JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

 

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).

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.”

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 [return to page 3] .

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.

Works cited

Bait Bus. 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2012.

Bravo Delta. Personal Interview. 29 Nov. 2012.

“Bravo Delta.” urbandictionary.com. 30 March 2009. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Bravo Delta 9 Profile. XTube. 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Brecht, Bertolt, and John Willett. Brecht on Theatre; the Development of an Aesthetic. 1st ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 1964. Print.

Burger, John Robert. One-handed Histories: the Eroto-politics of Gay Male Video Pornography. New York: Haworth Press, 1995. Print.

Cam4. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.

CockyBoys. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.

Dyer, Richard. “Coming to Terms.” Jump Cut 30.0 (March 1985): 27-29. Print.

- - -. “Idol Thoughts: Orgasm and Self-reflexivity in Gay Pornography.” Critical Quarterly 36.1 (1994): 49–62. Print.

Foucault, Michel. History of sexuality volume 1: An introduction. 1979. Print.

“Gay Chicken.” Straight Fraternity. 2008. Web. 23 Oct. 2012.

Halley, Janet. "The construction of heterosexuality." Fear of a Queer Planet (1993): 82-102. Print.

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

“I’m Gay for Pay.” The Tyra Banks Show. The CW Television Network. Bankable Productions, New York. 9 July 2009. Television.

Kalin, Tom. “Flesh Histories.” A Leap in the Dark: AIDS, Art & Contemporary Cultures. eds. Allan Klusacek and Ken Morrison. Montreal: Véhicule Press (1992): 120-135. Print.

Murphy, Kate. “How to Muddy Your Tracks on the Internet.” The New York Times 2 May 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

Patterson, Zabet. "Going On-line: Consuming Pornography in the Digital Era." Porn Studies. ed. Linda Williams (2004): 104-123. Print.

Penley, Constance. "Crackers and Whackers: The White Trashing of Porn." Pornography: Film and Culture (2006): 99-117. Print.

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

Waugh, Thomas. Hard to Imagine?: Gay Male Eroticism in Photography and Film from Their Beginnings to Stonewall. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. Print.

- - -. “Men’s Pornography: Gay vs. Straight.” Jump Cut, No. 30 (Spring 1985): 30-36. Print.

Williams, Linda. Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "frenzy of the Visible". University of California Press, 1999. Print.

- - -. Screening Sex. 1st Edition. Duke University Press Books, 2008. Print.


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