Bored, Detached and Distracted: Performance and The Amateur Body in Gay Porn

Paper delivered at XII MAGIS - International Film Studies Spring School, University of Udine. Gorizia March 29th - April 1st 2016

Gay porn is an especially rich seam of cultural production to mine in order to think through some of the debates that have emerged around the domain of amateurism in cultural studies in recent years. The exponential proliferation of 'amateur' porn sites, the emergence of symbolic amateurism in the porn industry and the strategic marketing deployment of ‘amateur’ as a keyword perhaps maps onto the wider popularity of reality formats and a fetishisation of the 'real' across the media.

In porn, the promise that amateurism extends to audiences lies in, what Paasonen describes as, "complex and yet dualistic notions" (2011:85) that are positioned in relation to an alternative (and by suggestion inferior) commercialism; the real vs the faked, the natural vs the artificial, the impromptu vs the staged and the attainable (the recognisable, ordinary body) vs the unattainable (the idealised, fantasy 'pornified' body). These dualities are played out in gay porn that hails itself as 'amateur' on a routine basis as are the mutable distinctions between the home made, the pro-am and the symbolic amateurism of commercial gay porn and this is reflected in the aesthetics and rhetoric, the tropes of 'amateur' porn and the masculinities and performances of masculinity that these texts produce.

The performance styles exhibited in amateur porn that are the focus of this paper produce an arena in which masculine sexuality is not of the always hard, always ready, often acrobatic and culminating with a cum shot on demand variety that we associate with professional porn performers. Instead sex can be clumsy, messy, funny, disappointing even boring. Amateur performers can appear to imagine themselves as sexual adventurers, sharing their exploits and they can also be self-absorbed and preoccupied with documenting the specifics of their own sexual interests.

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