Baring the Truth
By James Gavin
Sometimes it's a merit badge. On the sprawling third floor of a building off Folsom Street in San Francisco, a dozen or so workers go about their duties as busily as Santa's helpers. Welcome to Treasure Island Media, whose notorious films exploit some of the darkest gay sex taboos'and create a few new ones. Dawson's 20-Load Weekend and Dawson's 50-Load Weekend star a soft-spoken, attractive young employee of a scientific firm in his on-screen guise as 'world-class cum dump.' He enjoys cattle-call gang-banging, piss enemas, and penetration with a 'devil's dick''a condom filled with the frozen loads of multiple anonymous men.
To Treasure Island's reclusive middle-aged owner Paul Morris, sex and homosexuality are meaningful only if they're transgressive, unreined, risky. (He calls HIV-negativity 'the new virginity.') 'To me, sex is a religion,' he says, and Morris'an ex-hustler with the rugged air of a '70s trucker'wields the eerie charisma of a cult leader. He has laser-beam eyes and a voice that keeps one off balance; its drawling cadences can convey fatherly concern or sarcasm, seduction or intimidation. 'Dawson' waxes as rhapsodic of him as did Susan Atkins of Charles Manson. 'Paul is a wonderful, wonderful man, a brilliant man. He's this idol figure that I always looked up to and wanted to please,' he says. He even dreams of having impetuous sex with him: 'That's not played out, unfortunately.'
In his office Morris recalls a plea from queer theorist David Halperin that he start his videos with the pledge 'No gay men were harmed in the making of this film.' Morris's response? 'To a certain extent my job is setting up a zone in which those questions don't appear'a sexual cloud of unknowing.'
He explains his philosophy further. 'I want to make porn that comes from a place even I don't understand. Porn from a place that's wild, forbidden, that's absolutely secret. That to me is gay. Not filtered through what the government says you should be. Not according to what the industry says you should or should not do.'
Intellectually tantalizing as his battle cry may seem, what about practical concerns, like infection? Don't such Treasure Island productions as Breeding Season and Plantin' Seed fetishize HIV? The filmmaker's eyes harden. 'I see them as fetishizing unalloyed and pure sex among men,' he says bluntly.
Perhaps it's true for some viewers, as Morris claims, that watching extreme behavior can purge us of similar urges. But 'Morningwood' experienced no catharsis from Dawson's 50-Load Weekend. 'It totally overwhelmed me,' he says, and he went on his own mini barebacking spree. Playing safe has been a challenge ever since: 'Now that I know what I'm missing, I have to find that inner strength to make the right decision every time.'
The bareback field's former poster boy has made a life-changing decision of his own. 'Hi, I'm Sean Lockhart,' says the slender, sweet-faced lad of 20 who greets me, hand extended, near the Amtrak station in downtown San Diego. As 'Brent Corrigan' (as Lockhart now prefers to be called), he starred in such twink classics as Take It Like a Bitch Boy. He's the twink-lover's dream: a deliciously piggy boy-next-door type who'll submit to the kinkiest fantasies, then nestle in your arms like a little lamb. The fact that he was under 18 when he entered the industry had some nasty consequences. So did his involvement with a producer who was killed early this year in one of the most notorious murders in porn history.
He talks about it all at an outdoor caf'. By his side is Grant Roy, his older Texan boyfriend, father figure, and 'protector,' as Corrigan calls him. Roy is his partner in BrentCorriganInc.com, an Internet candy store of pay-per-view sex scenes along with the actor's revealing blog.
His is the story of a sexually precocious but naive boy with a dysfunctional mother, an absentee father, and painfully low self-esteem. Strapped for funds, he let his then-boyfriend falsify his proof of age (Corrigan was 17) and sell his services to Bryan Kocis, owner of Cobra Video. Kocis'who'd been nabbed for videotaping himself having sex with a minor'became Corrigan's substitute father and lover; Corrigan became Kocis's cash cow. But when the actor fled and publicly revealed the age violation, a livid Kocis sued him for fraud and threatened anyone who employed him. Along the way, he made enemies. On January 24, someone entered Kocis's small-town Pennsylvania home, slashed his throat, stabbed him 28 times, and set the house afire. (On May 15, porn stars and video-on-demand Webmasters Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes were arrested in Virginia and charged with the crime. Investigators believe the two allegedly committed it in part because the duo wanted to clear the way to work with Brent Corrigan.)
This excruciating tale has at least one bright spot. 'Thankfully, at this time, I'm HIV-negative,' he says. And he has since become a safe-sex champion. 'I strongly believe that condoms in porn are important. It's not necessarily the end of the world if you get HIV, but it's still gonna affect who you can and cannot date, who you can and cannot have sex with.' Last year he appeared in his first mainstream gay porn film, Falcon Studio's The Velvet Mafia. (Due to pressure from Kocis, who claimed ownership of the name 'Brent Corrigan,' the actor was billed as 'Fox Ryder.')
All the scenes on Corrigan's site employ condoms; he plans a series of PSAs in which he'll demonstrate 'fun ways' of using them. 'I think it's time for some of us youthful types to come out and say, 'This is what you should be doing and this is the way I do it.' ' Bareback, he feels, is the 'crutch' of the unimaginative pornographer.
Condomless porn, of course, isn't going away. 'I want to shout from the mountaintops, 'It's just sex!' ' says Dino Phillips. 'Then I think, Should it be just sex? The decision to play safe, he adds, is 'ultimately going to have to rest on people's sense of self.'
But to Grant Roy, that's a lonely way to live. 'Any community should be taking care of its own,' he says. 'I think that as gay men, we've developed this strange complex of, 'I have it hard, so I'm gonna bulldoze the fuck over you too.' There aren't very many of us out there. If we take care of each other, we'll be much better off.'