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Gay pornography is the representation of sex between men with the primary goal of sexual arousal in its audience. There is also a tradition, and continuing considerable output, of lesbian pornography. However, the term gay pornography is rarely intended to encompass lesbian material.

Although pornography has usually represented the heterosexual orientation of the dominant culture, explicit gay material has a long history, reaching back to Greek antiquity, if not to prehistory. Practically every medium has been used to represent gay male sexual acts. In the modern world, however, the gay pornography industry is mostly concentrated in the making of home videos, DVDs, cable broadcast and emerging video on demand and wireless markets, as well as images and movies for viewing on the Internet. Gay pornography comprises a disproportionately large part of the pornography industry.


Early modern in the United States

Homoeroticism has been present in photography and film since their invention. During much of that time, any kind of sexual depiction had to remain underground because of obscenity laws. In particular, gay material might constitute evidence of an illegal act under sodomy laws in many jurisdictions. This is no longer the case in the United States since such laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas.

However, hardcore pornographic motion pictures ("stag films," as they were called prior to their legalization in 1970) were produced relatively early in the history of film. The first known pornographic film of any kind appears to have been made in Europe in 1908. The earliest known film to depict hardcore gay (and bisexual) sex was the French film Le Menage Moderne Du Madame Butterfly, produced and released in 1920. Most historians consider the first American stag film to be A Free Ride,, produced and released in 1915. But in the United States, hardcore gay sexual intercourse did not make it onto film until 1929's The Surprise of a Knight.

Nevertheless, legal restrictions meant that early hardcore gay pornography was underground and that commercially-available gay pornography primarily consisted of pictures of individual men either fully naked or wearing a g-string. Pornography in the 1940s and 1950s focused on athletic men or bodybuilders in statuesque poses. They were generally young, muscular, and with little or no visible body hair. Those pictures were sold in physique magazines, also known as beefcake magazines, allowing the reader to pass as a fitness enthusiast.

The Athletic Model Guild (AMG) founded by photographer Bob Mizer in 1944 in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, was arguably the first studio to commercially produce material specifically for gay men and published the first magazine known as Physique Pictorial in 1951. Tom of Finland drawings are featured in many issues. Mizer produced about a million images, and thousands of films and videos before he died on May 12, 1992. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the advent of 16mm film cameras enabled these photographers to produce underground movies of gay sex and/or male masturbation. Sales of these products were either by mail-order or through more discreet channels. Some of the early gay pornographers would travel around the country selling their photographs and films out of their hotel rooms, with advertising only through word of mouth and magazine ads.

The 1960s were also a period where many underground art film makers integrated suggestive or overtly gay content in their work. Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising (1963), Andy Warhol's Blow Job (1964) and My Hustler (1965), or Paul Morrissey's Flesh (1968) are examples of experimental films that are known to have influenced further gay pornographic films with their formal qualities and narratives. Tyler Gajewski is a noted actor and model of the period who appeared in Warhol's and Morrissey's films, as well as in Mizer's work at the AMG. Also of note is Joe Dallesandro, who acted in hardcore gay pornographic films in his early 20s, posed nude for Francesco Scavullo, Bruce of L.A. and Bob Mizer, and later acted for Warhol in films such as Flesh. Dallesandro was well-known to the public. In 1969 Time magazine called him one of the most beautiful people of the 1960s, and he graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in April 1971. Dallesandro even appeared on the cover of The Smiths' eponymous debut album, The Smiths.

Sexual revolution

During the 1960s, a series of United States Supreme Courtmarker rulings created a more liberalized legal environment that allowed the commercialization of pornography. MANual Enterprises v. Day, 370 U.S. 478 (1962) was the first decision by the United States Supreme Court which held that magazines consisting largely of photographs of nude or near-nude male models are not obscene within the meaning of . It was the first case in which the Court engaged in plenary review of a Post Office Department order holding obscene matter "nonmailable." The case is notable for its ruling that photographs of nude men are not obscene, an implication which opened up the U.S. Postal Service to nude male pornographic magazines, especially those catering to gay men.

Wakefield Poole's Boys in the Sand, starring Casey Donovan, can be considered one of the first gay pornography feature films, along with the works of filmmakers such as Pat Rocco and the Park Theatre, Los Angeles, California, circa 1970. Boys in the Sand opened in a theater in New York Citymarker in December 1971 and played to a packed house with record breaking box office receipts, preceding Deep Throat, the first commercial straight pornography film in America, which opened in June 1972. This success launched gay pornographic film as a popular phenomenon.

The production of gay pornography films expanded during the 1970s. A few studios released films for the growing number of gay adult theatres, where men could also have sexual encounters. Often, the films reflected the sexual liberation that gay men were experiencing at the time, depicting the numerous public spaces where men engaged in sex: bathhouses, sex clubs, beaches, etc. Most of the productions used a cast of youthful, muscular and smooth or hairy men, which would become a hallmark of the gay erotic aesthetic of the decade.

Peter Berlin's 1973 film Nights in Black Leather was the first major pornographic film designed to appeal to the gay leather subculture and drew some mainstream gays into this culture.

The 1970s also saw the rise of gay publishing with After Dark and Michael's Thing. During this time many more magazines were founded, including In Touch and Blueboy. Playgirl, ostensibly produced for women, was purchased and enjoyed by gay men and feature full frontal nudity (the posing straps and fig leaves were removed).


The 1980s were a period of transition for gay pornography film. The proliferation of VCRs made pornography videos easily accessible, and, as their prices fell , the market for home videos aimed at adult viewers became more and more lucrative. By the mid-1980s, the standard was to release pornography movies directly on video, which meant the wide disappearance of pornography theaters. Furthermore, video recording being more affordable, a multitude of producers entered the market, making low-budget pornography videos.

This shift from watching pornography as a public activity to doing so in private was also influenced by the discovery of HIV and the subsequent AIDS crisis. Public spaces for sex, such as theatres, became less attended when in the early 1980s it became a much riskier behavior. Masturbatory activities in the privacy of the home became a safe sex practice in the midst of this health crisis.

Gay movies of the 1970s had contained some exploration of novel ways to represent the sexual act. In the 1980s, by contrast, all movies seemed to be made under an unwritten set of rules and conventions. Most scenes would start with a few lines of dialogue, have performers engage in foreplay (fellatio), followed by anal penetration, and ending with a visual climax close-up of ejaculating penises, called a "money shot" or cum shot. Video technology allowed the recording of longer scenes than did the costly film stock. Scenes were often composed of extended footage of the same act filmed from different shots using multiple cameras. The quality of the picture and sound were often very poor.

Major directors such as Matt Sterling, Eric Peterson, John Travis, and William Higgins set the standard for the models of the decade. The performers they cast were especially young, usually appearing to be around the ages of 22 or 23. Their bodies were slender and hairless, of the "swimmer's build" type, which contrasted with the older, bigger, and hairier man of the 1970s' gay pornography. Performer roles also evolved into the tight divisions of "tops" and "bottoms". The "top" in anal sex is the penetrating partner, who would typically have a more muscular body and the larger penis. The "bottom", or receiver of anal sex, would often be smaller and sometimes more effeminate. The stars of the decade were almost always tops, while the bottoms were interchangeable (with the exception of Joey Stefano, a popular star, who was more of a "bottom".)

This strict division between "tops" and "bottoms" may have reflected a preference by some of the popular directors of the decade to hire heterosexual men for their movies. Heterosexual men who perform gay sex for monetary reasons (commonly labeled "gay-for-pay") are considered a rare commodity in the gay sex trade, but the biggest producers of the decade could afford them. Many critics attributed the conventionalization of gay pornography of the 80s to this trend. Straight men performing gay sex in these movies often did not show as much enthusiasm as could be apparent in sexual acts between genuine gay men.


The gay pornography industry diversified steadily during the 1990s.

In 1989, director Kristen Bjorn started a pornographic business which was considered as setting a standard for gay pornography producers. He was a professional photographer, and the images in his videos were considered to be of high-quality. As a former porn star himself, he directed his models with care, which helped improved the actors' believability. Other directors had to improve their technical quality to keep up with demands from their audiences.

Another significant change during this decade was the explosion of the niche market.

Many videos began to be produced for viewers with specific tastes (i.e. for amateur pornography, Military (Men in Uniform) pornography, transsexual performers, bondage fetishes, performers belonging to specific ethnic groups, etc.), and this led to a diversification of the people involved in pornography production and consumption.

The gay pornography industry grew substantially in popularity during the 1990s, evolving into a complex and interactive subculture. Professional directors (such as Chi Chi LaRue and John Rutherford), technicians or deck operators during the U-matic phase of video technology, and performers started to engage in pornography as a career, their work sustained by emerging pornographic media and influential critics, such as Mikey Skee.

The 21st century

In the 21st century, gay pornography has become a highly profitable enterprise, ranging from the "straight-guy" pornography of Active Duty and Sean Cody, to the 'twinks' of Bel Ami. Many niche genres and online delivery sites cater to various and changing interests. For instance much of Van Darkholme's work contains bondage and particularly shibari, the Japanese art of bondage and knot-tying, a specialty within BDSM cultures.

Some controversy currently exists regarding studios that produce bareback (sex without condoms) videos. Mainstream companies, such as Falcon Entertainment, Hot House Entertainment, Channel 1 Releasing, Lucas Entertainment, Raging Stallion, and Titan Media and LGBT health advocates assert that condomless videos promote unsafe sex and contribute to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, both in the pornography industry and in the gay community as a whole. The controversy dates back to the first few years of the HIV crisis, when nearly all gay pornography production companies voluntarily required their models to wear condoms for anal sex. The premise of industry figures, notably Chi Chi LaRue, is that gay pornography serves as a leading forum for teaching safer sex skills and modelling healthy sexual behaviors.


On location for the filming of the 2009 release Men of Israel, the first adult film to use exclusively Jewish models.
The primary audience of gay pornography consists of gay and bisexual men.

In August 2005, adult star Jenna Jameson launched "Club Thrust", an interactive website featuring gay male pornographic videos, which was shown to attract a female audience as well. Yaoi comic books and slash fiction are both genres featuring gay men, but primarily written by and for straight women. Some lesbian and bisexual women are also fans of gay male pornography, specifically yaoi, for its feminine-styled men.

Major Porn Studios

Notable movies


  • Boys in the Sand (Wakefield Poole, 1971) is the first feature gay pornographic film to achieve mainstream crossover success; helped usher in "porn chic." Said to be "a textbook example of gay erotic filmmaking" that was screened in film festivals all over the world.
  • The Back Row (Jerry Douglas, 1972) is the first feature from award-winning director Douglas. Re-made by Chi Chi LaRue in 2001. Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).
  • L.A. Plays Itself (Fred Halsted, 1972) is a movie by an influential director (read the chapter consecrated to it in Moore, 2004 for more) and is archived at the Museum of Modern Artmarker (MoMA), New York.
  • Nights in Black Leather (Richard Abel and Peter Berlin, 1973) is an influential movie starring Peter Berlin.
  • Falconhead (Michael Zen, 1977) is still acclaimed by cultural critics as one of a few gay pornographic movies that tried to bring complexity to the blue movie. Inspired many contemporary pornographic directors (Morris, 2004). Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).
  • Dune Buddies (Jack Deveau, 1978) Hand in Hand Films, is a film by a prominent director and studio of the 1970s. Shot on the historically gay-friendly Fire Islandmarker, the film (and others of the company) document well the sexual lives of New York City's gay men of the period. Excerpts displayed in the documentary Gay Sex in the 70s.
  • Joe Gage's wrote an influential trilogy of gay films, collectively referred to as either “The Kansas City Trilogy” or “The Working Man Trilogy” in the late 1970s. The films, Kansas City Trucking Co. (1976), El Paso Wrecking Corp. (1978) and L.A. Tool & Die (1979) were praised for their consistent portrayals of male/male sex occurring between rugged, masculine men who came from blue-collar and rural backgrounds and who related as “equal partners” - avoiding the frequent stereotypes of such men as effeminate inhabitants of urban gay neighborhoods, or who were caught up in a constraining “you play the woman, I’ll be the man” mindset of dominant/submissive roles.
  • The Other Side of Aspen Volumes 1-5; (Bill Clayton (1-2), John Rutherford (3-5), 1979-2001) Falcon Studios are among the Adult Video News' top ten all time gay movies.


  • The Bigger The Better (Matt Sterling, 1984); one of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies.
  • Gold Rush Boys (Steve Scott, 1983)
  • Les Minets Sauvages (Jean-Daniel Cadinot, 1984) is one of the biggest films of the influential French pornographic director.
  • My Masters (Christopher Rage, 1986) is one movie by a director that has influenced numerous gay artists
  • Powertool (John Travis, 1986) is one of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies.
  • Big Guns (William Higgins, 1988) Catalina Video; is one of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies.
  • Carnival in Rio (Kristen Bjorn, 1989); see History, 1990s section above.


  • Idol Eyes (Matt Sterling, 1990) Huge Video is a movie with Ryan Idol. Read Dyer, 1994 for more.
  • More of a Man (Jerry Douglas, 1994) All Worlds Video is a popular film with Joey Stefano (see History, 1980s section) also featuring Chi Chi LaRue in a non-sexual role. Read Burger, 1995 chapter for an extensive analysis.
  • Flashpoint (John Rutherford, 1994) Falcon Studios is an award winning film by major director Rutherford. Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).
  • Frisky Summer 1-4 (George Duroy, 1995-2002) Bel Ami is one of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies.
  • Flesh and Blood (Jerry Douglas, 1996) All Worlds Video is one of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies.
  • Naked Highway (Wash West, 1997). The narrative and aesthetic qualities of this movie are representative of a new generation of pornographic directors. (Thomas, 2000:66) One of Adult Video News' 10 Great Gay Movies
  • Three Brothers (Gino Colbert, 1998) Gino Pictures is a popular movie by influential director Colbert, starring the real-life Rockland brothers (Hal, Vince, and Shane). Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).
  • Descent (Steven Scarborough, 1999) Hot House Entertainment is a popular gay pornographic video with unfrequent artistic qualities, by a prominent director and studio. Created legal dispute in Canada when the government tried to forbid its distribution in the name of obscenity rules.
  • Skin Gang (Bruce LaBruce, 1999) Cazzo Film is a famous film by art/porn director LaBruce. Aired in gay film festivals around the world.
  • Fallen Angel (Bruce Cam, 1997) Titan Media is a major film by prominent director and studio. Featured in Unzipped Magazine's The 100 Greatest Gay Adult Films Ever Made (2005).


See also

Further reading and information

Academic works

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  • Beyond Vanilla. (Claes Lilja, 2001)
  • Gay Sex in the 70s. (Joseph F. Lovett, 2005)
  • That Man: Peter Berlin. (Jim Tushinski, 2005)


  1. It is estimated that one-third to one-half of the $2.5 billion adult industry is gay sales and rentals. Mickey Skee. 1997. "Tricks of the Trade." Frontiers 16 (August 22):43.
  2. Bolger, Doreen; Cash, Sarah; et al. Thomas Eakins and the Swimming Picture. Amon Carter Museum, 1996. ISBN 0-88360-085-4
  3. Goodrich, Lloyd. Thomas Eakins, Volume I. Harvard University Press, 1982. pp 239. ISBN 0-674-88490-6.
  4. Adams, Henry. Eakins Revealed: The Secret Life of an American Artist. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-1951-5668-4, 308–09. Referenced from Male Desire: The Homoerotic in American Art by Jonathan Weinberg
  5. Knight, Arthur, and Alpert, Hollis. "The Stag Film." Playboy. November 1967.
  6. Di Lauro, Al and Rabkin, Gerald. Dirty Movies: An Illustrated History of the Stag Film, 1915-1970. New York: Value Proprietary, 1988. ISBN 0517246821
  7. Burger, John R. One-Handed Histories: The Eroto-Politics of Gay Male Video Pornography. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1995. ISBN 1560238526
  8. Waugh, Thomas. Hard To Imagine. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. ISBN 0231099983
  9. Slade, Joseph. "Bernard Natan: France's Legendary Pornographer." Journal of Film and Video. 45:2-3 (Summer-Fall 1993).
  10. Ramakers, Mischa. Dirty Pictures: Tom of Finland, Masculinity and Homosexuality. New York: Saint Martin's Press, 2001. ISBN 0312205260
  11. 370 U.S. 478, 495-496.
  12. BN Magazine feature (vietnamese american magazine)
  13. 'Men of Israel': The new box-office stud?, Los Angeles Times blog, July 27, 2009.
  14. Gay Porn Blog: Free Gay Movies, Gay Sex Pics and XXX Nude Tube Videos
  15. Sensor Glitch - Amusing Toronto Star Article
  16. 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival
  17. The Christopher Rage Collection

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