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May01

Dead porn stars society: HIV heroes of the arts: (6)

Thursday, 01 May 2014 Categories // Arts and Entertainment, Movies, Gay Men, Sexual Health, Health, International , Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Sex and Sexuality

Dave R: Underestimated social workers or salacious sexual deviants? Gay porn stars are subject to huge pressures to stay on top of their game. What happens when their looks fade, or worse, they fall foul of HIV?

Dead porn stars society: HIV heroes of the arts:  (6)

You know how it is. You’re eyes are glazed over from watching the box all evening but you’re not quite tired enough to go to bed, so you decide to sit behind the computer a while and do a bit of mindless surfing, checking mails etc. If you’re also in a ‘feeling sorry for yourself’ kind of mood, you check out the gay sites in search of a bit of affirmation or distraction and gradually depress the hell out of yourself as the same old, same old, flashes in front of your eyes.

So it was for me a few nights ago. I was on the point of giving up the ghost and then stumbled across a YouTube video which got me thinking along different lines. It was brutally titled, ‘Dead Gay Porn Stars’ and no, I’m not into necrophilia so there was no question of being turned on by ghosts of the past but it did make me feel very sad.

Real people have a long list of professions they love to hate: officious accountants; dictatorial traffic wardens; grabbing tax men, clichéd, jaded, politicians; any number of talk show hosts; tabloid reporters and bully boy Russians to name a few but that vague and judgmental body called ‘society’ has its own list too. Sex workers, addicts, benefits claimants, take your pick but somewhere at the top of the list of the morally despised…come porn stars.

To my mind, porn stars are vastly underrated members of the social services who have brightened up people’s lives since the first daguerreotypes hit the streets in the 1800’s. They provide a fantasy which can drag people out of the drudgery of their everyday lives and transport them to moments of ecstasy. It’s fleeting (unless you’re addicted) but who knows how many explosions of rage and frustration have been prevented by the quick release supplied by the impossibly horny figures on screen!

Yet porn stars are universally despised by the purveyors of our morals and also largely by their viewers, who almost never attach a life to the dick.

It began of course in sex theatres, ‘bookstores’ and porn shops, where men could step in off the street and indulge themselves in darkened, smoke filled rooms and in front of grainy films with dodgy, tinny soundtracks. Safely away from their wives, their lovers or even their lives, the early porn stars provided the ultimate fantasies to satisfy every whim.

There was always the chance that you would be busted by the cops and your lives and reputations would be shattered but even that added a blood-curdling danger that enhanced the experience.

Everybody knew what went on, even the esteemed city fathers and chiefs of police but there was generally a feeling of laissez-faire – let them do it there rather than anywhere else. Most vice squads saw it as a game. Just as they needed to pull hookers off the streets every now and then, they needed to name and shame the queers and ruin their families, to make up the quotas.

However, nobody took account of the stars on the screen – they were the lowest of the low and the idea that they also had families, partners and lives outside the porn studio, never entered anyone’s head.

Then came the volcanic explosion of the age of computers and along with it the virus that changed the world. Perversely, people began to view porn films as a sort of safe sex release. If you came across the screen, you were not infecting anybody else and if you picked up something in the cinema, you picked it up from the equally guilty – damage control.

With the rise of viewer potential came the rise of the big porn studios. The money was better, the budgets were enhanced and instead of a one camera shot of 45 minutes of boring repetition, (how many times have you yelled, ‘get on with it!’) the customers got outside locations, glorious views of nature and even, now and then, a story line. Porn stars actually became ‘stars’, with their own fan clubs and faithful followers.

Porn was (and still is) big business. Of course, I’m talking about gay porn here; straight porn always had a head start on its gay alternative and female porn stars were always the best paid (and still are).

However, it wasn’t long before the first casualties began to appear and even today in 2014, HIV rearing its head in a porn stable can ruin a company’s reputation. Yet the public will have what the public wants and the rise of bare-back porn is a phenomenon. The problem is that with the sheer number of male stars barebacking, reports of cross infection will become commonplace. The huge difference between then and now is that those guys probably aren’t going to die and thereby hangs the nub of this article. Let’s spare a thought for those guys we drooled over, who were unlucky enough to become HIV+ in the 70s, 80s and 90s, before medication could prevent death.

‘If they live by the sword, they should be prepared to die by the sword!’

That’s the most common reaction you’ll see on forums talking about porn and shockingly, it’s the most common reaction from gay men who have mercilessly used these guys to get off for years. Are you kidding me? Do we say that about our armed forces, who volunteer for their jobs in full awareness of what might happen? No of course we don’t, so why use it for men who also use their art to defend our freedom to express our sexuality the way we want. Now before feathers are ruffled across the land, I’m not comparing the one with the other, that would be ridiculous, but I do feel that there’s an enormous amount of hypocrisy when it comes to judging people who die through sex.

I suppose by definition, a porn star is a cartoon figure, although these days, millions across the world are taking advantage of modern technology to provide their own porn scenarios (check out ‘Amateur’ on any porn video site!), which maybe devalues the art somewhat. However, it does raise the question: if you could, would you?

Hands up if you’ve ever fantasized about acting in a porn film.

That means you, spluttering over your coffee. I hazard a guess that most men would love to do it if they thought they could get away with it and by get away with it, I mean, they think thet're handsome enough, or big enough, or skilled enough, or think they’d never be seen by friends and family! Many of us would love to do it but know that we don’t want the pimples on our bums, or love handles, or whatever physical shortcomings we have, to appear on the silver screen for all and sundry to see. But the idea remains a fantasy of many; or am I wrong? So isn’t it time we gave a little more credit to those who do take the plunge and have a little more sympathy for those who died thanks to their profession?

Just imagine a world where porn stars were seen as social providers and valued for their art. Their lives, loves, families and bank balances would be all over the gossip blogs and they would be treated as we treat any other popular culture stars. My point is, we would see the people behind the masks. They are actors (okay, maybe not Oscar winning material) and we would be interested in what they do every day. It’s the sex thing that changes the ball game but in 2014 it’s about time that we got over ourselves and started seeing porn stars as more than their image.

After all, Anthony Hopkins isn’t really Hannibal Lector is he? He’s respected for the acting skills he brings to the screen. Can’t we start doing that for our porn heroes and heroines?

That brings me back to the title of this article, which refers to porn stars who have died from HIV, suicide, murder and other reasons. Who gives a shit? Very few but maybe we should because there but for the grace of god go we all, even if it is only in our dreams.

There are massive pressures on porn stars, especially as they get older and the market demands younger flesh to feast on. Body issues, rejections from studios and the public, temptations to use chems to maintain condition and performance, depressions, drug binges, the inability to maintain meaningful relationships outside the industry and of course the killer blow of testing positive for HIV, or Hep C.  Add these to peer pressures and the constant need to stay beautiful and desirable; there’s little wonder that suicide takes its toll.

Most porn stars are guys who have literally laid themselves bare for the world to see but when the director calls ‘cut’ they have to fashion a life for themselves in the real world and it takes a strong character to be able to do that and remain psychologically stable.

Those stars who succumbed to HIV and AIDS must have died twice over when they heard their test results. At a stroke, their careers were over; their fans disappeared like snowflakes in the sun and they were often abandoned by their peers for fear of guilt by association. Unless they had solid relationships to fall back on, they were cast adrift amongst a society that had nothing good to say about them.

You can read some of their stories by following the links at the end of this article and I hope you do because their stories will reveal a world most of us don’t even think about whilst watching their skills on screen. It’s a world of young, hopeful guys just trying to make the best of what they’ve got. It all seems dazzlingly attractive at the beginning and they go through the phases of fame and recognition until it becomes repetitious and soulless and their flame begins to fade. In many cases, they had nothing to fall back on and their deaths were surrounded by depression and misery.

It’s very easy to judge from a distance and it’s human nature to do it but there is a fine line between being beautiful and desired, to being rejected and diseased – very few survive to live fulfilling lives after that.

The YouTube video below may bring back a few memories and even stir the loins but these guys started off just like we all do, with hopes and dreams and ambition and who can blame them for following the course they did? We should at least give them recognition for the pleasure they gave us all in our own darker moments.

Read more about some of the porn guys who didn’t make it:

Gay porn star dead in apparent suicide two weeks after his husband’s death

The Story of Joey Stefano 

Gay Porn’s Eric Rhodes Is Dead 

Arpad Miklos Dead 

There are many more.

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