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Pornographic Film and Video: Gay Male  
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As gay male pornography made this transition, the initial videos were collections of earlier loops, or theatrical releases transferred to video. By the mid-1980s, as the well-funded producers and distributors of straight pornography moved into the lucrative gay male market, features shot on video became standard; simultaneously, the old gay porn theaters disappeared, along with their straight counterparts.

A New Ideal of Male Beauty

The gay male pornography of the 1970s utilized a fairly wide variety of performers, from the beefy bodybuilders of Colt Studios, to the young jocks of Nova, to the variations on "Castro clones" seen in P.M. Productions. During the early 1980s, however, a new ideal of male beauty overwhelmingly dominated gay male videos. Inspired by the example of the famous Calvin Klein underwear ads, the new performers were sleek and smooth, and rarely looked older than 24.

The prolific French director Jean Daniel Cadinot nearly always used boyish models as his stars, but he frequently paired them with "butcher," often older partners, sometimes from "exotic" locations and backgrounds such as North Africa.

Many of the classic American pornographic videos of the mid-1980s exemplify the trend toward youthful models, but without the diversity seen in Cadinot's productions: director William Higgins's Sailor in the Wild (1983); Matt Sterling's The Bigger the Better (1984); and John Travis's Powertool (1986), for examples.

New superstars such as Jeff Stryker were often straight men in the business for the money, or "gay for pay" as those in the industry put it. Sexual roles in 1980s videos tended to be as tightly defined as the performers' musculature. The "top" held the insertor role in anal sex and often possessed bigger muscles (and a larger penis) than the "bottom." Producers and distributors often played up the heterosexual identity of some star tops, making them seem more virile and desirable than the gay-identified bottoms.

Changes in the Rules

By the late 1980s, however, the unwritten rules of the early years of gay video began to bend, largely due to the entry of a new player: Kristen Bjorn. A former porn model himself, Bjorn turned to photography in the 1980s, and then to live-action videos. Carnaval in Rio (1989) was his first full-length hardcore feature after a series of videos with solo action only.

Bjorn's work is characterized by exotic settings, beautiful photography, ethnic diversity, and vastly improved production values (made possible partly by his unusually long and expansive shooting schedule). Whereas 1970s films regularly--though not frequently--featured people of color, 1980s videos were largely racially segregated.

Bjorn bucked the trend by having a veritable rainbow of ethnicities. His locales ranged from South America and the Caribbean, to Australia, Canada, and eventually eastern Europe. Bjorn threw down the gauntlet for the established video producers, who were compelled to deal with the popularity (and resulting profitability) of his stylish videos.

During the 1990s gay male pornographic productions began to experiment, at least partly in response to Bjorn's challenge. Among the most obvious changes was the increased diversity of ages and body types in gay male pornographic videos. Performers in their forties began to re-appear, as did body hair (exemplified by the 1990s star Zak Spears).

As the gay ideal of masculine beauty evolved in the 1990s, bulging bodybuilders began to be seen, along with the slimmer physiques of previous years. Simultaneously, the rigid definitions of sexual roles also began to relax as a number of this new, more diverse crowd of performers took both the top and bottom roles in videos, often within a single scene ("flip-flopping," as it was called in the industry).

While racial segregation largely remained the norm, a few companies followed Bjorn's lead in offering videos with ethnic diversity. In addition, a significant specialty market developed for all-black and all-Latino features; a number of companies such as La Mancha Productions focused on "blatino" performers, frequently mixed-race street youths from New York.

Still, one can exaggerate the diversity that developed. After all, Falcon Studios, with its bevy of well-scrubbed, All-American, corn-fed, butch young men, became the industry sales leader in the 1990s--a position it held into the next century.

Overseas production was another important development. Eastern Europe and South America became new centers of pornographic production. Attractive models were available for a fraction of the cost of American performers. Budapest became one of the new capitals of porn production, both gay and straight.

Twenty-first Century Pornography

As gay male pornography entered the twenty-first century, a number of new developments heralded further changes. The internet was a burgeoning new market that could be exploited by both established and new pornographers. It became a significant presence as numerous companies and individuals established sex-oriented websites, including interactive, live-action performances.

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