The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

Tag: Active Duty (page 1 of 1)

Marine Breathing Exercises

A heart-warming clip of US Marines entertaining themselves aboard ship with a lucky pink jelly dildo has been doing the rounds on social media.

It appears to depict a deepthroating competition. One won, judging by the ecstatic response of his watching – and videoing – buddies, by a shirtless tached young jarhead, when he swallows the penis-shaped toy, attached by its sucker to a mirror on the mess bulkhead, to the silicone balls.

Here it is on Twitter – 16.9 million views and counting:

The banana curiousness I wrote about a decade ago looks like it has gone way beyond curious – and been shopping online for some proper gear.

Which is a good thing from a Health & Safety perspective. Bananas may be ever-so temptingly phallic, as well as nutritious, cheap, and widely available, but they have a nasty habit of breaking up in your windpipe. A quality sex toy won’t do that – no matter how greedily you throat it.

Although I have no idea about the sexuality of the Marine deepthroat champ in the clip, this is probably yet another manifestation of the shits, giggles, bondings, and possible arousals that bored mostly straight military men get from ‘acting gay’ on and off camera. But gagging here instead of Gaga.

A subject I so very selflessly researched myself some years back. Of many moments to cherish, I shall always remember especially fondly the way the paratroopers earnestly enquired as to which of them sucked my “uncut English cock” best.

Speaking of which, I would like to brag that, based on this clip, US paratroopers have way better technique. Those jarheads are far too excited and breathless over a disappeared seven inch (max) dildo. 

Bless them.

How Marine mores change! ‘Rolf’, a seasoned veteran of the Californian gay porn industry who, in the 1960s and 1970s, facilitated introductions between comely Camp Pendleton jarheads and moneyed male Beverly Hills types (a subject he wrote about for Steve Zeeland’s Military Trade), told me by email:

That deep-throating antic might reveal the current Marine generation’s change in attitude toward the serious business of cock-sucking. I note that Steve Zeeland’s books captured echoes of a far older Marine generation’s scorn – scorn for what was doubly taboo. First, to take the role of fellator in cock-sucking was to reveal oneself either as a faggot or a sailor. By contrast, Marines were supposed to confine themselves to the ‘manly’ act of buggery. 

But in the late-1990s – as you so vividly know – Dink Flamingo showed us that some U.S. paratroopers not only sucked cock but did so on camera, with obvious pride in their skills. And, with his hasty relocation to San Diego in the early 2000s, Dink showed us that a new generation of Marines seemed just as willing as the paratroopers. The old taboo had disappeared.

You’ll certainly have noticed that not a single Marine among the observers is frowning in disgust or disapproval. Instead, all the faces beam a mixture of amazement and absolute joy, like watching a member of one’s own FC score the most unexpected of goals. It’s a revelation.

To which I replied:  

I do remember the quaint Marine taboo on faggoty fellatio – in contrast to the manly business of being buggered. Then there’s also the currency of the insult ‘cocksucker’ in the US – an insult that, like ‘motherfucker’ but more so, has always fascinated me with its positively pornographic detail. We don’t have an equivalent in the UK – except perhaps ‘wanker’, but it’s milder, less descriptive, and anyway describes all men.

What happened, in addition to the decline in sexual taboos in general, was probably porn – which also contributed heavily to the decline in sexual taboos. Straight porn sold cocksucking to straight men.

Perhaps it didn’t need much selling, but as you know, cocksucking is a very important staple of straight porn: essentially the beginning and the end of heterosexual coitus.

Passive Duty: Gay 4 Pay Paratroopers Probed

Mark Simpson bravely gets to the bottom of the US Army’s gay porn scandal

(Uncircumcised, uncensored version of exclusive which appeared in Details, April 2006 )

.

“Is this your first time with a guy?” asks Jason solicitously in his Tennessee burr.

“Erm… no,” I stutter, “not exactly…”.

It’s an odd question for me to be asked by a straight paratrooper who is trying to fluff me. But then, this is a rather odd situation.

I am on a bed wedged between not one but two naked fit cute, and ostensibly straight American soldiers in their early twenties, “Jason” and “Carl” who are being very friendly indeed. On camera. And they’re much more ‘up’ for this than I am.

“I’m sorry about this lads” I say, gesturing to my semi, “I’m a bit nervous”.

“You mean it gets bigger dude?” asks Jason, with a forgiving wink and a smile, proving, to my mind at least, that he most definitely isn’t gay.

Then again, this is my first time. It’s my first time in porn, my first time with two paratroopers, straight or otherwise. And the really odd thing is that these guys who have had little or no exposure to the tired codes of gay porn are making it feel, in their joshing, horsing around, try-anything, decidedly non-jaded way, like my first time with a guy.

How did I get here?

***

Long before the Department of Defense and the global media took an interest earlier this year the ‘art’ films of Dennis Ashe alias ‘Dink Flamingo’ at ActiveDuty.com had become a phenomenon amongst the self-abusing cognoscenti. With ‘stirring’ titles such as ‘Battle Buddies’, ‘Tour of Duty’, ‘Rear March’ and ‘Band of Lovers’, not only do they offer the online voyeur athletic young military guys with military tattoos and military demeanour who actually look the part, but, manfully, they frequently do everything. No ‘tops and bottoms’ sissy role-play for them. The guys in ActiveDuty are videos are impressively versatile, frequently taking on almost any challenge. What’s more, they usually do it with cheeky grins and gosh-darn dude-ness. (Though sometimes it does look more like an endurance test or another assault course than intercourse.)

And, contrary to much of the coverage the story received, they’re not ‘gays in the military’; many if not most of them are straight-identified, some with wives and kids. They’re ‘gay for pay’, even if they look like they’re mostly enjoying a play.

If they’re faking their enthusiasm, they’re doing a much better job than, say, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain: they take it like real troopers; not Hollywood cowboys. There’s a curious blend of innocence and corruption, and genuine excitement to Dink’s deliberately amateurish films. The guys seem to be getting off on the sheer naughtiness of what they’re doing. After all, it’s contrary to both the etiquette of their official sexuality and the Pentagon’s Matronly sex-policing which decrees no sodomy, no adultery, no prostitutes, no porn (so what’s the fucking point of joining the army, dude?). And they get to be that most modern of celebrities, a porn star – rather than just wear the T-shirt.

Somehow I managed to convince myself that this story of straight military men ‘acting gay’ in the form of mansex rather than manicures was something that I, the ‘father’ of the metrosexual and over-keen follower of masculine trends really needed to research. Personally.

So in 2004, with a commission from Salon.com and an introduction from mutual friend and co-author Steve Zeeland (we published a book of salty correspondence called ‘The Queen is Dead‘), I flew to North Carolina to meet Dink, the man behind ActiveDuty and also the director and cameraman who you never see – though you might occasionally glimpse his helping hand – but you always, always hear. Sex-rapping constantly in his tobacco-rich Southern drawl: “I’ll re-spect your boun-dar-ies… would you like some more lube?’ is one of his favourite lines. Usually followed not long after by: “Arch your back, bitch!”.

Picking me up from the airport, the faceless Svengali of military porn turns out to be a short, very stoutly built, affable and charismatic chap in his thirties, with an infectious chuckle-giggle that starts off low but can go mighty high. He’s not exactly what a modern homosexual is supposed to be: “I’m a queen, not a ‘gay man'” he informs me defiantly. But he’s had his revenge. Not only in the form of all the buff military boys he can eat, but also in living the American Dream super-sized. Much of Dink’s childhood was spent in penury but the car he has driven out to meet me in at the airport today is a latest Jaguar convertible – one of several luxury cars in his fleet. He has only been in the military porn business since c.1996, but has been very, very successful, blowing some of his much longer-established competitors out of the water.

Driving back to ‘Camp Flamingo’, the flashing neon signs of churches and strip joints sliding past, Dink tells me how, growing up in a military town and attracted to men, in his late teens and early twenties he began picking up horny military guys – “lots and lots of them!” – in topless dancing bars and adult video arcades. He began filming them for his own pleasure, and theirs – “military guys like to be admired’. Then some friends suggested that there might be a market for these films. “And boy, was there!” But, businessman that he certainly is, Dink isn’t just in this for the money. “This is my job – but, Mark, I LOVE my job! I also love my boys – I feel very mat-ternal towards them. Many of them become good buddies and call me up asking for advice. I cook big Thanksgivings dinners for the guys.” 

We pass a particularly ramshackle strip-joint with a sign promising ‘DINNING & DANCING’. “I guess not a lot of dinning goes on there!” chuckles Dink.

Arriving at his house, a sprawling 1960s suburban pile, he tells me a couple of paratroopers are coming over this evening for a shoot. “It’s meant to be a double jerk-off video,” says Dink, “but I think I can turn it into suck and fuck film”. Truth be told, it’s almost certainly a suck-and-fuck film already, but Dink is very good at selling you the narrative of corruption-seduction.

And if he sounds a little blasé about all this, that’s because he is. He claims there are literally too many volunteers for duty on the sodomy front for him to film, even though he films almost every night. He estimates that in total he has filmed “hundreds” of guys. “About 95% of them are straight. And you know what? The straight guys almost always perform better – I guess because they’re not so worried whether the guy they’re with is their ‘type’ or not,” he cackles, only slightly bitterly.

If you wonder how a straight-identified military male could do gay porn consider this: Dink, who has few competitors in Fayetteville, gay or straight, pays his stars the full market rate for gay porn modelling – several hundred dollars (several times the going rate for male models in straight porn). The average paratrooper at Fort Bragg makes between $1,200 and $1,700 a month. So a couple of hours at Camp Flamingo could earn them the equivalent of nearly a month’s pay from Uncle Sam.

In fact, gay porn is often made by models who are not gay. Ex-USMC and veteran porn star Rod Barry, who considered himself straight for many years but who now just considers himself “just sexual”, told me that most of the guys in the adult video industry are straight-identified and many prefer to bottom – “It’s easier. You don’t have to get an erection on camera. Plus, if you ask me, there’s something wrong with a guy that doesn’t like something up his ass.” And as an exclusive top, I couldn’t agree more.

On the other hand, many of these boys are from conservative rural and religious backgrounds where homosexuality is. at the very least, frowned on. Might not this be, I suggest to Dink, a way for them to express their same-sex interest? Dink acknowledges that most of his models are probably ‘curious’ but insists they would likely never go looking for sex with a guy and that, ironically, being paid to appear as actors in a porn film is for them a way to explore that curiosity without necessarily having to own it. “Sometimes I get guys calling me up saying ‘Dink, I want to make another movie’ and you think that it’s not just because they need the money – it’s because they want the experience again.”

But a paratrooper allowing himself to be filmed have sex – clearly, identifiably, contravening the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which bans appearing in porn – seems like a particularly dangerous way to experiment? Dink is very familiar with the UCMJ, but says he’s determined to protect ‘his boys’ as much as he can – or as much as someone filming them having sex and putting it online can. He points out that he was always careful not to mention the Army, or paratroopers, or Fort Bragg on his site. Nor would he allow illegal drugs in his house. And despite the years he’s been in business and the “hundreds” of military men he’s filmed, there has been (until 2006) very little trouble.

“In 2000 A couple of OSI [Office of Special Investigations] guys did come round once,” he told me. “They tried to push their way into the house. I slammed the door in their faces: ‘What do you want? You know you have no jurisdiction here. I’m a civilian.’ They wanted me to show them the model release form for this guy they wanted to kick out. I told them to get lost. They kept hammering on the door. So I grabbed a cane, opened the door and charged them, shouting ‘GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!’ They ran like the wind.”

Imagining Dink in full-frontal cane-wielding mode, I don’t blame them. The investigation fizzled out, apparently without any courts martials or discharges.

“The boys should be here any minute,’ says Dink. Adding, in a precisely-calculated casual style, “would you like to sit in on this shoot as an observer?”

Oh yes, I would, actually.

How does he solicit his talent? “Well, mostly word of mouth now. But in the good ol’ days I would go up to them wherever I found them, including Wal-Mart, and say, ‘have you ever thought about modelling? You have a wonderful face,’ and hand them my card”.

Would they have to be alone? “Nope. Often I go for the best-looking one in a group. They’re usually the leader and if you get him then the others come along too. Plus, you’re flattering a guy by approaching him in front of his buddies and telling him how good-looking he is.”

“You know what it’s called, honey chile?” he purrs, slipping out of his low, business-like voice into his somewhat higher Mae West-meets-Truman Capote – while cupping his man-breasts. “Hmm? I’ll tell you what it’s called! It’s called LACK!… OF!… SENSE!”

I meekly suggest that to many people it might seems a very, ahem, brave thing to do, approaching a trained killer like that in broad supermarket-light, often in front of his buddies. “It’s not brave,” counters Dink. “You know what it’s called, honey chile?” he purrs, slipping out of his low, business-like voice into his somewhat higher Mae West-meets-Truman Capote – while cupping his man-breasts. “Hmm? I’ll tell you what it’s called! It’s called LACK!… OF!… SENSE!”

Speaking of which, what about this interview? “Well, I’m sure it will be fine Mark, so long as you don’t mention the town or which base the guys are from or that they are paratroopers. Nobody wants to claim a problem like me unless they’re forced to, you know what I mean?”

‘Jason’ and ‘Carl’, our stars for the night, arrive. Easygoing Southern country boys, in their early twenties, both sport lean, rangy bodies in standard-issue jeans, t-shirts and ball caps – these buddies could be shooting the shit in a pool room or over a pick-up truck. They’re ordinary young American military guys – except that both have both done a porno for Dink before. Last week Jason did a ‘solo’ flick, in which he jerked off to orgasm – while pushing an impressively large dildo up his butt. Apparently this was a few days after his wife had given birth. Perhaps it was his way of sharing the experience – or perhaps it was just a way of helping to pay for it.

Jason is dark and hairy, butch, rambunctious and loud. Carl is quieter, smoother and slightly buck-toothed, a not entirely unattractive flaw. Jason banters with Carl, teasing him, “Your asshole is gonna get torn up bad tonight, dude!” Carl laughs, flicks some ash off his Marlboro, and replies, poker-faced “Nope. I don’t think so. It’s yours that is gonna get reamed!” Then he adds, laughing, “Man, I’m not leaving this house gay tonight!” 

Dink makes sure the models are well supplied with Budweiser and viagra, then swiftly sets up lights and a camera, encouraging them to banter more, knowing how much his large and loyal audience appreciates this almost as much as the action. (If their straight boy banter is an act, it’s an extremely convincing one to this cynical homo.)

After his verbal fluffing, Dink tells the models, who are now lazily propped up against the headboard, to start playing with each other, which they do, giggling a little, glancing repeatedly at the straight DVD porn discreetly playing off-camera on a TV by the bed. Then he orders them to ‘start sucking’. Jason warns buck-toothed Carl: “Dude – no teeth, OK?” Then Dink, who perhaps has not entirely abandoned the idea of Carl relinquishing his bubble-butt cherry that evening, directs Jason to ‘rim’ Carl. Jason in his boisterous way decides to improve on this: he stands on the bed, makes Carl do a handstand, then grabs his legs from behind and unflinchingly, heroically follows orders.

***

The word “freedom” appears frequently in street signs in Fayetteville: ‘Freedom Furniture and Electronics’ and ‘Freedom Paintball’ are just two such I noticed during my return to the city two years later last March shortly after the scandal broke: ‘Seven U.S. soldiers from an elite Airborne division have been charged with “knowingly engaging in sex for money on a public Web site”,’ reported CNN. The men were from Fort Bragg and the website was ActiveDuty.com.

But then, much of Fayetteville is not so much a town as a benign growth on Fort Bragg, one of the largest military bases in the world. Clearly it’s a patriotic town that wants to show support to its Boys, as well as relieve them of their bucks. But there is a slightly camouflaged irony here. After all, Fayetteville is a military town and the US military, though it may see its mission as defending freedom will prosecute its indentured servants for Puritanical crimes that are largely a thing of the past in the country it serves: such as “adultery”, “sodomy” – or being taped while having sex. (Do any civilian Americans have sex nowadays without being taped?)

Those are the charges officially handed down in February to seven young soldiers after an Army investigation established that they had appeared in gay porn. These weren’t just any soldiers however, but elite paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne, “America’s Honor Guard”, one of the most heralded units in the military. Four soldiers were given the maximum “non-judicial punishments”: demoted to Private, confined to base for 45 days, given 45 days of extra duty and forced to forfeit half their salaries for two months. They also face discharge. Three others have been named and “shamed” and charged with “pandering”, “sodomy” and “wrongfully engaging in sexual acts with another person while being filmed with the intent of broadcasting the images over the Internet for money.” One has also been charged with “adultery”.

Altogether, the charges for doing gay porn in the US military add up to a potential if unlikely 16 years incarceration [in the event all three plea-bargained and were sentenced to three months]. Followed by dishonourable discharge. Compare the treatment of these young enlisted men, some of whom were veterans of Bush’s (illegal and immoral to many) ‘adventure’ in Iraq, for what they did with their own bodies in their own time out of uniform with, say, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jnr, the man who killed an Iraqi general during interrogation/torture in uniform – no jail-time, no discharge, no demotion, just a $6000 fine.

‘Free’ Fayetteville is not what you’d call conventionally pretty. It’s too… butch for that. Just one road of several leading to the giant base has 35 barber’s shops along it. Bars, strip joints, and ‘military pawn shops’ abound, testament to the day-by-day, night-by-night lives of many military men and their families – and why some extra cash is always tempting. Why not pawn your body? After all, isn’t that what you do when you sign up?

And what bodies! Fayetteville’s soldiers can be painfully, winsomely, devastatingly beautiful. Driving their pick-up trucks and cruising the strip malls in tank-tops and shorts, these young, usually country boys, whose smooth, muscular, tattooed bodies are the instruments of Bush’s foreign policy – and frequently have to pay a very personal, very physical price for it – display a not-so innocent all-American beauty that would steam even Bruce Weber’s lens. Writer and military male admirer Steve Zeeland, a Walt Whitman for our times, describes them perfectly in this passage about young Marines appearing in gay videoporn in the early Nineties at the centre of another scandal:

‘They display a touching abashment, a cocksure bravado, unexpected grace, a blond-trash coarseness, and the desperate horniness of rutting beasts.’ ‘Sometimes,’ he adds, ‘all in the same sequence.’

Military guys and gay porn have a long history. There have been several “gay porn scandals” involving the US military before [see sidebar]. Previous scandals, which were only the tip of the military gay porn iceberg, have generally resulted in non-judicial punishments and a few token, quiet, rushed dismissals that generated minimum publicity. Fully-fledged courts-martials are unusual, not to say reckless, for this kind of offence.

This, however, is the first scandal in wartime – unpopular wartime, when recruitment levels are falling ever shorter. No doubt in the eyes of the Pentagon this scandal makes a poor recruiting ad. Arguably though, it is the unnecessarily harsh scapegoating of these young guys, men who have already risked life and limb for their country, for some consensual, cash-lubricated x-rated horseplay that is the really poor recruiting ad.

Perhaps that other US Army ‘gay porn’ scandal, Abu Ghraib, has something to do with it. After all, these are not images of simulated acts of sodomy but real ones; they’re not coerced but (mostly) enthusiastic; they’re not performed by Iraqi detainees but US soldiers. Meanwhile, at Guantanamo, gay porn has reportedly been used as a torture technique by US military interrogators. As has been pointed out elsewhere, it is not entirely impossible that detainees might have been inadvertently tortured by gay porn featuring US paratroopers. Just one of the surreal paradoxes of the military world which makes you wonder whether gay S/M leather clubs are derivative parodies of masculinity or in fact the original template.

At least the crackdown had not been prompted by my work. After returning home to the UK and delivering my copy my editor at Salon insisted, amongst other things, that Dink ‘prove’ that his guys were ‘really military’. Dink, funnily enough, wasn’t keen on faxing his guys’ military IDs to a New York online magazine and the piece was spiked. According to a source, the real problem was that my editor, who was gay himself but a little uptight, appeared to have been scandalised by the explicitness of my piece and the way I personally, as you will see, ‘crossed the line’. (It was to be the last piece Salon commissioned from me.)

So I filed the article away in a drawer and forget about it. Then two years later, with all those headlines about US PARATROOPERS IN GAY PORN SCANDAL the story had, in a sense, come after me. So did that editor at Salon – who had the impressive gall to email me out of the blue asking if I would agree to “talk to a reporter we’ve assigned to the story.” I demurred and explained that now that the Department of Defense had proved to Salon’s satisfaction that Dink’s models were military after all, I’d be taking my story elsewhere. Somewhere that actually had some money. So with a commission from Conde Nast-owned Details magazine, I returned to Fayetteville to gauge the reaction from soldiers and citizens there to the scandal.

Predictably, it’s hard for some people to understand. “All this gay stuff is something that someone from my generation just doesn’t get,” explains a retired, middle-aged ex-army NCO running a sports supplement shop in town. “To me it’s another sign that this younger generation just aren’t as disciplined. Back in my day we would never have done something that disgraced our uniform like that.”

But most other people in Fayetteville I spoke to were not terribly concerned – or surprised. Many mentioned reports by returning vets of homosexuality among frustrated male soldiers serving in Iraq, where there are almost no women and strict rules against alcohol and pornographic materials. Military divorce rates have skyrocketed with long-term overseas deployments. Perhaps this is the real ‘Brokeback’ story: lonely bored young American soldiers, not cowboys, sharing tents in the middle of nowhere, wondering if they’re going to die tomorrow or merely lose all their limbs, and whether anyone will care.

Two friendly early-twenties military best buddies from Oregon, drinking in a Country and Western Bar, killing time before their third tour of duty in Iraq, told me that they had both been divorced by their wives during their last tour. “Neither of us wanted to go back to living on base so we rented a house together”. It sounds like the perfect marriage, I tease. They look at one another and laugh, but don’t disagree – or smack me on the chin. Times are changing.

Unsurprisingly, none of the military guys I spoke to would talk on the record about Fort Bragg’s gay porn scandal. One did volunteer it made him “want to barf”, but most seemed largely uninterested and much more concerned with pay, with the war, and most of all with a sense of not being valued enough by either the military or the public. Of course, being paid money to take your clothes off and be filmed having sex is one way to feel valued – and more than one soldier told me that they might have considered it themselves: “for the right price.”

“A friend of mine, a waitress, recognised one of the guys on the website,” recalls April. “He was, like, sucking two cocks. She asked him ‘How could you do that?!’ ‘It was no big deal,’ he replied, matter of factly. ‘And besides, I got paid.'”

For his part, a young gay chap living near Fort Bragg told me: “Most of my buddies are military and they don’t give a shit about me being gay or this so-called scandal. But then,” he added, laughing, “I’m blowing half of them.”

“Fayetteville is not such a strait-laced town as you might think,” explains April, a friendly twenty-something manager of an adult bookstore and video arcade near the gates of Fort Bragg – one of Dink’s old stalking grounds, which, perhaps uniquely in the whole of Fayetteville, features a display of ActiveDuty titles. Under glass. Retailing at $60 a pop.

“For a start, people here are from all over. I’m from New England, but dated a military guy and ended up here. Yeah, the military has old-fashioned regulations, but the boys – well, at lot of them are wild. They’re always getting into trouble: drugs, prostitutes, DUI, rights, you name it. So when you’re living in a military town you have to take a pragmatic view of things. Boys will be boys.”

And do boys? “Yeah, that too! A soldier was telling me how in Iraq they’re living around one another 24-7, they shower together, sleep together for months on end. He told me that you start thinking about stuff after a while.”

Homosociality is sometimes only a dropped-bar of Dial soap away from homosexuality. Witness the convincingly simulated gay gang-bang ‘field fuck’ scene in the movie Jarhead – very ActiveDuty. I put it to April that maybe gay porn isn’t such a big deal to some soldiers because soldiers aren’t so squeamish, so… pussy about dick as civilians. After all, their bodies are already weaponized. “Well yeah,” she says, “they jump out of planes, for god sakes!”. 

If masculinity – and joining the military – can be a form of showing off, so I guess is doing gay porn videos.

“I majored in Human Sexuality” says April, “but I’ve learnt a lot more in this place – including that a lot of straight guys have an interest in guy-on-guy stuff. Yeah, they’re usually terrified of admitting it – whereas women together, well, that’s just fine. But I think that’s changing – I think the ‘metrosexual’ stuff is the beginning of that.”

Ah yes, that word again. April is probably right though – even young soldiers, even men whose bodies are ‘weaponised’, have also been immersed in media images of male desirability since birth and, judging by the gym-honed muscles, designer tattoos and fashionable casual wear I’ve seen pimping around Fayetteville, desire to be desired as much as the next metro-guy. As Dink used to whisper in their ear: Have you ever considered modeling?

“A friend of mine, a waitress, recognised one of the guys on the website,” recalls April. “He was, like, sucking two cocks. She asked him ‘How could you do that?!’ ‘It was no big deal,’ he replied, matter of factly. ‘And besides, I got paid.'”

At the centre of this globally-reported scandal, and yet still somehow remaining off-stage ‘somewhere in North Carolina’ and not wishing to aggravate the situation further, is the man I met two years before, Dink Flamingo. The director-cameraman who took the young military men he found in video arcades like April’s and turned them into porn stars, showcasing them in the big video arcade in the sky known as the internet, wouldn’t talk to me on the record on my return trip. Although he did assure me that neither of the models I met were involved in the scandal and were already out of the Army by the time it hit. 

TV reporters had been leaning on his doorbell for weeks but he had refused to speak to any member of the press. He obviously didn’t want to draw any more attention to himself in such a small town, but he also seemed to have a genuine desire not to make things worse for ‘his boys’ facing courts-martial and jail-time.

Two years ago though he wouldn’t shut up. Dink is a very talkative, very persuasive man. But, like the military, Dink knows that where guys are concerned the most persuasive thing of all isn’t chatter, or money or flattery but camaraderie. As I experienced first hand during the porn shoot I was supposed to be just ’sitting in’ on….

***

As I sat on the sofa, watching Jason and Carl perform while I hid behind my notebook, Dink started suggesting, first in jokey fashion, then more seriously, that I join in. “Just for ten minutes or so. It would be great for your story…”.

I tried laughing it off: “Oh I couldn’t, I’m English after all.” But soon the guys started egging me on too.

“C’mon man,” implored Jason, like he was inviting you to arm-wrestle or a drinking competition, “Show us your uncut English cock!”

And almost before you could say, “God save the Queen” I was stripping down to my foreskin.

Now, some cynics might suggest that I did this because I was somehow unprofessionally aroused by the prospect of joining two fit naked young paratroopers in bed. But, alas, on this occasion they’d be wrong. I wasn’t horny, I was terrified. That’s the nature of a dare, however. To not join in would have felt… unmanly. (Though I had a strong suspicion that the guys had been coached beforehand in just how to entrap me).

Besides, Dink was right: it would make for a better, more ‘interactive’ story than simply observing from behind the lines. (Even if it turned out to be too good a story for Salon.)

“This is very brave of you, Mark,” Dink had purred at me as I climbed onto the bed.

“It’s not bravery,” I retorted. “You know what it’s called? It’s called LACK!…OF!…SENSE!”

So the three of us went through most of the gay porn ‘foreplay’ repertoire in almost every queer Rubik’s Cube possibility. But it felt more like horseplay than gay sex. Actually, if felt too friendly to be gay sex. (Even Jason’s deep-throated implorations to, “Yeah, fuck my bitch-ass good!!” seemed to emanate from a different place than, say, Falcon videopacs.) 

Though I was still terrified. I had at one point to go to the bathroom to try and furiously fluff myself. When it came to the money shots we all took forever to hit the jackpot, individually – and had to close our eyes and go to our own happy place, Carl covering his face with his hat. Ultimately, even in sex movies, sex is a very private thing. They always edit that part out of porn – not least because it would otherwise make them twice as long, and much too realistic. Even the ‘reality’ type of porn that Dink specialises in is of course not real. It’s showjiz.

After I’d bonded with my co-stars – and towelled off – Jason asked me earnestly: “So tell me man, who was the best at sucking dick, Carl or me?”

“Well, er, I don’t want to hurt any feelings…” I mumbled. “But that would be you, Jason.”

Jason turned to Carl, punched him in the shoulder and crowed, “I told you, dude! I told you I suck dick better than you!”

Carl didn’t seem to be arguing the point.

***

There’s Something About a Man in Uniform: a brief history of military porn scandals, by Rolf Hardesty

1977 — The Brentwood Scandal: The enterprising little Brentwood Studio, famous for its stable of the most gorgeous of models in that era’s porn (most of whom were active-duty Marines), ceased operation soon after the FBI came to call. The owner joined the San Francisco-based “Falcon Studios”. (The early numbers in Falcon’s DVD catalog feature much of the old Brentwood material.)

1985The Kly-Max Studio Scandal: The owner of this tiny studio filmed the self-pleasuring of active-duty Marines, in his Oceanside apartment. Like Travis, he panicked when the FBI came calling, folded his studio, and moved out of state.

1994The Bobby of Oceanside Scandal, and The Seabag Scandal: Feisty Filipino Bobby employed a sharp attorney when he began filming active-duty Marines (c.1990) who assured him the Corps had no jurisdiction over him and that the FBI couldn’t charge him with anything if he wasn’t “transporting persons across a state line for immoral purposes”. So Bobby — who appeared in virtually all his videos, interacting with solitary Marines as insertee – simply refused to run and hide, after Oceanside’s weekly newspaper exposed his operation. He’s even rumoured to be still in business. Around the same time, a local TV station in San Diego started a campaign against the “Seabag” military-themed gay porn studio operated by Rick Ford. But, like Bobby, Ford refused to close down.

2000 — The Twentynine Palms/MarineMeat.com Scandal: Amateur wanking videos, shot in a high-desert motel room by Dan Devlin.  After some dozen or more sessions, the Corps came calling — whereupon, Dan decamped – literally in the middle of the night. Not for fear of the Corps but it seems for fear of a vengeful assault by the young men whose military careers he’d ruined.

2006 —  The Fort Bragg Scandal: At last, a branch of the Army has achieved its own notoriety, thus breaking the monopoly of the Navy and Marine Corps. ActiveDuty proprietor Dink Flamingo, a former lawyer, remains in business, though relocated.

‘INSIDE THE SORDID PORN SCANDAL THAT’S ROCKING THE ARMY’

That was the salacious front-page block-capitals headline the (now defunct) heavily-fragranced men’s magazine Details gave my exclusive ‘undercover’ story for them in May 2006.

I was reporting on the globally-covered scandal involving US soldiers from the elite 81st Airborne being courts-martialed for appearing in gay porn – from inside, so to speak, a US Army paratrooper at Fort Bragg.

The story is not available online, but now lucky Mark Simpson Patrons can now read the UNCENSORED – and uncircumcised – version of my SCANDALOUS and SORDID and decidedly un-fragranced adventures with NAKED PARATROOPERS at Fort Bragg here.

Just one of the many exciting exclusive benefits of being a Mark Simpson Patron – for as little as $1 a month.

My Details editor insisted on taking out ‘the gory bits’ to save his readers’ sensibilities – so you’ll be glad to know I’ve put them back in, and out, and in again. The piece has also got bigger – and now runs to 5000 words of sordidness.

A long, but hopefully not too hard a read.

Why Straight Soldiers Can’t Stop Acting Gay on Video

Way back in the last century, before the Interweb swallowed everything, my friend and accomplice in literary crime Steve Zeeland and I were visiting, as you do, Camp Pendleton, the giant US Marine Corps base in Southern California with some jarhead friends.

We spent the afternoon watching the Marine Rodeo – scores of grinning fit Texan boys in tight Wranglers and high-and-tights bouncing up and down on broncos and slapping each other’s butts. Perhaps you’ll understand why, after having seen this, the Details fashion shoot that was Brokeback Mountain left me cold.

We then headed to the enlisted men’s club for a much-needed and, I’d like to think, well-earned drink. While we were there, some Marines came in from a week’s exercise in the field, still in their combats, camouflage paint still on their young sunburned faces. They were in high spirits, enjoying their first beer of the week, and when the DJ played the opening fanfare of The Village People’s ‘YMCA’, like Pavlov’s dogs they instantly and instinctively understood what was required of them.

They flocked onto the dance-floor, scrambling to outdo one another in their 1970s disco dance moves, and joyously spelling out the letters of the camp classic extolling the pleasures of getting clean and hanging out with all the bo-oys. ‘Hey buddy,’ one jarhead shouted to me, slapping me on the shoulder and grinning in my face, ‘you having a good time?’

Oh yes.

At this point Steve produced his mid 1990s, large, cumbersome and very, very obvious camcorder and started filming the jarhead hi-jinks. ‘Steve,’ I hissed in his ear, palms moistening. ‘Don’t you think this might, er, get us into trouble?

Copyright Steve Zeeland 1995
Marines at Camp Pendleton, spelling out their love of ‘YMCA’

We escaped unscathed – though we did hear reports a year or two later that the Commandant of Camp Pendleton had ordered, like an angry Old Testament God, that enlisted men’s club be razed to the ground because it was ‘a cesspit of sodomy’.

I needn’t have worried about Steve’s camcording. But the Commandant did have reason to worry – and his Biblical efforts proved in vain. In just a few years time, military boys would be enthusiastically filming themselves acting way ‘gayer’ than dancing to YMCA – and posting it on YouTube for the entire world to see.

You’ve probably already seen the video tribute to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ made by US soldiers in Afghanistan, which has gone virulently viral.  It’s part of a well-established craze by dusty, bored and stressed military boys letting off steam, taking time out from buttoned-down masculine norms and channelling a little glamour instead. Having a scream, in other words. But the fact they are videoing it and putting on YouTube suggests that, like most young people in a mediated world, they want to draw attention to themselves.

Way back in the Twentieth Century again I wrote, only slightly tongue in cheek: ‘The problem with straight men is they’re repressed. The problem with gay men is they’re not.’ In the metrosexual 21st Century I think it’s pretty clear that even straight soldiers aren’t that repressed any more. While of course gays are getting married and becoming Tory MPs.

I don’t know about you, but the scene where the soldiers are standing around admiring one another’s home-made House of Gaga outfits will stay with me forever. There’s something about Lady Gaga that seems to make funny, flaming flamboyance – Gagacity – irresistible to men, women, children, civilians and soldiers and small animals. Gay or straight.

Quite rightly, hardly anyone has suggested that these soldiers being hyper and hilariously camp are ‘really gay’. Some might be, of course. But their appearance in a video of this kind doesn’t prove any such thing. Even the gay-banning US Army put out a statement approving the video, or at least trying to exploit its popularity.

Compare this with what happened a few years back when it emerged that some US paratroopers had been ‘acting gay’ on video for private consumption rather than YouTube. Gay porn videos made by a company called ActiveDuty. A global scandal erupted and several young soldiers were arrested, courts martialed, fined and dishonourably discharged. A lot of people – particularly gays – seemed convinced that the soldiers ‘must’ all be gay because they appeared in such videos.

When in fact many did it like the soldiers in the ‘Telephone’ video – for giggles, for fun, for a dare. And, in this case, also for the not inconsiderable sums money they were paid.

Like the discharged soldier said to the shell-shocked waitress who recognised him from the ActiveDuty website and demanded to know how he could have done such a thing: “It was no big deal. And besides, I got paid.”

If you think my comparison far-fetched, consider that the soldiers courts martialed for ‘acting gay’ on video (Certificate 18) were paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne based in Fort Bragg. The same elite unit that the chaps ‘acting gay’ in the ‘Telephone’ video (PG) are from.

The latest YouTube video of soldiers ‘acting gay’ called ‘The Army Goes Gay’ (below) has been curiously claimed by some gay blogs as an example of straight soldiers ‘ridiculing’ Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  There isn’t much if any evidence for this reading however – and in fact it could be more easily read as an endorsement of the ‘Gay Bomb’ fears of the Pentagon.

Almost certainly, it doesn’t have any  message at all.

It’s just soldiers being silly and naughty. And ‘gay’.

Homoerotic Horseplay – Not Gay Just Guy

A column of mine on Out.com, ‘Men At Play in Afgrabistan’, gallantly defends the freedom of the derided (and now dismissed) security guards at the US embassy to get naked with one another and eat potato chips from each other’s butts in their spare time – even if they’re out of shape.

I also point out how everyday and ‘normal’ homoerotics is for many if not most men – but we don’t want to see it, and when we can’t ignore it because it’s thrust in our face by digital cameras and the Interweb we pathologize or criminalize it:

…the furor is another reminder that we live in a culture where female bi-curiousness is routinely regarded as natural and almost universal while male bi-curiousness is seen as non-existent – or else it is just “sexually confused” (i.e. they’re really gay, but laughably repressed), or it is “deviant hazing” conducted by “sexual predators” that needs to be eradicated.

In reality, to anyone who opens their eyes on a Saturday night on either side of the Atlantic, there’s scads of evidence that plenty of “normal” young men who aren’t particularly “sexually confused” – especially the most, er, physical types – have a healthy appetite for highly homoerotic behavior after a keg or two. It’s what beer seems to have been invented for. In the Middle Ages they thought the cause of sodomy was drunkenness – they weren’t wrong. By contrast, I’ve rarely seen such homoerotic horseplay amongst straight women. Though admittedly I perhaps wasn’t looking as closely.

Some people have a more violently negative response to the everyday evidence of male homoerotics, literally trying to stamp it out.  In the UK a straight female Canadian martial arts expert attacked and knocked out a couple of drunken British soldiers at a disco for kissing and ‘pretending to be gay’, screaming “THIS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE BRITISH ARMY!!”.

Living in a garrison town I’ve seen plenty of similarly steamy behaviour from drunken squaddies in pubs and on dance-floors, snogging and humping and groping one another, so I can understand her frustration – I’ve wanted to get physical too, but not in quite the same way she did.

Sometimes the response is more genteel, but just as vehement. A couple of years ago during the last Rugby World Cup I was invited on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio Four to talk about homoerotics and rugby after I wrote a piece for The Times about rugby and sporno. I thought it a bit odd that Woman’s Hour wanted to cover this subject, but the producer enthused: “The presenter Jane is really keen to talk about it”.  It turned out that neither the presenter, a former R5 female sports journalist, or her other guest, another R5 female sports journalist, wanted to talk about it at all.

Both of them refused point blank to countenance the possibility that a game that involves men with large thighs wrestling in the mud over odd-shaped balls, or taking communal baths, or kinky nude drinking games that would shock the guards at the American Embassy in Afghanistan, could be in any way homoerotic. Only a homo would say such a thing.

“Of course you would say that Mark,” she said at one point, “because you’re gay”.

I paused. Several things occurred to me to say to that. I could have replied that droves of gay men were probably rushing at that very moment to dissociate themselves from what I was saying (they usually do). Or “Well, of course you would say that Jane, as an uptight middle class woman.”

Instead I replied, “It seems that some people have a problem with the word ‘homoerotic’.  They think that it means something ‘for gays’.  Perhaps some people would be happier with the word ‘male bonding’…”‘

“Yes!’ they chorused, “it’s male bonding!”

“But,” I continued, “it’s male bonding with an erotic component so we’re back where we came in.”

They didn’t like that.

Just a few weeks earlier this doc had gone out on national UK TV, in which a team of northern rugby players were shown getting drunk and naked with one another, snogging, licking each other’s nipples – and playing with their captain’s ‘donkey dick’. Of course, I couldn’t even mention it, because on radio – especially Radio Four – you’re not allowed to acknowledge that TV exists.

Again, being radio, and posh radio at that, just before we went on air a nice voice whispered in my headphone: “Remember Mark, this is a family show so please try not to be too rude!” This did hamper my case somewhat, as rugby homoerotics are meant to be rude. Though it didn’t stop me from leaving something unsavoury hanging in the air: “The soggy biscuit game, for example, isn’t entirely a myth….”

“…I think we’d better move on,” said Jane rather quickly.

Apparently the BBC switchboard was jammed with retired lady callers demanding to know what the soggy biscuit game was.

(This feature of mine from a couple of years back, Assume the Position, offers a more in-depth investigation of the culture’s crackdown on hazing and male horseplay in general.)