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by Aidan Cartwright

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Image via Huffington Post

What does it take to survive working in gay porn? That was the subject of a recent opinion piece on The Huffington Post’s website by Frankie Valenti, better known to gay porn enthusiasts as Johnny Hazzard. In the article, Valenti lists the unanticipated, negative consequences that being a porn star had on his life. He concludes that he’s grateful to still be alive, and that he misses former colleagues who have committed suicide.

Valenti’s piece is mostly about public expectations of porn models. He writes, “Men think that I will sleep with anybody, including them, that I have no tastes of my own and fuck as much as I breathe. Autonomy is a thing of the past. I cannot go to clubs or bars alone, because there’s always somebody wanting to talk to me about this movie, this actor or this scene.”

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Should we be surprised that people treat porn models this way when the marketplace commoditizes sex so relentlessly? On one hand, I suppose this treatment is flattering, but on the other hand it reduces the person to one thing – a sex object – and negates everything else that makes them human.

Men who work in porn are exceptional, in my mind, because they can perform a private act for the most public sort of enjoyment. Not only do viewers get to watch them give expert blowjobs, take (and give) like champs and shoot geysers of cum, they can replay those scenes again and again. This repetition serves to hard-wire viewers to see porn stars as sex objects – and, let’s face it, that’s the job description. It’s the fault of the consumer when they’re unable to separate porn’s fantasy from the real human being.

Toward the end of his article, Valenti bemoans, “There are no ‘porn stars’ anymore. And that could be a huge reason why we are losing some of the ‘big guys.’ Many didn’t have a way out or didn’t have goals for when the title stopped meaning as much. I can relate. You have this title, this crown that acts like currency, like armor. When the money stops, that diminished title is all you have left.”

That’s exactly what happened to Joey Stefano. This was his porn star name, but Nick Iacona, born and raised in Philadelphia, surely didn’t envision dying at 26 from a drug overdose. The story of his rise to the heights of porn fame with then up-and-coming director Chi Chi LaRue is well covered in Charles Isherwood’s book Wonder Bread & Ecstasy: The Life and Death of Joey Stefano.

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Thanks to his remarkable beauty and sexual enthusiasm, Stefano rose to the top of his profession in the early 1990s. But because of ongoing addictions and lack of foresight for what he would do after porn, Joey’s star faded fast. Desperation to find a way out of the industry and an appetite for drugs only intensified as the video work dried up.

In my opinion, foresight into what comes after a career in porn is key to ‘surviving’ the industry. No one, no matter how physically attractive, can keep their sexuality interesting forever – and because the industry is inevitably focused on appearances and youth, the clock on a porn career will inevitably run out. Which is where having a Plan B comes into play.

In the Huffington Post article, Valenti mentions having another career. This is also true for Pierre Fitch, a CockyBoys exclusive who is still doing porn in his 30s (and looking damn good in his scenes, I might add). Pierre has another career as a DJ; he has performed in Australia, Europe, Montreal, Toronto, and other locations too numerous to list here.

Through my conversations with him, I know Pierre still loves being a porn star, but that’s not the only role he plays. Being a DJ allows him to use his talents to express himself creatively with music. As a CockyBoy he expresses himself creatively with sex. Long after he retires from porn, Pierre’s career as a DJ will carry on. His fans ‘in the know’ will continue to recognize Pierre as an amazing performer and true sex symbol.

A final thought on ‘surviving’ gay porn. It certainly helps psychologically if it’s not done just ‘for the money.’ Bank accounts fill and drain depending as much on someone’s chosen profession as on unforeseeable events (injury, illness). Porn sticks around forever – especially in a time when governments are collecting information on their citizens and the Internet makes sure everyone knows everything about you in the time it takes to brew a cup of coffee.

If you’re going to be a porn star, make sure you’re doing it because you love putting on a performance. Do it because you find it exciting to know that you’ll be preserved through the magic of film at your most attractive. Do it because you love your co-stars and they give you the best orgasms you’ve ever had.

Don’t sign up to be a porn star just for the money, because like it or not, if you put pen to paper, you, too, will have to navigate a sometimes unforgiving world, touchy-feely fans, and the steady march of time.

Aidan Cartwright is an author, blogger, researcher, and word junkie with an enthusiasm for art, a well crafted punchline and working out. Having lived above a gay bookstore, queer literature and gay porn inevitably cross his mind from time to time. You can follow him on Twitter here: @CartwrightAidan


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