As much as one may love gay porn, there comes a time when even the most die-hard fan gets a little tired of looking at it. Eventually, the mostly vanilla sex becomes rather tiresome, and the seemingly endless supply of meticulously groomed, muscular models starts to resemble an assembly line of manufactured Ken dolls. Indeed, representations of less "conventionally attractive" gay men are often hard to find in mainstream porn, leaving those of us without the luxuries of personal trainers and good genetics in the dust. And let's not even get started on the dearth of quality material for those of us with more "specialized" tastes in sex play.
That's where BearBound.com comes into the picture.
Started at the top of 2003 by its founder and chief webmaster, Dart (yep, just Dart—like Madonna and Cher), BearBound is a niche site that caters to those who prefer their men to be older, gruffer, more rugged, furrier, and, of course, gagged and tied. Featuring several photo galleries of established adult personalities and amateur models, the site explores Dart's ongoing fascination with power play and masculinity.
"I have been into bondage ever since I came out of my mom's womb, and I love the bears," he says of his fondness for the content on his site.
A native of Los Angeles, Dart is no stranger to such fetish material, having started as a model for the popular BDSM site CapturedGuys.com. His fascination with photography eventually led him to shoot some material for that site, and he eventually became one of the site's partners. But he soon grew tired of phtographing only young muscle boys, and decided to explore a more raw form of masculinity. After he and longtime friend-turned-business partner Max Garcia--a newbie to the adult industry--decided that there weren't enough hairy guys being tied up on the Net, BearBound was born, fulfilling a void in an industry seemingly obsessed with youth and smooth physiques.
Currently residing with his boyfriend in Toronto, Dart frequently makes trips to the U.S. in order to photograph new models. Having recently re-launched BearBound with a fresh new look, Dart has entered into an acquisition with the folks behind AcademyMen.com and LeatherTribe.com, but we'll get to that in a bit. I recently chatted with the decidedly woofalicious Dart (quite a looker, it should be noted) via the phone, probing him about furry men, the joys of BDSM, and the sexual temptations involved in photographing hot and helpless bears.
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Ken Knox: First off, let me say that I really like the new look of the site. It's a lot more sleek and professional-looking than before. Have you noticed a spike in members since the overhaul?
Dart: Not quite yet, because we sort of [snuck in] the new look without it being actually complete. We are planning on adding a lot more features. Originally we were going to wait for all the features to be done before we unveiled the new look.
I actually was never happy with the way the site looked before. When we put the site together, we were sort of at this deadline, and my programmer at the time just sort of wanted to put something together. On his monitor, the color looked great, but in reality it was lavender, and we didn't realize that until several months later. [Laughs] We always wanted it to be a lot more reflective of what people who were into bears would be into, so I wanted black and brown and chrome [as the site's colors]. I come from an artistic background, and so I really wanted to concentrate on branding the site. So the new look and the new logo reflect that.
OK, so tell me, how did the idea for BearBound.com first come about for you?
Well, I used to be part of CapturedGuys.com, and I was with them for several years. And I had wanted to start a site very similar to it, but have the majority of the models be older, more 'daddy' types, bearded—bears, basically. And there really hadn't been anything like that online, or it was very, very limited. So it was basically a culmination of what it is that gets me off.
Woof! How did you make the transition?
There came a point where the owner [of CapturedGuys] wanted to shift his business focus, and I think he really just wanted to run the whole thing on his own. And at that point, I really wanted to start BearBound, so he just offered to buy me out, and I was able to use a lot of the money to get BearBound started. The timing was really good. I have a business partner that I share the work with, but the majority of the work is done by me.
What were some of the biggest hurdles in getting the site off the ground?
Just getting content. When I was with CapturedGuys, the kinds of models that we used were just regular muscle guys. And it seemed easy to get willing volunteers to allow themselves to be tied up and gagged and have their pictures taken. For some reason, it's not so easy with bears. A lot of them are very insecure. They don't think that there is an audience out there that will find them sexy. And I always have to sit and tell them, 'Trust me, I have a whole list of email addresses of people that will find you sexy!' I'd say that was the hardest part, particularly because we try to update it weekly.
Well, you have quite an array of hot, hirsute men on the site already. Where did you find those guys?
I am very aggressive out on the street. I go to bear events like Lazy Bear or IBR or the Gathering of the Clans in Oklahoma City. A lot of the times people will write in and say they'd like to be a model, and if it happens to be in a city that I'm going to find myself in, I pack my rope and my camera and make the photo shoot happen. And there's also word of mouth. Someone might write to me and say they've got a friend who would look really hot on the site and they'll send along their email address, so I'll contact them and set something up.
It's no secret that mainstream gay culture tends to place emphasis on more – How shall I put it? – conventional ideals of beauty, in particular on youth and those who wear a more clean-cut, smooth look.... Do you think that's changing with the launch of sites such as yours?
Absolutely. I have this saying that 'old is the new young.'
That's so funny, because my bear friends and I like to joke that, 'bellies are the new abs.'
[Laughs] There you go. And my partner just turned 40, and I'm like, 'Well, honey, you know 40 is the new 30.' But yeah, I think [the obsession with youth and muscle] is changing, which is kind of cool for guys like me.
To me it's almost like an over-saturation of those types of guys. Like, maybe the pendulum is starting to swing more toward older, more rugged guys because the gay community is getting tired of seeing the same exact guy on the cover of every single gay magazine?
Yeah, and I think that people's association of what they see in pornography [is changing as well]. Like in bear porn, for instance, I have brought friends of mine to bear events, and they'll go 'Oh, my God, the bears have this wonderful, friendly, fraternal spirit about them. They're so happy and they're very accepting of each other.' It's good to see models who reflect that jovial spirit. Certainly in other parts of the world, having girth does not have the same [negative] stipulation that it has in North America. In Asia, for instance, you've got the great emperors and Buddha and the Sumo wrestlers. They all have these very large bellies, and there's an association of tremendous wisdom and wealth associated with that—which explains why the majority of my customers are in Asia! [Laughs]
Have you always been primarily attracted to stocky, furry guys? When did you first realize this attraction?
I don't know what it is, but ever since I was a little kid, I have been fascinated with beards and moustaches. I just find that facial hair on a man does amazing things to their faces. I think my fascination with bears is that it is just the ultimate way a man looks if he allows his genetics to progress. In the early ages, men were not constantly grooming themselves. Hair grew on their faces and grew on their bodies, and I just love that a bear is the ultimate man.
Tell me how you feel your site contributes to BDSM culture.
That's a good question. [Pauses] BDSM culture to me is a celebration of sexuality. It's an honor to feel one's sexuality and one's fetish. And when you are producing that or creating pictures or films or stage shows that reflect some sort of fetishism, you are basically embarking on a celebration of sexuality. And I think that's a wonderful thing. So for me, putting images of these big, hairy guys in bondage just kind of contributes to that. And when someone emails me saying, 'Hey, I'm so glad I found your site. I used to think I was crazy,' that's very rewarding.
I've noticed that you've used a couple established adult models, such as Clint Taylor and a few others. Are there any other established models you would particularly like to shoot?
I keep hoping that Pete Kuzak will knock on my door. He's that beautiful Colt model with an amazing moustache. I think he's a little piece of heaven.
So tell me, how often do BearBound photo shoots degenerate into something more interactive?
[Laughs] My partner's downstairs making dinner, so…. [Laughs] Sometimes, in order to get a certain quality out of the model, you do have to kind of egg on a certain amount of play. It's a way of getting the model out of being self-conscious and looking like they're enjoying what's happening a lot more. That gets reflected in the pictures. And sometimes I get these hot bearded guys all tied up, and I can't help myself.
Personally, I would have a very hard time keeping my hands off some of these guys on your site. Which reminds me: Can you get me a date with Hutch Bryant?
Oh, isn't he a hottie? He's one of my favorites. I'll see what I can do.
Nice. A lot of webmasters who shoot their own content say that it's not wise to sleep with the models. Um, what is your take on this?
Well, I would kind of agree with that. I think there's a certain border of professionalism that shouldn't be crossed. I'm here to create pictures that someone is going to enjoy and be aroused by. I'm not here to make this a sexual experience for the model. They can hire a prostitute for that. I always say, 'This is not going to be a sex scene. If you get off on it, that's fine.' But I do try to establish that I'm running a business, and I'm very serious and very professional about it.
What about any other future plans?
The biggest one is going to be online video. A lot of our readers have also written in saying they want a how-to section, so I've written a bunch of bondage tutorials, which will be posted shortly. Bondage is my forte. It would be basic knots and, of course, safety: How to avoid circulation being compromised, how to establish a field of trust before the play even begins, the dangers of playing with gags, honoring a bottom's boundaries—that sort of thing. People have also said they want an erotic fiction section. And I think we're going to open that up to members and let them contribute their own stories in exchange for free membership, and turn it into more of a community website. We're also looking at the idea of having a classifieds section. We're looking at that further.
What do you find to be one of the greatest challenges in running a website of this kind?
I have to say we've hit just about every wall imaginable. I would say, currently, the biggest challenge is in what's happening with the U.S. [government] and the obscenity laws. Essentially, in some communities, what is on my site could be considered obscene, even though the majority of the guys are clothed. It seems to be a scary time to be running an adult entertainment website that is anything other than plain vanilla.
Tell me about it. So, what's your favorite part about running the site—besides the occasional blowjob from a model?
Well, it's actually hard to get a blowjob when their mouth is duct-taped. [Laughs] There are a couple things I get out of this. I've had a few models where I really had to twist their arms to get them to pose because they didn't think they were sexy enough. And then I got them in the ropes and got the cameras on them, and they light up. And I show them their pictures afterward and I tell them, 'OK, now I want you to see what it was that I saw.' And they actually do. They'll be like, 'Wow, I actually kind of like that picture.' And then they get fan mail from people, and then they write me and say, 'It's been the most amazing experience. I didn't think anybody out there would find me attractive. Wow, I didn't realize I had a following!' And then they get a little bit of an attitude! [Laughs] That to me is just really hot.
So you're bringing all these hot bears out of their shells then and helping them become more confident in their looks?
Yeah, you could say that. And the other thing is when I get an email from some remote part of the world, like a port in Indiana or some little place in Singapore, and they say, 'I really have to thank you. I thought I was crazy all my life because of what it was that turned me on. And then I found your site. And not only do I realize I'm not crazy, but that there are a whole bunch of other people out there who are into the same thing that I am. Thank you for doing this.' And to me, that's a really neat reward.
Awww, that's nice.
But don't get me wrong. I also love having all my cubs on the site all tied up and in the dungeon!
Of course! OK, so finish this sentence for me: My rope is to me like....
Like a fifth of vodka thrown into a punchbowl of Kool-Aid. I'm really a just a sweet, innocent guy. It's not until you get the rope in my hands that the evil, artistic side of me comes out. [Chuckles mischievously] What can I say? They know me by name at Home Depot!Grrrr. See you in the lumber aisle, sir!