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How gay porn has eroticized the worst aspects of American culture

How gay porn has eroticized the worst aspects of American culture

I was in a space that I, specifically, am rarely in–the erotic conundrum.   That awkward moment, mid-stroke, when my libido and morals are at odds.

It’s like that feeling when you’re scrolling through your favorite porn site, stroking and feeling freakier than usual.  You find that perfect clip to suite your fancy and it happens–the white stuff cums.  Your body relaxes.  Your mind clears.  Then you look back at your device and are disgusted at what you just jacked off to.  First you’re disgusted at what you’re watching.  Then you’re disgusted at yourself for watching.  Bottle up all that disgust.  That’s what I was feeling.

As many men do, I was cruising the other day looking–this time I mean simply and only looking.  I clicked on one ad then another.  Exchanged a couple messages as one normally does in the late night or early morning hours.  The view from the comfort of my rent-paid-this-month-car-gassed-up-and-no-fucks-to-give bedroom cradled me like a mother cradles their first born.

Usually, I’m numb to advertising on these sites.  Which is probably why some apps have injected there ad placements right between profiles and hard ons.  But this advertisement was different.  That little 100-pixel high bar at the bottom of my iPhone 7 jumped out at me louder and bigger than it had ever.  This ad was, albeit, disgusting.  But just as if Two Girls One Cup didn’t teach me anything, I clicked on the mortifying advert was taken even farther aback.

Now I could go on a ramble about all the Black men who have died at the hands and guns of the criminal justice system.  Much more than gun violence, the men unduly convicted, serving terms for plea bargains hedged up by a system that was not built for nor understands the plight and sensibilities of its most vulnerable.  But I’m choosing to take a different tack and argue the merit of pornography–and there definitely is merit.

Porn, for many of us, is our debut to our same-gender loving experience.  Mine was a website called StudCollege.com that no longer exists.  I used to call it up on our family’s dial-up connection when I thought I was the only one home and beat my pubescent meat to the minute-and-a-half long preview clip they had on their front page.  It was one of the first solaces I took in middle school where I learned to rationalize that I was not gay, I just had a penis fetish.

Years later, I finished telling myself those lies and am now proudly Black, gay, woke, and bothered.  But I think back to that first breath of porn that I consumed two decades ago.  It was not tremendously accessible, but it was a safe space for me.  Now, however, the porn that some are stumbling upon is much more problematic.  They’re not seeing simple man-on-man action that I grew up on.  This industry, the literal doorway out of the closet, has had to push the buck so far that we are culturally normalizing the plight of our people.

Blake Rowley, Senior Manager of health equity at the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), conducted grueling research on Black men in porn.  I’d imagine it consisted of watching hours and hours of libido stimulating content and trying hard not to jack, but I digress.  In his research he found that Black men were more often fetishized, depicted in films having less plot line, and more often in bare or raw scenes.  Many of these were the result of market demand, but if we take a deeper look we see cultural norms laid bare: (1) Black men are parts and not people, (2) our thoughts and words are not valuable, and (3) our risk is justifiable.

If that is the tenor or porn in 2014 when Rowley published his research in the wake of Trayvon, Michael, Alton, Philando, and the myriad others, what is porn saying about us now?

Sites like GayPatrol.com are built on one premise: the victimization of Black and Brown bodies by the criminal justice system.  They are a well-funded machine of building pornographic narratives that eroticize our lived experience.  It’s tantamount to pornography that depicts rape.  And, with sex and porn a focal point of gay culture, sites like this one are literally saying you, Black and Brown people, and your experience: FCK that.

Pornography is, perhaps, the only media that has the ability to shape gay cultural norms more powerfully than any other.  It makes celebrities and it normalizes behaviors.  It’s perhaps the one industry that is run end-to-end by us and for us.  Gay men sit at the helm of some of the largest porn houses in the world.  We have the opportunity to make a big statement, but this industry has aired on the side of disgust.  I wonder where we go from here.

Update: Blake Rowley published his research in 2014.  The previously updated article listed the publish date as 2006.  The content has since been updated and we apologize for discrepancy or confusion.
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