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The Commodification of Sex in the Gay Community- Sex for Pay and Pornography

Increasingly, it seems sex is “commodified” through the increased prevalence and availability of pornography and pay for sex options such as escorts, “rentboys” and sometimes masseurs.  This is likely due to the influence of the internet and other technologies and changing social mores.  In this salon, we would like to discuss this phenomenon of “sex commodification”.  Some questions to ponder:

1)  Sex for Pay

• Have you ever paid for sex or thought about doing so?  If so, why?  If not, why not? Is there social stigma against sex for pay?  

• If there is social stigma, is it purely a result of social conditioning or is there something inherently demeaning about receiving or paying money for sex? 

• Is there something just efficient about paying for sex?  Instead of spending one’s time online cruising or going to bars, might it be just faster and quicker to pay for sex, while getting exactly what you want? 

• What about the ethical and moral aspects of sex for pay?  Is there always something exploitative about prostitution?  Does it vary from situation to situation (e.g., child prostitutes in Thailand vs. $5000/night high end escorts who control all aspects of their business)? 

• Some argue that prostitution is demeaning because you are selling your body for money.  If this is true, how is prostitution different from acting in porn movies, posing nude or just modeling or acting?  Taking this further, how is this different than a laborer selling his labor for money?  Or even, an attorney selling his brain for money? 

• Another possible aspect of the escorting world is the use of drugs, addiction, and alcohol.  How many of the escorts use drugs? How many were sexually assaulted as children (and learned their value came from providing sex)? 

• What are the motivations for those paying for sex?  Is it just about the sex?  How about companionship, power, ego?  Is it possible to find love?

2)  Pornography

• Gay porn has evolved from $20-$50 full-length video cassettes produced by a limited number of studios to millions of free clips on the internet ranging from seconds to hours.  How has the decreased price and increased volume changed gay porn consumption habits? How does porn consumption affect dating motivation, preferences and success?  Hookup frequency and preferences?  

• How does porn consumption affect us psychologically?  For better or worse? How does porn consumption affect a long term relationship?  Does porn have a different role in a monogamous vs. an open relationship?  What are your thoughts about watching porn with your sexual partner before and/or during the sex with each other?  Does it take away from the experience together or enhance it? 

• How much porn consumption is too much?  Is it possible to become addicted to porn? 

• Is porn exploitative of the actors?  Does the recording of a sex act for pay magically make the person involved an actor rather than a prostitute?  Where is the demarcation line of prostitution and porn actor? What about those too young (but still of legal age) to know better and later end up regretting it?  What about those from poor (often Eastern European) countries with no better alternatives?  What about those addicted to drugs needing to finance their next fix?  What about those not aware they're being recorded in an amateur porn video? 

• What are your thoughts about gay-for-pay?  Are the straight identified actors being exploited?  Are the straight identified gay-for-pay actors exploiting the gay community?  Does the consumption of porn with gay-for-pay actors increase internalized homophobia when it comes to picking a mate from the gay "dating" pool? 

• Does bareback porn increase bareback practices among gay men?  Does gay society have any obligation to mitigate that influence with vehicles such as the porn condom law in Los Angeles? If an HIV- porn actor becomes HIV+ due to a bareback porn shoot, who bears the responsibility?  The actor?  The HIV+ co-star who passed along the infection?  The studio?  The porn consumers? 

• Floating in the sea of internet porn are islands of specialized genres and fetishes.  Does porn specialization have the real life impact of opening one's mind or does it rather just narrow one's focus? Does mainstream porn marginalize men of color?  Is there such a thing as mainstream porn now that most porn is retrieved by the terms you search by? If someone exclusively seeks out porn actors of their own race, is that considered racist behavior?  What if the porn consumer exclusively seeks out porn actors of a particular race different from their own? 

• Has the high volume and variety of internet porn eliminated the gay porn star?  Or enabled a new class of gay porn superstars?

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  • Richard S.

    Ok I will now agree that porn has gotten more diverse- Japanese elder porn!
    http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1818203,00.html?pcd=pw-magic

    3 · February 6, 2014

  • Patrick

    Harken's back to Salon's about race and gender identity (the book noted below has been well reviewed including the NYT this past November). Tonight at the SF Public Library:


    Hilton Als @ Koret Auditorium
    The bestselling author and theatre critic discusses his book of essays, White Girls. 6pm-8pm. SF Public Library, lower level, 100 Larkin st. www.sfpl.org

    HIlton Als, The New Yorker’s boldest cultural critic, deftly weaves together his brilliant analyses of literature, art, and music with fearless insights on race, gender, and history. The result is an extraordinary, complex portrait of “white girls,” as Als dubs them—an expansive but precise category that encompasses figures as diverse as Truman Capote and Louise Brooks, Malcolm X and Flannery O’Connor. Hear Hilton discuss his book at the San Francisco Main Library.
    Related Exhibitions and Events

    2 · February 18, 2014

  • James R.

    May I ask can we post or get the questions I seemed to have misplaced my sheet from the meeting. They were very well done and thought provoking. I was talking about the group and mentioned them to someone to have continued discussion. Thanks.

    1 · February 7, 2014

    • Lee R.

      Jim, I have posted them in the Message Board (zaccess it from the pull-down Discussions menu at the top of this page; it is "pinned" which will keep it near the top of the Messages list. Lee Robbins

      1 · February 7, 2014

    • James R.

      Thanks very much.

      February 7, 2014

  • Lee R.

    Exceptionally good with a large turnout despite the (much needed) rain and with lots of thoughtful comments and people willing to share experiences as both providers and purchasers of "sex for pay".

    1 · February 7, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hello Richard, Lee, Adam, Carlos and Patrick. Tonight was my first meeting with the group. I enjoyed the discussions with the smaller group and it was enlightening to hear the follow-up/summary comments. I am very glad I joined the group and look forward to the next gathering. Have a great night. Cheers, Sushant

    6 · February 5, 2014

    • Patrick

      Sushant, glad you made it to the Salon and hope to see you at some future events! Next month will have a bit of controversy as we discuss, hmmm, gentrification (?) of SF, the commingling of different generations with different vocations, incomes, etc. It should be interesting.

      2 · February 6, 2014

  • Patrick

    I wanted to thank everyone for the excellent discussion -- I did find it very interesting and learned.

    One of the elements some groups talked about was an important learning point (or remembering point) for me. That is, at times we use porn (or escorts if you can afford it) to deal with loneliness and/or feelings of isolation. Loneliness is a real issue. Whatever you think of Mother Teresa, who worked with people dying in the streets, one of her most famous and profound statements was that the "the most terrible poverty is loneliness." So, this is a very real issue which we have to recognize.

    I should have (but did not) recognized the issue of loneliness more clearly when talking about these issues last night -- so it is an important take away for me.

    5 · February 6, 2014

  • Lorenzo

    We had very a stimulating discussion (with lots of sexual puns, like that one). Everyone shared from a very real and honest place. We ended up focusing more on the unhealthy over-sexualized gay culture of San Francisco and how it keeps many of us gay men from having real intimacy with each other. There was an acknowledgement that sex or porn often don't fill the emptiness in our lives, but only become expected or addictive behaviors. One mini-consensus was that guys that we are not attracted to might make better friends, since it removes the inevitable sexual tension from the friendship. Lots of wisdom in this little group.

    4 · February 5, 2014

  • James R.

    Excellent conversation learned a tremendous amount. Thank you.

    3 · February 5, 2014

  • Jonathan L.

    Very interestingg and wide-ranging discussion.

    3 · February 5, 2014

  • Joel

    Pertinent topic

    3 · February 5, 2014

  • Leo T.

    Sorry will miss this one :(

    February 5, 2014

  • Ryan M.

    This seems like a very interesting event. Wish I could make it.

    February 5, 2014

  • Brian

    Once again, I might miss this one. I have previous engagement. I hope to make it there around 7:30

    February 4, 2014

  • Lee R.

    Do we sometimes at the same time desire a guy who is available for pay-for-sex -- and look down on him? What does this mean? What about buying a couple of drinks for a guy in a bar telling ourselves it's "just a friendly gesture" -- but we only offer to the one we think is cute? Is looking down on those who provide sex-for-pay analogous to attitudes towards the untouchables in India who performed such useful functions as cleaning latrines or butchering animals for others to eat? Why do some think it commendable to buy the product of their labour from local farmers and contemptible to buy the product of their labour from sex workers? What does it mean when we think its about love and take someone home for sex -- only to barely to be able to wait for him to leave afterwards? Many strange inconsistencies in our thoughts about this arena -- perhaps it would be helpful to examine these views.

    1 · February 2, 2014

  • Lorenzo

    I would highly recommend seeing "The Last Match" (La Partida) before the salon. It's a movie about a gorgeous young Cuban male prostitute who develops an unexpected romantic relationship with a friend. It's at the Opera Plaza through this weekend and really explores the inner life of someone who trades sex for money in the developing world. Here is a link to the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5EASd5FeIU

    3 · January 28, 2014

  • Adam J. B.

    Apparently 40something "call bears" are a thing! Seems like the gay prostitution market is as varied as the gay "dating" market. http://www.salon.com/2010/03/12/confessions_of_call_bear/

    1 · January 26, 2014

    • Brian

      damn lol

      January 26, 2014

  • Joel

    The best offer I've got so far is $1.99

    3 · January 13, 2014

  • Adam J. B.

    http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2014/01/florida_high_school_student_su.php

    Here's a timely article describing an 18 y/o high school student who turned to gay bareback porn to help his low income mother pay the bills. Would this be considered exploitation given his age, poverty level and increased HIV risk?

    1 · January 23, 2014

    • Patrick

      That is, I will investigate by watching the video(s) and if the performer was enjoying himself to much it may not be exploitation. I am assuming b/c this is his first acting gig, his acting will not so good. On the other hand, is it possible he is so young and does not appreciate the risk, and therefore, does not know he is being exploited.

      January 23, 2014

    • Jonathan L.

      Good for you for taking one for the team and providing such top notch research. I'm sure you'll get to the bottom of this before long.

      January 23, 2014

  • Brian

    This sucks brass balls... I might have to miss this salon. :(

    January 23, 2014

  • Richard M.

    I once was asked to be in a porn movie. I thought they were kidding and started laughing. Not the approach they were going for.

    1 · January 23, 2014

  • Joel

    I cannot focus on this right now.....Justin Bieber was arrested this morning !!!

    2 · January 23, 2014

    • Patrick

      it appears, to the the joy of beliebers everywhere, that jason is now at on bail; whew, what a relief.

      January 23, 2014

  • Lee R.

    The issue which most interests me (though I have once each been on the provider and purchaser side of "sex for pay" which were interesting, is about what sex and money means for us, topics which are I think usually not much thought through but knee jerk (not a pun!) reactions. Some further thoughts follow:


    Thoughts/questions about Sex for Pay -- Valid alternative! – or Not?
    -- it was too long to go here, so see the comments on the Message Board discussion

    1 · January 22, 2014

  • Barry

    Interesting topic! Sorry I'll have to miss it.

    January 13, 2014

  • Brian

    Oooo another good topic. Count me in ;)

    1 · November 30, 2013

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