Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked


December 2, 2008

Fair is Foul

Gay pornographer Andy Fair discusses how getting off, New York City, and getting off in New York City have changed.

Matthew Patin

From his office in Chelsea, Andy Fair runs and the more subtly-titled, but no safer for work He claims that the two websites maintain an "NYC sensibility, with a DIY, amateur/homemade gritty feel." What lends smut an "NYC sensibility" is open to interpretation, though presumably much of what happens on Fair's sites won't fly in, say, Salt Lake City. What is clear is that DIY, amateur porn has drastically altered the pornscape, catering to endless tastes and filling countless niches, both literal and figurative.

Fifteen years ago, Toni Morrison told the Paris Review that "The forbidden word can be provocative. But after a while it becomes monotonous rather than arousing." Fair, 42, is doing his damnedest to make sure that the same doesn't happen to online porn. Gelf spoke with him to find out how arousal has spurred niche content, why porn shops have become relics, and why "gay for pay" is so lucrative.

Andy Fair
"Any desensitization has likely had a positive impact overall. People just don't freak out at the idea of, say, anal sex or watersports like they used to."

Andy Fair

You can hear Fair and other entre-porn-eurs speak at Gelf's free Non-Motivational Speaker Series event on Friday, December 12, in New York's Lower East Side.

Gelf Magazine: How'd you get started in the adult film industry?

Andy Fair: The short version: Back around 1996, I was just learning HTML, and a good friend of mine, a writer, took a gig for the publisher of Inches, Honcho, and several other gay mags. Within six months I was editor of all their gay publications.

Around the same time, Giuliani was cracking down on sex clubs, back rooms, and porn shops. The whole "sex negative" thing made me mad, and I thought, well, if people can't have sex in clubs, they can at least have sex on camera! So, between my friend's connections with the magazine photographers and my starting to figure out the web thing, it was an easy project to put together.

GM: Was Giuliani's crackdown successful? Sex and lust must be a difficult commodity to contain.

AF: I know it's been ten years, but you must have heard of what Times Square used to be like. Was Giuliani successful in stopping the production of porn? Well, no, here I am.

Giuliani was successful in moving porn shops off of 42nd Street, but they just moved downtown to 6th Avenue, West 4th Street, and Christopher Street. He was more successful in shutting down sex spots, dark rooms in bars, dirty movie theaters where guys had sex, real sex clubs, bathhouses, and the like. Really, as recently as ten years ago you could go to a bar, order a beer, go in the back and get or give a blowjob.

GM: The theme for this month's event is entrepreneurship. As someone who's built porn brands from the ground up, and as someone who's seen the industry change as the result of technology, has the internet and amateur porn made it easier to succeed, or is it more difficult to carve a niche and gather a following because of limitless choices?

AF: What has changed in the industry is the means of distribution. The internet made amateur porn more accessible by circumventing the rather impenetrable print distribution channels. That's where the "new" pornographers, via the internet, found their place.

So, any "entreporneurs" starting out today should look for where the marketplace isn't. Could be any kind of content, gay, niche, whatever. Or maybe it's finding different outlets to distribute through. How many people do you know with an iPhone but no computer?

GM: Has the accessibility of porn lead to a certain desensitization that's paved the way for alternative, niche content?

AF: Any desensitization has likely had a positive impact overall. Sex, sexuality, and the human body are less mysterious, less dirty. People just don't freak out at the idea of, say, anal sex or watersports like they used to.

GM:And what are the negative consequences of having adult content accessible on an iPhone?

AF:There's a lot of hoopla going on about porn and mobile devices that, frankly, doesn't make sense. I think old people are afraid of computers (and sex). When the iPod was first released, there were preachers and congressmen everywhere freaking out that you could take your porn with you. Like no one ever carried a dirty magazine somewhere? And porn on phones is pretty much the same thing—are people really going to look at porn on their phone on the bus?

GM: One of your sites is What do you think it is about straight—or, in some cases, "straight"—guys in gay sex scenarios that draws gay viewers?

AF: It's all about college-age guys. That's the turn-on. You don't see sites with 45-year-old straight truckers being lured into gay sex. The successful "gay for money" or "tricking into gay" is only successful with college-age guys. It's about the newness of sexual expression, watching men get turned on and get off. Like straight guys watching lesbian sex, it's just hot seeing people fuck.

GM: With the internet bringing more convenient access, are brick-and-mortar porn shops becoming relics of the past? How must such a store adapt to meet a modern customer's needs and compete in today's high-tech market?

AF: Brick-and-mortar are relics of the past, absolutely. And not just for porn, all kinds of things, like music and books, are dead in brick-and-mortar: Tower Records is gone, and Barnes & Noble is closing stores.

With porn, no one has to see you go in or out of the shop. You don't have to leave the house, and you don't have to wait for shipping. Horny? Just click and watch. Brick-and-mortar shops should focus on things like fetish clothing, gear, and accessories. These things people will always prefer to explore in real life before making a purchase.

GM: Do you think the internet has spawned a new addiction to porn?

AF: Nope. Brown paper bags didn't create a new group of winos. They'd drink regardless of where or how. Most porn consumers are not addicted; if they were, they'd never cancel their memberships—and believe me, they do cancel. Viewing porn is entertainment, like anything else; an emotional movie, pro-wrestling, a football game. You're there when you're watching it, and you move on when you're done.

Andy Fair at Gelf Magazine's Non-Motivational Speaker Series

GM: Why do most of the participants take part in your videos? Is it quick cash, exhibitionism, a long-term goal of being in the industry?

AF: All of the above. You left out what a great opportunity appearing in porn is to get even with your parents.

GM: Is rebellion a common attitude throughout the industry?

AF: Sure, It's fun to tell people at parties that you're a pornographer. You have to have some sense that the social paradigm is full of holes. There's a lot of denial about sex and sexuality. Confronting that, and capitalizing on it, is a factor for those of us who get into the industry.

GM: The internet, and the vast array of social networking tools specifically, seem to have made young people less concerned about privacy. Do you find that participants in your videos are less shy than in the past?

AF: Yes, younger people are much less concerned about keeping their privates private. Potential models today are not necessarily less shy—though they are less adventurous. Ten years ago, there were very few ways to show off your stuff and get feedback. I used to say that my job was putting the exhibitionists in touch with the voyeurs. Now, if you want to show yourself jerking off, just post a video on Xtube and you'll get all the feedback you want.

GM: Have there been many instances when one of your model's experiences in front of the camera has come back to haunt him?

AF: None in my experience. Seriously. We've had a few people say "all my friends found out," but that's it. Maybe it's because we're in NYC, and maybe DirtyBoyVideo is so out there, but we don't have wannabes coming in to model. What could be wrong with being open about your body, wanting to show it off and have fun?

GM: What kind of challenges does an entreporneur face that other entrepreneurs don't? Is there a stigma that you face when dealing with certain parties?

AF: The stigma is there in weird places. Visa and MasterCard, for example, decided that all adult sites are "high risk" and charge us twice as much as they would "mainstream" businesses.

GM: Sounds a lot like a sin tax. When they say "high risk," which types of risks are they referring to? Is access to adult sites by minors among them? And in an age when porn is almost inescapable, what measures are being taken by you and others to prevent access to minors?

AF: Some people would call it a sin tax; however, unlike cigarettes and alcohol, free speech isn't a sin. High risk to the banks has nothing to do with access by minors. For the banks, high risk means you don't get a card swipe. For adults, this becomes a "high risk" problem because credit card customers call the credit card company and claim they never joined a porn site. They are, of course, lying. Their wife found the bill, so they'll pretend that someone must have used their card. Somehow, they are never concerned enough about someone using their card to cancel it—too much of a hassle.

Access by minors is such a non-issue, it's laughable. People always pose the question "As an adult producer, what are you doing to prevent minors from seeing your work?" The answer is nothing. Why would anyone want a pornographer to be responsible for what your kids see? Why would you put pornographers in charge of that? You cannot make the internet, or the world, safe for kids. Nor should you. You have to create safe places on the internet, as in the world, to keep kids safe. The people talking about a dot-XXX domain, to separate out "adult only" sites don't really want to protect kids—if they did, they would create a dot-KIDS domain. They want to restrict and prevent adults from seeing it.

Minors have been getting access to porn long before there was an Internet. They'd find their dad's magazine stash in the garage, or stumble upon the Playboy channel, or make do with the underwear section of the JCPenny catalog.

Matthew Patin

Matthew Patin is a writer (sometimes) and editor (kind of) in New York City.

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Article by Matthew Patin

Matthew Patin is a writer (sometimes) and editor (kind of) in New York City.

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