Gay pornography

Gay pornography is the representation of sexual activity among males, with the primary goal of sexual arousal in its audience. There is also a tradition, and continuing considerable output, of lesbian pornography. However, the term gay pornography is rarely intended to encompass this.

Although pornography has usually represented the heterosexual orientation of the dominant culture, gay explicit material has a long history, reaching back to Greek Antiquity, if not to prehistory. Practically every medium has been used to represent all-male sexual acts. Nowadays, however, the gay porn industry is mostly concentrated in the making of home videos, DVDs cable broadcast and emerging VOD and wireless markets, as well as images (still and moving) for viewing on the Internet. Gay porn constitutes a disproportionately large part of the pornography industry. It has also attracted much less attention from the anti-pornography movement than has its straight counterpart.


Early modern in the United States

Homoeroticism has been present in photography and film since their invention. During much of that time, any kind of sexual depiction had to remain underground because of obscenity rules. In particular, gay material might constitute evidence of an illegal act under sodomy laws in many jurisdictions. (This is no longer the case in the United States since such laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas.)

However, hardcore pornographic motion pictures ("stag films," as they were called prior to their legalization in 1970) were produced relatively early in the history of film. The first known pornographic film of any kind appears to have been made in Europe in 1908. The earliest known film to depict hardcore gay (and bisexual) sex was the French film Le Menage Moderne Du Madame Butterfly, produced and released in 1920. Most historians consider the first American stag film to be A Free Ride,, produced and released in 1915. But in the United States, hardcore gay sexual intercourse did not make it onto film until 1929's The Surprise of a Knight.

Nevertheless, legal restrictions meant that early hardcore gay porn was underground and that commercially-available gay porn primarily consisted of pictures of individual men either fully naked or wearing a g-string. Pornography in the 1940s and 1950s focused on athletic men or body builders in statuesque poses. They were generally young, muscular, and with little or no visible body hair. Those pictures were sold in physique magazines, also known as beefcake magazines, allowing the reader to pass as a fitness enthusiast. Since most gay men of this time were deeply "in the closet", actual depictions of sexual activity were rare. Although now considered quite tame or soft-core, this type of pornography still exists today.

The Athletic Model Guild (AMG) founded by photographer Bob Mizer in 1944 in Los Angeles, California, was arguably the first studio to commercially produce material specifically for gay men and published the first magazine known as Physique Pictorial in 1951. Tom of Finland drawings are featured in many issues. Mizer produced about a million images, and thousands of films and videos before he died on May 12, 1992. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the advent of 16mm film cameras enabled these photographers to produce underground movies of gay sex and/or masturbation. Sales of these products were either by mail-order or through more discreet channels. Some of the early gay pornographers would travel around the country selling their photographs and films out of their hotel rooms, with advertising only through word of mouth and magazine ads.

The 1960s were also a period where many underground art film makers integrated suggestive or overtly gay content in their work. Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising (1963), Andy Warhol's Blow Job (1964) and My Hustler (1965), or Paul Morrissey's Flesh (1968) are examples of experimental films that are known to have influenced further gay pornographic films with their formal qualities and narratives. Tyler Gajewski is a noted actor and model of the period who appeared in Warhol's and Morrissey's films, as well as in Mizer's work at the AMG. Also of note is Joe Dallesandro, who acted in hardcore gay pornographic films in his early 20s, posed nude for Francesco Scavullo, Bruce of L.A. and Bob Mizer, and later acted for Warhol in films such as Flesh. Dallesandro was well-known to the public. In 1969 Time magazine called him one of the most beautiful people of the 1960s, and he graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in April 1971. Dallesandro even appeared on the cover of The Smiths' eponymous debut album, The Smiths.

Sexual revolution

During the 1960s, a series of United States Supreme Court rulings created a more liberalized legal environment that allowed the commercialization of pornography. MANual Enterprises v. Day, 370 U.S. 478 (1962) was the first decision by the United States Supreme Court which held that magazines consisting largely of photographs of nude or near-nude male models are not obscene within the meaning of . It was the first case in which the Court engaged in plenary review of a Post Office Department order holding obscene matter "nonmailable." The case is notable for its ruling that photographs of nude men are not obscene, an implication which opened the U.S. mail to nude male pornographic magazines, especially those catering to gay men.

Wakefield Poole's Boys in the Sand, starring Casey Donovan, can be considered one of the first gay porn feature films along with the works of filmakers such as Pat Rocco and the Park Theatre, Los Angeles, California, circa 1970. Boys in the Sand opened in a theater in New York City in December 1971 and played to a packed house with record breaking boxoffice receipts, preceding Deep Throat, the first commercial straight porn film in America, which opened in June 1972. This success launched gay pornographic film as a popular phenomenon.

The production of gay porn films expanded during the 1970s. A few studios released films for the growing number of gay adult theatres, where men could also have sexual encounters. Often, the films reflected the sexual liberation that gay men were experiencing at the time, depicting the numerous public spaces where men engaged in sex: bathhouses, sex clubs, beaches, etc. Most of the productions used a cast of youthful, muscular and hairy men, which would become a hallmark of the gay erotic aesthetic of the decade.

The 1970s also saw the rise of gay publishing with After Dark and Michael's Thing. During this time many more magazines were founded, including In Touch and Blueboy. Playgirl, ostensibly produced for women, was purchased and enjoyed by gay men and feature full frontal nudity (the posing straps and fig leaves were removed).


The 1980s were a period of transition for gay porn film. The proliferation of VCRs made porn videos easily accessible, and, as their prices fell, the market for home videos aimed at adult viewers became more and more lucrative. By the mid-1980s, the standard was to release porn movies directly on video, which meant the wide disappearance of porn theaters. Furthermore, video recording being more affordable, a multitude of producers entered the market, making low-budget porn videos.

This shift from watching pornography as a public activity to doing so in private was also influenced by the discovery of the HIV virus and the subsequent AIDS crisis. Public spaces for sex, such as theatres, became less attended when in the early 1980s it became a much riskier behavior. Masturbatory activities in the privacy of the home became a safe sex practice in the midst of this health crisis.

Gay movies of the 1970s had contained some exploration of novel ways to represent the sexual act. In the 1980s, by contrast, all movies seemed to be made under an unwritten set of rules and conventions. Most scenes would start with a few lines of dialogue, have performers engage in foreplay (fellatio), followed by anal penetration, and ending with a visual climax close-up of ejaculating penises, called a "money shot" or cum shot. Video technology allowed the recording of longer scenes than did the costly film stock. Scenes were often composed of extended footage of the same act filmed from different shots using multiple cameras. The quality of the picture and sound were often very poor.

Big directors like Matt Sterling, Eric Peterson, John Travis, and William Higgins set the standard for the models of the decade. The performers they cast were especially young, usually appearing to be around the ages of 22 or 23. Their bodies were slender and hairless, of the "swimmer's build" type, which contrasted with the older, bigger, and hairier man of 70s gay porn. Performer roles also evolved into the tight divisions of "tops" and "bottoms". The "top" in anal sex is the penetrating partner, who would typically have a more muscular body and the larger penis. The "bottom," or receiver of anal sex, would often be smaller and sometimes more effeminate. The stars of the decade were almost always tops, while the bottoms were interchangeable (with the exception of Joey Stefano, a popular star, who was more of a "bottom".)

This strict division between "tops" and "bottoms" may have reflected a preference by some of the popular directors of the decade to hire heterosexual men for their movies. Heterosexual men who perform gay sex for monetary reasons (commonly labeled "gay-for-pay") are considered a rare commodity in the gay sex trade, but the biggest producers of the decade could afford them. Many critics attributed the conventionalization of gay porn of the 80s to this trend. Straight men performing gay sex in these movies often did not show as much enthusiasm as could be apparent in sexual acts between genuine homosexuals.


The gay porn industry diversified steadily in the 1990s. In 1989, director Kristen Bjorn started a porn company which would set a new standard for gay porn producers. He was a professional photographer, and the images in his videos had a high technical quality. Also a former gay porn performer himself, he directed his models with care, which helped improved the actors' believability. Other directors had to improve their technical quality to keep up with ever more demanding viewers.

Another significant change during this decade was the explosion of the niche market. Many videos began to be produced for viewers with specific tastes (i.e. for amateur porn, Military (Men in Uniform) Porn, transsexual performers, bondage fetishes, performers belonging to specific ethnic groups, etc.), and this led to a huge diversification of the people involved in porn production and consumption.

The gay porn industry grew substantially in popularity during the 1990s, evolving into a complex and interactive subculture. Professional directors (like Chi Chi LaRue and John Rutherford - technicians or deck operators during the U-matic phase of video technology- as well as performers started to engage in pornography as a career, their work sustained by emerging porn media and influential critics (like Mikey Skee.)

Perspectives for the 21st century

Today, gay pornography has become a highly profitable enterprise, ranging from the "straight-guy" porn of Active Duty and Sean Cody, to the 'twinks' of Bel Ami.

Some controversy currently exists regarding studios that produce bareback (aka condomless) videos, such as Treasure Island Media, Machofucker, Hot Desert Knights, Spunk Video, Cobra Video and TipoSesso. Mainstream companies, such as Falcon Entertainment, Hot House Entertainment, Channel 1 Releasing, Lucas Entertainment, Raging Stallion, and Titan Media claim that condomless videos promote unsafe sex and contribute to the continuing HIV problem, both in the industry and in the gay community as a whole.

The controversy dates back to the first few years of the HIV crisis, when nearly all gay porn production companies voluntarily required their models to wear condoms for anal sex. The premise on which some industry figures (notably Chi Chi LaRue) base their sometimes vituperative objections to bareback porn is the claim that behavior of the performers serves as a model for viewer behavior. However there is only anecdotal evidence of this connection. There are strong opinions on both sides of this debate.


The primary audience of gay pornography consists of gay and bisexual men, although not all men who have sex with men identify as "gay" or "bisexual", and questioning men may also be interested.

In August 2005, adult star Jenna Jameson launched "Club Thrust", an interactive website featuring gay male pornographic videos, which was shown to attract a female audience as well. Yaoi comic books and slash fiction are both genres featuring gay men, but primarily written by and for straight women. Some lesbian and bisexual women are also fans of gay male pornography, specifically yaoi, for its feminine-styled men.

Notable movies


First feature gay porn film to achieve mainstream crossover success; helped usher in "porn chic." Said to be "a textbook example of gay erotic filmmaking" that was screened in film festivals all over the world.2008 Philadelphia Film Festival
The first feature from award-winning director Douglas. Re-made by Chi Chi LaRue in 2001. Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).
Movie by an influential director (read the chapter consecrated to it in Moore, 2004 for more.) Is archived at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.
Influential movie starring Peter Berlin.
Is still acclaimed by cultural critics as one of a few gay porn movies that tried to bring complexity to the blue movie. Inspired many contemporary porn filmmakers (Morris, 2004). Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).
Film by a prominent director and studio of the 1970s. Shot in Fire Island, the film (and others of the company) document well the sexual lives of New York City's gay men of the period. Excerpts displayed in the documentary Gay Sex in the 70s.

Joe Gage's trilogy:

See article on Joe Gage.
Some of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies


One of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies
One of the biggest films of the influential French porn director (see article on him.)
One movie by a director that has influenced numerous gay artistsThe Christopher Rage Collection
One of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies
One of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies
See History, 1990s section above.


Movie with Ryan Idol. Read Dyer, 1994 for more.
Popular film with Joey Stefano (see History, 1980s section) also featuring Chi Chi LaRue in a non-sexual role. Read Burger, 1995 chapter for an extensive analysis.
Award winning film by major director Rutherford. Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).
One of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies
One of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies
The narrative and aesthetic qualities of this movie are representative of a new generation of porn film makers. (Thomas, 2000:66) One of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies
Popular movie by influential director Colbert, starring the real-life Rockland brothers (Hal, Vince, and Shane). Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).
Popular gay porn video with unfrequent artistic qualities, by a prominent director and studio. Created legal dispute in Canada when the government tried to forbid its distribution in the name of obscenity | features
Famous film by art/porn director LaBruce. Aired in gay film festivals around the world.
Major film by prominent director and studio. Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).


Spawned a whole series of similarly-titled films (for example, OfficeBoy, SpyBoy, and RentBoy)
Biggest production by this director and studio. Variously described as a film adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782), and a remake of Dangerous Liaisons (1988).
Major production by infamous director Paul Morris. Created huge controversy because it is mainly composed of bareback sex.
Largest production up to date by on of the most enduring porn directors of history.

Further reading and information

Academic works



See also

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This article is based on "Gay pornography" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia ( It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: