Paul Leroux shares a gay man’s perspective on the visual and verbal idioms (and idiocies) of porn versus erotica.
A year ago, I described one of my own real-life sexual encounters on a gay hookup website. However, because my story wasn’t laced with four-letter words, sexual epithets, and expletives, readers panned it. One cattily remarked that I should be writing for The Ladies’ Home Journal. Another yawned that my story was “as sexy as watching CNN.”
Ouch. Not good.
Yet, over the years, I have managed to get my stories published in gay magazines and in two anthologies. I even made a foray into writing straight erotica. My story was snapped up immediately, the first time out, by a local magazine called Moist. Unfortunately, the publication folded soon afterward, and my story never made it into print.
Here’s an excerpt from “Passion—Memory! Dust!”:
Wave on wave of warm wetness coursed through Grace as she engulfed Victor in her soft, dark inner space. It welcomed him, dark and secret and protective as the poplars round the lake, wet as the water lapping at its soft sandy shore, warm as the shimmering sun. The waves rose inside Grace, carrying her on their crest, building in intensity to a floodtide of passion.
I come by my delicacy and reticence honestly. My father never allowed a cuss word to escape his lips. When the time came for The Talk about “the birds and the bees,” which he put off until the last possible minute, his explanation of sex was couched in terms of marriage and family, duty and responsibility. I sensed that much more was involved but missing from what my Dad said. What about love and romance?
In my early teens (circa 1970), I read John Galsworthy’s Forsyte novels, which chronicle the lives and loves of an upper-middle-class family in Victorian and Edwardian England. To this day, Galsworthy remains my favorite author, my hero and icon. His novels became the template for my attitudes toward love and sex. I have read and reread them over and over again for the past 40 years.
At the opposite end of the scale, I was exposed to the earthier influence of swaggering male bravado and machismo in the schoolyard. I remember one raunchy ditty that was popular among my classmates: “I put my hand upon her knee / She said, “Young man, you’re mighty free. / Get in, get out, quit f***ing about … / And now she lives in London town, / She peddles her arse for half a crown …”
I could never then, and to this day cannot, identify with that kind of language in talking about sexuality.
In the days when there was a gay cinema in Montreal, the audience watched porno films with a seriousness and fervor that would put Puritans to shame. It was almost like being in church. Almost.
I often felt like laughing out loud at the sheer blooming idiocy of what was shown on the screen. I sometimes even feared the proprietors might ask me to leave. It was all just so ridiculous and preposterous.
There was absolutely no effort to tell a story, to create flesh-and-blood human characters, to set up a conflict for the hero to resolve. Gay porn is all about immediate gratification of the senses. No hurdles, barriers, or obstacles to overcome. No unrequited or frustrated passion, longing, or yearning. Just fit Tab A into Slot B.
I take pride in being a writer. I crave stories, plots, yarns. Gay porn didn’t cater to my needs, wants and expectations. Only gay erotica does, and that’s what I’ve always written. I focus, not on the physical, but on the emotional and psychological aspects of gay sexual relationships.
The late Jean-Daniel Cadinot of France stood head and shoulders above lesser purveyors of porn. What set him apart, more than anything else, was a refreshing sense of humor. That’s a rare commodity in gay porn, where pleasure is pursued with grim relentlessness.
In spirited romps such as “Ski Class,” Cadinot was capable of injecting (I was going to say “inserting”) funny little vignettes. In one film, the camera cuts to a cow in a pasture, which seems rather amazed and bemused by the proceedings. The shot is reminiscent of the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby film, “Road to Morocco”, where a camel tells the audience, “This is the screwiest picture I’ve ever been in!”
In another Cadinot film, a guy needs to pee really bad but can’t, because two other guys are getting it on in the outhouse. A third film has a running gag in which two brothers engage in sexual escapades, warning each other, “Don’t tell Mom!”
You get the idea. We could use more pornographers like Jean-Daniel Cadinot, may he rest in peace.
Quebec singer Diane Tell sings a song whose French title translates into English as “If I Were a Man”. She warbles plaintively, “It’s a shame. I would have liked a little more humor and tenderness. Old-fashioned love stories happen only in the movies … If only men weren’t in such a hurry to take a mistress … If I were a man, I’d be—romantic.”
I think, given the chance, allowed to be themselves, most men—including gay men like myself—would do just that.