Huck and Tom do porn (or not)

7 Jan

A great post on dogpoet, Michael McAllister’s blog, floated up on my Facebook news feed yesterday. It was about his delight and trepidation at being asked to do porn. That entry, and something he wrote in response to the comments it got — more on both shortly — reminded me why I love M., as I’ve known him for what must be just under 20 years.

My strange friendship with M. is a reservoir whose depths we tap sparingly, as if heeding expired water-usage restrictions long after a drought has ended just in case it comes back. If you added up all the moments we’ve spent together, I’m not sure they’d equal a feature-length film’s running time, but if he died first and I got word of the funeral in time — only the first outcome is likely — chances are I’d drop everything to attend. From the Dec. 12, 2001 entry of the original Devon’s Diary:

My mysterious friend M. wrote that he too has an online diary going. He’s not a whore — well, I take that back, he does have a day job — but he’s a writer and poet who was whooping ass at the poetry slams in Minneapolis back in the early nineties. It’s great to have a daily fix of his writing once again. The way we “met” was, he had advertised in Equal Time, the gay rag up there, that he wanted a “literary relationship” and I started writing him letters, the old fashioned kind; I didn’t have a computer then. Those were my Lee Harvey Oswald years. Getting his letters was the only exciting thing to happen to me while I lived in Minnesota. I figured out who he was — he won a poetry slam and it was in the paper, and too much biographical info matched up — and then he figured out who I was, which effectively killed the romance. I did meet him once, while I was on acid, just before moving away to Boston. We kept in touch for a little while until one of us changed addresses and we lost contact until I ran into him in the Castro a few months ago. Anyway, check out his diary, and not just for the nice things he says about me (he calls me a literary Huck Finn to his Tom Sawyer. Come to think of it, though, wasn’t Huckleberry illiterate?).

He sure was, and so was I. Back then I didn’t know that what we were doing was called blogging. I didn’t even know how to hyperlink and apparently was impressed that M. did, which makes sense: In the early 1990s, while I was tapping out letters to him on the same Smith-Corona word processor I’d used in high school, he was already wired into whatever it was people did on the early Internet. (Ever the late adopter, I still can’t get Grindr to work on my phone. “You’re so old,” my wife complained as she downloaded it onto my phone for me.)

Back to M.’s post, which delves into the moral quagmire raised when modeling shirtless for a Daddyhunt ad — a wiry twink who probably hated being called a twink in the Mpls. days, M. is now the archetypal daddy — leads to an offer to do a porn shoot. It’s well worth reading for the back-and-forth he goes through both internally and with his husband. (Well, his husband in New York, where they married a few months ago, a fact that means nothing to the California and U.S. governments, unlike my travesty of a marriage — divorce pending — to a woman I barely knew, and with whom I exchange tweets while I’m escorting around the country. Tom’s marriage may be more durable, but Huck’s crosses state lines without breaking a sweat.)

He got unsolicited advice in the comments — from me, telling him he might want to talk the director into letting him work on the crew of a shoot before deciding whether he wants to appear on camera — and from a pious know-it-all:

A sober man would say that you must keep your ego and vanity in check. What goes online stays online for however long it stays there. Hubby is right. Listen to him. I like porn like any other man. I don’t know if you want to go hiking on that trail. It may be more hassle than it is worth. Porn as a last result to make some fast cash is a nice draw, but what are you giving up of yourself to get it? Self esteem, pride and a few other choice things.

Doing porn taints you for life. And if you want to pursue academia later on, you don’t need porn keeping you from making an honest living. …

I’ve worked in the night club business for a long time and I see what porn does to people. I don’t think you want that for yourself. even if it pumps up your ego a bit. If your ego gets the best of you, you might make the wrong decision and fuck up your future in the long run. It’s not a very sober decision to begin with. …

So much nonsense and fearmongering to unpack, so little time. My experience, of course, is that having done a little porn and a lot of escorting not only didn’t taint me for life, despite those images floating around the interwebs ever since, but that coming out about it has been complicated by the Houston art scene’s by-and-large failure to notice. I’m only half-joking. While the people whose porn pasts were exposed are the cases you hear about, Internet paranoia is oversold by hypocrites like M.’s commenter, who consume porn themselves — it’s a multibillion-dollar industry for a reason, folks — but delight in judging the people who make that possible and approvingly predicting their demise. And enabling it by spreading their double standards. (My impatience with such idiocy informs my I-know-that-ho project.)

Not that M. needs any help from me:

While I appreciate your intention is most likely one of helpfulness, I have to say I pretty much categorically disagree with everything you said. I don’t really have a moral problem with porn. I don’t think there’s an ethical difference between sex in private and sex on camera, and so I don’t think of the guys I’ve known who have done porn as being tainted or somehow empty in their souls. Secretly enjoying porn and then looking down on its performers strikes me as hypocritical. I’ve worked in bars too and I know a few exceptions, but most of the guys I know are pretty well-adjusted. I’m definitely not chasing after my youth; I’m quite happy with my age and looks. And though I write often about my conflicted thoughts and feelings, and though I’m aware that some people may read that as soliciting advice, it’s really never been the case. Also, I don’t think there’s any conflict with porn and sobriety, and frankly my sobriety is none of your business.

Oh, M. It’s been too long. You’re the best, whatever you decide.

Back to offering unsolicited advice. It’s true there are plenty of reasons not to be glib about doing porn, starting with the porn industry itself. (More on that in future posts.) But you could also try going a more amateur route and submitting a piece to the HUMP! Festival, produced by the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger, which returns or destroys all copies after screenings in Seattle and Portland. Or you could play a masked daddy. I can vouch for how surprisingly liberating putting one on can be, so long as you know when to take it off.

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