The internet has completely revolutionized the exchange of information in the world as we know it. Obscure pieces of data that used to require a trip to the library or the family’s outdated encyclopedia set are now available to everyone in a matter of nanoseconds. Imagine the bar fights that have been avoided because drunken disagreements over the silliest of statistics can now be solved with a text or quick search on your cell phone browser. How connected we are, as distance means nothing in a world of webcams, Skype, and Facebook. However great all of these advancements may be, the truth about the internet is found in a song from Avenue Q that went viral on YouTube a few years ago:

The internet is made for porn.

While other fields have prospered due to the internet, the porn industry has grown leaps and bounds. Much to the chagrin of the established companies like Vivid, Playboy, Falcon and the like, the internet has made it such that any entrepreneurial individual with so-so looks, a webcam, and a not completely obsolete computer can be tomorrow’s Top Porn Star. When Kurt Wild, of gay porn fame, could be making cash online while living as a straight man working at Subway during his ‘off hours’, that tells you that the field has completely opened up. (Wild, by the way, was fired when one of his customers recognized him and complained. He is a married man and the father of three, who, in his spare time, makes gay porn.)

Wild is in himself a good, if not humorous, example of the true issue here – orientation identification and the porn industry. Not so long ago, the porn industry created the term ‘gay for pay’ to encompass those men who did not define themselves as gay but readily performed gay scenes on camera. Their reasoning was simple: gay porn, compared to straight porn, paid on average 3 times the amount. You could go hungry doing straight porn; you could make your car and house payment doing gay porn. Thus we were besieged by men who would let-someone-else-suck-their-penis-but-wouldn’t-reciprocate, all the while their wives and girlfriends wait outside in the green room (or in one famous story, in the car with the baby, ignorant of what is happening inside).

Back to Wild. Kurt has been a busy boy. He has worked for any number of famous internet studios (yes, there are famous internet studios!) and has starred in hundreds, if not thousands, of videos. However, Wild does not consider himself gay or bisexual; at times he has leaned towards ‘bi curious’, but he most commonly sees himself as straight. He has gone on Tyra Banks’ show to assert his sexuality, and makes a clear (to him) distinction between having sex with men and having a self identification with anything beyond straight.

This ambiguity makes plenty of people uncomfortable, because the divining line between “straight” and “anything other than straight” for men (in mainstream American culture) has been your involvement (sexually) with other men beyond the ‘exploration’ phase. One could argue Kurt Wild is a thousand or so movies past the point of ‘finding himself’, so he should be pretty clear on who (and what) he is. He, like many others in our society for a host of reasons (beyond porn) refuses to let society force him to categorize himself.

From a sociological standpoint, that’s sort of like refusing to let your heart beat. Unless you are the most practiced yogi, that’s an autonomic response, and you simply can’t control it. Similarly, Wild and others in his industry can refuse to define themselves all they want. (Another good example is Mr. Aaron “AJ” James, who starred on MTV True Life, and has contended that he is straight to his family, many of whom could not accept it) That’s their prerogative. In skating, Johnny Weir has done this repeatedly.

However, labels and categorization are functions of society; label yourself whatever you wish (or not), society ‘rights’ the situation if you choose incorrectly (or not at all). It’s automatic. You have no control over it. All the complaining in the world won’t change it. Escoffier (2003) makes this entire concept of labels in gay porn (among gay-for-pay actors) much more involved, because he indicates that it is less about identification and more about the construction of a second self, a “gay persona”. This persona only has relevance (and ‘life’) when the actor is engaging in a related activity, such as creating porn, stripping, or escorting. To Escoffier (and many of the actors he interviews) sex and sexual situations are mechanical, and it’s the involvement of feeling (and lack thereof) that make these men able to identify themselves as straight, “pansexual”, “onnisexual”, or something other than gay or bisexual.

Thus represents the problem of ‘bi-curious’ some internalize, some use it; few take it seriously. In a world of boxes labeled “straight” and “gay” we need somewhere to place people, even porn stars we don’t want to know personally. It is highly limiting, and does not allow for a fluidity of orientation or gender, but as a recent post highlighted, it is, to a great degree, the world in which we live.

And if you’re a man, in gay porn, guess what box you’re in?

Jeffrey Escoffier (2003), Gay for Pay: Straight Men and the Making of Gay Pornography, Qualitative Sociology 26:4, pp. 531-555.

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