This month’s Details magazine carries a letter (which Details strangely neglected to show to me) by veteran gay writer John Rechy, author of the cult 60s hustler novels City of Night and Numbers, and the 70s plea for homo tolerance The Sexual Outlaw (books I enjoyed as teenager in the 80s). He takes issue with my recent story on the gay porn scandal involving the 82nd Airborne.
After agreeing that it was wrong for the young enlisted paratroopers to be punished so severely by the mighty US Army for what they did in their own time and with their own bodies – literally out of uniform – he gets to the main business of his letter:
‘…Simpson is entirely naive when he upholds the absurdity that “straight” men who perform – for pay or otherwise – consensual gay sex are still straight, despite being aroused to the point of orgasm. This is strictly a lure by the cunning operators of these sites to their gullible clients who want to believe the fantasy. Those seven paratroopers should not have been prosecuted, but they should not claim to be “straight” either. By doing so, they compound the dishonesty of the whole situation.’
In other words, they shouldn’t be punished for appearing in a gay video – but they deserve to be horsewhipped in the letters pages for their ‘dishonesty’.
I’m grateful to Rechy for clarifying matters. For years I’ve laboured under the naive and absurd delusion that I was homo because I preferred males. Now I realise my dishonesty: how can I be homo? I’ve had sex with women! ‘To the point of orgasm’! And I wasn’t filmed. Or even paid.
It is perhaps too easy to make fun of his argument. Lots of people have difficulty today accepting the idea that when two males have sex with another this does not necessarily mean that, before the spilled semen has even had time to cool, they have to book their own float at Pride. Once upon a Kinseyian time, probably most male-on-male sex involved men who were otherwise heterosexual. In the 1940s Dr Sex famously found that 37% of his interviewees admitted to sex ‘to orgasm’ with other males. (Though he was of course attacked for this finding by those who claimed he was entirely naive and hadn’t interviewed enough ‘normal’ men.)
As recently as the 1960s, a panicked British Navy called off an investigation into homosexuality on Her Majesty’s ships because it was found that at least ‘50% of the fleet have sinned homosexually.’ Understandably, the authorities hastily decided they would rather have a fleet than kick out every man who had ever engaged in spot of sodomy, with or without the lash.
Though some gays seem unwilling to be as pragmatic or tolerant as the 1960s Royal Navy. They seem, like Rechy, to want to press-gang any man who touches another man’s penis into the gay identity. Or, as a fall-back position: ‘bisexual’ – in the sense of ‘nearly-gay’.
Obviously a proportion of ActiveDuty models must be gay or bisexual. After all, I appeared in an ActiveDuty video – and in fact not all of them are presented as straight. And of course a certain amount of scepticism is understandable, advisable even. As I reported, Mr Active Duty himself told me that he thought that quite a few of his models were probably ‘bi-curious’, and that ironically, appearing in his videos for cash was for them a ‘safe’ way of exploring this.
But what is remarkable is just how religiously certain Rechy et al are that these chaps can’t be straight. None of them.
My sense however, as someone who has actually met some of them – and er, performed with them – is that many of them are probably otherwise heterosexual. I can’t of course prove this, and perhaps it really is my gullible fantasy – but then neither can Rechy prove they’re not. And the onus of proof is with the prosecution. Besides, if you really do think that having sex with another male means you de facto can’t be straight, then you are effectively saying that any and all male-on-male sex automatically consigns you into a separate, abnormal species of male.
Alas, male-on-male sex is not some magical, irresistible ju-ju that robs hetero men of their preference for pussy should they ever experience it. Even when it’s me they have sex with (I like to think my dick is magical, but nonetheless…). For quite a few straight men, especially those who aren’t schooled in bourgeois niceties, like the country boys who become paratroopers, ‘cock fun’ is much less of a deal than it is for many gays. It’s just a naughty giggle. Or a quick way of earning some cash. Something Rechy should know from his hustler novels – though as I recall they were usually about hustlers who thought they were straight but eventually realised that they were actually John Rechy.
I suspect that part of the reason so many homos want to see straight guys having sex with one another – and will pay good money for it – is the paradoxical appeal of seeing innocence ‘corrupted’, and corruption rendered ‘innocent’. Straight gay porn, when it’s done right, looks like a fulfilment of the fantasy of much of gay porn: a carefree, smiling, laughing, rascalish discovery of masculine erotic pleasure – free of shame and pride, free in fact of ‘sexuality’. Tom of Finland drawings, pre 1970s, brought to life. Ironically, straight guys are sometimes better able to embody the gay ideal than gays.
Speculation aside, the ‘bottom’, slightly counter-intuitive line here is that the fact that someone appeared in a gay porn video, even with an outsized membrum virile in one or both of his orifices, doesn’t tell you what his sexual preference is. All it tells you is that he appeared in a gay porn video. And perhaps that he can take it like a trooper.
As one of the paratrooper models replied when confronted, post-scandal, by a shell-shocked Fayetteville waitress who’d recognised him on the ActiveDuty site, demanding to know how he could have done such a thing:
‘It was no big deal,’ he replied laconically. ‘And besides, I got paid.’
A perfect response to the military, to offended/confused straights and gays alike. And to explanations in general. Foucault would have approved – even if it does somewhat undermine the need for three volumes of A History of Sexuality.
You can read the uncircumcised, uncensored version of my Details feature here.
Salon vs Details: James Collard of The London Times speaks to Salon.com editor Kerry Lauerman about his decision to spike Simpson’s original piece because it was deemed ‘too risque’ for Salon – two years before the Active Duty scandal became a major international story – and a major feature in Details magazine. [link removed as page no longer active.]