Thursday, May 28, 2009

PART 4: THE MASS CONSUMER AND CRITICAL MASS


erhaps one of the most important things to come of Michael McKey’s efforts and the efforts of the first small handful of bareback video producers was the identification of a market previously thought not to exist. Mainstream gay video studios cried out that bareback videos were tantamount to snuff videos and wouldn’t have a lasting popularity. How wrong they were. So wrong, in fact, that porn maven Chi Chi La Rue, who has taken a very public stand against the making of bareback videos, bought up all of the Catalina pre-condom content and has been re-releasing it on DVD in order to get a share of the raw sex revenue. Other companies, such as Falcon and The French Connection and Bijou have done similarly, dusting off 30 year old titles in order to squeeze out as much cash as they can from material they previously considered "old hat". Yes, there is a market for bareback porn. A HUGE market. And apparently the money made from it isn’t dirty enough to keep the more politically correct mainstream gayporn studio heads from wanting to touch it.

It is not only the established porn studios who recognize the marketability of bareback porn. In the last 5 years, dozens of new small independent studios have cropped up – some of them producing exclusively bareback content, some producing occasional bareback content, and some of them creating bareback-only labels under their parent company. And using the McKey model of minimalism, they have been pumping out a landfill’s worth of rubberless dreck. It’s quite astounding, actually.

As if that wasn’t enough to satisfy the porn-watching public, the new grade of affordable high tech toys like HD camcorders flooding the marketplace coupled with the availability of venues such as Xtube has made it possible for rank amateurs to churn out a proliferation of rather awful amateur porn. Whereas the previous 175 years of photography provided limitations that hindered the home consumer from making the pornographic equivalent of bathtub gin, the new medium offers little to no restrictions. It’s become an open market.

Just how wide technology has opened the door to home-grown porno was made evident in 2008 when an 18 year old boy at a Wisconsin high school posed as a girl on Facebook and enticed 35 of his male schoolmates age 13 to 19 to send him naked photos of themselves. Armed with digital cameras and cellphone cams, those horny young bastards all did as asked and dropped trou to click away at their juvenile equipment. And then using the current technology they transmitted these illicit (and illegal) images to the fellow who requested them.

There’s more to this story… the fellow who conducted the ruse, whose name is Anthony Stancl, then reportedly used the photos that he received to blackmail some of the boys into having gay sex with him. And bless his heart he got caught. And arrested. What the DA in the case doesn’t seem willing to acknowledge is that a scenario like this never would have happened if those kids hadn’t had digital imaging devices given to them by their parents in the first place. Let’s face it. You hand a guy an instant camera and sooner or later he will take a picture of his penis with it.

Then, he’ll take a picture of someone else’s and try to score a profit off of it. It’s human nature.

Well, anyway, so now there is a proliferation of porn flooding the marketplace… most of it bad. And an ever-increasing amount of it is bad bareback porn. While many perhaps see the enormous quantity of available porn as a good thing, too much of something is rarely ever good. Except where chocolate is concerned. There can never be too much chocolate.

To illustrate this point, think about money for a moment. (Mmm… money!). The more currency the Treasury puts into circulation the less value our money has. The same can be said of porn. I’ve noticed that the more porn a company cranks out (with only a few notable exceptions) the less there is worth watching. The reason is because the part that makes pornography work best – creativity - is thrown out in the process of chasing after the quick and easy money. Sure, a studio might come out with an original or semi-original idea, and that’s great. But in most cases by the time they have released 4 or 5 volumes of that same concept, the freshness of the idea has gone stale.

Something else that we lose in this deluge of content being produced is one of the original icons of pornography: the porn star. In porn’s golden years there were names that were as big if not bigger than the studios that produced them. And the public identified with them. Stars like Jack Wrangler and Casey Donovan, Kip Noll and Roger became porn idols. The studios made and promoted them much as Hollywood made and promoted their box-office draws. When bareback porn first hit the scene, a new kind of pornstar came into being – the silent pornstar. Men the likes of Steve "Titpig" Hurley, Steve Wiley, Ray Butler, and Will West became the genre’s representative stars, though not one of them (except perhaps Ray Butler) uttered so much as a word throughout their performances. As bareback porn began to become more prevalent and studios looked for new meat to exploit, the concept of the bareback pornstar faded.

The current tactic of porn studios seems to be to expose the flesh of as many individuals as possible, pay them, and be done with them. This is creating a culture of disposable performers giving disposable performances, and ultimately result in a barely navigable ocean of disposable porn. Out of the hundreds of bareback "performers" that have been marketed in the last few years, there are perhaps only a few bright stars who have emerged. Dawson, Brad McGuire, Jesse O’Toole, Drew Peters, Chris Neal, TJ Jordan, and Lito Cruz are the only performers I can think of who really qualify as "stars" of the genre. A few others, such as Sean Storm and Josh Weston, are crossovers who worked for mainstream studios and brought their established star power with them. The rest, sad to say, are part of an endless parade of faces, dicks, and asses whose names and performances are almost immediately forgotten. It is as if today’s bareback porn is mimicking the pre-AIDS gay culture of the 70’s with all of its random tricking and disposable anonymous sex.

When porn becomes disposable, it becomes junk food. It no longer nourishes the soul. And thus people crave more and more of it in order to feed some need that is not being met. So we have to keep putting more of it out there to satisfy the lack of nourishment we’ve created. It’s kind of a vicious cycle. And trust me… audiences are tiring of this junk porn diet.

There is too much lame, redundant porn in today’s market and the effect it is having is an overall watering down of the genre. Bareback videos used to be bold, controversial, and captivating. But for the most part, this is no longer true. Our industry needs a shot in the arm to keep from becoming so passe that the return on your investment of time, money, and talent doesn’t wither away.

In the next installment: The Importance of Fantasy to the Fantasy Business.

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