He had a beautiful apartment, the result of years of antique hunting and his impeccable taste, so I asked him what he meant by presentable. There was a slight hesitation. "You know," he finally rasped. "Get rid of the porn." He then proceeded to give me a list of his secret stash of magazines and videos.
A few hours later I found myself digging through closets and excavating under beds for old copies of Playgirl and Colt publications, Boys of Venice, and Bigger Than Huge. He died a week later, and I've been struck ever since by the irony.
One of the things I loved about my friend was his incredibly open attitude about sex. He was fearlessly promiscuous in the best sense, meaning that he never met a person he didn't like, an attribute he translated to the erotic--he never met a person he didn't like to have sex with. But though chatty about his conquests, he was deeply closeted about his porn collection--so ashamed that as he prepared to die, the most pressing thing on his mind was figuring out how to get rid of the evidence and make his apartment presentable.
I don't think he was alone in that, and that's too bad. For gay men, porn is perhaps the gayest form of entertainment we have (this seems much less true for lesbians), the one that speaks most directly to what makes us gay--our sexuality. Entertainment can't get much more sexual than direct representations of sex, much more erotic than scenes of blatant eroticism. Porn, in all its black-white, bi-trans, vanilla-S/M diversity, also is probably more sexually influential than any other element of gay life. For example, some gay historians argue that the practice of rimming, which was almost unknown before the 1970s, became commonplace during that decade when it became de rigueur in gay films. And during the '80s there were bitter battles over wearing condoms in videos, partly to protect the actors but also because prevention activists knew that porn could help either eroticize or marginalize safe sex.
Yet despite its inherent gayness, diversity, and influence, porn is still the crazy aunt in the attic of gay life, the form of entertainment that dare not speak its name. It rakes in hundreds of millions a year, yet sometimes it's hard to find a single gay man at a party who acknowledges knowing who Ken Ryker is.
There are probably lots of reasons for this. One may be the old feminist critique of porn as exploitation. Another, I suspect, is plain old pride. After all, porn is designed as an aid to masturbation, and while gay men tend to be pretty frank about the sex they're having, they're often a lot less frank about the sex they're not. For some people, acknowledging porn is tantamount to admitting loneliness.
But that's too bad. Sexertainment is big business and an essential part of gay life, and as long as we deny it, we set ourselves up for all sorts of problems. Not the least being that although porn helps define what it means to be gay, helps shape the eroticism of the next generation, and helps determine our ideas of safe sex, it's still disproportionately controlled by talentless, apolitical sleazeballs, in part because talented, politically conscious folks don't want anything to do with it. (Not all, by the way. There are some swell folks in the porn biz.)
But we should get real. Just as gay activists fight for better exposure on prime-time TV, we should spend some quality time thinking about this massive form of entertainment. It's time we acknowledge its immense power, work to make it better, and admit that it's a vital, and vitally important, part of millions of our lives.
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|Title Annotation:||Gays and pornography|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Mar 28, 2000|
|Previous Article:||All About All About Eve.|