EVERYTHING IMPORTANT THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED IN THE HISTORY OF GAY PORN

It’s tempting to think gay porn is a relatively recent phenomenon. However, the fascination with watching men have sex with one another is not new. In fact, it’s been there since prehistoric times.

It’s also been at the forefront of many technological advances. Soon after the invention of photographic plates in the 1800s, people began to take shots of nudes. One of the reasons VHS took off in the early 1980s was because it meant you no longer had to venture out to porn theaters.

Here is a brief look back on male-on-male porn from the ages…

Pre-modern age

The ancient Greeks and Romans were among the first to feature erotic images on ceramics. Some of these depicted same-sex relations, and many of them celebrated cultural ideals of male beauty.

Perhaps surprising to consumers of gay porn today, Greeks considered the ideal male penis as small, thin and uncircumcised. Greek playwright Aristophanes summed up male beauty as ‘a gleaming chest, bright skin, broad shoulders, tiny tongue, strong buttocks, and a little prick.’

This idea of male beauty carried on over to Roman Times. A noteworthy artifact from this time is the Warren Cup, which resides in London’s British Museum. It features two engraving of male figures engaged in anal sex.

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The Greeks and Romans weren’t the only ones at it. Shunga art was a specific form of woodblock art that flourished from the 13th to 19th century in Japan . It often featured sexual relations, including same-sex couplings. Below is the charmingly titled ‘Client lubricating a prostitute’ by Kitagawa Utamaro.

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The printing press arrived in Europe in the mid-15th century, and images of sex followed soon after. Some scholars trace the beginning of pornography back to an anonymous, illustrated French book published in 1655, entitled L’Ecole des Filles.

In it, two young women discuss sex in detail. Diarist Samuel Pepys mentions purchasing a copy, and says he intends to burn it afterwards so his wife doesn’t discover it.

Birth of photography

The first photographic processes arrived in the 1830s in France. Soon after, early photographers produce images of nudes as aids for artists to paint and draw from.

This is the first time some people might have got their hands on realistic photographic imagery of naked bodies.

In the late 1800s, an underground trade in postcards depicting naked models sprung up – sometimes referred to as ‘French postcards’. Some of these included same-sex couplings, of which the below is one of the tamer examples. More explicit images can be viewed here.

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The first erotica magazine sprung up in the late 1800s. At first, these featured female burlesque dancers. However, in an effort to adopt a sheen of scientific respectability, they later turned towards depicting the art of naturism – both naked men and women.

The 20th century: 1920

The first film believed to include hardcore gay and bisexual sexual scenes is a silent French film entitled Le ménage moderne de Madame Butterfly. Within a decade, its producer and director, Bernard Natan, went on to own the largest mainstream film studio in France: Pathé.

Straight pin-up magazines properly arrive in the mid-20th century, and featured the likes of Marilyn Monroe. In much of the world, any depiction of homosexuality was extremely taboo. Instead, gay men had to make do with gazing at men’s fitness magazines.

1940s

Seminal US photographer Bob Mizer began to sell his black and white photographs of athletic young men by mail order. In 1945, he sets up Athletic Model Guild and launches Physique Pictorial, which goes on to publish thousands of images of muscular young men in distinctive posing pouches (made by Mizer’s own mother!).

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In 1947, authorities prosecuted Mizer for distributing obscene material and he served nine months in prison. Upon his release, he returned to photography and publishing, being careful to keep his work just on the right side of the law.

Mizer died in 1992, but Physique Pictorial was recently relaunched by the Bob Mizer Foundation.

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1950s

The Washington DC-based MANual Enterprises, established by Herman Lynn Womack, turns out a string of Physique magazines. Its titles include Fizeek, Grecian Guild Pictorial, Manorama, MANual and Trim.

Womack is significant because he became embroiled in a major US Supreme Court hearing: MANual Enterprises, Inc. v. Day (1962).

The US Supreme Court subsequently ruled that photos of nearly nude or nude men are not necessarily obscene and can be sent through the postal service. This led to a proliferation of so-called ‘Beefcake’ magazines in the 1960s.

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Of course, things weren’t just stirring in the US.

Finnish artist Touko Valio Laaksonen was born in 1920, but became known to gay men around the world under his pseudonym, Tom of Finland. He produced stylized, beautiful drawings of men in leather and uniforms, often with hyper exaggerated muscles and cocks.

That his men unapologetically and shamelessly enjoyed sex with one another made an impression on many gay viewers.

His work first reached a wider audience when he sent it in 1957 to Physique Pictorial, and continued to build a following through the 60s, 70s and 80s. Laaksonen died in 1991, but his life was recently immortalized in the 2016 film, Tom of Finland.

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1960s

Attitudes towards sexual expression changed radically in the US and other parts of the world across the 1960s. Sexual liberation and ‘free love’ prompted a seismic shift in thinking.

Physique magazines began to merge more into what we now view as pornography. Clark Polak (1937-1980) was the publisher of Drum, which launched in 1965. It published the first full-frontal male nude in an American magazine in 1965.

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In 1967, Polack was indicted on charges of publishing and distributing obscene material. In exchange for avoiding a prison sentence, he agreed to cease publication of the magazine.

Drummer magazine, similarly named but unrelated to Drum, concentrated more on the gay leather scene, and ran from 1975 to 1999.

Colt, one of the biggest names in porn in the US, was founded in New York City in 1967, but relocated later to the West Coast.

Such is its influence and success that to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2007, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom declared 23 February as ‘Colt Studio Day’ – to the horror of conservative commentators!

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Elsewhere in the world, arty fetish magazine Fuzokukitan in Japan (1960-1974), included some gay content in its pages. This includes work by Tom of Finland and emerging bara artists. Bara is a style of manga that specializes in gay erotica and illustrated porn. Other Japanese magazines later emerged to cater for bara artists and their fans.

Originally from England (born 1924), former Air Force veteran Peter De Rome relocated to the US in the 1950s. He made his first Super 8 movie in the 1960s.

He specialized in erotic shorts, often utilizing friends or men he picked up on the street – much of which seems tame by today’s standards. The film would be screened at private parties and porn cinemas.

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He stopped making his own films in the 1980s, but his work was rediscovered in the 21st century, and an excellent documentary, Peter De Rome: Grandfather of Gay Porn (2013) tells his story. De Rome died in 2014, aged 89, shortly after enjoying the appreciation of a whole new audience.

1970s

By the mid-60s, a small number of adult movie theatres had appeared on the west coast and east coast of the US. In tandem with the sexual revolution sweeping much of the world, they started to spread rapidly across the US by late 60s and early 70s – leading to an increase in porn production.

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Peter Berlin was born in Poland in 1942 and raised in Berlin, Germany. He relocated to San Francisco as a young man and became something of a gay porn superstar in the early-1970s. His films Nights in Black Leather (1973) and That Boy (1974) played at porn cinemas around the world for years.

Berlin is still alive, and a 2005 documentary, That Man: Peter Berlin, vividly portrays his life story.

Post sexual-liberation but pre-AIDS

Wakefield Poole, a former Broadway dancer and choreographer, earned a name for himself in the 1970s for his porn films Boys In The Sand, Bijou and Moving!

Like others, he typified the erotica auteurs to the time. These men were often sexual liberation pioneers. They were as influenced by Andy Warhol’s short film, Blow Job and Italy’s Pier Paolo Pasolini as by the commercial success of hetero-porn blockbuster, Deep Throat.

He abandoned porn films in the 1980s, saying ‘I lost my fanbase to AIDS.’

He also credits a horrendous cocaine addiction for saving his life. It made unable to have sex at a time when the HIV virus was decimating his friends and acquaintances.

Other notable porn films of the decade include Jack Deveau’s 1974 movie, Drive, regarded at the time as the biggest-scale porn production of the era. Reflecting the fact such films were typically shown in theaters, many made a stab at some sort of storyline.

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London-based photographer Mike Arlen starts photographing male nudes in the 1970s and published his own magazines, Mike Arlen’s Guys and Manpower.

Arlen has spent his life living in the same Earls Court flat, where has hosted literally hundreds of men for photo shoots. He was one of the first UK producers of gay erotica that dispensed with the notion of being a physique photographer.

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1980s

Everything changed for porn in the 1980s for two reasons: Firstly, the advent of home video led to the closure of many adult movie theaters and the proliferation in video porn producers.

Secondly, the AIDS/HIV epidemic arrived, leading to the closure of some sex clubs and bathhouses, and the arrival of condoms in pornographic material. Safer sex came in, while attempts at storylines went out in favor of getting down to hardcore action as quickly as possible!

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One of the biggest names to emerge in this era was Falcon Studios. Charles ‘Chuck’ Holmes actually created Falcon in 1971.

At first, like other pornographers, its output was mainly sent via mail order, but he was among the first to make the switch to videocassette – ensuring the company’s long-term success and making it arguably the most successful gay porn company in the world by the end of the 1980s.

Holmes donated much of his fortune to HIV/AIDS organizations (he died from HIV-related illness himself in 2000) and the San Francisco LGBT Center. Falcon also led to the creation of several smaller studios, including Mustang and Jocks.

Big Falcon directors include Chi Chi LaRue, the drag persona of Larry David Paciotti.

LaRue began work as an assistant at Catalina Video (founded in 1978), before directing hundreds of films for Falcon from the late 80s onwards. He now owns Catalina, and has won numerous awards for his work.

Notable flicks from the 80s include Powertool (1986) and The Other Side of Aspen series.

The explosion in porn production to cater for the home video market also saw an increase in diversity. Films emerged for an increasing number of niche markets and fetishes. These include ethnic diversity, daddies and bears.

Big porn names to emerge this decade include Joey Stefano and Jeff Stryker (one of the first porn stars to successfully sell a replica dildo of their manhood).

Stefano’s success is shorter-lived. He died of a drug overdose in 1994 aged 26. Any history of porn would be incomplete without noting the industry’s many casualties. Many lost their lives to AIDS or addiction.

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1990s

In the 90s, DVD began to take over from video. Successful porn studios to emerge in the decade included BelAmi, founded by Slovak-born George Duroy. The company specializes in porn utilizing Eastern European men and films in cities including Prague and Budapest. Notable performers from the BelAmi stable include Johan Paulik and Lukas Ridgeston.

A little further west, Cazzo launched in Berlin, Germany, in 1996. Its directors include founder Jorg Andreas, and porn-arthouse directors like Bruce LaBruce. It has led to subsidiary studios, including Coxx and and Prick.

In the UK, Triga (launched 1997) carved itself a niche with its council estate, ‘scally’ porn. It marks itself out with skinheads, football hooligans and working class British lads.

One of the most successful US porn companies to launch in the 1990s was Raging Stallion in 1998. The San Francisco-based outfit was launched by Chris Ward and JD Slater. It was later to merge with Falcon in 2010.

Titan Media, founded by Bruce Cam and Robert Kirsch, is another San Francisco outfit to arrive in the mid-90s.

Other performers to emerge this decade include Kristen Bjorn and Michael Lucas. Moscow-born Lucas goes on to achieve great success as a producer and director in the US – founding Lucas Entertainment in 1998.

Oh, and a little drug known as Viagra was patented in 1996. The erectile dysfunction drug probably deserves its own place in any Porn Hall of Fame.

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2000s

The growth of the internet at first did little to dampen the success of porn studios. Names to arrive in the 00s include Britain’s twink-friendly Eurocreme (2004), with stars such as Cameron Jackson and Ashley Ryder.

Sean Cody (2001) and Men.com (2003) both sprung up in the US, only to be later taken over by MindGeek, a Luxembourg-based, internet porn giant.

Lucas Entertainment makes what it claims is the biggest budget gay porn movie of all time – La Dolce Vita ($250,000 in 2006). In 2009, it also produced Men of Israel. Lucas, proud of his Jewish heritage, wanted to make a movie using an all-Israeli cast to help promote a different view of Israel.

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One of the biggest developments in the web in the 00s was the birth of live streaming and sites hosting video. Suddenly, it wasn’t just porn companies producing porn – now everyone could do it and reach an audience.

Xtube launched in Canada in 2006, followed by PornHub and Cam4 in 2007. To give you an idea of scale, PornHub claims to have 75million visits per day. MindGeek later bought both it and Xtube, making it arguably the biggest porn operator on the web.

2010s

Live streaming and amateur home videos – shot and edited easily on smartphones have continued to eat into the profits of some of the older, production-based gay porn studios.

Apps such as OnlyFans.com now allow anyone to broadcast ‘premium’ content to dedicated monthly subscribers. Other social media sites such as Tumblr are also overflowing with adult content.

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Fifty years ago, if you wanted to access gay porn, you had to track down a mail-order provider, send off a cheque and wait for a plain-wrapped package of beefcake titillation to land through your letterbox. Alternatively, you could risk a journey to an adult theater or gay bookstore in a big city.

How things change! Nowadays, you can track down gay porn within seconds on your phone. The profits have shifted from production companies to those who facilitate online distribution and, in some cases, to the performers themselves.

This appetite for pornographic images is not new. Many years from now, gay men will still be wanting to look at images of other men’s dicks. How they do so – given developments in Artificial Intelligence, robotics and virtual reality – we can only guess at.

SOURCE: GAY STAR NEWS

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