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The Most Important Gay Porn Film Ever Made?

July 13 0 Comments Category: Blogs, Health, News

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The Most Important Gay Porn Film Ever Made?

by:

Blogger, MyFabulousDisease.com; author, ‘A Place Like This’

WARNING: This piece contains graphic sexual language. Reader discretion is advised.

The annual Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco is noted for its unbridled embrace of every star in our sexual constellation. Even the fearless leather community, which founded the event, can sometimes appear tame amidst the outlandish kinks and clothing — and lack thereof — on display along the city’s tilted streets.

In the fall of 2003, in the middle of this rowdy bacchanalia, Paul Morris stood at the booth for Treasure Island Media (TIM), the gay porn outfit he founded that featured unprotected sex (barebacking) between its actors. This particular specialty was the singular driving force behind his smashingly successful and relatively new company.

Then, like the legend of Lana Turner fortuitously cozying up to the counter at Schwab’s, a beautiful and achingly masculine young man approached the TIM booth. He liked the TIM videos — he liked them very much indeed — and he hoped to one day document a few fantasies of his own. TIM star Jesse O’Toole was on hand, and someone snapped a photograph of the two of them together (right). In it, the grinning young man with a leather cap appears to have found his long-lost tribe, and O’Toole looks as if he has found a seven-course meal.

The photo was sent to Max Sohl, a sometime porn actor with a theater background whom Morris had commissioned to conceive and direct what would be Sohl’s first porn film. Sohl met with the aspiring model and asked him to complete a form that included a simple question: “What is one of your fantasy scenes?” In response, the young man wrote simply, “Me getting nailed and seeded by a gang of hot guys.”

“The Black Party was coming,” Sohl explained in a recent interview, referring to the annual New York City weekend of leather men, parties, and sexual adventures, “and I thought, ‘OK, let’s see how many men he can take.’”

And that is how Dawson’s 20 Load Weekend was born.

Prior to the onset of AIDS, condom usage in gay pornography was nonexistent — but that was before bodily fluids became synonymous with death and disease. For well over a decade after the crisis began, gay porn videos not only featured tightly wrapped penises, but their storylines — indeed, the actors themselves — suffered from a sort of dramatic malaise, as if sleepwalking through their sexual routine while trying to pay no attention to the man with KS lesions behind the curtain. The videos mirrored our own lack of interest in gallivanting about with the pizza man or diving into an orgy with strangers, with or without condoms. Many viewers simply returned to their stash of pre-AIDS pornography, which was condom-less but “justified.”

As AIDS deaths subsided with the advent of new medications in 1996, gay male culture responded with a vengeance. Circuit parties were born of celebration (before succumbing to their own excesses), safer sex behaviors relaxed, and there was a palpable longing to escape the horrors of the previous years. Reclaiming a bold sexuality, something many gay men believed had been lost forever, was a tonic for the post-traumatic stress they suffered. Younger gay men, who had listened to stories of an earlier, sexually liberated time as if it were a lost era of paleontology, were more than willing to explore whatever modern version might await them.

Unprotected sex since the arrival of HIV is nothing new (it is, after all, the primary reason for new infections that have continued fairly steadily since AIDS began), but in the late 1990s the gay community proved again how comically adept it is at applying a little branding to any phenomenon, and “barebacking” entered the public lexicon. The irony may be that a new word was developed for the oldest sexual activity imaginable: having sex without a barrier. It wasn’t the sex that had changed but the meaning and judgment associated with it toward, most specifically, gay men. Or, as AIDS advocate Jim Pickett said at a recent conference for people living with HIV, “When a friend announces they are expecting a child, I feel like screaming, ‘You barebacked!’”

But while intelligent minds and passionate advocates argued about the reasons and the proper response to barebacking, no one had dared document it on videotape for the erotic pleasure of others. Yet.

In 1998 two renegade companies formed to make bareback videos exclusively: Hot Desert Knights and Treasure Island Media. None of the leading gay pornographers would consider producing them (although they were eager to market their highly profitable backlists of videos produced “pre-AIDS” that featured bareback sex). The cheaply made videos by the upstart porn producers brought the sexual choices of an increasing number of men out of the closet and onto DVD players and computer screens.

The videos were uniform in their low production values, the older ages of the actors, and the fact that several of them appeared to have the physical manifestations of HIV. It was as if a group of men who had literally lived through AIDS said, “Oh, what the hell,” and demonstrated the kind of sex they had been having amongst themselves for some time. Their exploits were perceived as an underground fetish that would never break the surface of more mainstream gay pornography.

But then Max Sohl met that ferociously attractive man at the Folsom Street Fair who was so eager to “get seeded” by a string of strangers, and with the sexual zeitgeist now primed for their arrival, they made a film that would forever change the porn industry and quite arguably influence the sexual behavior of countless gay men.

Re-christened “Dawson,” the budding porn star was served up in a hotel room, over the course of New York City’s 2004 Black Party weekend, to an ongoing parade of bareback tops. Their sex was filmed in a documentary fashion, without music, scripted dialogue, or any effort to hide the many cables and cameras crowding the room. Dawson’s fantasy had been fulfilled, and Sohl had the footage to prove it.

In June 2004 Dawson’s 20 Load Weekend was released and was precisely as advertised.

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