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Gay Porn Thrives in East Europe Recession

Wednesday, 24 Mar 2010 08:47 AM

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Martin Justel is 20, as old as the Czech democracy and, arguably, just as mature.

He is scrawny and too tall for his body mass. He has a baby face, short auburn hair, long eyelashes and a vacant expression. He looks hardly 18 but his eyes, blinking slowly, convey the gloom and servitude of somebody much older. In the terminology of the American gay sexual marketplace, he is a classic “twink,” a thin, young, pretty boy.

He whispers “hello” as he tiptoes into the Prague film studio of William Higgins, 67, an American producer and “dean of gay porn” who moved to Prague right after communism ended to corner the gay sex market, arriving around the same time two other bearded vanguards of capitalism — Santa Claus and Colonel Sanders — showed up to monopolize Christmas and fried chicken.

All three have found fertile ground here.

“You can take off your clothes,” says Rado Pauer, Higgins’ cameraman, stage artist and translator, as he walks over to Justel to hand him half of a blue pill, which he swallows without question.

Justel knows the drill already. This is, after all, his second time shooting gay erotic video. The first time, he did a solo scene and found it to be an easy way to make money doing something he does for free at home anyway.

Today, he was supposed to do a twosome — for the first time in his life experiencing, let alone being filmed in, a sexual encounter with another man. But his partner-to-be didn’t show up, for reasons the studio doesn’t investigate. It happens often. Some men get cold feet, others get real jobs or — once they have a little experience in the business — find a better-paying studio and stop returning phone calls.

Nevertheless, Justel is here, naked but for a pair of white athletic socks with tiny Czech flags on them, sitting on the same couch where some two thousand men sat before him, some only once, others repeatedly. At the end of the shoot, he will get cash in hand. That's all he can focus on. He will use it to pay rent and take his girlfriend out for dinner.

Justel, after all, describes himself as 100 percent straight. He is merely gay for pay.

Like the vast majority of the thousands of “perfectly straight” Czech men performing in gay porn, he gets offended when asked whether he ever considered he might be gay. He is, he insists, only doing it for the money. Visibly timid, inexperienced and “hetero,” he caters perfectly to the sexual fantasies of those discerning consumers — primarily American gay men — looking to satisfy their appetites for homosexual pornography featuring straight men.

Gay men have always fetishized masculinity and seen straight guys as real guys, says Jeffrey Escoffier, the author of the book "Bigger Than Life: The History of Gay Porn Cinema from Beefcake to Hardcore" and a visiting scholar at the New York University Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. “It’s a marketing opportunity for producers,” he says. “A large percentage of gay men see heterosexual men as more masculine than gay men.”

According to Higgins, gay men want to see straight guys but imagine them as gay, which is partly why 90 percent of the Czech men he uses in his films are heterosexuals, or at least “that's what they like to call themselves.”

Higgins also likes to recruit men who have typically never done porn or had sex with men before and market their inexperience as an asset, not a drawback. To this day, he enjoys filming the first-timers, especially if they don’t really like it. He zooms in on their faces clenched in pain. It makes it real, Higgins says.

He also prefers working with straight guys because they are not as picky about with whom they have sex. “If they are willing to do it with a guy, they’ll do it with any guy. It’s a job,” he says. “We have one gay guy who always dictates who he’s going to do it with. I’d much rather work with straight guys.”

Gay video sales and rentals represent a disproportionately large segment of the $10 billion to $12 billion global porn industry, up to one-third or even one-half, by some estimates, writes Joe A. Thomas in "Gay Male Video Pornography: Past, Present, and Future."

Thomas, an art history professor at Kennesaw State University who frequently writes about sexuality and representation, estimates that the small countries of Czech Republic and Slovakia are now the second largest hubs of gay porn, after the U.S., which alone — according to different producers — makes up about half of the global gay porn market.

Straight men work in American gay porn, too, but not in such large percentages. According to Rod Barry, a former marine-turned-porn-star, straight porn actors in the U.S. earn about $400 for a scene. In gay porn it is three, five, or even eight times that amount.

But globalization has changed the wage structure of the porn industry. In Eastern Europe, men are willing to do porn for a lot less. “That’s the downfall of the business," Barry says. "The cheap guys from Europe flood the market with crap product."

Exactly how much gay porn is produced in Prague is impossible to estimate. Much of it is now done by opportunistic amateurs with cheap webcams at home, their apartments dressed up as massage parlors or photography salons. Some 15 large and midsize gay porn production studios operate in the Czech Republic. Bel Ami/BAO, Ayor, AVI Films/Staxus and William Higgins are among the most visible names on American video store shelves and among them release a new DVD almost every day. They also post hundreds of sex scenes online weekly.

In American gay sexshops, customers can find DVD titles such as “Inside Prague,” “Czech Up: Medical Fantasies,” “An American in Prague,” or, the most anticipated Bel Ami title of 2010, “Five Americans in Prague.”

Higgins releases one new DVD for retail sales and three DVDs for the online streaming companies each month. He also posts 13 main video scenes, 12 casting videos and two backstage videos every week online. AVI Films release up to three videos a month. Other producers, such as Michael Lucas, outsource their American productions here from time to time because, as he says, there is plenty of talent, both on the modeling side and on the cinematography side. Moreover, the production costs are about a third cheaper than in the United States.

In the gay community worldwide, Prague has a reputation of being an extremely liberal city, even though there are no gay neighborhoods, no blatant “out and proud” storefront signs or rainbow flags, and seeing gay men holding hands is rare outside the dark, underground gay bars, most of which cater to tourists.

It is, nonetheless, a city in which, according to Higgins, “sex is not a big deal,” and where categories of gay, straight or bisexual — the way they are understood in the United States — cease to carry much meaning as thousands of men like Justel insist that homosexual behavior, whether on- or off-screen, does not make one gay or even bisexual.

A few months ago, Justel was unemployed and looking for a job. Paging through the help-wanted section of a newspaper, he noticed an ad for modeling. He came to the casting call of Higgins' studio and learned that modeling was a euphemism for performing in porn. Those working in the adult film business are always called models, not actors, no matter whether they merely pose naked or engage in an orgy with a dozen other men.

Justel was selected as “model material,” and he was flattered. Mainly, though, he needed the money.

His girlfriend also liked the idea of him earning extra cash in porn. Engaging in sex with men doesn’t make her jealous because it is all about “just sex, not attraction,” he explains. “She would mind if I did it with women.”


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PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Martin Justel is 20, as old as the Czech democracy and, arguably, just as mature.
porn,praque,gay,recession
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2010-47-24
Wednesday, 24 Mar 2010 08:47 AM
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