If you asked a group of gay webmasters what niche currently earns them the most traffic, they might say the hottest niche in gay porn today is (drum roll, please) straight men.
This may not be surprising. After all, gay-for-pay stars (men who take money to act gay but retain industry respect because they can return to their “normal,” straight lives) in the brick-and-mortar porn world have blossomed since the trend began in the early 1980s with directors like Matt Sterling and William Higgins and XXX blockbusters like Cousins, Big Guns, and The Bigger the Better. Featuring hetero studs like Ryan Idol, Rick Donovan, and Matt Ramsey (later “reborn” as straight superstar Peter North), these all-male movies paved the way for oft-ignored straight men to become “stars”—and coined the terms “top” (assertive) and “bottom” (passive) roles in gay sex. Today, of course, gay-for-pay porn stars are commonplace.
Video isn’t the only medium affected by the “straight boom.” When the Internet was introduced in the early ’90s, the online porn explosion inspired many new sites devoted to the worship of hetero cock, including such mainstays as CorbinFisher.com, AmateurStraightGuys.com, and CuriousCash.com. But, unlike in the brick-and-mortar world, content featuring predominantly non-gay dudes flourishes.
“The straight-guy niche is the hottest gay niche right now,” asserts Mark Erickson, webmaster for the sites BrokeStraightBoys.com and StraightBoysJerkOff.com. “We started noticing this trend about two years ago, with some of our current members saying they loved anything with straight-boy content, and it has been in our top content section for over two years. Conversions for these types of sites are awesome when they are done correctly: Webmasters love the straight-guy niche because it makes them the most money. Surfers love this niche because they love to see straight guys, period.”
The popularity of straight-guy sites bodes well for webmasters seeking the next big trend with a guaranteed retention rate. Indeed, says longtime industry player Basschick (formerly co-owner of big-sellers JackOffGuys.com and StraightGuysJackingOff.com), who now pens site reviews for GayDemon.com, “The first time I saw a straight-guy site, I strongly felt it was going to sell. The gay men I know love admiring and seducing straight guys, and something in my head said ‘Money!’ the instant the first page of that straight-guy site tour loaded.”
Although most of the sites feature straight guys merely jerking off, others, like the immensely popular AmateurStraightGuys.com and StraightGuysFucking.com, up the ante by placing guys in trysts that find the men awkwardly fumbling around each other’s bodies. The content is unquestionably hot—and a bit subversive. After all, what could be sexier and more liberating than a little bit of experimentation between confident, hetero dudes with nothing to prove? What’s more, gay guys have been swooning over their straight buddies since the dawn of sexuality—something webmasters who offer straight-guy sites have been quick to exploit.
“Our members get to watch a guy take a journey in discovering his sexuality, which is cool,” says Doug, a partner in Digital Ventures LLC, which owns Amateur Straight Guys as well as StraightGuyVideo.com. “It’s kind of like a little soap opera: ‘Do you think he’ll suck cock or get fucked?’
“It’s back to that high-school stud fantasy that [all gay men have] had,” Doug adds. “We all jacked off at night thinking about that one straight guy you wanted, but when you saw him at school the next day, you dared not say anything for fear that he might kick the shit out of you. Almost all of us carry those memories and feelings if you grew up gay.”
Doug’s business partner Jay declares, “All of my life I have been attracted to straight guys. In high school and college, I always secretly lusted for them. I have always considered them to be more of a challenge than gay guys—and a challenge is always more fun in my book.”
Another reason the niche may have taken off is its proliferation of untested, raw talent. “The straight-guy niche answers a broader issue that the advent of the Internet brought about, which is that there are now many more avenues for sexual material than there are actors to perform in them,” says Harlan Yaffe, co-owner of PrideBucks.com, which owns CircleJerkBoys.com, a site that features straight men in solo and duo scenes. “Given the demand, that relatively limited supply means that small cadre of performers will be overexposed very quickly and will lose their appeal. The guys on CircleJerkBoys [and similar sites] are the opposite of that—fresh faces that have never been seen before and will not be seen anywhere else. I think that is a much bigger allure than the model’s sexuality.”
Obviously the straight-guy niche fulfills a demand. However, that demand raises an interesting question: In a community often plagued by political correctness and assimilation woes, does straight-guy porn actually hinder the development of the very community it targets?
“I think the fact that there is a demand for straight-guy content shows a very troubling trend in the gay community,” says Jasun Mark, affiliate manager for Fratmen.com. “Too many gay men don’t want other gay men. We’ve been taught by the media to want what we can’t have. For gay men to pine after straight men [shows] a lack of self-respect. It’s part of a bigger problem of low self-worth that the gay community seems to have given itself by making the unattainable the only acceptable goal.”
Many gay activists and psychologists echo Mark’s assessment. At the core of the debate surrounding straight-guy niche porn is the argument that gay men are inversely affected by porn that encourages them to lust after sexually and emotionally unavailable men.
There always has been a debate between gay men who opt to “pass” as straight and those who claim that gay identity comes with an inherent set of ambiguous gender standards. If gay men are lusting after straight men, activists argue, surely they must suffer from some form of internalized homophobia that prevents them from finding other gay men equally attractive, or, worse, it perpetuates victimization by encouraging gay men to believe they do not deserve someone who finds them sexually desirable. One could surmise that, in a community in which acting “straight” is considered ideal behavior, sites that exploit the community’s obsession with straight men encourage systematic oppression of gay identity.
The debate spilled over into the mainstream, too, with a recent backlash—originating in the gay community, of all places—against the film Brokeback Mountain. Many claim the film’s depiction of homosexuality is “safe” because the actors are, in fact, straight, therefore making the film’s stars, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, the Hollywood equivalents of gay-for-pay porn stars.
“I think, to some extent, gay-for-pay content perpetuates a myth that straight guys can be turned gay by enticing them with money,” says Chip White, vice president for Media Resource Communications (home of Boyfunk.com and StraightBoySecrets.com). “I’m not sure it’s helpful to the gay community, [because] it essentially reinforces the stereotype that the religious right likes to play up: that being gay is a choice. Since we’re already struggling to convince zealots that what we’re dealing with is a biologically hardwired orientation, [the perpetuation] of admitted straight guys doing gay things just further reinforces the notion that gay sexuality isn’t authentic and genuine in the way that heterosexual sex is.”
Even porn heavyweight Chi Chi LaRue—who has employed gay-for-pay models—says, “I don’t know that I really like to encourage [that self-loathing thing]. I don’t really like to look at things as ‘He’s a straight guy, so that makes him hotter.’ What if it’s just a hot guy?
“I think worshipping and idolizing something that is pinpointed as ‘straight’ is a little weird for a gay man,” LaRue continues. “I just think people should look at a guy and think he’s hot instead of placing the emphasis on his sexuality.”
This good point begs the question: Why focus on a model’s sexuality as a selling point? Gay activists and consumers often chide straight mainstream actors for discussing their heterosexuality in interviews, claiming that such a disclosure undermines their portrayal of gay characters because it’s just “pretend.” However, hetero models that appear in straight-guy niche porn are revered for the very same disclosure. Shouldn’t porn, by token of its origins in filmmaking, be judged just as harshly?
Not necessarily, argue straight-niche webmasters. “This is about fantasy, pure and simple,” asserts Doug. “We’ve all been in the chat rooms or looked at personal ads that read ‘straight-acting only’ and so on. Obviously, the popularity of our site and the straight-guy niche really testifies to the fact that this is something that turns gay guys on, but I don’t think it has anything to do with self-loathing. I really think it’s a reflection of the fact that we all grew up in a [predominantly] straight society. I mean, how many of us grew up fantasizing about the hot straight stud in high school—even though we knew we’d never get him?”
“Straight guys are the apple which most gay men will never taste,” says Joe Sterner, co-owner of PrideBucks.com. “People have a natural draw to want something they cannot have. That is allure.”
Predictably, some webmasters who profit from the straight-guy niche bristle at the suggestion that they may be contributing to the oppression of gay identity. “I think it’s digging too deep for some kind of motivation behind what we do [or what we desire], when, in actuality, it’s all pretty plain and simple where the appeal comes from,” asserts Brian Dunlap, the marketing director and public voice behind CorbinFisher.com. The website has become a staple in the straight-guy niche by offering eyebrow-raising scenes dubbed “straight-guy educations,” in which an evidently hetero dude is seduced by a more experienced gay male. “There is the element of wanting what one cannot have, but to then stretch that into evidence of some kind of character flaw or deep-seated behavioral defect is where someone gets way off track. It’s human nature to want what you can’t have. Why try and play Freud with it? Let people have their fantasies.”
Some webmasters suggest the “fault” lies solely with the viewer. “[Straight-guy niche sites] portray straight guys as they are—just straight guys—for the enjoyment of whoever wants to take pleasure in them,” opines Derek, photographer and co-owner of BukBuddies.com. “Any internalized homophobia one might experience [when] visiting one of these sites is more likely to be an issue of one’s personal self-esteem than anything else. The content is to be enjoyed; it is not there to tell anyone—gay or straight—what they should or should not look at.”
Yaffe agrees. “Wanting what you can’t or don’t have is part of the human condition—not a gay or straight thing,” he maintains. “Happiness is found inside ourselves, not on a porn site.”
Others disagree that straight-guy porn perpetuates internalized homophobia. Jake Cruise, the persona behind JakeCruise.com and StraightGuysForGayEyes.com, says, “I am producing erotic films to fill one—and only one—need: for gay men to get off.
“I do not pretend to be producing works of art or anything else with an aim to provide positive affirmation of gay sexuality. I really believe that gay men should have the freedom to express their sexuality any way they want,” Cruise adds. “Let’s not put restrictions on what it means to be a healthy gay man with a positive attitude. That will only hurt the gay community much more than the straight niche ever could.”
“Straight programs and webmasters have for years been banking with gay and gay-related sites,” says Tim Hamilton, owner of CuriousCash.com, one of the leading affiliate programs catering to the straight-guy niche. “Why is it any different for gay programs and webmasters to take advantage of any marketing opportunities? I believe the [arguments against straight-guy niche porn] do more to promulgate negative stereotypes than do the actions of smart businesspeople expanding into new and emerging markets.”
Hamilton’s point rings true, especially concerning marketing techniques—precisely one reason why the straight-guy niche may be so successful. It remains to be seen just how many “straight” models are truly heterosexual, but many webmasters who offer the content clearly have made an effort to distinguish their material from that of other, less “authentic” content. “There were these sites with gay guys pretending to be straight, where the ‘straight’ one says he’s never done it before [and] then bends over and takes it in the ass like Catherine the Great!” laughs Andy Fair, content producer for StraightBoysFucking.com, which offers content in which the models film each other masturbating or having sex with women—but not with each other. “We created our site as one where straight guys who off and prove that they are straight.”
Meanwhile, others say their sites give straight models an opportunity to tap into their inner queer—natch. “We’ve had models who’ve worked with [Amateur Straight Guys] tell us that they’ve discovered a side of their sexuality that they hadn’t dreamed about,” Doug says. “The most rewarding thing for me in this whole thing is seeing how we help these guys [grow] in their own understanding of their sexuality.”
“I think on some sites it can be a positive affirmation that these straight guys are willing to try something new—to let go and enjoy their sexuality without labels,” offers Basschick.
Broke Straight Boys’ Mark Erickson adds, “I think the benefits of these types of sites are in showing surfers that being curious, gay, or straight is normal, and even very straight guys can do gay things. Regardless of what your sexuality is, there is always a chance to experiment and enjoy the other side you haven’t tried yet.”
One may also theorize that straight-guy niche content produced by gay men is liberating. Tim Power, the brains behind SleepingMen.com (a site that dramatizes seductions of sleeping straight men), says, “Taking control and making the straight guy do what you want him to do is a key element in the straight-guy niche. Dominating those who you feel dominated by is big fantasy for some; it is their outlet to feel like they are taking the power back. We all know that physical stimulation is only half of getting someone off—the other half being psychological stimulation.”
Such philosophy is indeed intriguing. However, it may be overreaching to think that adult content might influence the maturation of the gay community and those in the straight-niche genre. As many in the industry will say, “it is just porn”—an industry that seeks an altogether different bottom line: money. In fact, some maintain it’s all just a matter of good old-fashioned economics. “We’re not selling the handbook on political correctness,” proclaims CircleJerkBoys’ Joe Sterner. “Gay men have always salivated over straight men—just like straight men jerk off to big-busted lesbians. The benefits are simple: As with all things porn, the surfer gets his escape and fantasy, and it makes money for us and our affiliates.”
And that, dear friends, is what they call straight shooting.