When we named our Youtube channel Gay Family Values we never intended, in chosing that name to set ourselves morally above anyone else. Often when we hear the term "family values", it comes from a religious-conservative viewpoint that is using it as a weapon against others...we automatically brace for the impact of the moral brow beating to come because we are gay, a single parent, atheist, or merely young and finding yourself in a world of bewildering options and infinite choice.
Thats not us and was never meant to be the message we sent. Jay and I are human beings and are subject to the same flaws and vices that most people are. Gay Family Values was meant to be a name that reflected that. We are not perfect, we are people, and our relationships and families count the same as everyone elses....that said...
Pornography, prostitution and sex work of any kind is generally a topic most people shy away from because it touches something primal within us...whether that something is past pain, need, shame, or what have you. Sex work seems to affect men and women in entirely different ways and the gay community is surely no stranger to it. Women...from what I have experienced...seem to have a much harder time dealing with pornography and prostitution and are more often victimized by it. Men on the other hand don't seem to let it touch them in the same way...even when they are the ones being objectified...case in point..
Queerty recently posted a review of "Like A Pascha" from the SXSW film festival. The film tells the story of one of Europes oldest brothels. Take a peak:
From the Queerty article:
His film focuses mainly on Sonia, a voluptuous brunette prostitute at Pascha who's ashamed of her job. She feels that sex work is the only way to save money for an education and eventually a family. Through a series of intimate scenes with her at the zoo, a restaurant, and in front of her laptop, viewers sense Sonia's deep sadness and stunted emotional growth. She's like the animals on display, served up as easily as a plate of noodles, and nostalgic for her younger, slimmer self. She was raped seven times before entering the world's oldest profession. Since then, very little has changed.
This to me is one very short example of the emotional impact of women and the sex industry. For women sex is an intensely personal and emotional thing. It is rarely an event that isn't somehow attached to self-worth. I don't want to make a blanket statement, because I believe differrent people handle the same situations in widely different ways. However, By and large work in the sex industry seems to touch women in a way that is very hard to come to terms with for them. Some women in the porn industry can talk frankly and without any shame about what they done. However...that doesn't mean that filming porn or prostitution was their first choice of career. Many women land in porn or prostitution when events in their lives have gone bad. Like Sonia, above.
From my own experience, my female friends by and large have very little tolerance for their boyfriends porn habits. One friend in particular sees any porn use as deeply threatening to her...as if viewing the women in porn will make her pale by comparison. This very firm stance has led to alot of friction with her boyfriends and consequently...to alot of boyfriends. The last one to fall by the wayside had a picture of his family above his computer that he would turn around when he viewed porn...she figured this out and sparks flew....eventually he did too.
Expanding our view a bit to a wider slice of female perspective....try looking up sex addiction sometime. Forums on the subject will contain posts from women who feel betrayed by their husbands use of porn. Many communicate as much hurt as if their husband had been carrying on a physical affair. Of course some of these men are...thats the nature of sexual addiction...seeking bigger highs. "Why am I not good enough?" is a really common question asked. Their feelings are valid feelings especially considering that sex addiction is something that catches a spouse off guard until it comes to light that their husband has lost his job for viewing porn at work. The pain these women communicate is palpable.
Men, on the flipside, seem affected by being in the sex industry in different ways. From opensalon.com comes this story "Confessions Of A Callbear". The story is written by Rusty McMann, a 6'3" 245 lb. 40ish male prostitute. His article...if it is written from an honest perspective...was remarkable for me not so much for its surface content, but for the attitude in which it is written. Rusty seems to carry no shame in his game. Selling his body doesn't seem to affect his emotional state and self esteem to the same degree that I often see in women doing the exact same thing. Read for yourself:
This is the part where people ask me for the sordid details of my life on the edge of society, and the strange requests I must constantly get in my seedy little demimonde. But the boring truth is that those dark dabblings are few and far between. There was this one time in Phoenix when I was called to the far edges of the suburbs very late at night. When I pulled in the driveway the entire house was dark, including the doorbell. After a few knocks, someone looking like Gollum came to the door and brought me to the only room in the house with furniture or light. He poured Welch's grape soda into the chamber of a clear glass water pipe and started smoking either crack or crystal meth.
All I remember of that session is how he kept telling me to pull on his nipples as hard as I could and then barking, "Don't leave marks! My kids don't know I'm gay!" After as much time as I thought I could reasonably call an hour, I told him I needed to get going. I let myself out while he smoked another bowl and returned to the porn that he'd been watching when I came in.
Creepy? Yes, but not once was I afraid for my own safety. More than anything I felt sorry for the guy. I spent most of my time debating whether or not to suggest he get some help.
But these wacko incidents make up a small percentage of what I deal with on a regular basis. A good deal of that, I think, has to do with how and where I operate: Guys see my ad and get a chance to think about it before giving me a call, a process that seems to do a fair amount of screening for me. Now if I were walking up and down the Strip offering unsolicited $50 blow jobs to drunken fraternity types, I would expect to be beaten up on a regular basis. Instead, I'm amazed at how "normal" most of these guys are.
If this was a Woman, would the scenario have gone the same? Would her feelings for her own safety be the same? Would this john have been more comfortable physically abusing a woman than a 6'3" 245 lb. man? Is it a mans perspective on sex...or the sheer size of this man that makes him less emotionally effected by encounters like this one?
o.k...heres where we dive into darker waters...my own experience with porn. My first encounter with pornography was finding my dad's stash of porn. As a teen, I discovered the stash that he used to keep under his bed. "But Bryan, you gay", you might say. What would straight porn have to offer you? Well...the type of magazines I had access to were the kinds that had men and women in pretty explicite poses. Those were my first images of what men looked like without their clothes...which for a you gay teen can be mind blowing. It didn't help me come out of the closet but those magazines did help me figure out that I deffinitely prefered the man over the woman. Judge that however you will.
Later...as a young man on my own, pornography was a part of my experience. Growing up the way I did, it also carried with it alot of internalized shame. But that aside...you see things...sometimes images that are heartbreakingly beautifull...some that make you wish you had never seen them. The sale of sex is an industry, whether its pornography, prostitution, or the next cover of mens fitness magazine. For every taste...there is someone out there offering it. Thats a thought that makes me shudder sometimes.
When I brush across the image of a young girl I can't help wondering what her story is. What brought her to that place? The often make me sad when I see them. This is largely because I believe that women rarely...if ever...seek out jobs in the sex industry. Young men, on the other hand, idolize being in the porn industry and there are plenty of men running around in "porn star" tshirts to demonstrate this difference in attitude. Being a porn star would then be seen as a sign of their virility as young men....this crosses sexual identity and can be found in gay and straight men alike. Within the gay community pornography is considered by some to be an element of of sexual freedom and shaming it an expression of the same repression that creates homophobia. For myself, Images of men online I usually see as being done with intent on the part of the man in the picture (or movie). Its harder for me to see a man as taken advantage of by a porn producer...with the exception of those who are too young to understand the long term ramifications of what they are doing...what 18 year old can concieve that the video he did for $100 would come back to bite him in his job search...or adoption, years down the road. Alternatively, are the "straight" men who do gay porn for money...There's tons of websites showing straight military guys having gay encounters. This to me seemed exploitive...until I considered who these men were and the fact that they more than likely knew exactly what they were getting into. After all, we can trust them with a rifle but no to manage their own sexual affairs?
The sex industry will always have two poles. The purveyor and the user. each end of the transaction involve human beings that can be driven to and effected by the transactions in very different ways. What you find freeing...I may find shame in. What one man does with no emotional reprocussions may produce a lifetime of emotional damage in a young girl.
Because of my upbringing, pornography has always brought alot of shame and guilt to me....Not loving sex with my partner mind you...but pornography. I have struggled with it for a long time....whether I am harming others..directly or indirectly. I alternate between the electric feeling that the images present, to feelings of utter shame...wondering if there is somethink intrinsically wrong with me as a human being. But, presuming that we have these feelings as a natural part of our existence...and that the people posting their pictures online..or appearing in a movie have done so of their own free will...where is the harm in that? Why should it come with so much guilt?
Partially because I come at a topic like pornography from two different points of view. Intellectually I know that sex is a human need and expressing it through porn is natural human action that has been practiced since the beginning of recorded time. On the other hand all the sunday televangelists line up in my head and I feel like a predator of sorts. Like the guy skulking in the back of an adult bookstore..even though I'm in my own home in totall privacy. With the action, comes the inevitable guilt...to act on something you believe to be wrong or harmfull repeatedly puts you smack in the realm of hypocrisy and often, in my own mind, I dee myself as Ted Haggert junior. I know none of this makes a great deal of sense...and I need to say that its not an attitude that I hold toward others. I try to set people free from those feelings when I can because I know what they are like. I also know I'm not alone in this schizophrenic attitude to sex. Its the legacy of a religion that hides sex in the closet even though its scriptures do not. Its a part of my journey in life and I own it.
Sometimes I envy those who can see something pornographic and not be burdened by the emotional baggage I have created/inherited....even I consider myself pretty average when it comes to the topic. 99% of men are sexual in some way outside of the bounds of their relationship...whether that is pornography, private mental fantasies, or, at the extreme end, something as dangerous as prostitution. As the old saw goes..the other 1% are lying about it. So, this leads me to the title of this post..."touched" refers less to the act of being physically touched and more about how we are affected by this basic and primal part of our existance..sex. This is how pornography has touched my life and I acknowledge that different people see the same thing from widely different perspectives. Judge me how you will...you will never judge me as hard as I have myself.
Becoming a father now has changed how I live my life in many ways, but one thing is for sure. While my kids are going to one day be exposed to the sex industry(its inevitable), I want that they never discover it like I did. Though I hold no judgement to my dad...he was just being human...I don't want my kids to learn about it like that. I hope that by the time one of Daniel's friends haul out the Playboys that we will aready have had "the talk" and that the emotional charge he will get from the images he sees will be tempered by the knowledge of what sex really is..and that its not something dirty that needs to be hidden under the bed and discovered by accident. It is to be faced honestly and with responsibility, as a natural part of a healthy human life.