[Author’s note: being an interview with a gay porn performer, this writeup involves some very frank and explicit discussions of sexual activities and practices. If you’re the prudish sort, stop reading now.]

When I got to Mark’s flat, I could tell that he’d made a big effort to clean up, to stack magazines, clean dishes, and make sure CDs were in their cases and on the shelves. I could also tell that this clearly wasn’t the normal state of things. Of course it was a bit flattering to be considered that important, but also a bit disheartening since as an interviewer, you really hope to sneak in and see what the bed looks like unmade. Still, our conversation ended up being a lot about the tensions between what is presented and what is fact. What with his being a porn performer, this clean façade may have been the perfect thematic setting.

I had first come across Mark [not his real name] about a year before online, at a gay hook up site. It was the combination of his grinning, handsome face and geeky-smart screen name, “orobourical,” that caught my eye. Most screen names are in the category of “hot9inchboi” and “gdlkgstudSF,” so the oddly-spelled reference to the ancient symbol of a serpent swallowing its tail stood out. We traded some logophile messages and left it at that, touching base every month or so. Then, in November of last year, I logged on to the site again only to find that his pics, which had been fun-loving snaps of him at various vacation spots, were suddenly replaced with all-nude posed studio muscle shots with him brandishing a woody. I inquired. He told me that he had recently transitioned into porn. Whoa. Had this been hot9inchboi, I might not have given it a second thought, but this was orobourical, and I was curious what drove such a transition in him. So, I asked for an interview. I didn’t hear back from him for about three months. I was worried that he’d misinterpreted my intentions as a cheap excuse for getting in the same room with him. But, when I logged on around March, I was surprised to see a response from him again saying that he’d love to do the interview, and we set it up from there. A couple of weeks later I found myself drinking green tea in his bedroom, beginning with the spelling of his porn name.

    Me: OK So your porn name is what?
    Bo: Bo Matthews.
    Me:Beau” as in French for—?
    Bo: No, B-O.

I’m kind of a tall guy, so even at 5'10", Mark feels kind of short to me. He’s got reddish brown hair cut short and unattended, Mountain Bluebird eyes with early-30s smile lines that appear when he grins, which is often. Off and on he sports the type of goatee the World Beard Championship calls a “natural.” (Think Andre Agassi circa 2004.) He’s an animated speaker who hasn’t quite lost his Michigan accent, bordering on an upspeak that ends many of his statements with “right?” He wears jeans and tshirts that are loose enough to only suggest, not boast, the muscled torso underneath. During our interview he sat cross legged most of the time on the far side of his California-King sized bed. We talk about his past and what path took him from the Bay Area (Michigan) to the Bay Area (San Francisco).

A history

He grew up in an area around Saginaw, smarter than the adults around him and perhaps a little precocious for it. Mom gave him some explicit details when he asked about babies.

    Bo: I was asking questions about where babies come from. Mom made the decision that she was just going to tell me. So they explained sex to me at the age of five. I soon understood what a penis was, and that it went into a woman’s vagina and that he shot something up inside of her, and I was completely fascinated. I spent my entire childhood looking at men’s crotches. I have such clear memories of this. Being 5, 6 years old and checking out packages. And I remember thinking as a child when there was a really big bulge, thinking “Oh, he’d be fun.” Where does that come from? Where does a 6 year old get that?

By 6th grade the overweight, effeminate kid given to histrionics had been labeled the “class fag” and it racked him with self-esteem issues. At college he tried both being straight and in a fraternity, both only lasting until one of his fraternity brothers hit on him. Sex was never psychologically comfortable since he wasn’t comfortable with himself. After a first, disastrous attempt at grad school, the wild side suggested that he join the Peace Corps, and the good side went right along with it. That landed him in Zimbabwe for four transformative years. The effects of which were apparent when he returned.

    Bo: I come back from Africa 25 pounds lighter, having had the experience of a lifetime, being way more comfortable in my skin, and all the sudden I’m getting noticed a lot. I can go up to Chicago and get laid with no problem. So I had this year and a half of kind of finally coming into my own as a gay man.

The second attempt at grad school worked, and he managed to get an assignment that took him back to Africa, this time in neighboring Zambia. The awakened gay guy in him couldn’t be as easily repressed as before, so he found the experience less liberating than the first time around. When he was done with his project, he left to finish his studies in the States, where, upon graduation, he realized that he needed to find a whole new place to live. The calculation went something like this:

    Bo: Until the age of 33 as an adult I either lived in college towns or Africa. I was really, really, really ready to live someplace cool. Let me rephrase that. Africa was cool. I was ready to live someplace where I could get laid.

I had three criteria. I needed to have a large gay population. It needed to be a place I could see lots of live music. And it had to have really easy access to the outdoors. At least once a month I need to get outside. Like seriously outside. Camping, hiking. So I started looking at American cities and San Francisco seemed like the clear choice based on those criteria.

Sight unseen and knowing only a few people, he took up residence in a friend’s basement for a few months to find work and a place to live. He found both fairly quickly. He’s been here in the city ever since.

A few years ago, he began to date a guy who worked off-camera at a porn studio in town, and found his curiosity for the industry—and in being the one on-camera—piqued. Still, despite having been a regular attendee of the Gold’s Gym in the Castro, he’d never really felt up to par. But to test his level of comfort of being watched, he went to a sex party, where he had kind of a epiphany in the sling:

    Bo: The sex party ends with me in a sling getting fucked and literally everybody in the room stopping dead to watch. It was hot. There was something about having that power; it was an amazing experience. The guy that was topping me was pretty hot, and I was definitely into him and having a good time with him, but there was something also incredible about having an audience. My eyes could wander around the room and make eye contact and see the looks on people’s faces. They were enjoying it just as much as I was. It was almost like in some weird way I was having sex with everyone in the room. And, frankly, I wouldn’t have had full-contact sex with most of the guys there, but with their watching me, they’re sharing it with me, and there was this flow of energy inward and it was incredible. That’s when I made the decision, “I’m doin’ porn.”

He’s insistent that the real point of getting into porn wasn’t the goal in and of itself—though he likes to talk about it and seems to be having a ball—but rather as a motivation for getting himself into the best shape of his life. So he changed his workout and his relationship with food (I tried to avoid treating him like some reluctant personal trainer/nutritionist, so I didn’t press for details) and worked like hell to change his body.

He posted his new pics to BigMuscle.com and started some conversations with veteran porn performer Adam Faust, who was impressed with Bo’s pictures and convinced his producers to take a look. That recommendation got Bo a first shoot, which has led two more at the time of this writing. It looks like this side career is already taking off.

As a result, I find myself sitting cross legged on comforter looking for somewhere to put the drained cup of green tea.

    Me: So that’s who Mark is. Let’s talk about Bo Matthews. Who is he? Who do you want him to be, since he’s kind of in-construction at the moment?

Bo: I’m a calculated and cerebral enough person that I do have an answer to that. So, whether or not people talk about me as this great bottom “Wow, he can take a lot of dick” the one thing that is very clear to me that I want to be known for is “He’s always having a good time. He’s the one having real sex.”

Real sex? How is what the other porn actors are doing not real sex? Those who haven’t spent time contemplating Bill Clinton's deposition statements or understanding porn as an illusion machine parallel to Hollywood may find such a statement complicated, but after spending this time with Mark, I’m not surprised that he can just drop something that nuanced and move on. He’s a smart guy. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself having the sorts of pithy, unabashed conversations that I relish with erudite friends. So while we talked about a lot of things, the snippets I’m going to focus on are those that illustrate that most-salient point.


On the power politics of bottoming

    Me: You mentioned earlier that you took a great deal of care in determining who you’d first let top you and the circumstances around it. Why did that mean so much?

Bo: Some of it was my still buying into the idea that I’m giving up something by letting a guy fuck me, which a lot of gay men kind of have to work through. We basically fall into the same trap, or the same socialization that women do. That the act of being penetrated can only be enjoyed by the penetrator, as opposed to it being something that I actively want, and I have control over. This took me some years to kind of think about and sort through. It’s this whole thing of “pained bottom face,” that appears in porn; the idea that being a bottom seems to be degrading somehow.

I think we’ve [the gay community] always kind of sidestepped the criticism that’s hurled at straight porn; that it’s inherently degrading of women. In gay porn we say, because these are all men, there’s no inherent power difference between them. But in fact gay porn almost always privileges the top. It’s seen from his perspective. I understand why that’s true because I’m still capable of responding to a big dick going into a hole, absolutely. But still, it seems like we get pained bottom face more than we get fucking ecstatic bottom face.


Constructing (and being the victim of) our own desires

    Me: How do you feel being a part of an industry that many argue sets impossible standards for gay physical attractiveness?

Bo: Well first of all they’re not impossible, it’s just about how badly you want it. And if you don’t want it badly enough, don’t continue portraying yourself as the victim of advertising, marketing, and the gay porn industry because your desires feed into this. You can only fall prey to this comparison if you put yourself into it. And that’s the part that makes me a little crazy.

I had a guy email me on Manhunt whose opening line was “Oh, you’re so hot I know I could never get the likes of you, I know I’m not in your rank.” This was so stupid. So not sexy. It’s like you’re shooting yourself in the foot. When I came home from Peace Corps I had this ease, this confidence. I was astounded at the men who approached me because of it. I still felt I was a little overweight, unattractive. But this was just some hierarchy I had in my head. My hierarchy didn’t match anyone else’s. So this criticism of gay porn is valid only if you buy into it.

Me: But let’s be honest, you cannot escape the media images. “Just don’t buy into it” is not practical. You cannot walk down Market Street and not see the hotties on the Gay.com ads. Your only hope to escape it is to become hermetic, and that’s more than just “not buying into it.”

Bo: Well, then it’s more about self-centering. I’m thinking about the prominence of the “bear” subculture. There’s bear porn. Bear bars. There’s a BigMuscleBears website. I probably couldn’t get away with posting a profile there. So they’re not buying into my type as a center, and more power to them.


Edgy, nasty, pigs…and bell hooks

[Vocabulary note: A “pig” as a term regarding sexual practice refers to an individual eager to perform any sex act, and particularly what many would consider degrading sex acts.]
    Me: What is the porn industry’s impression of you as a newcomer?

Bo: It’s funny. There’s this assumption about me that I am edgy. And a lot of it was because it was [fisting-specialist] Adam who introduced me to the industry. Plus, I’m very much a blue jeans and t-shirts kind of guy. Partly because I hate clothing. I hate dealing with it. I hate going shopping for it. I don’t own very much. And if your perceived norm of gay men is more fashion-oriented, then somebody who like me who just wears jeans and t-shirts must be kind of edgy. And I’ve got the goatee, and I live in San Francisco. Clearly I must be into leather.

I’ve also been told that when people look at my pictures they see this guy who couldn’t play the innocent boy next door, that I have a ready edgy look on my face…it’s inexplicable to me. I shot for [legendary, out-of-retirement gay porn director] Joe Gage recently and at the end of the day he and I are talking. I mention how I want to come back and work with him again. He says, “I’m amenable to that. And let’s face it, you’re a total pig.” Which is a term I’ve never identified with. And yet I’m now coming into contact with lots of men who do, and I’ve been kind of struggling with it.

It’s not just “pig” either. There are two words that I struggle with, “pig” and “nasty.” Because to me, what that’s all about is that you’re still buying into the idea that you’re still on the margins of sexuality. When you talk about being “nasty”—well, in comparison to what? There’s an implied comparison. And frankly, if want to go get fisted, I don’t want to sit and think, “Oh, I’m so nasty” as if it’s some sort of self-validating thing about how “edgy” the sex I’m having is. I just want to say “I’m enjoying getting fisted,” and have it be just that.

I’m really drawing on bell hooks, a black feminist author from the 80s. One of the things she talks about is margins and centers. It’s kind of basic feminist theory, She just happens to be the person who exposed me to the idea. As soon as you define yourself on the margin, you’ve defined yourself in relation to the center, and in a less powerful position to the center. So when I hear guys talking about “Oh, I’m so nasty” to me you’ve given up some of the power of your sexual expression. You define yourself relative to your perception of what mainstream is. I don’t want to fall into that trap.

So when Joe tells me that I’m a total pig. I think what he meant is that I was into it. There were two guys that I had great chemistry with and I was like, Joe, both of these guys are fuckin’ me. So, we get the scene, and I’m down on my knees in front of two guys, and I’m sucking their dicks and I’m kind of going back and forth, and I really wanted them both in my mouth at the same time. And I kept kind of waiting, it just seems like a standard porn thing, right. The direction never came. Finally I was just like “fuck it” and I’m just going do it. And I did. Joe started saying, “That’s great! Yeah, do that, but turn your face.” There were a couple more times where I thought of some way to make the scene better, and I’d do it. I was the guy doing most of that sort of thing in the shoot. I was the guy having real sex. Not just acting.

But I might just be overreacting to the words “pig” and “nasty” or the tone of voice and not the actual intention of the guys who use it. I might be putting all this theoretical bullshit I have in my head about margins and centers on top of what for them is really a simple statement for them about how much they like sex and how they are as sexual beings. But I’ve really, really had to think through all of this.

I’ve thought through this same stuff, too, while (well, ok, after) watching porn guys go after it. But I’ll admit that during the interview I was a bit surprised to witness one of them thinking about it, too. The whole thing was messing with my clean psychological divisions between the people sexing up my Quicktime player and real people in the world.

As an adolescent, porn was shockingly powerful: Real people, having sexy sex, right there in front of me. I was all hormones and these images were electrifying my developing sex circuits, and almost any porn was enough to satisfy. Psychological maturation, leveling hormone drive, and actual experience of sex changed my young adult relationship with the stuff. Thankfully I had the media literacy to realize that what I was jacking off to wasn’t real sex at all, or even representative of real sex, but a product of an image industry that, like Men’s Health, showed some exaggerated archetype of the real thing. And taken as such, it worked fine. I shifted into a working conception of porn performers. They weren’t the fantasies I had in my head, but close-enough stand-ins. They were a cordial but alien species, come from Planet Pretty to occasionally exchange money for images of their Zipless Fucks.

Mark…I mean Bo… has begun to break that down. When I finally see any of his scenes, (they aren’t available as of this writing) I expect the experience will change from my knowing him, knowing that he’s thought his way into that trussed-up greasy three-way step by step. It’s almost as if that’s who I’d be if I had that moment-in-the-sling epiphany and got myself into porn shape. I’d want to be having non-canon, real sex™ too. And that thought is…sexy.

I don’t know how his plans to be “the thinking man’s porn star” will play out for guys who haven’t made it into his apartment to interview him, but he’s asked for a copy of this writeup—however I write it—for his website, so clearly he wants to leave the line separating Mark from Bo ambiguous, to play with it. Again, pretty smart, I think.

At the risk of unflattering comparisons to Dirk Diggler, I think I should end on one particular thing that Mark mentioned a couple of times in the interview. We spent some time talking about the split between his ENTJ, Richard-Dawkins-loving side and his caution-to-the-wind, Tarot-reading, shake-it-up side. You may be surprised to know that he doesn’t refer to his inner bad boy as the “porn star.” Instead, he refers to it as the “rock star.”


Making Beautiful Music

    Bo: One of the things I realized in Zambia in 2002 was that I had never pursued my heart’s true desire, which is to make music. I’ve had music in my head my entire life. About once a month I’ll be walking down the street, letting my head float, and a bass line will pop into my head. Then without warning the guitar part will come in. Then I can hear the vocal I don’t know what the words are, but I can hear how it would go on top, and in five minutes there’s a song in my head. Then I’ll I think, “That sounds fucking cool. That would be an awesome song.” But I have no tools to capture it, to make it, so it’s lost.

And sometimes, it will happen with lyrics, too. I have tools to capture that, of course, so I’ll sometimes race back home hoping that I remember it. But what more often happens is a phrase pops into my head or a situation pops into my head.

As an example let’s go back to the sex party. Over the course of the next day or two, I was thinking about this first experience in a sling, and this song idea popped into my head. It would be called “Slung” and it’s basically this feeling about being a piece of meat hanging in a butcher window and I’m available for your consumption…but I’ll be there again tomorrow.

I’m intrigued by the idea whatever notoriety I gain by porn I could translate into my musical career. There could be a point where I decide it’s time to take the plunge and the financial security might be shaky for awhile and it’s a lot easier to say, I’m going to go live in a friend’s basement and sell my car and…if I’m not committed to anybody else. So it’s all very hypothetical right now, and I…well I made the comment way earlier that I live in my head anyway so this is just another manifestation of that. You know I’m dead serious. It has to happen. I just need the question resolved.


If you'd like to connect a face to the text and don't mind the explicit pictures, his BigMuscleProfile is public: http://www.bigmuscle.com/orobourical

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.