Published Feb 01, 2000When one enters the autumn of one's years - which, in homosexual terms, means anything over 30 - one would expect that finding sex without having to pay for it would become a little more elusive, a little harder to scare up, unless of course one is blessed with a particular brand of male pattern baldness and is able to grow a healthy handlebar moustache in order to work the Daddy angle. Never having had much success with facial growth, and cursed with a shockingly full head of hair at my advanced age, I had of late resigned myself to entering john-dom without much of a struggle, even though my fiscal situation might prevent me from accessing the upper echelons of the rent boy hierarchy. No, it looked like the crack pipe and streetlife.com loomed on the horizon for me - not that there's anything wrong with that.
Imagine my surprise, then, at discovering that not only sex, but free sex with members of generation x, and yes, even generation y, has suddenly become all too available to me after not having had so much as the slightest whiff of a gym in my life for almost a full year, and after having continued unabated the life of what one of my ex-friends less than generously terms a "glug glug." Just when I had decided that my sex drive had finally waned ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly - invisible to the naked eye, in fact - and that I didn't care if I went 24 hours without having an orgasm, damn it, various youngsters have begun to throw themselves at me as if I myself were a former member of Menudo, and not just of the Menudo Fan Club.
It probably has something to do with the fact that these young wastrels can sense that I'm not so desperate for sex as I once was, or even that I almost wish they would leave me alone so I don't have to deal with the complications of sexual congress. To corrupt an already existing axiom, you can't always get what you want, but as soon as you stop wanting it, chances are you'll receive it - in abundance.
I suppose I'll have to go into details. Recently, on assignment for some glossy gay porn magazine that shall remain nameless, I found myself taking photos of a barely legal young man, a relative newcomer to the burgeoning black and Latino sex trade industry who works as an exotic dancer. After styling this angelic upstart as a member of the Black Panther party, I proceeded in the most professional manner possible to coax a hard on from the boy without resorting to the ethically murky practice of fluffing, which to my mind is too often used as merely a pretext for lechery. Believe it or not, ethical considerations do extend to the world of pornography - in fact, it is precisely this kind of morally ambiguous terrain that begs them.
Not wanting to come across as a dirty old man before even reaching the age of 40, I always encourage my models - most of whom are straight - to bring whatever they need to gain a self-sufficient erection without my direct involvement : a particularly cherished, dog-eared centrefold from a back issue ofJuggs ; a favourite porn video cued up to the scene they have of late been jerking off to; even a preferred, pH-balanced lubricant that doesn't irritate their foreskin. Invariably, when I make this suggestion, the model huffily infers some sort of questioning of their manhood, and tells me in no uncertain terms that any kind of external stimulation will not be necessary in order for them to achieve a full-on, raging, Viagra-free woody. Invariably, without such assistance, they can't get it up for the camera.
Typically, the following sequence of events then occurs: the photographer waits patiently for the model to spring a stiffy, pretending to be preoccupied with some technical matters involving the camera; the model works on it for ten or 20 minutes and finally produces one, which lasts for ten or 20 seconds, during which time the photographer snaps away like crazy before it droops; this formula repeats itself three or four times until the model's member starts to become raw and reddened; lubricant is produced; some sort of pornographic product is dug up to enhance sexual stimulation; and the erection finally starts to stay up a little longer as the session is concluded. At least, in my limited experience, and particularly with less experienced models, this has been the pattern.
Although my editor had informed me that the model he had dug up for me this time was straight, this one, I discover, happens to belong to our team. After the session, he puts his street clothes back on as I organise the various paperwork and payment details. I'm about to show him to the door when he asks unexpectedly if he can stay and watch the rest of the video I had played for him earlier to bolster his performance - I believe it wasBig Black Bananas II . At this point the little devil sitting on my right shoulder flies over and sucker punches the little angel sitting on my left shoulder, and I hear myself saying, "Sure, why not?" I turn on the video and sit down; after a few minutes he joins me on the couch and, well, one thing, as they say, leads to another. Not having the moral fortitude to keep business and pleasure separate, I do find myself snapping pictures during the ensuing carnal encounter. Strange, then, that when the photos are developed, this final incriminating roll has somehow miraculously vanished - perhaps owing to some unconscious subterfuge on my part - a mystery that to this day remains unsolved.
Fast forward a few weeks to Birmingham, England, where I am attending, against my better judgement, a Queer Festival. I still can't manage to turn down free airfare, no matter what the final destination may be. Although Birmingham is England's second largest city, it's no London, or even Manchester, and the relatively new gay scene is woefully antediluvian: ghettoised and insulated, rainbow flags flapping, dismal drag queens snapping - the usual McGayification of homosexual behaviour. Everything is going wrong, as is often the case with gay film festivals. My hotel room is minuscule, and looks out onto a soggy tar roof. The prints of my films have been lost by Federal Express en route from Berlin, and all existing British prints are currently in escrow and thereby locked up in some musty storage facility owing to the fact that my distributor recently went bankrupt (my third British distributor to go belly up). And I can't understand a word any of my hosts is saying owing to their thick, flat Midlands accent.
Frustrated, I find myself on my second night heavily into the Guinness at the nearest gay club that isn't closed by 11. The nail bomb that killed and maimed customers a few weeks ago in a London pub has obviously had an effect here, as the empty bars have put up notices everywhere asking people not to leave bags unattended. I feel like I'm about to have my legs blown off every time I enter one of these establishments, which at least makes it a bit exciting.
One good thing about backwater gay scenes: guys are much more likely to cruise you, as the pickings are often slim, and they can smell the fresh blood. I am approached by a short, bleached blond leprechaun of a kid who looks like he's too young to be in any bar; indeed, he declares immediately, in a dialect so thick it doesn't even sound like English to me, that he is only 18 years of age. He's a little stooped and spotty, but I've seen worse. Adding to his elfin image, I discover that he is a student of horology - no, it's not the study of prostitutes, but rather the science of the construction of timepieces. I can see him hunched over a wristwatch with a magnifying glass pressed to his face in a room full of ticking clocks. I would have been perfectly content to return to my hotel room alone, but he's very persistent, so after numerous pints, I demur. He asks if he can try on my leather pants, as he has never seen, let alone worn, a pair before, and as he stands in front of the mirror swimming in them, I can't help but feel like a visitor from a slightly advanced planet. The sex is surprisingly vigorous and pure: no points for finesse, full points for Dunkirk spirit.
A few nights later at a different club I'm approached by a bloke who couldn't be much different than my previous "conquest": a thin, six foot six black fellow of 26 with a long, graceful neck and patrician brow. In a posh accent, he tells me he works for the BBC, had been at my screening earlier, and indeed has been a fan of mine for quite some time. When he asks me to sign an autograph, I'm automatically his. The bar closes, so he shows me a bit of underground Birmingham, literally - systems of canals that run through the city, numbering more, I am told, than those of Venice. The huge, cavernous, arching bridge over the canal he takes me to creates the perfect cruising area, with rows and rows of dark archways extending into the distance, out of which silhouetted figures somnambulistically emerge with their hands cupping their crotches.
My handsome companion invites me over to his high-rise apartment, which he's on the verge of vacating; boxes and of his effects fill the apartment. After three years in Birmingham, he's finally escaping back to London. Amidst the hodgepodge of packing containers, he shags me silly. It's good, but not great. Unfortunately I've grown a little too accustomed to rough trade. Not bad, however, for someone who isn't even really trying.