It’s been an eventful couple days for Jesse and me. Jesse’s big event was in NYC this past Saturday night, reading from his contributions to Jiz Lee‘s anthology Coming Out Like a Porn Star alongside such icons of porn Stoya and Lorelei Lee at a packed-to-capacity crowd at Bluestockings Books. This was Jesse’s first time standing solo at a microphone; he’s much more accustomed to having company on stage when he appears in front of a crowd, and he was nervous. But being my charming goofball hubby, even when he had a spectacularly funny Freudian slip of tongue moment, he had the audience laughing right along. Video of Jesse’s segment of the reading can be found HERE.
Jesse, Stoya, me, and Jiz Lee after the reading.
Right before we went to NYC, though, we were in Baltimore, where I was part of a performance of a relatively new piece of music. I don’t post often enough, I know, but I wanted to take a few minutes to share some photos and some responses to Friday night too.
Starting the work.
There were three poetic texts…
…which illuminated the meaning of the music.
The music, a multi-movement piano work titled Tame Your Man was written by Denver-based composer Nathan Hall, and presented by the ensemble Tenth Intervention as part of the New Music Gathering festival held this year at my own Alma Mater, Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD. In the course of the work, the pianist is progressively bound to the piano, slowly increasing the limitations on the range of his movements and possibly his expressiveness. Quoting from the printed program notes,
The pianist willingly gives up his power and mobility to the bondage artist. The bondage artist must in turn trust the pianist to communicate limits. Though the work touches on the eroticism of power and submission, these communications of power and trust can be complex, but also quite beautiful.
When Adam Tendler, the pianist, first approached me about performing this work with him, I didn’t need to know ahead of time that the music was as beautiful as it is. The very theme of intimacy between two performers in an ostensibly dominant and submissive role is a potent one with me. I’ve written before about the parallels I perceive between making music with other people and making love to them, and to my astonishment, here was a work which took that dichotomy to the next level. Of course I jumped at the chance!
About to bind Adam’s chest.
Putting the rope harness on Adam.
It’s not easy knotting rope without jostling the pianist!
It doesn’t hurt that Adam’s a good friend, a stupendous pianist, and a handsome man. Again, I’ve written before about how much easier a porn scene is to shoot when the chemistry between two scene partners happens organically, and doesn’t need to be coerced or simulated. Most of you would agree that this applies to love and desire as well. The same is utterly true of making music, and in this instance, where the connection between the two performers is as physical as it is musical, having that trust and connection can only make this musical message (or any musical message) more palpable to the listener.
The work has been performed before, and in that instance there was a difference in opinion between the pianist and the bondage artist as to what the meaning of the piece was. As I understand, that bondage artist thought the work was about the pianist ceding his voice and will, a highly literalistic and one-sided viewpoint. Adam and I agreed more that the message is that the music becomes simpler the more bound he is, but that it continues. For a few movements his wrists are bound together, and the music becomes very densely “localized”; for one movement his right hand is bound behind his back, and he must play the duration with his left hand alone. At one point his music is removed, and he must perform from memory; then he’s blindfolded, and must find his notes on the keyboard by feel. The last movement in fact has the pianist with his hands tied at the furthest extreme, at the piano endblocks; he can only play notes at the extreme ends of the keyboard with his fingers. The performance directions at this point ask the bondage artist to assist the pianist to play clusters of notes in the middle of the keyboard with his chest, pressing against his back. While the other performer saw that as his voice finally coming through, Adam and I understood this as the final joining of our voices, him trusting me to play through him, and me understanding that despite the restrictions placed on him, he is still able to play. The music in this segment becomes rarified, simple, trancelike; there’s a luminous peace to it. After the frenzy of many of the earlier movements, there’s a calm, an ease to it. We didn’t hear a squelching of anything in these sounds; much more, it felt like the final release. Indeed, in Adam’s notes, I was pleased to see him call this “aftercare”, which for anyone with any versing in BDSM, will mean volumes.
There were three poetic texts…
Preparing the ropes for his wrists
And Adam is blindfolded, and has to find his keys by feel.
Starting to pull Adam’s hands to the outer ends of the keyboard
We must have done something right, as we’ve had some splendid responses from friends and strangers alike, a few of which I’d like to share:
Good morning Jesse and Dirk, the show was… strangely I have no words to express what feelings it brought out from me. It was very sensual and to see Dirk in touch with Adam and the trust between them the whole time was… again no words. In regards to Adam Tendler, he is an amazing pianist, he has so much emotion when he plays.
From one of Jesse Jackman’s fans:
The way he loses himself in the music. It’s like he’s ready to fly away and Dirk’s restrains are the only thing keeping him grounded. Beautiful. He’s soaring…
Pulling Adam further into and across the keyboard.
Taking a deeper tone, here’s a response from one of the attendees and a fellow composer, whom I’d the pleasure to get to talk to at length after the performance:
[The] 20-minute piece Tame Your Man was one of the most moving and important performances I’ve seen in years, not to mention gorgeously resonant with NMG [New Music Gathering] ideals. Perfect concept perfectly realized, with a depth of maturity, expressiveness, and beauty I’ve never seen in any other piece of concert music directly engaging sex/kink topics.
The performance is radical on a few levels. The surface level is deceptively easy to describe (a ritual fusion of music performance, rope bondage scene, and minimal poetic narration), but the meanings and experience for the audience run deep. One key example: the focus throughout on both the top’s and the bottom’s creative agency/voices and perspectives – a stunningly elegant and non-didactic articulation of how the scene depends on intense mutual focus and co-creation, *shared* creative power and agency (as opposed to virtually every other depiction of bondage in either pop culture or high art contexts).
And the resonance of that new lens with the broader NMG ideas of radically reclaiming the power of cooperation with our colleagues / resisting false, externally imposed notions of competition and hierarchy.
This performance was so beautiful and so joy-infusing I couldn’t focus on anything else after it. (And that’s a lesson I’m still learning: at a transformative moment, you really can just let go of adding other stuff that won’t fit meaningfully into that moment – even stuff that would be incredible under other circumstances. ‘Fear of missing out’ has to concede to ‘joy of sustaining and building on the moment.’)
I struggled to find the words to express my appreciation for your art, and I’m still processing… but I wanted to let you know I was profoundly moved by your elegant performance last night with Adam Tendler. Even watching through the lens of live stream, I could feel the pull of the ropes and the subtle brush of your hand against Adam’s back and smell the rich, creaking leather as you moved gracefully around the stage.
For me, one of the most stunning elements of the piece was the perpetual motion of the bound performer. We’re used to seeing the submissive held down, unable to move, while the dominant is responsible for the forward motion of the scene. Here, with Adam producing the music while you puppeteered from behind (…below, above…), the submissive was fully engaged in the artistic creation. Your depth of understanding and respect for Adam’s needs were met equally by his deep trust in your skill, and the resulting performance evidenced the tremendous power in such a talented pairing.
The end brought tears to my eyes. When you mounted the bench behind Adam, your clothing melded with the leather upholstery of the bench and became a part of the instrument; when you bent over Adam, you two became one musician, and then both of you dissolved into the piano itself, taking the poetry and music with you, leaving a single, unified element to represent the whole work.
Just wanted to thank you both for a brilliant choreography of music, eroticism, and poetry I will not soon forget. Coincidentally, I was writing the end note to a m/m BDSM story, where trust and respect are highlighted as the driving forces in the relationship. Nothing like a master in leather to inspire!
In the end, Adam can only play the outermost keys with his hands; all else he plays with his chest.
I’ve been trying to find a good way to express these parallels — between sex, BDSM, and music — in words myself, in some way that perhaps a reader who has never played a musical instrument in an ensemble or has never dipped their toe into BDSM however lightly might comprehend. I can’t begin to say how lucky I feel to be part of the performance of a work of music that conveys exactly these sentiments. Thank you, Adam, Tenth Intervention, and New Music Gathering for inviting me to be part of this. And watch this spot and my Facebook page, as there’s talk of further performances in other cities for us. If so, I can’t wait!
So let me paraphrase a dialogue I’m still finding myself having with critics online:
THEM: Oh my god, you’re using Go Fund Me to beg for money from your fans to buy a PIANO!? You lazy sycophantic leech, go get a job like the rest of us and earn the money for your plaything!
ME: Okay, so a job. As in, trading my time and skills for payment?
ME: Okay, for some people that means showing up at a shop or an office. For some of us artists and performing sorts, that means appearing onstage somewhere, and if you’re interested in hearing me, you buy tickets. If you’re not interested, you don’t. That seems fair, right?
ME: I mean, it’s not just musicians who do this. Take comedians, for example: they go onstage and ply their craft, and if they’re at all good, they expect to be paid, right?
THEM: Of course.
ME: Okay. And let’s say there’s some physical manifest of my skills. Sticking with the example of comedians, a successful humorist might write a book, no? And if the book is funny, it would be reasonable to expect the humorist to be able to sell it, right?
THEM: You got it.
ME: Okay. So if I were to produce a CD of my own music, and offer it for sale, and if people thought the music were worth spending their money to have a copy of the music, it would be considered a reasonable trade of my skills for money, right?
THEM: I wouldn’t spend my money on your shitty music, but yeah.
ME: I don’t need or want money from the likes of you. But back to my point, What if I were clear what I was going to spend the earned money on, that I wanted to buy myself a piano? I might indicate that the piano would facilitate the making of more such music, a further angle which might interest someone who likes my music. Even though if you yourself think a piano is a silly purchase, because the money was earned through exchange for a CD or some other item related to my music, it shouldn’t matter, right?
THEM: I guess so.
ME: So let me make it easy, as I don’t have the facility necessarily to process credit card orders and I want to be able to offer my CD to as many people as possible… I will take all this exactly as described, with the very clear intent that if you offer me some money, I will send you a CD or something even bigger for larger sums with the intent of using the money to buy a piano to make further music possible, and I will use GoFundMe as my medium for the exchange.
THEM: OH MY FUCKING GOD, YOU’RE USING GO FUND ME TO BEG FOR MONEY FROM YOUR FANS TO BUY A STUPID PIANO!? YOU LAZY SYCOPHANTIC LEECH, GO GET A JOB LIKE THE REST OF US AND EARN THE MONEY FOR YOUR PLAYTHING!
Now, I realize that I’m giving my detractors way too much credit for use of vocabulary; I somehow don’t expect anyone with that lack of sophistication to understand the word “sycophantic”, let alone actually use it.
With over six thousand active GoFundMe campaigns as of this writing to acquire musical instruments by churches, organizations, schools, and yes individuals, and over 1500 alone for pianos, it can’t be a legitimate complaint this this is a misuse of the crowdsourcing resource. It can’t be that anyone objects to paying money for entertainment, though I’m amused to note that many of these critics are actually proud of how they never pay for music (or porn), going through the pirate sites or bittorrent. It can’t be that anyone really thinks that as a classical musician I must make enough money to be just rolling in extra dough.
Now, I know that being a porn star makes me a lightning rod for derision, and hey, I can laugh at myself just fine when the facts are straight. But if a comic has to manufacture the situation to accomplish the joke… Well, if there’s veracity to the statement “It’s funny because it’s TRUE”, why is it still funny when it’s a lie? And if the expectation is that because of my little side career anything can be said about me and everyone will find it ridiculous, doesn’t that make the joke on all levels a cheap shot?
And really, if after eight weeks we have comedians still resorting to the same cheap shot over and over again, what does that say about their actual wit?
There’s still some growing up to be done out there…
Hey, everyone! Just figured it was time for some happy news, after the ugliness I’ve been dealing with on my FB page. And it was just time for an update of any sort here…
So the money was raised. The piano was acquired. Jesse and I have both been so happy with this addition to our household! And again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Working on the “Velocity” etude at the piano some weeks ago. It was still HOT in Boston… I’m a little sweaty.
As part of that, we got the CD’s compiled and printed. We printed copies of scores, and I spent an afternoon happily signing my autograph on disks and booklets I think well over four hundred times. These CD’s and scores and manuscript pages were put in the mail, and with only a few minor mishaps (and if anyone else’s frame arrived in shards and haven’t told us, please do? we want to make that up to you) all of these arrived in your hands.
So that leaves only one set of donor gifts to come, the music I’d said I’d compose for those top-level donors.
So the biggest reason I haven’t posted here in ages is because I’ve been writing, just not writing text. I’m happy to report that, especially while I was working in Berlin these last couple weeks, I got a LOT of writing done, and I’m now editing and polishing the music while I prepare the engraved copies on my laptop.
The manuscript of the etude “Non Legato”, and the engraved version on my laptop screen, as yet needing much fidgeting with layout.
There are still a few aspects of this which I think could just a bit more perfectly express my gratitude and I’m still tinkering with them. However, I REALLY hope you like the final result!
And… There’s possibility already of a good friend of mine, a pianist in NYC, might just make a recording of these for us. He’d play them SOOO much better than I would just yet. More on that as more is known…
So I haven’t forgotten. Progress is being made! Just wanted to give you an update. =]
Yup. I work in cafés. Also in trains and on planes and anywhere I can spread out sheets of manuscript paper or can open my laptop…
Last Friday I had the honor of doing an interview with Dan Savage on the subject of the Rentboy raid early that week. He had noted an earlier blog post of mine in which I encapsulate my feelings about and responses to the raid, and wanted to talk to me about my perspective as a rentboy.
That interview went live today on The Savage Lovecast; the full podcast is found HERE. The segment involving me starts at just shy of 48 minutes in, or about two-thirds of the way through.
But Friday I nervous as all hell. How many of us remember Caitlin Upton?
Ms. Upton is not stupid; she’s intelligent and articulate. In calmer moments on the Today Show, being interviewed by Matt Lauer and Ann Curry, she showed herself to be educated and well-spoken. She’s demonstrated wit and brains since. She however is never going to live down one moment of nerves getting the better of her.
That’s what happened to me on Friday. Dan would ask a question, I would know exactly what point I needed to make, and I simply could not cohesively string words into sentences. I had written materials in front of me to refer to, I’d spent the morning rereading and refreshing my memory of what I’d written and what other folk had written, I’d eaten two meals already; I should have been ready. Partly I’ll blame my hiccuping delivery on my ADHD; Friday turned out to be a particularly mentally manic day. Add nerves to that – it was Dan Savage interviewing me after all – and an increasing degree of frustration with myself through the course of the interview, and I set down the phone at the end of it worried I’d not made a terribly good showing.
I’m happy to report that I don’t think I sound like a moron in the podcast, and for that I can only thank Dan or someone on his staff for being a magician of an audio editor!
SO. As it’s possible that some of you are coming to my blog for the first time after wondering “Who was that blithering idiot Dan was talking to?”, I wanted to expand on my Reflections blog post, and commit to writing the points I was trying to make.
I am going to speak in masculine language, using masculine pronouns for instance, through most of this post, as my milieu and best vantage point to speak from is that of a gay male escort. This should not be construed as meaning that I don’t think anything that I write here applies any less to women in the industry; often it applies significantly more.
First off, let’s be clear about the heart of what Rentboy provided. Rentboy was a website on which men advertised themselves to meet with men interested in spending time with them. That it is time which is the commodity being bartered for is an important distinction, very carefully monitored on the site. There was never any mention of exchange of particular actions for money; transactions were expressly for the escort’s time only. This is the vital loophole that made Rentboy and other similar websites legal, and is possibly what enabled Rentboy to operate rather transparently and even prominently visibly worldwide for eighteen years in the heart of Manhattan before the authorities shut them down. Now to call a spade a spade – was there some expectation that perhaps sex might happen during the time spent with an escort? I shouldn’t need to provide the answer for that question. But if sex happened between the escort and the client, it was sex between consenting adults. And there’s nothing illegal about that.
It’s the public-at-large’s conflation of prostitution with escorting (I’m going to be finicky about the distinction) which is part of the problem. Prostitution is viewed by polite society as the last resort for the indigent and desperate. The belief is that in exchange for money they are forced to part with something special, sacred, something which most christian folk think should be saved for marital and procreation purposes only. And what moral person would allow themselves to be denigrated to such a base state? Hence the idea persists that prostitution must be something a person is forced to do. Sex against a person’s will does happen in our society, but that’s rape, not prostitution. Similarly there’s the belief that prostitutes are indentured to agents, “pimps”, who claim all the profits and essentially keep their wards in sexual slavery. This does occasionally happen also, but this falls under the aegis of human trafficking. Conflating coercion of either sort with prostitution as a profession practiced by thousands is a complete fallacy. These forced situations do not reflect the state of the vast majority of sexworkers, especially escorts advertising on such resources as Rentboy. Most sexworkers enter into the profession of their own free will, knowing full well what they’re getting into. No man composed a Rentboy profile under duress; no man posted photos of himself at knifepoint. Admittedly most who enter the field do so out of economic necessity, which it could be argued is duress, but no man doing so hasn’t had other options, unlike victims of rape or trafficking. He just felt that this was his best option.
This public perception is further tainted by a wan version of reality which is influenced by … that very public perception. Sexworkers hear the world say that they are disease-ridden. I won’t be the one to suggest that STIs never happen among prostitutes; they do there just as regularly as they do in the general population. To be cleared of any infection requires being tested regularly and frequently. If a sexworker is afraid to go see a doctor because he is worried that if he is honest about what he does for a living the doctor might react badly or give less than full attention to the issue, the chances he will seek the needed help diminish. Sexworkers are similarly believed to be a drug-addled population. Knowing the shame society heaps on sexworkers and the worry of what people will think and say if they find out how one makes his living, is it any wonder that a few do perhaps turn to drugs to manage their feelings? But if you demonize a profession because a few practitioners turn to substance abuse, what profession in the world doesn’t deserve similar disdain? And yet we don’t hear about psychologists largely being alcoholics or Hollywood producers all being coke addicts; they’re not, at least not many of them. If sexworkers are somehow more prone to these behaviors, it’s this public stigma which is at least in substantial part to blame.
Sex work IS work. Anyone who thinks sex work is easy money has simply never tried it, and if it were so easy, a lot more folk would be doing it. That’s more than just getting past the physical attraction hurdle. Admittedly the vast majority of clients I’ve seen have been middle-aged or older men whose perhaps worst physical defect was being a tad overweight, but there is indeed occasionally the client who frankly offers more of a challenge. Perhaps he has a physical infirmity, perhaps he is hampered by an awkward personality. I once arrived at an assignation and upon walking in had to sniff and then say “Let’s go take a shower.” Another client turned out to have taken drugs before I arrived, and a few minutes after my arrival slipped into the most bizarre grand mal seizure I’d ever seen; what was meant to be an hour’s companionship turned into me caring for him long into the night.
Work and diligence doesn’t end outside the actual time spent with a client, either. An escort has to keep his body in shape to stay competitive, meaning for most of us a dedicated gym regimen. Grooming takes time. A good escort has to keep constant tabs on his health; it’s entirely possible to become an STI Typhoid Mary, even for those of us who insist on safer sex at all times. This means routine testing and blood draws. Health also includes emotional health; you can’t come into this field without confidence and a strong sense of your own self-worth, and that takes energy. But the biggest thing overlooked is that this is like any other sort of self-employment: you have to actively market yourself, and you have to engage your potential clients outside of time spent in their company, often involving texting or phone calls rather extensively before actually finally meeting. And like any freelance career, your income is still income, and you have to track it; paying bills generally requires depositing cash income into a bank account, which means that money is traceable by the IRS even if there’s no W-2 or 1099. Accounting and taxes also take time. This is a job, make no bones about it, and if you don’t do it reasonably well, like any other job you won’t be doing it for very long.
Sexworkers are not an inherently indigent class. Admittedly some don’t have the educational resources and hence the ability to hold a career-track job or any job which might move them above poverty. Many are younger and lack familial support having been thrown out by their parents for being gay, or are fleeing an abusive home life. Of sexworkers in the States, LGBT youth are the demographic most susceptible to some form of human trafficking, but they are not the majority. Some sexworkers are students, again perhaps lacking the parental assistance so many count on for tuition, who chose a means of sufficient income that won’t impinge on their studies. Among adults, many are indeed educated and have held other careers; some still practice those careers and just need to supplement that income. One British study of 240 UK sexworkers noted that 34% of them held a college degree, and 17% an advanced degree. That may not sound like much to an American, but remember that college degrees are far less ubiquitous in most of the rest of the world than it is in the USA. Read a bit further, and you find that that 97% have their GSCE’s, the British equivalent of a high school diploma, and A-levels or their equivalent, which blows holes in any notion that prostitution is the recourse of scholastic dropouts and failures. And finally, many have held “real” jobs at one point, or work at one and rely on sexwork to supplement that income. Over two thirds of those worked in fields such as social work, health care, education, or child care. These are fields we respect and understand to require skills that have to be studied, and yet so often are underappreciated financially. The other third was comprised almost entirely of retail workers, again a field requiring a lot of hours but not generally paying particularly well. So it cannot be said that sexworkers are too lazy or are simply incapable of holding a “real” job.
Yet sex work is scorned. That results in more dangers for escorts and for clients. I’ve already mentioned the possible increased difficulty in finding equitable medical attention. Sexworkers are far more likely to experience some degree of battery or assault than the average person; authorities are sometimes as likely to harass the sexworker making the complaint as to pursue the offender, so far more of these offenses also go unreported. Similarly, particularly in places where the client is prosecuted (the “Swedish Model“), johns might hesitate to report an assault if it involves revealing that he’s hired an escort for fear of harassment or embarrassment, just as escorts hesitate to report crimes themselves. And the social ramifications of that societal bias can prove deadly; in an essay entitled Prostitution Law and The Death of Whores, anthropologist and sexwork authority Laura Agustin writes:
Murders of sex workers are appallingly frequent, including serial killings. In Vancouver, Robert Pickton killed as many as 26 between 1996 and 2001 before police cared enough to do anything about it. Gary Ridgeway, convicted of killing 49 women in the 1980s and 1990s in the state of Washington, said, “I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught.” Infamous statements from police and prosecutors include the Attorney General’s at Peter Sutcliffe’s 1981 trial for the murder of at least 13 women in the north of England: “Some were prostitutes, but perhaps the saddest part of this case is that some were not.” He could say this because of a ubiquitous belief that the stigma attached to women who sell sex is real — that prostitutes really are different from other women.
This deals with the murder of innocent people. Yet the murderers and the authorities expected to halt these crimes all acknowledge that society devalues sex workers’ lives. The law reinforces this stigma, perpetuating the idea that sex workers must be doing something fundamentally wrong.
This misconception is societally pervasive; we hear it from our childhoods, about how low such people have sunk, how worse than death it would be to become a prostitute. Even the strong among us still shirk at it a bit. I was in the locker room at the gym just last week with my husband Jesse Jackman when he brought up the subject of the Rentboy raid and specifically referencing my own experiences as an escort, and I caught myself glancing around the room to see who was within earshot and what their response was. I am aghast at the response even within the gay community, either utterly blasé or joking derisively, or simply “they had it coming.” The very complaint against Rentboy uses such lurid, sex-phobic and homophobic language that it can only have been written to capitalize on a general public’s “eew!” sense. There is no mention of any injury done, whether to any individual or to society at large; no victim of Rentboy’s perdition is ever even alluded to. The writing is sensationalist at best and malevolent at worst, and it was unarguably composed to play on and confirm the general public’s worst misunderstandings. Homeland Security’s official press release about the raid is no better, referring to Rentboy as a “international online prostitution ring” and a “global criminal enterprise.”
But every last bit of this boils down to one question. What exactly makes sex suddenly so utterly immoral once money exchanges hands for it? What is it that distinguishes this from any other sexual encounter? Sex is not a commodity which comes in limited quantity; it’s not as though you only had so much and needed to save it. The only limitation males of our species face sexually is the need to rest a bit between sessions to recharge our batteries. Nobody has yet to demonstrate that sex is the absolute barometer of love and fidelity; while I’d love to think we all do have sex with the person we’ve grown closest to in life, I’ve every sense that humans are capable of employing sex to express all manner of affectionate bonding. And humans bond in so many other ways: friendship, colleagues, business associates. We know these intertwine with regularity. And yet, once business and sex pair, we send up the red flags. How does this arrangement intrinsically hurt anyone? Is it the escort, who has found a means of income? Is it the client, who has found a means of acquiring the fun and comfort he craves? Is it society that is somehow taxed by the fact that people are fucking and people give each other money?
Better question, and easier to answer because there is an answer, is how would such an arrangement as legal prostitution benefit anyone? Studies have shown repeatedly that regular sex is beneficial to your health, not only physically but emotionally as well. It has benefits for your heart, liver, and brain; it’s shown potentially to increase life expectancy and decrease the rate of aging. If sex isn’t readily available for someone by conventional means, why should it not be available for purchase? Even just physical but nonsexual contact has benefits. It has not been an uncommon occurrence with clients that sex has taken only a small portion of the time they booked; many of these fill the time just lying around, cuddling, talking. Often this is as rewarding for both of us if not more so than the actual sex. Many have hired me again, and asked if it would be okay if we didn’t have sex, just curled up and chatted for our time together. Humans are social creatures, like dogs; we are meant to sleep in piles and we don’t generally like being alone. Modern culture sets up so many limitations on how we acquire the intimacy we need to thrive, from time constraints related to work and other obligations to societal constraints about how we meet and what we do together. Why ban a perfectly useful and utterly harmless means of acquiring this?
The strongest empirical argument in favor of decriminalization is that it will improve safety and health, particularly for sex workers but also for clients. The National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper in 2004, detailing that rates of rape and gonorrhea dropped dramatically after Rhode Island decriminalized indoor prostitution in 2003. In that year a state court ruled that an old law had decriminalized prostitution in the state, and it took until 2009 for RI lawmakers to plaster that hole shut again. In those six intervening years, however, there was a statewide 31% decrease in rape offenses and 39% fewer cases of gonorrhea. There was no extraordinary drop in other kinds of crime; the reduction in rape offenses was not representative of a drop in crime in general or indicative of better reporting and policing.
Researchers were hard pressed to explain the phenomenon of the drop in rape, though there were a few theories. One, decriminalization possibly gave sexworkers a stronger bargaining position relative to their clients, making them more comfortable with seeking help from the police if something should go wrong. Another, a more troubling explanation for the drop in rape offenses might be that men with inclinations towards such violence perhaps substituted rape with prostitution. The market for prostitution decidedly expanded following decriminalization; more accessibility and the lack of any criminal penalty may have allowed otherwise would-be rapists to shift away from sexual violence and instead simply buy sex. This is partly borne out by further research showing something similar when rape-inclined men subsume their urges by watching porn instead. It is also seemingly confirmed by a 2015 study of decriminalization of prostitution in the Netherlands, published by the Institute for the Study of Labor. In 1994 the Netherlands allowed communities to authorize prostitution in set districts. In the Dutch cities that did this, researchers found a 30% to 40% drop in sexual abuse and rape during the first two years. There was also a substantial decrease in drug crimes, but no change in the rates of other crimes, including violent assaults and possession of illegal weapons, again suggesting that the crimes most closely related to prostitution were the ones affected by the legalization of prostitution.
Especially as gay men, we’ve fought for years to get the world to understand that sex is something that happens between consenting adults. It took riots in New York City at the end of the 1960s to start abolishing sodomy laws in the nation, though the final repeal was as the result of a Supreme Court decision in 2003. The most recent vindication of this was the Supreme Court mandate that gay marriage was legal nationwide in 2015. That’s a span of over fifty years, and sometimes I wonder if we’ve forgotten what it was to be gay way-back-when, when society had such a base opinion of gay men, and how that stigma manifested in almost systemic violence against fags. Sexworkers still labor under that dark cloud, needlessly. Feminist activist Yasmin Nair reminds us that sex work and sexual freedom are thematically and historically intertwined in her article “On Rentboy, Sex Panics, Feminism, and More”:
Allow me to also remind us of important bits of history: that sex work has been as integral to queer history as to feminism. The history of women’s right to earn their living independent of patriarchal economic systems has included more than a few blowjobs and paid nights, and mainstream feminism has forgotten or willfully erased that history as not respectable enough, not feminist enough, or just too sleazy to be remembered (Mindy Chateauvert’s book is an important reminder of that history). Similarly, the history of rentboys – of various genders – making their way out of often oppressive situations and mapping different literal and metaphorical geographies of desire and safety has also been a part of queer history of, again, blowjobs and street trade and hustling that was, to be sure, not always idyllic but was at least for some/many a ticket out.
The Rentboy raid is an attack on us as gay men. We cannot forget that this happened, we must not fail to appreciate what it means, and we cannot let it go unaddressed.
Coming back to a more personal question which I know is going to be asked of me: if I have income from more “legitimate” sources, why would I myself need to escort?
The answer is that I’m working hard to make music again my career. I’m seeing some success; roughly half of my income in 2014 came from music, which is a substantial improvement over 2013. It’s still an artist’s living though – I’ll never get rich doing this – and I’m a 44-year-old man with 44-year-old-man bills and expenses. Porn accounts for about a third of last year’s income, but the work isn’t reliable; I sometimes go for two or three months at a time without shooting for anyone, which means no income. Furthermore, in a few more years you all are going to tire of watching my saggy ass on screen, and it’ll be time for me to rest on my laurels before they wilt. If I took a more conventional job, a full-time position perhaps in sales or service, or even if I managed to land a career-sort office job with my rather eccentric college degrees and equally eccentric professional résumé (a C.V. which focuses on my music career, of course), the result would be forty hours and perhaps more a week. And for that week I might earn $1000. Escorting allows me to pull in that sort of cash with only a few hours of investment. That leaves me time to focus on building my music career, to do the writing needed to build a portfolio of music, to do the networking and self-marketing needed to promote a music career, and to chase down further music work. If I had to show up at a job forty-plus hours a week to make ends meet, I’d never be able to make any progress building what really should and will be the career that takes me into my dotage. Escorting is not forever; it’s just to get me through the thin spots for a little while longer until music covers all my expenses.
And through escorting I’ve met some amazing men I’d never have met otherwise. There’s the emergency room physician from Florida with whom I’d bonded over talks about Saint-Saëns and the history of syringe needle manufacture. There’s the opera impresario I shocked with my knowledge of Bruno Walter operas; we discussed how to roast garlic during a superb dinner in Paris. The businessman in NYC from whom I had one of the most lucid explanations of how the USA economy tanked in 2009. The architect who loved that I love Gaudì and with whom I had a long post-coital heart-to-heart about how Calatrava buildings stand up. The social media director in Chicago who just proved to be so much fun. And the graphic designer in LA who wrote to me four months later to tell me that something I had said in the course of our conversation awakened a realization in him and spurred him to reach out to his estranged boyfriend; they had been back together for 12 weeks at that point, and never happier. I could go on, as could many of my colleagues. Many of these men have become friends; some are still occasional clients, some are not. But these are the ties that build our community, regardless of how that bond is made. And if enabling and legitimizing that bonding isn’t a good argument for the legalization of sex work, I don’t know what is.
TitanMen director Jasun Mark decided to put together a Labor Day soundtrack for you guys to listen to, so he polled a bunch of us Titan guys and asked us to recommend some songs. My hubby Jesse Jackman contributed three songs to the list, including slipping in one of my own piano works. Here’s Miniature No. 9: Fantastique:
I’m not sure this is quite relaxing-on-the-beach playlist fodder, but hey, to each his own. And it’s short.
Jesse’s other two suggestions were Röyksopp’s amazing cover of Depeche Mode’s “Ice Machine” (which he played for the TitanMen production crew when he was filming his scene in Blue Collar Ballers last December) and Justice’s “Civilization” (which Jasun and Jesse listened to while we were driving around San Francisco on the way to one of my very first shoots).
So the piano was delivered a week ago, and I’ve barely been able to pull myself away from it. I haven’t lived with a piano in my own space in some six years, and even then, when I lived in NYC the Steinway in the apartment actually belonged to my flatmate, a professional pianist, so my access was not 24/7, let’s say. But as I’d bashed my head against walls since my late teens to make my biggest passion and worst habit my career, to not have this basic tool to do what I do has been a serious handicap. Just to be able to sit and play, other composers’ music as much as my own, keeps my own creative juices flowing. And while porn may sustain me another couple years at best, music is for life.
Me, supervising musicians in a pit. Note my score under my arms; I’m already making revisions!
Some of you have asked what exactly it is I do when I’m not making porn. You know I’m trained as a composer, having studied at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. I’ve written for small ensembles, like this set of four Cuban-inspired Dances for clarinet and piano:
Page one of the manuscript of my own Danzas Cubanas for Clarinet and Piano
The final typeset copy of Danzas Cubanas, page one.
You can hear that movement here:
At the other extreme, works for large orchestra; this ensemble would require about eighty performers on stage:
First page of my one recent score for huge orchestra.
Page thirteen. I sometimes look at this and wonder exactly how many noteheads I placed while typesetting this piece. THere are a LOT of notes!
Page fourteen. This score is about 120 pages long.
Besides piano many of you know already that I play tuba. I also sing bass and countertenor, and I’ve dabbled in a number of other instruments. However, most of my work has been performing what I best refer to as “music preparation”. Generally this means working with material that already exists, editing it or arranging it or just copying it. It’s a tiny little niche in the rather small world of classical music; I also dabble in jazz and broadway/cabaret, but to less of an extent.
The simplest of variants of this is simply taking a composer’s manuscript and making the fine engraved copy that can be sent to publishers and put in front of performers. This will include incorporating rehearsal marks, cues in parts, and other critical marks that ease performance, as well as simply identifying and correcting errors in the musical text. Sometimes this is quite easy.
The Southern Harmony hymn “Great Day”. This was printed in an American notation, wildly popular in the 19th century, called “shapenote”. The noteheads were given forms which helped a church congregation with no knowledge of singing to learn music quickly and easily.
A version of this hymn in modern notation and layout.
Sometimes its much more difficult.
Manuscript of Bruno Walter’s Symphony No. 1. Some handwriting, no?
Page two. This score is 204 pages long.
The first page of my engraved edition.
This score was used in concert in Avery Fisher Hall and then for a recording with the NDR in 2006.
Sometimes it involves transcribing into modern notation an older means of notating music, or one of the experimental means of notation that composers dabbled with in the 14th and 15th centuries, and which modern musicians are not accustomed to deciphering.
The 1636 edition of Buonamente’s Sonatas and Canzonas for 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 Voices. These old editions didn’t come with scores, just individual part books.
More involved, I arrange and orchestrate works. There is an operetta by the late nineteenth century German composer active in Vienna, Oscar Straus, called Tapfere Soldat (commonly translated as The Chocolate Soldier), loosely based on Shaw’s play Arms and the Man. Straus had a gift for melody, and every tune in this work is something you walk away from whistling. He enjoyed great popularity in his time, but fell from fashion at the turn of the century, and was largely forgotten by the time the Third Reich started actively destroying any materials of German Jewish composers they could get their hands on. As a result, despite there being many piano reductions of the score, we were having trouble coming up with any published orchestral score. And the couple recordings I listened to involving orchestra were remarkably “flat” sounding anyway, not terribly interesting. We came to realize that the orchestrations used in those recordings were made recently from the piano-vocal score, which had a bare minimum of accompaniment. As the piano-vocal that was widely sold and hence survived would have been published so amateur musicians could play the songs at home, they were kept simple. Examining similar works by Straus’ contemporaries whose works we have better representation, like the Strauss brothers (not related to Oscar) Josef and Johann Jr., Emmerich Kálmán, Franz Lehar, and Franz von Suppé to name a few, we confirmed that the original full score would have incorporated countermelodies and muscial gestures not reflected in the piano-vocal. As this more complex orchestration no longer seemed to exist, whether due to Nazi obliteration or later neglect, we decided to recreate what might have been, matching the style of the day as much as possible. This orchestration, for twelve instrumentalists, was used in a fully-staged production at the Bard Music Festival for three weeks in 2010. I’ve prepared a full script for the musical, calling it Arms and the Man to distinguish it from mere translations of the Straus original, drawing dialogue directly from Shaw’s play and making new translations of the German lyrics for the songs to match. And now I’m sending this around to operetta companies in the States to try to get further performances of what has proven to be a really charming and funny play with some super music.
The first two pages of the published piano-vocal score of Oscar Straus’ operetta Der Tapfere Soldat
You can see that the accompiament is pretty simple…
So here in my full score is where the chorus of soldiers enters.
Adding a little extra flourish and interest to the music…
After the success of that work, the following year Bard decided to do an adaptation of Noël Coward’s musical Bittersweet. Coward, writing this in the 1930′s, set the frame of the story in Paris in the years coming into World War II, following an elderly lady’s reminiscing of her youth in a gilded age of the 1870′s and ’80′s. His style hence straddled the jazz era of the 1930′s and the waltz era of the fin de siecle. Our director thought it might make the story stronger if we updated it, setting the framework in 1960′s cold-war Europe looking back on the 1920′s & ’30′s as the gilded era. As such, we had to recast a lot of the music into a more apropos style. As many of the characters are in fact musicians, and stage instructions often call on them to “improvise a jazz version of such-and-such a tune at the piano” or some such thing, many of these improvisations had to be created essentially from scratch. The great tune of the musical is a waltz tune “I’ll see you again”; at the end of the musical, back in the 1960′s, one of the younger characters creates a modern version of the song, completely missing the meaning and point of it. The original version suggests he makes a foxtrot, but as that made no sense in a 1960 setting, here’s the original, and my piano “improvisation” drawing on the Beatles’ Michele, Ma Belle as the model.
Final reprise of “I’ll See You Again”, the central waltz tune in Noël Coward’s musical BITTERSWEET.
Vincents improv, in which he recasts the melody in duple time, completely missing the point of the song.
Again, this required not only the rearrangements for the entire show, but again orchestrations to be prepared for a pit of 12 instrumentalists, as well as writing parts for the actors on stage to perform as well, and of course doctoring those to the actual ability of those actors to perform on a given instrument! All of these folks can sing, but when stage directions call for specific ones to play piano, violin, concertina (okay, we managed to make the accordion go away)… This was a challenge!
More involved are projects where music has to be reconstructed. For every work of classical music we have a full set of materials for, there are hundreds which either fell from fashion at some point and have yet to be rediscovered. Remembering that before the advent of photocopiers, music either had to be engraved and published, an expensive prospect only lavished on the few works publishers knew they’d be able to sell, or had to be copied out by hand. If you wanted a set of opera parts, you usually had to hire a copyist somewhere in proximity of an extant score to copy the score and parts out, one at a time. Hence many works only existed in one or two copies, many of which are in somewhat ratty condition considering how much use they may have endured in their day, or how they may have been stored in the meantime.
Concerto for eight instruments (more or less), in Zelenka’s manuscript which obviously has not been that well taken care of. This was written in about 1718.
You can see what sometimes we’re up against.
The Viennese composer Franz von Suppé wrote over a hundred operettas, most of which are completely forgotten. Indeed, Suppé himself is really only remembered today for two overtures, the ones to Poet and Peasant and Light Cavalry, both familiar to anyone who watched Loony Toons cartoons in their childhood. A few of his musicals were about earlier composers still popular in the 1860′s, notably one based on Mozart in 1854. These musicals not only had stories very loosely based on biographical parts of the subject’s life, but also incorporated the most popular tunes written by that composer. His musical Schubert, written in 1864 and based on the music and a very spurious biographical legend around the early nineteenth century composer Franz Schubert, enjoyed huge popularity for ten years after its premiere, but then faded. Again, the only part of the score which was published publicly was the overture; the rest of the score and parts were put in a trunk, stuck in the theater’s attic, and forgotten about. So when the Bard Music Festival wanted to perform this operetta, there was a hunt for the score. It was found, but after a century of neglect, it was rat-eaten, water-damaged, faded… And further, I wasn’t given the original but a really badly-done photoscan. From this I had to make a full performing edition. Pages were missing, pages were illegible. I at least had the full lyrics and dialogue (in German), so I was generally able to identify when I was missing music, and as many of the tunes were familiar Schubert melodies, I was almost always able to reconstruct exactly how much music was missing in any of these holes. Having copied out as much as I could, I spent weeks combing through and filling in the voids. The result was performed at the Bard Music Festival to acclaim in August of 2014, and a recording of the performance is on Spotify.
So that’s what I do to earn my keep. And I’m only looking to broaden that… Not only writing more music and increasing my performances, but also perhaps picking up a new instrument or two. I’ve always wanted to learn to play theorbo. I want to play bagpipes again; I haven’t played since my teens. And along the lines of bagpipes, while the Great Highland bagpipes are what most folk think of (and are a distinctly outdoor instrument!), I’d also love to learn to play the Northumbrian Smallpipes, a much sweeter and softer instrument, better suited to indoor use and playing with other instruments. All I have to do is come up with one to start learning on… Anyone know of one for sale?
No? Well, thanks to you all I’ve got this absolutely amazing piano, and after years away from one I’ve finally started playing daily again. Jeese, seems I can use the practice!
At the end of March Titan finally actually invited me out to their site in Palm Springs to film. Jesse has been in the industry a shorter amount of time, but had already filmed there two or three times, and I was starting to feel some envy. I ended up staying a few extra days just to enjoy the California sunshine; Boston is still a bit bleak at the end of March, after all. And while we were there, I got to be part of two just amazing scenes with two amazing guys.
The first was a scorching scene with a man who not only is one of the models of sexiness for me but is also a really good friend, Hunter Marx. This scene isn’t released yet, but I’ll definitely let you know when it comes out!
The second scene was with a relative newcomer to porn, Dallas Steele. Why this man has taken this long to answer this calling is beyond me. He’s hot, he’s sweet, he fucks like an animal, he takes a brutal fucking, and that dick… Curved exactly right to hit what it has to.
Some viewers have noted a resemblance Dallas has to my boyfriend, Titan Man Jesse Jackman. And I have to say, they’re not wrong. They’re both well over six foot tall, they’re both massively muscular and have those “superhero” torso-to-limb proportions, they’re both furry. Really, about the only difference is that Dallas has a tattoo or two more than Jesse does, and that Dallas has hair. That aside, though, is it any wonder that our on-screen chemistry is incendiary? Just wait, though… There’s a scene coming out in the next several months with Jesse and Dallas. THAT will be one to watch out for!
I mean, really, if it weren’t for the hat and the tattoo, wouldn’t you think that was Jesse? Even the smile is similar!
It is worth noting that, even after having filmed that whole scene, Dallas and I still had more exploration to do with each other after the cameras were put away. Yet again, thanks to TitanMen and the quality of men they work with, I’ve made another really excellent friend both on and off set.
Also on the film, hot scenes from my buddies Eddy CeeTee and Nick Prescott, and a really sexy friend of mine from Chicago, Hugh Hunter. And Hugh gets to work with my god among men, of course, Jesse.
Fellow New Englander Eddy CeeTee
Fellow (erstwhile) Chicagoan, Hugh Hunter
My hubby, Jesse Jackman
Later in the week, Hunter Marx and I got to do a little more exploration, as we were asked to testdrive some of Titan’s new lines of toys. Much fun was had!
Sidewinder says “Aren’t you satisfied with the brand new piano your gay faced BF begged for? Go “compose” something or “share your gift”. LOLOLOLOL!! BOTH OF YOU, STOP TRYING TO BE RELEVANT. You come across as a real pain in the ass. You’re a hooker, your BF is a hooker. JUST BE ONE. And please tell your better half that article about telling is mom about his “adult life” was creepy, inappropriate, and downright strange.”
Gay man With Degree writes “This is being sent around by gay men to other gay men as a gag The Idiotic ramblings of a narcotic corrupted brain. Who other than a dope with a brain functioning lower than that of someone with Down’s syndrome would compare slavery laws to prostitution law’s? And saying there’s no other employment opportunities in the world for young gay men is laughable and a pathetic attempt to justify your laziness and retardation Get a life looser”
I couldn’t have asked for better examples of exactly the sort of stupidity I’m talking about, not even looking at the misspellings and faulty punctuation, or the sophomoric handles and email addresses. Here are two gay men, one of whom has to trumpet the fact that he has a diploma to give any weight to his statements. These guys have swallowed the societal misconception, hook, line, and sinker, that there are classes of people who should be treated like animals. And they’re just the men to do it.
Here’s the thing. I know people are going to disagree with me on the Rentboy events and the nature of sex work, and that’s fine. But it seems if you have a good reason to disagree with me, you might present such an argument.
These two gentlemen have only taken the time to find my blog and post, certainly, but all they’ve done is call me names. Perhaps they lack the ability to formulate a reason to disagree with me, but I suspect it’s just laziness. Anyone with any intelligence who wants to see progress would say “But wait, mightn’t such-and-such be true, or don’t you think…?” Instead all they can do is cast insubstantiatible aspersions on my character, of which the majority people will only see evidence to the contrary. I’m sorry, but if someone hasn’t got a good argument for his position, regardless of whether he’ll ever recognize it, he has lost the fight.
The sad thing is that these comments are couched in such a disparaging, condescending tone. If these men had a real argument, they would have presented one. Lacking one, but still feeling some compulsion to beat me, they’ve resorted to slinging monkey shit. If either of them felt secure in their work, in their sexuality, in their life, they wouldn’t feel like they need to place someone, anyone, into a lower position than they feel they are. Being a porn star and a public figure makes us prime lightning rods for this sort of abuse, but it means nothing.
Are we relevant? Are these gentlemen going to be our relevant voices, with this negativity and contempt? Is this what we want for ourselves?
This insecurity in our ranks is what poisons us as a demographic. If the world at large has a low opinion of us, it’s because this is the sort of respect with which we so often seem to be treating ourselves. It’s not unique to gay men; of course this sort of need to find someone to disparage to make one’s self feel better happens across all divisions of society. However, we as gay men are particularly broken folk. Many of us spent our formative years hearing repeatedly how these feelings and inclinations which are so inherent to our beings are vile, evil, and depraved. Is it any surprise that the less thoughtful of us would internalize these criticisms? Of course lots of us have such low opinions of ourselves. This is a malaise we need to find a cure for, and soon. As long as we continue to turn against ourselves out of a misguided sense of self-preservation, the rest of the world is going to look down on us for our infighting and fractured front.
Realizing I’m preaching to the choir with most of you, this really is a plea to those few of you who would post such a comment. Grow some balls. You’ll be happier.
A quick addendum. Hope you get as big a laugh out of this as I did. Anyone want to translate what the second half of this means? Not that I’m terribly worried about it. The first half of the comment makes some assumptions about my finances he can’t possibly know and which my accountant will find scoffable. However, anyone who uses “Bye Felicia” as a fake email to hide behind and yet still can’t spell “bye” or “Felicia” correctly is probably not much to worry about.
Okay, so perhaps it isn’t quite so surprising that in the days following the mandated legalization of gay marriage that there might be some pushback against any freer expression of sexuality in our society. Indeed, in the States we seem so hellbent on denying that a little physical affection is so necessary to our well-being individually and societally to the point of actually demonizing those needs that those who refuse to utilize those resources available to them hence feel they have to refuse that right to everyone else. Misery does indeed love company! Thus we have laws which regulate our morality instead of protecting us from criminal activity, and morality is subjective. How long did we labor under legal constraints that precluded any sort of non-missionary non-heteronormative sex or even social engagement? How long was it legally codified in our country that folk of African descent were less citizens than those of European descent? As it has come to be understood that these laws were injurious to one demographic and did nothing to protect any other, they have been overturned. And there have been objections from “moralists” to these changes every step of that way.
It is not enough to call something criminal simply because there is a law against it. If that law exists, it is in place (or should be) to protect someone, perhaps many of us, from becoming a victim. Rape laws are in place to prevent unwanted sexual intercourse. Theft laws are in place to prevent people from taking our personal property. Laws outlawing murder are there to deter folk from taking away our lives. In all these instances, there is a victim in the crime, someone who loses something, life, property, dignity. Anyone wishing to deprive us of these basic rights is indeed a criminal, and their capture and punishment should be the aim and objective of the criminal justice system.
Who exactly is the victim of escorting? Is it the escort, who has entered into the arrangement of his (or her) own will and on his terms? Has he been somehow forced into the seraglio, indentured as a sex slave? Or is he an entrepreneur, who identifies a resource he has, and has entered into a business venture to share this resource with a public who has something to offer in return? Is the victim the client, who understands the nature and terms of the transaction before he signs on? Is he somehow being deprived of his money in exchange for something of no value to him? Or is he perhaps a person desiring some company, perhaps some physical affection, and somehow lacks or hasn’t the time to pursue the normal societally-accepted means of coming by that? Or is the victim society in general? Does escorting bear some corollary criminal behavior the same way the inner-city drug trade is closely allied with organized crime and gang warfare? Does providing individuals with company, and if company is of an intimate nature then providing that behind closed doors, somehow corrupt the morals of future generations any more than any other societal norm we exhibit?
Prostitution laws were enacted to protect what was viewed by the upper ends of society as a weak, victimizible class, specifically women of poor means. The idea was that women were being forced into prostitution by unscrupulous men for the man’s profit, and hence these women needed protection. Never was there any acknowledgement that perhaps this was the woman’s only means of survival in a world where men refused to give women the same rights to education, to run a business, to start a household. Nowadays we have more specific laws to protect such classes of folk: we call this human trafficking, and this is a vile and horrid practice, with lots of victims of the sorts described before. Prostitution in the meantime, having spent so much time lumped into society’s understanding of what we’ve come to call human trafficking, has only seen confirmed the veneer slapped over it by society that anyone who would sell their sex and companionship must be morally corrupt. Folks who are sexworkers are constantly called whores and leeches; people accuse them of being too lazy to hold a “real” job, and too dishonest to declare their income to the IRS; they are told they are disease-ridden like vermin. It is possible that examples of any of those can be cited, but I’d challenge anyone to produce evidence that the gross generalization proves true.
Similarly, it’s not the clients hiring these escorts who are victimized. Escorts do not show up, take the cash, and just leave; these men were approached for something the client in fact needed, be that amatory or just companionable. And judging by the number of men who have returned to hire an escort again, often the same escort, it’s certain that in fact it works for them. Many buddies of mine who escort will say that, not unlike being a bartender, there’s far more therapy involved in many meetings than anything else, even whether sex happens or not. Most clients simply need some physical affection, someone to listen to them talk, someone who will reassure him, despite not having someone in their life who will hug them, curl up with them, listen to their problems, or give them someone to go with to do things he enjoys, that he is still loveable. Escorts do exactly this. To suggest that this carries less meaning because they are paid for it is to also suggest that the comfort therapists provide is suspect because they charge, or that a doctor’s Hippocratic oath is rendered violate once he accepts payment, for instance. Where do we draw the line?
Reading through the accusations in the complaint, not once is there any mention of any nonconsensual practice. No instance is brought forth of a single human being being harmed, even tangentially, by letting men pay for sex with other men. Contrast this with the often exaggerated claims of trafficking and human slavery that are used to justify cracking down on heterosexual prostitutes, treating willing female sex workers as default victims: this complaint doesn’t even bother with such niceties. The complaint’s objects are portrayed just as sickening depraved faggots violating New York’s prostitution laws, and the only apparent reason the Department of Homeland Security needs to get involved is because it involves interstate commerce. I mean, really; that men have sex with each other and instead of one buying dinner for the other that there happens to be an exchange of cash is somehow a threat to our American borders and freedoms?
Rentboy.com has been in business for a whopping eighteen years. They have always protected their interests by insisting that all transactions are for the escort’s time, never for the services involved. What happens in that time is something determined between consenting adults. Indeed, perhaps sex is expected, perhaps sexual qualifications are included in the advertisement, but the pay has never been for sex. Rentboy has hardly operated under a veil of secrecy in that time; indeed, beyond offering the company of men they have also been quite visible in their advocacy for sex workers. They have been public advocates for sexual health and mental well-being, not only of their advertisers but also for the gay community at large. They have supported education programs, notably the separate nonprofit HookOnline, founded and run by sexworker advocate Hawk Kinkaid, and offering classes and podcasts to help improve safety and social image for escorts without judgement and without overtones of “we’re here to rescue you.” Rentboy has offered events celebrating our gay culture, dance parties under the HustlaBall aegis and the Hookie Awards. And recognizing the sheer number of young men in their ranks who are using this means as a way to subsidize an education, they just started a scholarship program (happily still taking applications). Why exactly are they being targeted now?
Follow the money, is the answer. Rentboy has grossed well over $10 million; if the prosecuting bodies can make three citations stick and invoke RICO laws, those assets are deemed forfeit, and are divided up between these bodies. Nice little money grab, no? Some are suggesting that this is the principal reason the Department of Homeland Security is involved, and I agree that I think it unlikely that the Rentboy records are going to reveal the name and address of the next Paris train gunman. The other clue may be in the unsubstantiated mention of money laundering in the complaint, and the only thing documented therein which might possibly fall under this heading is a single mention in item 58 of a line item expense in Rentboy’s records, a line item that says “Sean — Viagra”. On one level, that might be an attempt to confirm that Rentboy was in the business of sex, not of companionship, but I wonder if someone didn’t see that as a use of corporate funds for non-corporate use. It’s tiny, but if the authorities only after 18 years of legal hunting finally found this one little crack to wedge their crowbar into, the timing of the raid might make sense. It would explain the multitude of national and state organizations involved in the raid, as the only true legal justification they had was financial malfeasance and potential money laundering, and thence they’re just praying they find the proof they need in the seized records and data from the Rentboy offices to make the rest of the accusations stick.
Even we in the gay community who live on the better side of the tracks tend to forget that lots of us come from far more difficult circumstances. There’s a host of LGBT youth with no welcoming homes and families to return to and no resource for education or social improvement. Studying at the university level requires funding beyond the means of most student-age men; for those with parents lacking or unwilling to help with these expenses, how is such an education to be acquired? The sort of legitimate jobs available to such students don’t begin to cover the expense unless they take up all the student’s time. I find myself wishing I’d had this as a financial resource in my own college days: I would have saved myself and my parents a lot of financial embarrassment. Further, the history of sex work is inextricably tied in with both the feminist movements and gay struggles for equality; to turn against these escorts is to turn our backs on a public that has been our support for decades, if not longer.
The larger gay community and gay leaders need to jump on this and get loud, fast. We’ve been fighting for the right to define our relationships as we choose, not allowing the government to decide what is legitimate. Marriage recognition is just part of that fight. We are not free as long as the government is dictating the terms of our sexual interactions. I expect to see outrage from every major gay and lesbian organization at the callous disregard shown toward those men who seek to sexually connect on their own terms.
Addendum of Sept. 1, with a few more awesome things written or that I’ve found since writing this post:
And for those who don’t like to read (why would you be here, reading my logorrheic prose, though, I’d wonder), there are these two amazing videos.
One by Matt Baume again:
And one produced by Jake Jaxson of Cockyboys, featuring an powerful narrative by Rob Yeager, well known to the porn, sexwork, and BDSM worlds. This video was originally posted to YouTube, but was reported for inappropriate content and was taken down.
What’s my own personal involvement in this? Of the seven men arrested, three have been close friends for years, one (Hawk) nigh a brother to me. One cannot work in porn and not know dozens, possibly hundreds of colleagues, friends and folk one cares about who have been or currently are escorts. These men have done nothing to hurt anyone, are merely capitalizing on one of their own personal assets, and have just found their income slashed.
And me, I’ve escorted, and make no secret of it. After years of a successful career in music working at the top of the field in New York City, the economic “wisdom” of a bunch of greedy bank owners toppled the economy. Want to catalog victims? Folks lost their savings and their homes. Businesses tightened their belts, and cut back on philanthropic outreach. Arts organizations, long dependent on corporate sponsorship, withered and died. My work went from more than I knew what to do with to nil. And as a quarter of the rest of the workforce was suddenly finding themselves jobless too, I found myself confronted with competition from people with MBA’s and law degrees for mere Starbucks posts and bartending gigs, let alone career-track jobs. In the succeeding two years I went from living comfortably though not luxuriously on the Upper West Side of New York City, having savings, and being able to travel a little bit, to being sorely in debt, under investigation by the IRS over the complexity of my many years of tax returns, and unable to find an apartment I was able to afford to move into when my lease ran out. Just in case it has never entered your thoughts as to how such things transpire, this is how homeless people are made. At the risk of sounding like the stereotype of someone forced into prostitution through desperation, it was putting an ad on Rentboy that saved me, at least making it possible to move to cheaper living conditions in Chicago for a few years. It has in a few tight moments since kept me in rent. It has in a number of ways made possible my slow but steady return to my music career in these succeeding years. Without it, I think it quite likely I would have been forced into being one of those poor grubby smelly folk on the New York City subway, begging for change, and enduring the turned-up noses of all those folk who are already turning their judgemental noses up at the fact that I’ve been a whore. Truth be told I would never have let it come to that; of the options available to me, I’d have chosen a tombstone instead.
Hence the real victims are the guys who are legitimately offering a business arrangement on this website. Thanks to a society that demonizes sex, they find their job made substantially more difficult, and possibly more dangerous. It is the world’s oldest profession, so closing Rentboy.com won’t stomp it out of existence; it will resurge again. But if we let this go by unchallenged, we know that they will inch that moralistic line back further. How long until we find some personal freedom you and I value has slipped over that line? If they are willing to push back, we also need to be.
I’ve been quiet for a while, I know. This summer has been focused on making new things in my life go, and resuscitating older things I’ve let slide by the last few years. That’s after we returned from our epic and awesome trip to Australia to do outreach for the Victorian AIDS Council, an experience about which I really need to finish a long blog post.
The major thing I’m redoubling my efforts on is my music career, increasing the amount of writing and performing I do. As part of this effort, many of you were superbly generous to make contributions towards the purchase of a piano for me. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for that support, and all the thank-you gifts I’d promised I swear are on their way! We’re scrambling to get the CD’s duplicated and packaged at this point. The piano is taking up other time as well; just the rearranging of furniture to accommodate it is proving an undertaking! Meanwhile I’m also in talks with a few people about resuming studies, perhaps pursue a doctorate in music soon. Add to that our couple trips to California, one for the Fourth of July and Jesse’s birthday, and the other for work in LA and Palm Springs, and it’s amazing how quickly the time charges by. Here it is, August already, and until this past Sunday I’d yet to lay eyes on a beach in beach weather this year.
All this is to pave the way for what I’ll be doing with myself after porn. Or maybe not so specifically after porn as what will continue to fill my life as I taper porn off? We all know people who retire from their jobs in their sixties who continue working, just being more selective with projects that interest them. At 43 I’m getting to be serious daddy in porn, but I don’t think it’s retirement age QUITE yet. However, nobody among you is gonna want to watch my septuagenarian ass still fucking on camera in another couple decades. My days in porn are numbered, as are they for any pornstar. And I’m starting to think about (and forgive me, this sounds terribly masturbatory, I know) what my legacy in porn might be. I’m going to be remembered for something after I’m done; it won’t be anything that shatters world paradigms or changes lives, but I’d like it to be something positive, something I can be proud of having accomplished.
I got to have a quick chat with Steve Cruz of Raging Stallion/Falcon at the Grabbys last May in Chicago, about the fact that RS had asked if I’d be available for a film for the first time in three years. I apologized for having to decline the invitation, as the shoot would have happened in the midst of our Australia trip. I was REALLY upset to have to turn it down because it was a chance to work with one of my gods among men, Logan McCree. Steve was honest with me regarding why they hire me so rarely: Raging has certain policies about what sorts of men they hire. This of course is to keep a certain “look” to their films, and pretty much all studios have some sort of guidelines, codified or not, governing who they put on camera. And I’m old. Not too old, but of a visage where the best justification to put me on camera is to pair me with a younger man.
With Colby Jansen on set in the Georgia wilds for Son Swap (MEN.com)
Men.com has been overwhelmingly generous with me over the last two years, for which I’m so grateful. Scenes like the two with Luke Adams and Colby Jansen in Son Swap are scenes I’m proud of; the one with Colby is still one of the most-viewed scenes on the site, and justifiably so, considering how hot my scene partner is, the flip nature of the scene, and my kinda one-of-a-kind cumshot (a direct reflection of how much fun we had filming that). Interestingly that scene is daddy-fucking-daddy, not daddy-fucking- … well, okay, can’t call him “son” because that’s far too specific. Nobody is ever a blood relative, and nobody is under age, either as an actor or as their character. I’m trying to hint to Men that perhaps this daddy-fucking-daddy thing might have some legs; here’s hoping they catch on.
Colby Jansen. That was FUN.
And I think that touches on exactly what rubs me wrong about being “daddy” in porn so often these days. It’s not that I object to the fantasy of being the older man, more confident and assured for a younger fellow; it’s the insistent flirting with the sex-between-family-members angle. It never seems to be enough for there to be just a mutual interest across an age difference, as “daddy” is conventionally used in our everyday gay world. On screen for some reason it always has to be taboo, risky, flirting with pedophilia (which so many fans read into this genre even through every “younger man” I’ve worked with was well into his twenties and every character is clearly understood to be of legal age), with family relationships (SHOULD a stepdad be making sexual overtures to his stepsons even if he knows they’re receptive? Not really to my mind…), and with societal norms. I get it, it’s a potent fantasy for many of you, and porn is about fantasy and not reality. But if we’re going to expect viewers to be able to tell the difference between the fantasy of bareback sex and the reality of an STD-risky real world (for instance), why are so many unwilling to make the conceptual leap from the fantasy of that sexy man mom married to the reality of “I can’t expect that with my own stepson or stepdad”?
Part of this is also not so much the ageism (though that happens too; I’m always seeing comments online about how old I am) as about presumptions about the nature of an attraction when there’s a substantial age difference. This even happens on set; I had a heart-to-heart email exchange with one director who writes her own scripts, having to explain the difference between “daddy”, where the younger man is in fact interested in the older man, and “dirty old man”, where the older man has to use some sort of leverage to coerce the younger man into sex. And then we actually had a fight about it when she said she understood my objection, but still wrote scripts calling for that. She just couldn’t understand that there might be any other motivation for the younger man to have sex with an older man. I’ve been surprised to find this assumption among many straight women, and especially mothers (she is both), that an age difference simply means there must be a predatory intent. I tried to get her to understand that it doesn’t matter how connected and romantic and hot the sex is afterwards, if you’ve established in the opening dialogue that the only reason one party is consenting to sex is to avoid some other unpleasant situation, she’s just made a ____* film. For one scene we never filmed the dialogue because I simply refused to stick to her script, and she threw a tantrum. I don’t work for that studio any more…
With my sexiest stepson, Scott Harbor, in Stepfather’s Secret (MEN.com)
When I was in my 20′s, I don’t think a man under the age of 35 ever caught my eye. I always dated men 5-10 years older than me, sometimes even more. So I understand why “daddy” is such a potent theme. It was back then as well; I just wasn’t aware of anyone calling their interests “daddies”. So the prevalence the trend isn’t in question, and I have no problem with it inherently. I’m just starting to tire of being daddy all the time, especially with movies which play so close to the edge of “are they actually family members or not?” This isn’t what I want on Dirk Caber’s tombstone when he goes, that “He was a good daddy.” I’ve done other things in porn, I’ve still some amazing things to do; there are going to be far more interesting and meaningful projects. Men.com knows that there’s a market for pairing me with someone my own age (or at least someone with whom I’m on some sort of par–I’m pretty sure Colby’s not remotely as old as I am!); TitanMen has certainly been advocating for more age-appropriate pairings for me. And I get it: I’m 43. I am daddy for most of my colleagues, and it’s a mentoring role in real life as well as in the porn world that I’ve enjoyed taking on (though I generally prefer not to be called “daddy”!). So yeah, I embrace it. I just want to be something more than that.
So as I started out saying, among these shifts I’ve been working on this summer I’ve been reassessing what my upcoming goals are. Music is occupying more and more of my time these days. Home life with Jesse is becoming more interesting and involved and intimate. I’ve some huge personal projects which are finally coming together fast. Hence I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to consider easing up on my porn involvement, similarly to those mentioned earlier who retire from work but keep going in a more selective role; perhaps it’s time to start picking my scenes even little more deliberately. I don’t have to retire entirely, and I make more time for the rest of my life.
I do porn for fun, in the end. Yes, the extra cash has been welcomed and in occasional circumstances direly needed. But it’s not a long-term career, and it’s never something anyone is going to get rich doing, so why invest in it if there isn’t some enjoyment at the least in return? All you watchers out there want to see porn where the guys on screen are actually having fun, right? That chemistry is so much easier when making that film WAS fun. Being given the same role over and over again starts to dull that enjoyment, and I fear that may show. You don’t want that. Neither do I. So…
There is one other HUGE consideration regarding this, which I’m going to have to save for a separate blog post, partly because it will be a lengthy enough exploration unto itself, but mostly because I’m still working out how to couch an expression of frustration without inherently attacking the industry. When I get it written, I know you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
* Addendum: I’ve had to change the text of this article, as one studio objects to the use of certain words in any post that references the studio as well. As my options were either to remove the offending verbiage or cede all of my affiliateship codes and hence income, and possibly being denied further filming work with this studio, I am forced to comply. It does amaze me that the context these words appear in has no bearing on their use; I can be using them entirely in the sense of “There is no _ _ _ _ or _ _ _ _ _ _ in this movie” and it’s still unacceptable. I wouldn’t want to suggest that this studio is worried that you, my intelligent reader, will think that, by mere mention of the concepts these words represent in this post, I am implying that these things happen in these films. It evidently is not enough that I am emphatically saying they do NOT happen in these films. As this this studio routinely flirts with this fantasy and seems certain that you, the intelligent purveyor of porn, would be able to see past the roles portrayed, I cannot believe that your worldly sophistication is simply too suspect for them. But I wouldn’t suggest anything of the sort. I’m sure it’s a computer-driven process that red-flags those words in my blog post. No human is THIS moronic.