June can be the cruelest month in London . . . if you originally come from Spain. At this point in the year, most cities in the Iberian Peninsula showcase a splendid sun: a warning of the blazing summer that is to come.
But this was not the case in the gayish Soho district. It was a rainy and chilly afternoon as I hurried along, weaving my way through the crowded Shaftesbury Avenue. I was late for my coffee with Robbie Rojo, a tanned and good-looking expat from Cadiz who I knew well from the internet. Still, I had almost no knowledge of him. This is usually the case with porn stars. If you have seen them in action, you know very intimate details about them, but you have almost no idea about who they really are. “Will his demeanor be as wild as his performances on screen?”, I wondered as I looked for him in the Starbucks of Wardour Street.
What brought us together on that gray London day were intellectual concerns. For a long time, men have commercialized the female body through the media, especially in porn. A Netflix show, Hot Girls Wanted, has recently brought many of these stories to light. But what about those men who become objects of pleasure for other men? “Who is the person behind the body? How do you live your life when you become an object of desire?”, I asked Robbie on Facebook. He found my highbrow doubts amusing. He was the first of many. Over the past year, I have been in touch with a good number of gay porn stars. Much maligned sometimes, yet also secretly imitated and revered, these men had many things to say about the ups and downs of a profession greatly transformed by the internet in recent years.
Robbie’s pre-porn past is as eventful as his current career. Born on the US military base of Rota in Cadiz, he has a hybrid heritage and dual citizenship. His looks are Hispanic, but his way of seeing things is very American. Being gay just made things more mixed. From early on, the military life was ingrained in Robbie’s mind. He is, after all, the son of a US soldier, and claims that some of his first adult experiences took place with the regulars destined for Spain. Eventually he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and tried to join the US Navy so that the Government would pay for his education after serving. This took place before 2011, however, and Robbie fell victim to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Banned from the US military, he eventually moved to Madrid and started working in retail stores. There he met one of his boyfriends, who happened to be an escort.
“One night, he calls me and tells me to rush to this hotel,” he said to me while we sipped our coffees. “I was asked to sit naked and have some drinks while some old men talked and glanced at me every now and then.” Only that. They payed Robbie a very attractive sum of cash. “Do you know how hard I had to work in retail to get that same amount?”, Robbie asked me. “How many times I had looked at the ceiling of a store wondering if that was it for me? And here was my solution. They wanted me for my body? I would use them back for money.”
Things moved quickly after that. Robbie started traveling throughout Europe as an intimate entertainer of sorts: “I suffered a lot, but also learned many things,” he said. Eventually, Robbie started to look for something else. He honed his body and looks and emailed some pictures to some porn producers. They liked what they saw. After his big jump to the screen, the rates Robbie could ask for increased. He wanted to pay for his studies and started to prefer these filmed performances. “I do this for the money,” he explained to me. “You must be careful not to feed the monster,” he added, while gently beating his chest.
“What is a monster?”, I wondered after Robbie left that day. We think we know, but there are so many possible meanings for that word. The Wikipedia entry gives the name to any creature, from myths or tales, that is often hideous and dangerous. But Robbie was good-looking and quite sweet-natured. When reading Wikipedia a little more, one can go back in time and see that “monster” derives from the Latin monstrum: a startling sign or portent, an uncommon thing brought up by a divine force to be contemplated. To the ancients, a monster was something to be gazed by all in fear . . . or admiration. This would make more sense for porn stars. After all, Wikipedia also tells us that pornography is the uncanny portrayal of something that contends with monsters for the monopoly of our scandal: sex.
I heard the term “monster” used again in early July, though with a different connotation, during Madrid’s Gay Pride celebration. I had been talking on a sunlit bench at El Retiro park with Lukas (not his real name). He was in the city during those days to visit his grandmother and, in passing, celebrate the colorful diversity of the “Gaga Monsters”: “You know, those that are ‘weird’ in some way. Different,” he described it, alluding to one of the singer’s most well-known tropes in her gayish album, The Fame Monster. Not a porn star himself, the Swedish-born Lukas nonetheless prides himself for having a popular profile in Dudesnude, a desktop portal similar to the gay app Grindr, where men swap pictures of themselves for others to see and share (his are featured in this article). On weekdays, Lukas has a nine-to-five job that forces him to travel all around the world: Nairobi, Amman, New York, London, and Madrid. There’s hardly a month when he is not away from home, but this suits Lukas quite well: “I am restless; I need to travel and get out of my little circle. I need to meet different cultures and people.” When abroad, Dudesnude and Grindr allow Lukas to create a virtual persona, a wild alter ego in a digital space where he can show his naked body and meet like-minded men. However, he claims that there is a further motive for baring it all: “I think it’s more about the bragging.” To him, the use of these erotic profiles is equivalent to what many people do on Facebook: “Everybody wants to show others how cool they are and how they are having a great time.” He uses his body to the same effect.
Lukas’s behavior is part of a rising trend. Nowadays, we live in a digital world. We tweet, post, snap. We are usually looking for “likes” by displaying more of our lives. And, thanks to the internet, porn is everywhere, and the tendency to create amateur erotic material is becoming so mainstream now that there is a growing number of lawsuits deriving from revenge porn on social media. Lukas’s images and videos are a blend of titillating porn-like eroticism and artistic influences such as Velázquez, Banksy, Chirico, and Lars von Trier. In doing this, Lukas is no different to renowned “artsy” porn stars like François Sagat and Colby Keller. Perhaps for this reason, he has been asked to do porn before, but what he does do is just for fun. “I am not that sexual, compared to other people I know, though I certainly like taking people out of their routine,” he explained. Thanks to the digital, straight and gay men are changing.
Some decades ago, Western men woke up to the fact that they could play the sexy game. It was during the ’80s and ’90s that one could see the gradual introduction of the enticing underwear brief. For many, this was the dawn of the metrosexual age: Beckham, Adam Levine, hair products, designer clothing, and matching shoes. As we changed century, a booming market grew around this new male luxury. Now, according to the journalist Mark Simpson, we are settling into the time of the spornosexual, where a generation of young guys are not only buying better props, but also shaping their bodies towards a specific buff image of the male beautiful. Still, the buffing of sporno has less to do with becoming a swollen bodybuilder and more with attaining the look of a svelte, ripped man. In what sometimes seems to be a cross between a sportsman and a porn star, the usual spornosexual body usually comes with a well-defined torso, pumped arms and legs, impeccable waxing and, many times, prominent beards with muscle-enhancing tattoos or piercings.
We live in a fitness culture. Even Silicon Valley is trying to get fit and advertising #transformationtuesday. This new male aesthetic is starting to catch the attention of certain magazines and academia. Key leaders of the spornosexual are Cristiano Ronaldo, Pietro Boselli, the Harrison twins, and a good number of young “Insta-studs.” But as Simpson explains, it is also true that gay porn greatly feeds the sporno sensibility. With decades of experience in designing a desirable male body, it was a natural move: “Since its inception in the 80s-90s, the sexualization of men and their bodies in pop culture drew heavily on gay porn because of course that was pretty much the only place where you could find it previously. Or at least, in such an intense and open form.”
Lukas’s sculptured body certainly has a spornosexual feel. For him, Madrid’s Gay Pride is not only about celebrating “gayness” and meeting like-minded guys, but also about embracing the subversive cockiness of the Gaga Monster, a creature that feasts on showing itself to the world in its uniqueness: “I know I might be reinforcing a kind of surreal body image, but I just can’t hide either. My biggest fear is to live a bland, conventional life.” As it is, most of the men in gay porn understand Lukas’s reasons quite well. They often start as amateurs, posting titillating material to get a little fame (and maybe some applause). When contacted by a producer browsing their social media, they just decided to take things a step further.
As months passed, I learned more about the obstacles one must overcome when embarking into gay porn. First, there is the stigma around broadcasting one’s sexuality for money. Then, there is the problem of doing it with someone from the same sex. Certainly, gay rights have considerably advanced in many Western countries. However, a good number of men old enough to do porn today had to make peace with what Lady Gaga once called being “born this way.” For porn stars like the Polish Kayden Gray, sorting out that feeling of difference was not easy: “Have you read The Velvet Rage? It talks about that. I was 12. I realized that the world that surrounded me wasn’t — I didn’t fit into it. People treat you differently, and if you’re small then you’re fucked,” he explained. Back then, Kayden started to have feelings for a friend who happened to be a boy: “I think that was the first time I felt emotionally connected to someone, and I thought that I was going to have to be his girlfriend because I didn’t understand the concept of being attracted to men.”
Feeling this way, Kayden wrote a very naive letter, telling his friend that he would go through a sex change for them to be together. The note was also read by his mother, though, and Kayden was never allowed to see his friend again. After that, he decided to shut down for a while: “I kept hiding, kept watching more and more porn, while the internet was becoming quicker and quicker.” With time, he started uploading his own content online, and a producer eventually contacted him: “I had some seriously dirty pictures there. I mean, just nude and erect and everything. So, for six months I was kind of battling with myself. Being in porn is like living the fantasy, that’s what you think anyway. But at the same time, you don’t want the consequences to catch up.” So, Kayden said “maybe” and offered a list of conditions. What came later was unexpected, even for such an avid porn viewer. After his first videos came out, Kayden soon learned he would never be alone again, at least digitally. Thousands of people started leaving him feedback.
The aim of any porn actor is to ignite the viewer’s arousal. The more their body is desired, the better. For that, social media is essential, as it allows actors to build a two-way channel with fans. Once they start filming, porn stars must quickly learn the ropes of what makes a good community manager. “My social media is either explicitly sexual or it’s like silly and funny and stupid and I post about things that inspire me, about things that touch me, like a quote by Bob Dylan,” Kayden said. He also explained to me how his social strategy has changed with time: “I used to think that Twitter was where the focus should be, because it allows pornographic material. But then I realized that I was neglecting Instagram.” Still, there is always a looming danger. When coupled with sex, the Fame Monster can give birth to a capricious child: objectification. Becoming a sexual “it” boy is essential for the trade, but it can lead to very awkward interactions with overzealous digital paparazzi. This can become stifling. “To some, you are just a big dick, period. This is what people getting into this usually don’t know. They are thinking ‘oh, it would be so exciting to do it,’ because supposedly everyone’s gonna love you. But the same people that love you, they hate you.” Every now and then, Kayden tries to address the hazards of objectification. He is also very outspoken on issues around sexual health. The craze doesn’t stay on the web, however. There is always the unwanted fondling in parties and the occasional weird gestures. “I don’t know if it’s a fan, but once someone sent to my whole family my porn pictures,” the renowned Dutch porn star Logan Moore explained to me. He has also learned to live with the fact that some crazy fans will objectify him . . . and even threaten to kill him: “Once, I was at the police station, and I told my story. People were like, ‘every time somebody threats to kill you on a message, you need to warn us,’ and I said ‘Look, the guy is in Italy, I’m not worried about him. If someone sends me messages in this city, then I will call the police.’”
And yet, a porn star must be at peace with himself before juggling with objectification. In this respect, the US porn star Alex Mecum not only had to face the usual obstacles of the trade but also deal with a deep sense of religious guilt. While chatting at London’s Wallace Collection, I learned more about Alex’s past. He was brought up within the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah: “I come from a big family so, uh, very religious. I was home-schooled until I went to college. I was more artistic. I didn’t play basketball, which was a huge thing in the Mormon church. Instead I played the piano. I was actually very studious: I learned the scriptures pretty well,” he explained.
“Do you still remember the scriptures well?”, I asked.
“Yeah, I think so. I could probably spout out a few verses,” he said, chuckling.
“Old Testament and New Testament . . .”
“Old Testament, New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants . . . studied all of those.”
Very early, Alex heard church leaders explain how same-sex attraction was a punishment for leading a monstrous life of sin. As it is, many religions have a long history of clashes with homosexuality. Still, in contrast to other Christian denominations, which would recommend celibacy, this was not an option in the Mormon teachings back then. “So, that’s the reason why I was struggling with it. A lot of the time it was me trying to fight against this. I started trying to blur the fact that I was attracted to men, and it was mostly me trying to go on a religious battle against it,” he said. Alex explains that things are changing now. However, he points out that important texts like the Doctrine and Covenants still state that a man can only enter the highest degree of salvation through marriage with a woman. Thus, during his young years, he had little room to maneuver. Alex tried to pray the gay away. He even went on the well-known Mormon Mission to a small town in the Midwest. But to no avail. When he came back home, he still liked men. He moved to New York, got into school, and made new friends.
Eventually, Alex started doing erotic shoots for a photographer. By the time he was asked to do porn through Twitter, the idea wasn’t that foreign anymore, as months before he had dated a porn actor. For all the monstrosity associated with pornography and homosexuality in his childhood, Alex found his first experience to be cathartic and almost sacred:
I think I learned a lot of valuable things actually from doing my first scene. The body is the extension of the mind, and so, if you’re uncomfortable in lots of other situations you can run and hide sometimes. But, because you are in a situation where you’re completely naked, you’re completely vulnerable to the eyes of others, both production, your scene partner, and then, eventually, the rest of the world. And so, you can’t really get away from facing your issues. You can’t just cover them up with a band aid; you have to deal with them.
Unable to find true peace in his religious community, the shy Mormon boy became the sexually extroverted Alexander Mecum. Doing porn was about exorcising his inner demons: “I feel like my own personal life has become better because of what I have done in porn, because I’m more able to accept myself.”
Alex likes writing about religious and social issues. While talking, we discussed the ideas of Thomas More, Voltaire, John Stuart Mill, and C.S. Lewis:
“Did you read The Abolition of Man?”, he asked me.
I confessed I haven’t. I counter back by recommending him Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, a retelling of a myth where the young Psyche, a maiden who signifies the human soul, is married to the mischievous Cupid. Known to the Greeks as Eros, Cupid was the god of sexual attraction, and is portrayed in the book as a beautiful man, but also as a beast. While talking to Alex, I couldn’t help but think that his liberating experiences with porn had something to do with this book, which is an exploration of that “divine madness” of the erotic, a force that can overpower cold reason and tear the dull existence of a person through an explosion of the senses and a liberation of the mind. In ancient times, this voluptuous drive found expression in fertility cults, part of which were the sacred sexual rituals which flourished in many temples. Eros was celebrated as a divine power. When talking about religion, many porn stars said that they miss the cults of the ancient world. Sure enough, the Greek god Eros is the one that better aligns with a porn star’s line of work. Nowadays, the digital world is allowing porn stars to revive these pleasures for a wider audience, who can now watch and reach sexual ecstasy from the leisure of their homes . . . or telephones.
Still, the titillating thrills of porn-making can lead to double-edged results. With 13 years in the industry, the Canadian Brent Everett knows this well. Few can claim to have lasted as long in the profession. However, Brent’s first excursion into the industry was anything but happy: “For my first scene, I was treated horribly. I cried in the movie. I was crying in real life. I was not enjoying it. It was not fun.” Back in 2004, he was flown to Florida. Once there, he was given little information and almost no support to calm his newcomer’s nerves. His scene partner was switched, and he was put in shoots that “lasted forever.” Once finished, Brent was left in a train station in the middle of nowhere with the producers saying: “By the way, you want to be an exclusive?” He declined. Later, as with many other porn stars, Brent learned about the shady entrapments of certain abusive agents and production companies. After the initial shoot, however, the only thing Brent could think about was to quit for good. Yet, as many others, he decided to give it one more go: “I’m a firm believer in that you have to try everything twice.” That he did, and this time, “it was absolutely amazing.”
Early in 2005, Brent was quick to grasp the possibilities of the internet, and he became one of the first male models to produce his own site with live webcam shows. “If you go to my website, and then you go to like the oldest video, you’ll see that was cutting-edge technology at the time. We’re talking about pixels like this big,” he said, while stretching his arms out wide. It turned out to be a perfect formula. In an age where the mediation of porn through DVDs, magazines, and VHS started to wane, the “live” appeal of Brent’s shows couldn’t be pirated. Now, to contact him, one has first to set an appointment with his personal assistant. “It was kind of a blessing that I got that kind of recognition back then,” he explained to me on a Skype call from a family house in the Caribbean. “The internet is so saturated now that I feel like it’s harder for people to develop a name today. They don’t get that stay-time, that time spent where they’re famous for a little while.”
Porn has given Brent many things. But he confesses, too, that it led to wild parties and some problems. Looking back to a past episode in his life, he admits how drugs and sex became an obsession: “You become a monster. When you enter addiction, you don’t do the normal things, you don’t go for coffee with a friend, you don’t go to the movies, you literally stop living life. So, you keep doing the same mundane thing, and that’s getting the next drug.” For Brent, being able to overcome these compulsions could only be credited to a miracle. He is still active in the porn industry, though these days you will find him dedicating more time to other projects, like displaying his own art in galleries.
I like all the classics, you know, like Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet, and Emily Carr. I love them. I love to see their techniques. But I am always thinking how can I do something different. With my gallery opening, a lot of my pieces had mix-media. They have DVDs and CDs in them, and it’s like living art. When the light shines, it’s a complete rainbow.
In the business of porn-making, there are exulting highs and monstrous lows. There is also room for artistry. And yet, there are some performers that seem to gloss over all that. This is the case with Hector de Silva. You might think that living in a small city in the middle of Castile, Spain, would have led him to feel ostracized for liking men and for becoming a gay porn star. Nothing of the sort. “My parents always said to me that they only care about my happiness. They have shown it time and again,” he explained. During a visit to his hometown, Hector told me about his younger years. He always liked porn, and from a young age he would sneak into the living room in the middle of the night and tune in to the forbidden channels. He also told me about his house in the countryside: “I have horses, ferrets, goats, sheep, hens, turkeys, rabbits, cats, dogs, parrots. I take care of their vaccinations myself.” Hector studied to be a veterinarian. However, he aims to become a firefighter in the future. This post requires months of thorough training without any kind of financial backing. When money became scarce, he sent his pictures to a producer. “After the first movie came out, all the town learned of it almost immediately. They even created a WhatsApp group where they would swap my pictures and videos,” he recalled, laughing. “I always had the support of everyone though.”
Hector’s case is not only peculiar when it comes to his own town, but also in terms of the wider reception online. Some people on Twitter started referring to him as the “anti-porn actor”: “When I first saw the expression used, I contacted the guy who created it to tell him that this was really bad press . . . But then, he told me that this was good, because I had this image of a performer from the ’70s or ’80s. You know, I live in this small town, so I don’t go to parties or do live shows like the ones in Barcelona, London, or Amsterdam. It seems that, back then, most guys who did porn would just go to a shoot and go back to their normal lives. That’s my case too.” Hector confessed to being very bad at keeping in the loop of social media. Occasionally, he apologizes to his fans for being away and posts a video of his firefighter training routines, though this only adds to his vintage image of a bygone porn era. Perhaps, if one wishes to search for a gap in Hector’s ordinary lifestyle, one would have to find it in how the business of porn can lead into bad romances. When Hector meets someone interesting, he always tells them up front what he does. “At first some are thrilled and find it hot,” he explained. “But then, as time passes, they start putting objections.”
Regardless, all porn stars agree that they are not in the business for the romance. Nor even for the sex. The industry is more geared towards creating a fictitious fantasy, just like Alex Mecum explained to me: “So, for me and my personal life, I like a lot of connection, touch, passion, and I think that’s what’s most important in my relationship. But, in porn they want crazy positions, lots of penetration, and not as much body contact, because then you can’t see.” As it is, there is plenty of acting in porn. Sometimes you go in, you’re very attached to the scene partner and it just clicks. Other times, there is no chemistry, so the only choice is to act all the way through it. “I have performed a lot of the time. I have faked a lot. I think that the art form for a model is to fake it in a way that it doesn’t seem fake,” Kayden Gray said. Ironically, the best reviews can come from these videos. This need to “fake it” in porn helps better explain those men who are gay-for-pay. Significantly more private in social media than their gay counterparts, these men are paid more per scene. A good number of them recently confessed that they are able to perform with men by “flipping a switch and turning into a character.” This requires a strong preparation of body and mind. But, regardless of orientation, when you “fake it,” sometimes there is a backlash. After having sex with a partner you don’t like, it is hard to be friends afterward or work in a scene again. All in all, just as Kayden Gray said, porn “is an illusion”: “If someone doesn’t realize that then they’re going to be disappointed at some point, or they’re just going to live in the dark.”
And still, a growing number of porn stars report an unexpected turn of events. “I would say that, because of technology and the internet, the fantasy is becoming real. You go in to the big clubs now and they’re all doing it in the clubs. There it is, right in front of you, so is not a fantasy anymore,” described the British porn star Josh Moore.
“But, are you talking about sexual positions?”, I asked.
“Yeah, I’m talking about all the positions. I mean, people didn’t use to dare to do things like this, but now it’s so out there because of the internet. Because you wouldn’t be out to experience that anywhere, but now you can,” Josh answered. He also mentioned how friends inside and outside the industry are campaigning for a “pornterpret” movement, so that spectators know what is real and what is not. Out of the blue, porn stars not only have to visually arouse and keep a digital community entertained, but they must also serve as role models for viewers young and old. Regarding this, Josh commented: “In my day, it was just a sexual thing. But I think the way the social media is working and the way we see it now, we’re slightly role models as well for people. A lot of fans contact us with questions, asking if something is normal, and that they’re having troubles in their life.” Consequently, with great patience, porn stars now also play the role of counselors and answer their fans’ questions. Still, though unexpected for these little Gaga creatures turned porn stars, this turn of events greatly fits again with the ancient meanings of “monster.” As Wikipedia is quick to point out, monsters were not only considered to be a sign of warning or admiration. They were also a source of instruction, as first explained by Augustine of Hippo, a saint who was no stranger to carnal pleasures. Augustine also thought monsters contributed to the sacred beauty of the whole.
As it is, the internet is bringing the ancient ideas of beautiful “monsters” and the sacred Greek “Eros” back to use. The digital is showing us the appeals of the Gaga Monster, and we are all catching on to it. Indeed, porn is now everywhere. It is not only there to expose unarticulated desires. It is configuring new cravings and situations, like micro-targeted digital porn and pornified homes. Gay porn overcomes gender difference. It is mostly consumed by gay men, but it is also being watched by a growing number of women. Some gay porn stars confess to having groups of fan girls interested in the equal power of both parts . . . and their spornosexual bodies. Journalists that write on porn, like Mark Hay, claim that the male body has become more muscular in straight porn for the past decade, too, “but certainly not to the same degree or magnitude as in gay porn” (and with turnabouts). To make things more complex, a recent study has also timidly suggested that a small number of straight men might also be into gay porn. On this, nothing is conclusive, though this heteroflexible fancy would fit quite well with nascent apps like Bro, catered around straight men looking for bromances. It would also help explain practices like the “str8 on str8” ads on Craigslist and other phenomena. Things can become confusing. Something remains for sure with gay porn, however. The industry has much to say about the male body, as Alex Mecum said: “I think that it’s more about creating an alteration of the male form rather than an idea of what to do.”
At the end of the day, all gay porn spectators share an interest in the beautiful male body, and so does the market. But how does gay porn reach a wider public beyond the orgasmic thrills of their screened performances? As the journalist Mark Simpson explained, it is not necessary to have watched gay porn to have been influenced by it, as the “sluttiness” of male exhibitionism is everywhere exploited by pop culture these days. With more than 300 thousand Instagram followers, the Spanish Allen King can claim to make the gay porn star look like a thing of mainstream appeal. This detail has not been overlooked by advertisers: “Given my followers, many companies send me free gifts and get in touch with me offering to pay me. They usually say ‘look, if you publish a picture with this, then we will give you that.’ Usually, it’s underwear, creams, and other clothes. I tend to do it. I like modelling. Also, I tend to get many commissions from photographers.”
In this new realm of screens we live in, dating apps have become the rule. Coincidentally, body-related apps like Gymder and Freeletics evince the rise and rise of the spornosexual. Hot, sexy bodies are gradually being experienced as another social skill to advertise online, and a rising number of men, gay and straight, are catching on to the game. It is within this idea of the perfect male body that the much-maligned performers of gay porn, those monstrous beings that put their sex on sale, also turn into sublime aesthetic archetypes. While satisfying the intimate sexual fantasies of their spectators, they inadvertently seem to be fueling a male desire to be desired that is becoming mainstream. For the porn star Kayden Gray, this standardization of the buff male body on Instagram is blurring the lines between porn, gender, sex, and reality: “I think we’ve all always been sexual creatures. But now, with the images that we’re bombarded with, we’re hypersexualized. If you go to an Instagram, there’s stuff of these guys all day long and I follow lots of them. So, I feel kind of sexually frustrated.”
“How is that?” I asked.
“I am sexually frustrated because I’m being stimulated but don’t have the sexual libido, as it has been exhausted by my work. So, I’m kind of desensitized towards it, which is also why privately I have sex rarely. Uh, I did have sex last night,” he answered.
“Ok, thanks for sharing,” I answered chuckling.
“I did, and to me it means a lot because it wasn’t through Grindr.”
But things don’t stop here. The pornification of society is going a step further, just as I learned from the Spanish porn star Sunny Colucci. While having tea, we talked about one of his tattoos, written in Latin: “Ama et quod vis fac” (or “Love and do what you wish”). “It comes from Saint Augustine,” he explained to me. “I know that some people would interpret it in an old-fashioned way. For me it means that if you love what you do, then you can do it as many times as you want.” A year ago, Sunny got contacted through Facebook, giving him the chance to do porn. He said yes. He shined. Originally from a small town in Spain, he eventually moved to London to improve his English. Every now and then, we would meet for a drink or chat through WhatsApp. Sometimes, he would send me a picture of a new tattoo he just got. Once, we talked about the two-striped armband on his right arm. “I got it because of Brent Everett,” he said. “I am a great admirer of his work. You know, those were the days. You could do porn and be famous just for that. Now, to make it to the end of the month, more people are becoming escorts too.” Sure enough, when one does porn professionally, one sells his body in some way. Given that porn is a fantasy, and oftentimes one must fake it, a lot of porn stars gradually discover that they can take the fiction up a notch: They can sell their body all the way.
As it seems, crossing limits is not just a whim. It is a necessity. The truth is that the porn world is gradually becoming overpopulated. In the age of the iPhone and the fit spornosexual, in a time when the thrills of sex are just an app away, in a moment when more men are competing to become an Instagram stud, one can find that the porn audience is not content with watching and imitating the looks anymore. They also want to have the porn star experience. Gradually, newcomers to the gay porn world are struggling because of the industry’s great success. Far too many Insta-studs are making the jump to porn. As the applicants go up, payment goes down. For porn veterans, those who manage to make a name are the ones that have a killer body, for sure, but also work hard to make it viral online.
With one year in the industry, Sunny Colucci has become acutely aware of this. True to his understanding of Saint Augustine, he puts passion into everything he does. When he arrived in London, he started working in a gay bar in Soho, but soon saw that the regular shifts of the job were hindering his chances to do porn: “One has to take advantage of what he has,” he said to me. “I have this body.” He therefore made of it a full-time occupation. He spends hours at the gym. He watches his videos, checking how he can improve his performances. He also surveys the work of his colleagues. At the same time, he strives to keep a lively community on his Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram with steamy videos, artsy pics, fashionista poses, and thoughtful quotes. But there was always the chance to take things a step further. For Sunny, it all started with an app. Gay porn stars are the kings of Grindr. They all have stories about the myriad of opportunities they have gotten from this app. From a quick encounter or a nice back-rub, to a dinner invitation or having an apartment to themselves while traveling. Gay porn stars are the kings of Grindr, and that is why they get so many imitators with fake profiles. But they are also the app’s choicest prey.
One night, Sunny was chatting with a particularly handsome guy. They were sending each other pics. The stranger told Sunny to come over. That he did. But he couldn’t expect what happened next. “I get there, but he was not alone in the bedroom. Out of the blue, there was this very overweight man with an iPad,” he explained. “I turned to the other guy and told him: ‘You are an escort.’ At first he denied it and said that the other man was just a friend; and that we all could have a good time. Eventually he caved in and, after talking to the iPad man, offered me a rate. I thought it over for a second, and then realized it was just like doing a porn movie.” Accordingly, Sunny performed with the handsome guy while his iPad friend watched from the bed. However, when approaching the grand finale, Sunny decided to add a twist. He turned his head to the iPad man and said: “Where do you want me to finish?”
“Why didn’t you leave?”, I asked Sunny.
“What would have I earned from doing that?”, he answered.
“How about showing them your dignity? They shouldn’t play with you this way.”
“I will always have that. As I told you, it’s all about normalizing things, pushing your limits.”
“But where is the limit to that?”
We kept pondering that. Many times, he smiled and told me not to worry. It isn‘t so bad. After all, these are the little tricks of becoming an object of desire. Every porn star has stories of joys and hopes, but also tales of griefs and anxieties. In that he is right. It is all part of being a Gaga Monster. While trying to be on the edge of glory, you must be careful not to feed the monster inside, for sure, but you also must watch out from being devoured by the public or a beloved colleague. Eventually, you just learn to put on a poker face; and you call the bluffs. Much maligned sometimes, yet secretly admired and imitated too, gay porn stars are like all porn stars: They sing the glories of the body electric, but can also show you fear in a handful of images. As long as there is someone watching from a screen, porn stars are here to stay. They are some sort of sacred monsters and so is their audience: We are all creatures of twilight.
Every now and then, I meet and talk with Sunny. With the passing of the months he has kept thriving: Málaga, Paris, Barcelona, London, Amsterdam, Milan, Tel Aviv — he moves all around. He has successfully become an intimate entertainer of sorts. “But what happened to Robbie Rojo?”, you might ask. He is still traveling throughout Europe with his pet pug, sometimes filming a new scene, but with a change. After a lifestyle full of thrills, he wants to go back to something more conventional. “Now I am studying psychology part-time,” he wrote to me on WhatsApp. “Some day, I would like to help people with the things I have learned. In the end, life goes on. Besides, I won’t be able to work with my body forever. Time never forgives.” •
To J. Floyd, Oakland’s wandering poet
Feature image and other photos courtesy of “Lukas” and @christianstrom.