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TheSword.com

Gay culture finds a new home and gets a much-needed dose of humor and wit.

TheSword.com
Taking a cue from the immortal words of Kathy Griffin, TheSword.com would like you to suck on this: shout-outs to Craigslist sex freaks, a gay marriage week in review, a porn star/baby pic match game, time-honored torsos from history's homos and a hilarious Muppet Show montage set to the song "Fuck the Pain Away" by Peaches.

"We also like covering celebrity gossip that's of gay interest, particularly when shirtless men are involved," says managing editor Jay Barmann, adding with a laugh, "but it seems we still have to be careful making fun of Madonna." Chimes in editor-in-chief Michael Stabile: "Yeah, homosexuals are very touchy...but anytime we can have a little flash of flesh, we're happy."

It's just another day at the newest project from NakedSword, which launched its culture commentary site in January. Having reached success with a number of other non-core products like GayPornBlog and The Tim & Roma Show, the streaming site got inspired when perusing existing gay media sites.

"We really felt like they were missing out on the fun of porn," says Stabile, also NakedSword's creative director. "They turned their focus more toward gay marriage and gays in the military, and away from the fleshy fun that straight people get to have through FHM or Maxim. So we wanted to create something that was a little bit more on the model of Playboy, something that had some amount of flesh that was sexy and fun."

The two are joined by editor Patrik Sandberg, giving the site three unique voices. Stabile notes that initial ideas focused on the industry in a non-hardcore way, one that let readers get to know the stars.

"We expanded our mission to include our take on gay culture, and the sort of staleness of it," he says. "The biggest change for us since the launch has been refining editorial voice.... We started very aggressively in terms of tone, and took a really sort of standoffish approach to standard gay culture, and that really resonated with people. But once we got into it, we started thinking we didn't need to be entirely adversarial."

But Stabile notes that the bite is still necessary to help the site stand out: "There's a lot of whining in the gay blogosphere. There's a lot about this gay suburbanization.... Everybody is sort of geared toward assimilation. So when we do talk about gay news or gay culture, it's often with a critical eye or at least a sort of wink that this isn't what all of us are going for."

TheSword plays it somewhat safe with raunchy content, a move that helps it secure support from various mainstream outlets interested in sponsorship. But the site will point you to places for your fix - with a warning if it's a not-safe-for-work link.

"We're trying to cover gay culture with a sense of humor, and gay news as well. There are plenty of sources for gay news out there, particularly news aggregation that has no point of view. If it has a point of view at all, it's just very PC, and we're, you know, not," laughs Barmann. "We're thrown around the word ‘fag', and lament the ways in which gay rights maybe haven't come that far in some places. But at the same time we have a sense of humor about it instead of whining."

TheSword covers industry events from a consumer standpoint, but does not do video reviews - opting for unique, fun fare that you can't find elsewhere. The site is a one-stop shop for video clips to make homos laugh, including items found on YouTube. The site will also start producing more original videos and interviews - delving into porn stars' personalities - as well as feature more behind-the-scenes footage from studio visits.

"It's sort of the best of the gay Web in terms of curating the media," Stabile says. "There's not anybody else - within the industry at least - doing video production that is of the events, of the industry, of the culture. Occasionally you'll get somebody from the outside like HBO or MTV that will come in and do something, but it always sort of smacks of looking into a zoo, and we wanted to do it from the opposite perspective."

The site will unveil a redesign this summer, expanding the event listings and The Stall Wall, an overview of relevant headlines from various sources. Stabile notes that they will be going to more events and will also incorporate a larger social networking aspect with the goal of giving users a direct outlet to contribute content. "If someone is at Nebraska Pride and catches something funny, we want to create the networks so they can submit it to us," he says. "We can sort of have agents on the ground in all these different cities shooting go-go dancers or interviewing porn stars themselves."

It's all a part of making sure TheSword is the go-to place for industry eyeballs, whether it's fans, stars or studio staff. "Our goal is really to be the gay man's home page.... We really want to round out a gay man's sex life. So if someone's bored on a Friday night, we want them on TheSword."

CONTACT: TheSword.com; editors@thesword.com.
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