersive and less explicit in its function. In fact, in a kind of self-reference, the first video that Bravo Delta shot for CockyBoys bears resemblance to the videos he self-produced on XTube, which again points to the open signification of masturbation. In the scene, he masturbates with the aid of several sex toys reminiscent of the Fleshlight, as he typically did on XTube. Here, though, among the other toys dangling from the wall are a series of sizeable dildos, which mark a stark difference from Bravo Delta’s previous solo pornography and remind the viewer that the threat of penetration looms in the background—although in this video the threat does not materialize, and the dildos serve only as a visual joke or wishful thinking.

An even more notable difference between his XTube and CockyBoys videos, though, concerns the loss of Bravo Delta’s anonymity, a distinction that highlights the importance of the perceived authenticity of the visual. At CockyBoys, Bravo Delta can no longer conceal his eyes behind sunglasses, a cropped composition, or a post-production blurred face. It is difficult, one would imagine, to be anonymously cocky. Were Bravo Delta allowed to mask his identity, there would be nothing to lose in the act of “going gay-for-pay.” And so I offer another underpinning to this genre of pornography: there must be something at stake—usually some threat—for the straight man to be desirable to his viewer. In showing his face, Bravo Delta ransoms his personal identity to elevate his pornographic character’s appeal, muddling the divisions between public and private as well as performance and reality.

When Bravo Delta graduates from solo shoots to videos with other men, CockyBoys does not give him much dialogue, nor is the narrative set-up for the sex featured prominently. Rather, the sex itself acquires primacy. For instance, in his first all-male sex scene, Bravo Delta drives up to a truck stop and picks up a young man, telling him they will have to be quiet when they get to his home because his parents are asleep. Though not explicit, there are subtle indications of Bravo Delta’s straightness that allows us to categorize this episode as gay-for-pay. First, this scene depicts an act of cruising or anonymous casual sex that refuses intimacy and implies shame. Bravo Delta may have sex with men, but he is not openly gay, nor can the stranger he fornicates with impugn his identity. The forewarning to be quiet upon arrival speaks to the need for secrecy, which again highlights the illicit nature of the encounter. Though this video does not barter sex for monetary incentive, the ludic rules of a game, trickery, or the chance at sex with a woman, it subtly encodes itself in gay-for-pay’s grammar of transgression and disavowal.

Although there is little explicit narrative given to explain why Bravo Delta, a purportedly straight man, has sex with other men, his previous status as amateur XTube star reveals new insights into the medium specificity of online pornography. To most dedicated viewers, Bravo Delta’s XTube profile demonstrates his straightness, which continues to augment the videos he shoots for CockyBoys. In the rare occasion where there is an introductory backstory to a CockyBoys video, it references Bravo Delta’s XTube videos as a kind of calling card.[39] So too, Bravo Delta’s XTube profile now reciprocally makes reference to his CockyBoys shoots. The pornography here disperses and cites itself in and across its peer websites. One pornography does not exist hermetically by itself, but rather through the hyperlink, it expands to a vast network of past videos one has made, which can inform, haunt, or recontextualize coterminous pornography, and pornography yet to be made.

IV.

While I began with the intention of making contemporary online gay-for-pay pornography legible, these examples have necessitated a more diverse and capacious approach. The definition of the genre I put forth at the onset now requires some revision. This reworking is needed especially in light of the Bravo Delta example, where the narrative lacked the evidentiary trope of explicitly proving straightness—which is instead implemented across websites through fan culture. Still, I contend that explanation strategies remain integral to gay-for-pay’s logic but vary in their deployment and ultimately secure different ends. Whereas “Gay Chicken” involves a frankness to its explanation strategy and results in sex as a competition, Bait Bus relies on deception to lead its participants into sex as coercion. Defying both of these models, Bravo Delta’s explanation strategy fails to present itself explicitly on CockyBoys, but this does not mean it is not in operation.

I propose two possibilities for how the explanation strategy still operates in the instance of Bravo Delta. First, its absence here serves as an invitation to the viewer to seek out further information in the same manner that CockyBoys manifests Bravo Delta’s heterosexuality: by looking elsewhere online. Bravo Delta has in addition to his XTube Profile, Twitter and Tumblr accounts, sites where he promotes his porn career and connects with his fans. In just this manner, I was able to contact Bravo Delta and ask him, as others have online, what his motivation was and continues to be in filming gay porn. He suggests money and a desire to work within the medium of film and broadcast compelled him to work for CockyBoys.[40] Whether this answer proves satisfactory is not important. Rather, what is important is that in the absence of a narrative explanation strategy, the viewer may locate information concerning the “real” Bravo Delta, the one outside of the pornographic representation, and substitute it for that of Bravo Delta, the character within the pornography. The two Bravo Deltas collapse into one. The second possibility speaks to the growing codification of gay-for-pay’s pornographic tropes. As the genre proliferates, its operations repeat and become better known, to the point of standardization. Perhaps the straight performer of gay-for-pay no longer needs to state his alibi; the viewer can either infer it or locate it individually.

Without an explicit explanation strategy to grant Bravo Delta permission to participate in gay sex, there is less necessity for the pornography to overlay a performance of his heterosexuality. The two operate symbiotically. Another way of stating this is, Bravo Delta’s videos on CockyBoys behave more like conventional gay male pornography, which makes sense since that’s the website’s primary focus and not gay-for-pay. So why even bother calling Bravo Delta’s pornographic videos gay-for-pay? In Bravo Delta’s case, a few textual features on CockyBoys and the reference of his XTube profile cursorily insinuate his heterosexuality, but in this regard, even the XTube profile makes only a modest attempt. Taken with the minimally-invoked explanation strategy, Bravo Delta’s heterosexuality leaves a great deal to the imagination, and only direct communication seems to offer answers, which points to the integral coevolution of the genre and its medium.

The barriers, after all, between the performer and the viewer have never been so fluid. Whereas the cult of celebrity in Hollywood rarely affords the viewer the opportunity to reach the star—rather curating biographies through highly calculated publicity—in the instance of amateur gay-for-pay, one can use Twitter or XTube messaging to reach the performer. The act of discerning the explanation strategy by this method places the focus once again on the extra-diegetic—or the performer’s life beyond the pornographic representation—as the site of authenticity. It may even provide the pleasure of and for the viewer, who is more devoted to, involved in, and implicated by the depiction of the real, whether that is onscreen or off.

The interactivity here is no accident, nor is the imbrication of gay-for-pay pornography with amateur aesthetics, which I have argued demonstrates its aspiration for documentation and cinéma vérité. These features are both influenced by the medium specificity of online pornography, and as such, they are discursively tied to their time of production and contemporary distribution technologies. Gay-for-pay as a category is not new, but rather it is a genre of pornography popularized in its current form from a long line of precursors. Its various antecedents go back as long as gay male erotica has been produced, starting in an associative manner with the stag film,[41] but its manifestation today offers insights and explanations that bear analyzing. To do so, we must look to the 1980s.

John Burger marks the new trend of gay-for-pay as a phenomenon developing between 1982-1988 in One-Handed Histories: The Eroto-Politics of Gay Male Video Pornography (24). Interestingly, Burger connects the arrival of this genre of porn with the unique historical shift in pornographic reception: the advent of the home video market, which revolutionized porn production, distribution, and consumption. Prior to this change of format, Burger argues pornography was produced for the gratification of its creators—the director and performer—but that afterwards, it becomes a profession or craft:

“When gay video became big business, the filmmakers became money moguls, and the concept of porn stars developed into a full-blown star system. […] Backed by ample budgets, (directors) were able to afford the latest in video technology and production values, as well as prime models. The objects of these directors’ erotic desires are young, muscular, ‘straight looking’ guys. Through the lures of money and potential fame, (directors) employed many straight performers for their videos: ‘gay for pay,’ as it is known in the trade.” (Burger 24)

Burger’s claim intrigues but fails to convince entirely, because his implication that VHS turned pornography into a trade need not negate pleasure on behalf of the directors and performers. Professions and trades, too, can be pleasurable. What his line of thinking gestures toward but falls short of developing is the desire of the viewer, whose shifting reception from the theater to the home must have contributed in some part to the casting change. While it remains possible that directors had always wanted to hire straight performers and could only afford to do so because of VHS, a more comprehensive account would need to consider the influence of the home viewer.

One scholar who contemplates this question more broadly is Julian Hanich. Hanich recently analyzed the remediation of porn[42] from the big screen to the home, wherein he argues that the shift in the distribution of porn through the computer results in an increase in availability, choice, and interactivity for the user. This explanation is apt, but his assertion that this medium shift is inherently a move from a public to a private space deserves reconsideration. This point is critical to Hanich’s argument, which itself rebuts Magnus Ullen’s disavowal of the importance of medium specificity for porn scholarship,[43] because it suggests the move inside the home lends the porn-watcher a safe haven in which he can avoid a sense of shame. Hanich diminishes shame’s role by suggesting the cyberporn user engages in a private act in a private space, as if one can only feel shame in public, and he goes on to claim this move to the private space can intensify the masturbatory force of watching porn. But is the use of the home computer tantamount to privacy? While it may be accessed in private, the Internet is a virtual public. We need only think of cookies, search histories, ad trackers, Amazon and Netflix recommendations, pay-only sites, chatroulettes, cam-sites, social networks, NSA’s Prism program etc.,[44] to point out some of the ways in which the moves we make online are monitored, shared, and tracked by governments, advertisers, institutions, online friends, and other third parties. It is not radical to suggest going online means leaving a trace, one that can be followed accidentally or intentionally. My amendment to Hanich, then, is that the act of going online is a complex oscillation between private and public spaces.

In Screening Sex, Linda Williams complements this observation by tracing the ramifications of pornographic reception as it moves from the big screen to computational media. Williams’ twofold argument states that whereas cinematic pornography constituted the viewer as a spectator—with the larger-than-life sex on the big screen intended to arouse—the smaller screen versions of pornography figure the viewer as an interactive-user. Thus rather than arousing, this medium of pornography actually facilitates the act of coming to orgasm.[45] The larger cinematic format preserves a distance both spatial and temporal from the porn to the viewer, while pornography viewed on the computer dissipates these distances. Furthermore, Williams argues that it is not just in proximity to but also in proportionate scale that the spatial qualities of porn become equivalent to the human form; the image is both within reach and life-sized.[46] It is as though the viewer can, despite the interface of the screen, reach out and touch the image, which has gained a haptic resonance. The more striking evolution to online pornography, though, is the shrinking temporal gap between performance and reception. With web cameras, the two are nearly instantaneous.[47] Here then, there is a paradigm shift in the kind of pornography that the medium itself favors.

Why does this shift matter? Whereas the pornographies of literature and cinema have been structured on an Aristotelian model of immersive and emplotted narrative, Internet pornography—in its interactivity, mixture of public and private spheres, and dissipation of the gap between the time of production and consumption—fundamentally alters the relation between the viewer and the pornography, so that suddenly the consumer of porn holds the potential to become the consumed object. Tellingly what all of the gay-for-pay porn I have looked at shares is its invocation—whether scripted or documented—of amateurism in some form.[48] The pledges in “Gay Chicken” were relative unknowns, as were the revolving door of men featured on Bait Bus. Only in the case of Bravo Delta did we see a performer approaching the status of porn star, but he too began as an unknown on XTube.

The predominance of amateurism in gay-for-pay and indeed in much online pornography matters not just because performers now appear less idealized and more like their viewers. In addition to that, this trend not only invites the viewer to come to orgasm, as Williams suggests, but them to become pornographers themselves.[49] The very DIY recording and editing technologies that capture and distribute the gay-for-pay corpus we have looked at are readily available to most viewers. This opportunity to become a pornographer and the fluidity of temporal and disseminative boundaries echoes and inflect the oscillation between gay and straight identities. Gay-for-pay shows the viewer that the boundaries across narrative, space, and technology are transgressive, and that that transgression and failure to capitulate to common orthodoxies are themselves erotic. The stigmas attached to making porn or to trying out sex acts that complicate one’s sexual identity have not vanished—and indeed gay-for-pay requires these stigmas to function—but amateurism and online mediation facilitate this transgression in a way earlier incarnations of gay-for-pay could not.

The Internet allows pornography the option to give up the finessed façade of professional pornography and to embrace the grittiness, amateurism, and documentary quality of real sex. Much of contemporary gay-for-pay has taken this path, venerating authenticity over fabrication. In an ironic turn, though, the material inscriptions that substantiate this authenticity consist of features like night-vision, blurred or choppy frame rates, and uncut footage or stationary cinematography. These very features, which in conventional cinema and video would have seemed inauthentic or disruptive, here are not only legitimate but indeed substantiate the marks of reality. Furthering this irony, the reality the viewer receives is one that largely appears unrecognizable, where sexual identity and sexual acts are incommensurate and indeterminacy reigns.

V.

How do we then think about gay-for-pay, and what does it tell us about the reeducation of gay desire? In this essay, I have scrutinized gay-for-pay as a popular genre in contemporary online pornography, but what more can this kind of examination reveal? It seems counterintuitive to deliver a sentence for a genre of pornography that aspires to indeterminacy. With this caveat in mind, I conclude with two tentative interpretations.

The first interpretation carries forth the logic introduced in the Tyra Banks episode and results in an ossification and policing of the boundaries of gay and straight identity. This interpretation denounces gay-for-pay’s deconstructive method of operation and the way that it complicates predetermined knowledge formations. It attempts to disambiguate the ambiguous, and to that end obsesses with the business of unmasking—or outing—the straight performer as actually gay. As such, it reinforces and hardens old understandings of gay and straight, promotes the notion of gaydar or the affective reading of the surface, and decries an eroticism of homophobic homoeroticism not because it is homophobic, but because it is not homophobic enough. When gay-for-pay pornography foregoes the gay identity associated with all-male sex acts, this interpretation reads such a disavowal as an endorsement of homophobia but an inadequate one. In allowing straight men to experience such sex and yet to remain straight, the perceived cohesion of heterosexuality diminishes, which then requires an even more intensified homophobia to reconstitute itself.

The second interpretation embraces the pleasure of indeterminacy and as such relies on the breakdown of gay and straight boundaries and a falling away from identity categories to a more liberatory experience of bodies and pleasures, or a spectrum of sexual satisfaction. This second interpretation suggests a utopic potential for porn, as clichéd as that notion has become. It is also an interpretation that many who identify as gay or queer might disfavor. For in such a utopia, an egalitarianism of the sexual replaces the security of sexual minorities. And yet there is another possibility that is less sweeping. Gay-for-pay does not after all do away with the identity categories of gay or straight, and the transgression it allows is only for the self-identified straight man to remain as such. Perhaps rather than offering polymorphous perversity, the gay male desire for a past fantasy emerges: the memory of a time when his lust for men was not yet incorporated into an identity—when, by default, he was still deemed heterosexual. By their hegemonic dominance, heterosexuals do not experience the transition from one identity formation to another, the act of coming out of the closet. Gay-for-pay offers the fleeting recreation of the moment when sexual acts codify the subject into a sexual identity and asks, why must these two equate? The disruption here ultimately honors an ambiguity that gestures to the constructedness not just of homosexuality but also of heterosexuality.

Both of these interpretations tellingly  rely on the other. To rigidify, there must be ambiguity. To ambiguate, there must be rigidity. It seems not so likely that one interpretation more accurately discerns this pornography’s cultural position, but that the two are necessary to inflect and mutually inscribe the other. Just as gay-for-pay favors indeterminacy, so too gay male desire might reside not in one interpretation or the other, but in a conflicted joining of the two. Gay-for-pay provides a glimpse into not just the fantasy of gayness, but also that of straightness, bound as these identity formations are to one another and to the narratives and technologies we use to get off.

Notes

1. The Tyra Banks Show was a daytime talk show hosted by famous runway model Tyra Banks. It aired from 2005-2010 and took a tabloid format, covering contemporary and often controversial issues. Tyra Banks, The Tyra Banks Show, (New York: Bankable Productions, Episode: July 9, 2009). [return to text]

2. Ibid.

3. In “Men’s Pornography: gay vs. straight,” Tom Waugh writes of Curt McDowell’s gay pornographic film Loads, which in 1980 depicted the filmmaker’s autobiographic sexual encounters with six straight men. Waugh contemplates McDowell’s striking subject matter:

“I am here referring rather to the eroticization of the Not-Gay, the Straight Man. For some, it may be gratifying that the tables are turned. The straight man becomes erotic surface, objectified, both idealized and debased, the object of erotic obsession. It is an obsession frequently present in gay male pornography.”

Even earlier than McDowell’s Loads, though, the idea of gay-for-pay could be seen germinating in the practice of rough trade, where gay men sought sex with dangerous partners and the risk of violence. These examples gesture to precursors of gay-for-pay, which fall beyond the scope of this essay, but also substantiate the persistence—rather than novelty—of such a desire in gay culture and representation.

4. I want to situate this essay within an U.S. context, which is where each of the pornographies described hereafter were produced. As such, I will use homosexual and gay in an equivalent sense, as well as heterosexual and straight. There are complications to such equivalences concerning gender that bear noting. Homosexual can refer either to a male or female subject, as can heterosexual and straight. The term gay within an American context is more problematic; it commonly refers in its contemporary use to a male subject, although it can also at times refer to a gay female. Because gay-for-pay pornography is largely devoid of women, though, my use of these four terms will refer to a male form. Additionally, although the categories gay and homosexual do not ascribe an essential sexual role to them within the U.S. context—meaning these identities are not reserved solely for bottoms or solely for tops—pornographic representation frequently depicts submissive sexual roles as feminized, and so gayer, than aggressive roles. This tendency appears to carry misogyny forward into notions of homosexual identity. Tom Waugh writes cogently on the challenges of historical specificity for these very terms in the first chapter to Hard to Imagine (16-17).

5. These performers are: Kurt Wild, Aaron James, and Dean Coxx; The Tyra Banks Show, (New York: Bankable Productions, Episode: July 9, 2009).

6. The straightness of these performers is constantly performed. Banks’s first question to each of these men is whether they have a girlfriend or wife. They all do. If their partner is pregnant or they have children, this is mentioned as further evidence of their heterosexuality. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. For the purpose of this essay, when I refer to the viewer of gay-for-pay pornography, I assume a gay-identified subject position, although such a determination remains speculative, rather than empirical. This assumption reveals the more theoretical and less sociological discourse of this essay.

10. Richard Dyer in “Coming to Terms” first uses the phrase “reeducation of desire” to refer to the manner in which gay porn constructs new erotic trends (27).

11. It is here where the viewer ascertains the performer’s butchness. Questions concerning whether he has a girlfriend or not, as well as his favorite sex position, hobbies and sports are posed. The entire affectivity of the performer may be scrutinized. Body posture, movement, vocal inflection, accent and timing could belie a gay man impersonating a straight man engaging in gay sex, and thus diminish the function of the pornography.

12. http://www.brokecollegeboys.com/
http://www.cam4.com/

13. http://www.baitbus.com/

14. http://www.straightcollegemen.com/;
http://straightfraternity.com/;
http://www.gaychicken.com/;
http://www.hazehim.com/

15. On The Tyra Banks Show, Kurt Wild claims he earns ten times what he would make filming straight porn (from $300 per straight porn shoot to $3000 per gay porn shoot) while Aaron James claims he would make $500 in a straight scene but need to sleep with twenty girls in a month to equal what he could make filming one gay scene, meaning he could earn $10,000 per gay scene (a twenty-fold increase). Despite the disparity in precisely the amount, gay-for-pay is presented here as lucrative to those who achieve a following on more popular websites.

16. For a thorough overview of cyberporn, which speaks to the aesthetic prominence of amateurism and its implications, in pornography today, see Zabet Patterson’s essay “Going On-line: Consuming Pornography in the Digital Era” in Linda Williams’s crucial collection Porn Studies.

17. http://www.cam4.com/

18. Not always will a website offer a monetary payout. For instance, reddit.com incentivizes its users to share pornographic photos and videos in order to earn karma, which several users point out is just a number.

19. Constance Penley’s essay “Crackers and Whackers: The White Trashing of Porn” nicely attends to this dynamic from the perspective of working-class and impoverished white personifications.

20. The Tyra Banks Show, (New York: Bankable Productions, Episode: July 9, 2009).

21. As Foucault wrote at the end of The History of Sexuality, Part One, and as scholars love to cite:

“we need to consider the possibility that one day, perhaps, in a different economy of bodies and pleasures, people will no longer quite understand how the ruses of sexuality, and the power that sustains its organization, were able to subject us to that austere monarchy of sex, so that we became dedicated to the endless task of forcing its secret, of exacting the truest of confessions from a shadow” (159).

22. Richard Dyer emphasizes the self-reflexivity commonly featured in gay porn in his essay “Idol thoughts: orgasm and self-reflexivity in gay pornography.” In explaining self-reflexivity’s prominence therein, he writes,

“This is of a piece with much gay culture. Being meta is rather everyday for queers. Modes like camp, irony, derision, theatricality and flamboyance hold together an awareness of something’s style with a readiness to be moved by it” (60).

23. Brecht’s writings on the alienation effect have been instructive in thinking through gay-for-pay. In A Short Organum for the Theater, he writes of the pleasure of inadequate representations, observing:

“we must always remember that the pleasure given by representations of such different sorts hardly ever depended on the representation’s likeness to the thing portrayed. Incorrectness, or considerable improbability even, was hardly or not at all disturbing, so long as the incorrectness had a certain consistency and the improbability remained of a constant kind. All that mattered was the illusion of compelling momentum to the story told, and this was created by all sorts of poetic and theatrical means” (182).

24. Foucualt makes this argument in The History of Sexuality volume 1 and Janet E. Halley repeats it in "The Construction of Heterosexuality," that heterosexuality as a concept followed the invention of homosexuality.

25. Tyra Banks explicitly states, “If you’re going to receive, I mean, come on, that’s more gay.” The Tyra Banks Show, (New York: Bankable Productions, Episode: July 9, 2009).

26. Ibid.

27. http://www.xtube.com/watch.php?v=EiDvm-G660-

28. Linda Williams highlights the idea of maximum visibility in Hard Core, which also goes by the name the “frenzy of the visible.” Williams posits that this logic results in pornography making the erection and ejaculation of the penis its epicenter (ending almost always with the externalized cum shot). Richard Dyer’s asserts that this trend is not wholly translatable to gay pornography in his essay “Idol Thoughts: Orgasm and self-reflexivity in gay pornography,” where he states,

“the oddness of showing the man ejaculating outside of his partner’s body is less striking in gay porn; withdrawal to display is odd, but much (probably most) actual gay sex in fact involves external ejaculation (and did so even before AIDS)” (53).

29. http://www.baitbus.com

30. http://www.baitbus.com/t8/

31. Ibid.

32. The previously mentioned website www.straightfraternity.com is an exception to this claim. That website maintains a separate page of videos featuring some of its gay-for-pay performers in straight sex scenes.

33. http://www.xtube.com/community/profile.php?user=bravodelta9

34. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bravo delta

35. http://www.xtube.com/community/profile.php?user=bravodelta9

36. In “Flesh Histories,” Tom Kalin, referring to Calvin Klein’s new advertising campaign in 1982, writes,

“This was a most complicated homoeroticism, it was—contradiction of contradictions—a deeply conservative, homophobic homoeroticism.”

37. http://www.cockyboys.com

38. http://www.cockyboys.com/modelstour/bravo-delta/

39. Such as the video “Bravo Delta & Gabriel Tag Ben Rose!” (CockyBoys.com, 11/6/12).

40. Bravo Delta responded,

“The pay is nice, and it helps get me through school when I’m not working. It’s not just for the money (though); I’ve always been into video production, I’ve worked in a high school news studio since I was in 6th grade and I’ve worked for public access groups for at least 6 years. Originally I wanted to get into film or broadcast production, but I always had a small desire to be in porn (either production or acting).”

Bravo Delta. Personal interview. 29 Nov. 2012.

41. Tom Waugh’s compelling study Hard to Imagine: Gay Male Eroticism in Photography and Film from Their Beginnings to Stonewall closely explicates the phenomenon of the stag film of the early 20th Century. Stag films were marginal pornographic films made for viewing in private among small groups of nominally straight men.

42. Hanich, Julian. “Clips, Clicks and Climax: Notes on the Relocation and Remediation of Pornography.” Jump Cut, No. 53 summer 2011 Web. 10 November 2011.

43. Ullen, Magnus. “Pornography and its Critical Reception: Toward a Theory of Masturbation.” Jump Cut, No. 51 spring 2009 Web. 10 November 2011.

44. A useful article for how to hide one’s Internet footprint follows:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/technology/personaltech/how-to-muddy-your-tracks-on-the-internet.html?_r=0

45. Linda Williams, “Conclusion: Now Playing on a Small Screen,” Screening Sex, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 312.

46. Williams perhaps overstates this spatial equivalence, for in the instance of online pornography, the computer screen rarely contains life-sized images, but in fact tends to diminish the size of the human form. The broader point, though, that the image has changed from larger-than life to an approximation of human size still holds true.

47. Linda Williams, “Conclusion: Now Playing on a Small Screen,” Screening Sex, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 300 – 317.

48. The otherwise slickly produced website CockyBoys is perhaps the outlier to this claim, and yet it too maintains amateur features. In ““Crackers and Whackers: The White Trashing of Porn,” Constance Penley writes of professional adult film companies in the 1980s and 1990s producing fake amateur films, or “pro-am” films, after amateurism first gained popularity (111). I argue this trend carries through to Internet pornography, where the distinction between true amateurism and its simulation continues to blur, but what is consistent is the invocation of “realness.”

49. CockyBoys even has a form that its users can fill out if they should have an interest in becoming a performer for the site. In fact, one of their regulars, Dillon Rossi, joined in just this manner, winning a fan contest.

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