Lightning Rod, Part 2

photo: Courtesy of Vivid Entertainment
Christian with fellow performer Lexi Bardot

"Porn stars live in a totally different realm. [Average people] don't have the means or the opportunity to do any of the stuff I do," says the subject of this column: boundary-busting, "not very inconspicuous" porn performer Christian ( Christian has been open about beginning his career in gay porn and "switching" to straight porn, where he has pushed the limits of that genre by doing transsexual women, strap-on scenes, and other activities beyond hetero vanilla sex. His unwillingness to conform to old-school rules has caused quite a ruckus and his critics have been relentless: They speculate about his sexual identity, call him a liar, and proclaim him unsafe for other performers to work with.

Gender disparities within porn usually find women with the short end of the stick, but there are several double standards that trap men in a corner. Female performers are encouraged to test the boundaries of their sexuality (just Google "Her First Double Penetration"), while their male counterparts are ridiculed for it. Girls get a lot more leeway when it comes to bisexuality and the split between on- and off-camera behavior. The majority of women in the industry do girl/girl scenes; while lots identify as bisexual, plenty consider themselves straight and "gay for pay." Their self-described "real life" identity is never questioned no matter how much pussy they eat. However, when a man does a guy/guy or even a guy/transwoman scene, all bets are off, as evidenced by the flak Christian gets.

People insist Christian is gay or "at the very least bisexual" because of who and what he's done on film. However, Christian doesn't consider himself bi: "Bisexual to me means I could walk into a nightclub, pick up a girl or a guy and go home with them, and that's not going to happen. In my personal life, I only date women." When I suggested he was "gay for pay," he disagreed with that label too. "I don't like the term 'gay for pay.' It implies that you are only doing it for the money and you're not having a good time at all. . . . But for me the experience is not unpleasurable [sic]."

Although he says he hasn't worked in gay porn in more than a year, he does not denounce his previous work. "Being a male porn star, you've got to have an incredible libido. You have to be really sexual," he says. "If you fuck a girl every day for 365 days, you've got to try something else at least once to change it up, give yourself a different mental profile. I like to break up the monotony." He's very clear about using his job to explore his sexuality. The average dude might say that having a camera crew around would inhibit his ability to step outside his erotic comfort zone, but Christian is not the average dude. The environment of a porn set is controlled, performers are regularly tested for HIV and STDs, and this gives him a sense of freedom to explore things he wouldn't do otherwise. "The scenes with guys are interesting because they are different. On camera, I feel like I can do almost anything. I am a little adventurous. It's a lot safer on camera . . . and you get paid." In addition to the physical protection, for some people, the performance can provide a psychological safety net; they can create a different persona, a wilder, sluttier version of themselves. Christian's descriptions of his on-camera adventures are reminiscent of a shy-girl-turned-peep-show-diva narrative. In fact, his story parallels many women's stories of sexual awakening and empowerment through sex work, but we rarely hear about similar journeys from men.

Detractors refuse to separate Christian's on-screen and offscreen behavior by obsessing over his sexual orientation, but some take it one step further, labeling him unsafe and more likely to pass STDs to his co-stars (one typical post: "I could see her point not wanting to work with a guy who would have sex with a tranny. He would have to be at the very least Bisexual [sic]. Hell he could be sticking it to some guy the night before the scene"). Safety is a real issue, and this is where one of the double standards gets dicey. A woman who fucks women on or off camera has less risk of HIV transmission from those encounters than a guy who does other guys. Although all performers must show up to a set with a negative HIV and STD test that is less than 30 days old, you never know what that person did the day before. But that's true of all performers, regardless of their sexual identity. Christian has had consistent negative test results for two years in an industry where gonorrhea and chlamydia can be passed around like breath mints.

Christian's dangerous all right, but not in the way his ignorant detractors think he is. He's dangerous because he's so open about, well, his sexual openness, and as a result has become a target. He illustrates the instability of sexual identity and the split between on- and off-camera personas, identities, and behaviors. He highlights how performers can bring their own fantasies to life on video, fantasies they wouldn't enact otherwise in non-controlled situations (sorry to wreck the illusion, people, but most female stars of gang-bang videos do not routinely have five or more strangers over on a Saturday night to fuck them). He's also a lightning rod for people's anxiety about their own sexuality. When he says, "You've got to try something else at least once to change it up," he articulates a fluidity of sexuality that makes people nervous. Although not deliberate, his statements force other guys to confront their own desires about whether they might like to switch it up.

Christian's refusal to identify as bi or gay for pay is frustrating for some and incomprehensible to others, but it's clearly freeing for him: "I am a guy who likes to do whatever he wants to get laid and get paid for it. I don't have any hang-ups about it. I'll try anything. I am a sexual chameleon." My hope is that he represents the next generation of porn performers, a group of people who refuse to be pinned down by labels, who are conscious about how their work and identities relate to one another, who use sex work as a transformative tool, and who set an example for viewers to step outside their boxes and try something new.

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