29 March 2008

The Big Nasty (Part Two)

Fear

WARNING!
This essay contains frank discussion 

of human sexuality.

In today's Gay adult film market, I guess it's not enough just to turn on a camera and film two men making love to one another. In order for it to be authentically Gay, it's got to be violent, depraved, humiliating, racist or suicidal! Watch Gay men have sex in filthy, stinking public bathrooms! See Gay siblings get it on with one another! See Gay men perpetrate gang-rape just like they did back in ol' Sodom and Gomorrah! Enjoy seeing Gay men objectified both racially and sexually! Get a thrill watching Gay prisoners put to simulated torture! Watch the "f*gs" gag and puke! Then watch those damn, dirty "queers" infect one another with HIV disease!

Step right up, folks, and get your heterosexist notions confirmed! What's really being sold here? Is it just harmless, naughty fun, or is it a not-so-subtle form of sexual demonization? Why is it necessary that homoerotic films contain such vicious stereotypes? I get the distinct impression that people who create and market products like these harbor a profound hatred for Gay identity!

I don't get this impression just from reading titles and content descriptions, either. Like most Gay men of my generation, I've seen quite a few erotic films over the years. Much of what I've seen makes me believe that porn movies are a major source of Gay stereotyping! All too often, the sex scenes are set in dark alleyways, abandoned warehouses or so-called tearooms: Public toilets with lewd graffiti scrawled on the walls and "glory holes" for penises carved in bathroom stalls.

Orgy scenes are increasingly popular, with ever larger groups of men shown going at each other mindlessly like dogs in heat. One-on-one coupling with affectionate kissing and caressing gets rarer all the time! Excessive machismo has infected Gay adult filmmaking. The emphasis is shifting decidedly away from warm tenderness and toward cold brutality!

There's evidently a niche market now for prison-style "gang bang" films, and more of them are being made both domestically and abroad. Even more alarming is a stunt from Straight porn that's recently begun crossing over to Gay productions: Double penis penetration! It's dangerous enough when attempted on a woman's vagina; attempting it on a man's rectal cavity is just plain foolhardy!

With such a high risk of internal organ damage, I can't understand why any filmmaker or actor would want to take such a chance! The look of intense pain on the faces of men being doubly penetrated is unbearable; only a sicko could feel sexual arousal while witnessing such deliberate cruelty!

Even as Gay double-penetration scenes rise in popularity, fisting, a related practice from the world of extreme BDSM sex, is reportedly making an on-camera comeback. Fisting films first appeared a quarter-century ago, just prior to the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic. If these appalling trends aren't reversed, I predict tragic cases of fistula (loss of control over the bowels) will proliferate among male porn stars!

Now, I'm basically a "free trade" kind of guy. I believe that a company has the right to sell anything that can legally be sold. I also believe a customer has the right to buy anything that can legally be bought. However, as a Christian, I don't believe moral considerations disappear when the market is in play! It's immoral to exploit homophobic myths for profit! It's immoral to stage scenes of sexual violence for profit! It's immoral to pay actors to perform unprotected sex acts! What's more, when sick stereotypes and potentially criminal behaviors are packaged and sold to the people who are most harmed by them, it demonstrates callous disregard for the customer at best, and total contempt for the customer at worst!

As customers, Gay men are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. The way we relate to pornography differs from the way Straight men approach the genre. In the early days of Gay liberation, watching porn flicks was really the only way to see same-gender affection expressed on screen! Our equivalent of the big screen heterosexual romance Dr. Zhivago was probably The Other Side Of Aspen, a 1983 flesh epic marketed by Falcon Studios; certainly that film's star, the late Al Parker, was the Gay equivalent of leading man Omar Sharif.

Erotic scenes between men are still relatively rare in Hollywood features, so a significant number of us still look to porn for sexual validation. Consequently, we make little or no distinction between X-rated movies and other films tailored to the Gay market (proving my point, the catalog I discussed earlier is almost equally split between adult and mainstream DVDs).

Even so, we ought to be able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy images in Gay adult films. There's nothing validating about "bareback" sex and double penetration! Maybe we're just being swept along with the general trend in today's film industry toward presenting ever more "edgy" fare?

Whatever the case, our "anything goes" attitude in regard to pornography is hurting us! We and others who rent and buy Gay porn (such as heterosexual women, believe it or not) are being de-sensitized to twisted depictions of our sexuality. Films like Men's Room 2, Black Balled 2 and Gag The F*g reinforce the perception that homoeroticism is wicked, dirty and abnormal! They provide counterculture cover for the forces of heterosexual supremacy. Demonization is demonization, y'all, regardless of whether it comes from a church pulpit or a DVD player!

Mind you, I'm not saying companies that produce stereotypical Gay porn are stealth agents of the Religious Right.  I don't know that, and such a thing would be awfully hard to prove. I am saying any company that would sell the kinds of DVDs I just described doesn't give a damn about Gay men!

You may well ask: Don't Gay men have a responsibility to give a damn about themselves? My answer is a resounding "yes"! I think we should take responsibility. I think we should start a serious conversation about sexual violence and sexual racism in Gay adult film! When filmmakers dare to undermine safer sex instruction, I think we should slap public health warning labels on their product! When actors from and directors of films like Bareback Boners make personal appearances at our Gay Pride events, I think we should boo them off the stage! When Gay porn studios send out messages that homosexual men are perverts who deserve pain and death, I think we should send a message back to them and spell it b-o-y-c-o-t-t! Let's see how eager they are to slime Gay identity once their profits start shrinking!

Some Gay Rights activists make a point of calling themselves "sex-positive". I challenge them to put their money where their mouths are! What's "sex-positive" about media that portrays Gay sex as predatory, violent, racist and/or depraved? How do such portrayals advance Gay liberation? To me, they smack of Puritanism, the judgmental mindset that requires linking sex with shame and punishment. Where there is sexual shame, there is no possibility of sexual liberation!

Whether we identify as "sex-positive" activists, connoisseurs of erotic entertainment, or employees of the Gay adult film industry, we need to raise our standards! We've got to start denouncing those who deal in degrading and demonizing images of sexually active Gay men. We've got to oppose those who seek to equate homosexuality with reckless activities that endanger health and life!

We must be far more discriminating in our DVD rentals and purchases. We must be far more critical of content. There's a difference between sexual positivity and sexual suicide! There's a kind of eroticism that validates, and a kind that demonizes. It's time to recognize which is which, and draw a clear dividing line! When you chase a Big "O", you shouldn't end up with a Big Nasty! If you do, sugar, then something's wrong!

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