Op/Ed by Ricky Larkin
As we bring 2013 to a close and bound toward the decade’s half point, fear of sexual expression seems destined to soon be a thing of the past. The tireless efforts of so many have led 16 states (and counting) to legalize and honor same-sex marriages. Seems like just yesterday gay men were forced to conceal their identities in fear of criticism, but today its the homophoics that are viewed as to be socially unacceptable. Yet with these new social freedoms there have emerged new ways to marginalize those whose sexuality doesn’t meet with our preconceived notions of “gay” and “straight.”
One example is a piece of rhythmic slang that originated in the porn community but has recently become part of the cultural lexicon: “Gay for Pay.” This fun little term is used to identify those who are “straight” but engage in sexual activities with the same gender for money. As a performer who was branded “Gay for Pay” myself before I retired earlier this year, the term still makes me cringe, and it still makes me angry.
While it may sound harmless to the uninformed ear, “Gay for Pay” is intended as a sexual slur and is used on social media and blogs to attack performers and their credibility. It “exposes” the performer as one who compromises his true beliefs and sexuality for money, and is out to “fool” the gay audience. Fans and bloggers often seem personally betrayed when they learn that a popular gay porn star is dating a woman off-camera. Their logic tells them that a man can’t possibly be sexually attracted to his own gender if he’s dating the opposite sex “in real life.” Such narrow-minded “thinking” fails to recognize the many variations of sexual attraction and expression, which I’ll touch briefly upon here.
But first, how do we define “preference”? How do we define “attraction”? I know countless men who prefer the emotional companionship of other men, but prefer sexual involvement with women. Likewise, I know women who surround themselves with male friends, yet prefer a lesbian lover. More than one “straight” woman has confided in me that she craves sex with other women, but prefers a “relationship” with a man. I’ve been at nightclubs where men would rather talk to me about bodybuilding and seek my advice on “how to get big” than to hit on girls. And often when I’m at the gym, I’ll notice the men staring at each other’s physiques with more interest and intensity than they give the hot, spandex-clad women working out next to them. Despite how far we’ve come in the fight for sexual equality, we’ve yet to acknowledge that there are many shades of lust, and many degrees of sexual attraction that can fluctuate throughout our lives.
Sexual-orientation arguments aside, there is also a practical argument to be made: porn is a source of entertainment, and in some cases a way to express art. Adult films are not documentaries, and the line between authenticity and artistry is shadier than it may seem.
For example, what do we make of the performer who only bottoms in real life, but will only top on film? He doesn’t enjoy topping and relies on medication to stay hard during the scene, but he made a decision to only bottom for his “real life” partner. Should we call him a “bottom for pay”? What about the performer who identifies as “gay” but isn’t the least bit attracted to (or is even completely turned off by) his scene partner? He goes through the motions anyway and collects his check, never experiencing a second of pleasure during the scene. Is he a more authentic performer than the man who truly enjoys having sex with his male costar but is dating a woman in real life?
What about the big, muscular, hairy guy who’s hired to play an aggressive, dominant top, even though he’s a submissive bottom in real life? If he “fakes” his way through the scene, should he be crucified on blogs for “cheating the gay porn audience” and “stealing their money”?
The truth behind this misleading term is that many performers labeled “Gay for Pay” put their hearts and souls into their work, and strive to communicate passion and realism. It’s both insulting and hurtful to discredit their work so completely, and based on so little. To accuse a performer of being “Gay for Pay” and try to rally public disdain for them is as ignorant as any other type of sexual discrimination and bullying. As we head toward the first days 2014, let’s aim to give others the acceptance and understanding we feel so entitled to demand for ourselves.