Pandemic Bottom (No. 1)

A message from our CEO

Probottom Book Club

“And I'm right on time
And the birds keep singing
And you're right on line
One day they'll be a place for us”—PJ Harvey, A Place Called Home

“We’ll adapt to and accept such measures, much as we’ve adapted to increasingly stringent airport security screenings in the wake of terrorist attacks. The intrusive surveillance will be considered a small price to pay for the basic freedom to be with other people.” —Gideon Lichfield, We’re not going back to normal

“You are a revolting little worm, aren't you?” —Gerri, Succession (S2E4: Safe Room)


Libido varies. It comes and goes and sparks and flickers, in as infinitely different patterns as we have personalities. And even if we learn our own patterns, they tend to break right before our eyes. Some of us get horny in a crisis, and some of us feel distinctly dehorned. Some of us learn what a crisis truly means by how our bodies react to them. There can be a delay. 

Sometimes my despair is an erogenous zone. Lately it has not been.

I’m fortunate to have an intimate partner who understands all of this. A few months ago, we started to get frisky, but I had trouble getting aroused. I closed my eyes and focused on whatever depraved thoughts could get me in the right headspace, replaying favorite porn scenes and personal fantasies. It means dissociating a little from the sensations of the moment, which makes me feel a little guilty, but it’s better than overthinking the moment and blowing a fuse. 

Once I get there, to that hormonal altitude where I am level and cruising through the air, I open my eyes and re-integrate into the present. After we’d eventually gotten things up and cumming, I mumble-stuttered an embarrassed apology. He told me, “Our sex life is a journey we’re on together. I don’t expect things to be the same every time.” He’s a better bottom than me.

Even though I don’t always want to have sex, I crave his touch a lot. It’s natural to crave human touch. To be transparent, I get a rather big share of it. I’m fortunate or privileged, depending on how you want to look at it. But the instinctive pleasure of human touch is augmented when it’s paired with intimacy and trust. I love strangers, but I can’t deny that boyfriend touch hits different. That’s all changed, though. We don’t live together, so we can’t quarantine together.

The advisories about COVID-19 coalesce around an ideal practice of quarantine and self-isolation: a family unit encased in their home, having preparedly bought weeks worth of groceries and other necessities, and without physical contact from friends or anyone else. There’s some acknowledgement that that’s not realistic for most people, especially in New York City. Shelter in place orders make exceptions for grocery shopping, laundromats, and visiting family members who do not live with you. They don’t make exceptions for other kinds of loved ones. 

I’m a faggot hooker in New York City. My family is my closest friends. My boyfriend is somebody with whom I’ve been committed, but not cohabitating. We each value our own homes and personal space as much as we also value being with each other, but that’s always been on the condition that we could move freely between these states. It feels like my relationships, regardless of how functional and fulfilling, are unintelligible to the current moment.

Unlike plenty of New Yorkers, I have roommates that I like and can spend time with. However, they also have their own networks of care, and as this situation drags on, those networks will become increasingly necessary for each of us to see, to talk to, but most of all, to touch. I don’t mean to sound like a brat. I know people are dying. But without the right infrastructure to resolve this— and we don’t have it— I am weary of theatrical appeals to public safety and individual duty, especially when that duty also submits us to authoritarian control.

As the days pass, I need a harm reduction model for living like this, a more realistic response than the abstinence-only paradigm of “stay home, period.” I need an evidence-based scale of risk, rather than a singular prohibition. No matter how correct this is, it doesn’t work, especially when most Americans remain fairly distant from the death that COVID-19 has wrought thus far. This paradigm of “don’t do it” has never worked for other public health crises, whether it be AIDS or opioid addiction. We have to anticipate slippages and denial, and recommend less effective, but still impactful measures to accommodate them.

Before we locked down, it took some time for the dread to subside long enough to fuck my boyfriend. There was one day when everything shifted from dry hands and SNL sketches to the leaden, intuitive sense that life as we know it is imploding. For all my experience delivering improbable porn dialogue, I didn’t have the heart to segue our corona anxieties into an apocalyptic hook-up. The doom overwhelmed me. It still does.

Eventually, I became intentional about it. I closed the bedroom door. I put on music. I elaborated my kisses and slid my hands underneath his clothes. We are good at loving each other, but we took our time, pausing a lot. Bathroom breaks, an urgent phone call. I lost focus in these gaps, wondering bleakly about the future, before I found my way back to the present by a hidden route around his hips and against his neck. I feel fortunate, and I feel scared. I fuck these feelings into a few moments of grace. Libido varies, even in the space of an hour.

Since we live separately and out of concern for our roommates, we decided to try quarantining in our own respective homes. I’m not sure how long that’ll last, but since I travel for work, we’ve spent weeks apart before. Albeit in less stressful circumstances. It’s unlikely this is a matter of weeks, though. As I’ve had to tell myself constantly over the past week, we’ll see

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Thank you for your patience as I took a hiatus from the newsletter over the winter. I have been working hard on a column for MEL Magazine titled “This Could Be Us,” and trying to develop a balanced workflow. As we descend further into a likely breakdown of American life and economy, I finally have an excess of writing to share with all of you as we cope with upheaval both apart and together.

Welcome to Season Two of my Probottom Book Club.

This Could Be Us

XO

TY

This Could Be Us

(Interlude)

Hi Bottom Feeders!

I mentioned on Twitter last month that I’d be taking a short break from Probottom Book Club, so if you’ve recently subscribed and are wondering where the newsletter is, it’s coming back soon. I’ve been pretty busy with the holidays and gay porn awards season, but I do fully intend to resume the PBBC in due time. Thanks for your patience.

But I do have an exciting announcement! I have launched a biweekly column for MEL Magazine titled This Could Be Us that features tales from my adventures in gay sex, intimacy, and culture. The column’s first piece is already published, and my intention for the project is to excavate experiences of rejection, denial, and foiled connections.

This Could Be Us

While I’m obviously down to write about my sex life, I had my hesitations about premising a column on what is ultimately a very privileged viewpoint on gay sex. I did not want to wind up gloating about my sex life, nor did I want to whine about it. Given MEL’s critical concern with masculinity, I offered to dedicate my column to particular questions about entitlement, consent, and compassion. With the help of my editor Joseph Longo, I think I’ve found a nice niche for myself, and hope that I will be read in good enough faith.

All of that is the long way of saying that I’d appreciate your support on this new endeavor by reading the column, and if you like it, sharing it with friends. It’s been wonderful publishing freely and independently on Substack, but I also want to get paid to write! So if you happen to be a writer or editor for another publication that you think would welcome my point of view, let’s chat!

Read My Fucking Column!

XO

TY

In Defense of Dangerous Parties (2017)

From the archive.

Three years ago the NYPD shut down two neighboring New Years Eve parties organized by close friends of mine, one at a warehouse and the other at a large apartment that had long housed many of the borough’s queer performance starlets. For several years prior I’d been actively involved in Brooklyn’s queer underground nightlife scene, and cultivated a community and support system there that kept me alive.

At the time, the incident was fairly traumatic, and seemed to demonstrate a larger finality to DIY nightlife in Brooklyn. Three years later, it still feels like the end of something grand, and I consider it one of the “Horsemen of the Brooklyn Nightlife Apocalypse.” Trite as it may be to compare nightlife’s present to its past— tinted always by novelty and nostalgia, most of the people I party with now have limited to no sense of how good we used to have it.

I wrote this piece in the first few days of 2017 to process my own reactions and those of other people, and published it as a Facebook note. It circulated a bit there, and came back to me through my Facebook Memories this weekend. I still like what I wrote, and felt like sharing it with all of you.


On New Year's Eve at least two queer DIY parties were shut down by police. The first of these two was shut down before midnight, and had been going for less than an hour before police showed up. No crowd, no danger, but no liquor license. The second was just a house party, with no neighbor complaints. Parties get shut down all the time, sure, but this was an instance in which parts of queer nightlife seemed distinctively targeted by police, because they existed outside the city's regulatory system. I want to explain the value of these unlawful spaces, and why those of us who have invested our time and energy into them are so heartbroken over this, but I'm not sure most people would understand.

What we do is indefensible. We are partygoers, performers, substance users, queer people, broke people. Where we go and why we go there-- a shrinking underground scene of DIY spaces-- isn't something I can justify without taking you there first, and even then, you might not get it. How we live doesn't make sense anymore, not when our every grievance is reducible to the rhetoric of crybaby liberals. No, we can't seem to defend ourselves, not against alt-right reactionaries, or against real estate developers, or against cops, or against any other gunmen who storm into the spaces we try to produce for each other.

I wouldn't know where to begin-- with the sheer scarcity of affordable nightlife for queer people, especially for trans people and people of color? With the historical fact that nightlife has always been where we have found support for queer art and queer life? With the necessity of celebratory spaces, just to relieve the depressive miasma of patriarchy, of late capitalism, of New York rent prices? You'd have to learn so much to understand why we go where we go. You would have to live like we live, fight like we fight, give like we give to one another, to understand the safety we feel in a crowded, smokey DIY space. I can't just explain it to you, why we go to warehouses and gutted studios instead of dwindling, monopolized gay bars and $200-ticket macho dance parties. I can't pull your superiority out from under you when you remind us that drugs are bad and parties are dangerous, because we know they are, just like sex and wearing skirts.

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Allow me to debunk a few parts. We do not get permits and licenses for our parties because it is too costly to do so without making tickets unaffordable to the people we want at our parties. We do not simply throw these parties at existing, licensed gay venues because there are too few venues available to us, because they close too early, and because we have learned not to trust corporate-owned businesses to look out for the most vulnerable members of our community. But there's more to it than this-- our parties are acts of protest, spaces of creative civil disobedience. This is laughable to folks who cannot imagine protest beyond historical sit-ins and marches, or who balk at dissent the moment it becomes noticeably disruptive. This doesn't even make sense to sympathetic liberals who donate to non-profits and change profile pictures in solidarity. This is a more obscure, imaginative politics, in which we sustain each other through unregulated art, contact, and joy. We protest by demonstrating our capacity to do it ourselves, to protect each other without cops and produce art without corporate funding. We create small utopias for each other, which are not perfect worlds but simply better, possible ones.

Let's talk about safety. DIY party producers hire their own security, plan for emergencies, kick out people who get violent. But if we have learned anything from from Pulse or from Stonewall (I'm talking 2016 Stonewall, where a transwoman was raped in the bathroom on a Saturday night), it is that no queer space is absolutely safe. But what we learned from Ghost Ship, the Oakland warehouse fire that took 36 lives, was that most people who heard about the tragedy don't get why we'd feel safe in a place that is materially dangerous. Safety means more to us, given how we experience fear and danger in our everyday lives. Safety is a feeling, because it is never truly a state. Perhaps this seems melodramatic, because after all, it's not like we live in Aleppo. But we live through danger in an American way-- fearing anxious cops, overzealous catcallers, emboldened white supremacists. Danger is stratified: trans people and queer people of color are more vulnerable to violence, a statistical fact. And so even in nightlife, we seek out a sense of safety, and it's not usually in a midtown dive bar. We find it in places we trust won't call the cops on us for something petty, with bouncers that won't bully us at the door, with hosts we know will stick up for us if a bigot gets in our face.

Here's the bottom line: we do it ourselves because we figured out that nobody's really doing it for us. Nobody is protecting us, or helping us grieve, or showcasing our art. And when they are, we still find ourselves manipulated, making compromises. We work around the law because we do not believe it is structured to help us, not because we are just a bunch of bad kids. I think that to most passersby, as we are kicked out of venues and onto the street, what we do doesn't make much sense. My hope is that we can be resilient and continue to create spaces for each other, without apology. Even when it is hard for us to explain why, even when what we do appears indefensible.

Progeny Bottom

Light skin feelings

Inspo*—

“Lilo: People treat me different.
Nani: They just don’t know what to say.”
Lilo & Stitch

“I wanted to tell him, you see, I am lost in someone else. You are too. We kept company in each other’s reminiscences for the nights we spent together. There’s nothing more for this.” —Alexander Chee, Edinburgh

“Vayamos sin compromiso
Veremos qué es lo que pasa
Ron ron ron ronroneo” —Mon Laferte, Ronroneo


I get asked to explain what I am a lot. People ask me all the time about my ethnic background or my racial makeup or where I’m from. White people ask me, and just as often black and brown people ask me. Some people ask up front, some wait for it to come up, and somehow it eventually does. Tricks ask me, trade asks me, lovers ask me— although lovers wait longer. Friends ask, even though I’ve told them, they just forgot, like they didn’t hear it right the first time, like it didn’t answer their question. 

It’s frustrating, but it’s also fine. There are far worse racial grievances than being asked which ones you should have. With my white name and my white mom and my white friends, I hesitate to claim what mine might be. Perhaps it’s a privilege to be allowed to name what I am, as if the whole matter had the lightness of sharing my star sign. People have their suspicions when they ask, but nobody ever says “Oh, I see that” after I answer, like I’m part of another planet’s sky.

Disrobed, the question is this: Why do you look the way you do, and where would I find more?


Escort sites offer the option “Mixed,” but I do not find that the gesture helps my business. Men filter and refine their search for providers by race, perhaps not always thinking much about it, and “Mixed” simply does not fit into any schema of sexual types. It evades the question, it indicates nothing. Sometimes this works, but a marketplace presents an opportunity— maybe even an imperative— to profit from racial fantasies, fetishes, and “preferences.” Especially for white sex workers, whether they intend to or not. But for all that good liberal people adore the post-racial promise of multiracial children, or shrug tolerantly at precisely what constitutes those multi-races, there is not a pornographic imagination of “Mixed.”

This leaves me three options for how to advertise:

  1. White— Partially true. Visibly suspect. Highest likelihood of being seen in a search. Does not deter being asked for more detail.

  2. Asian— Partially true. Visibly suspect. Not the type rice queens look for. High likelihood of exclusion.

  3. Latino— Untrue, thus unethical. Low likelihood of exclusion. Most common assumption, confusion and disappointment when revealed to be wrong. Sorry, I guess.

One of my first scenes was titled “Macho Bromantico” long after we’d filmed it, presumably because my scene partner and I both look Latino. I still cringe over it, but I also have to laugh. I am almost always indexed by rogue porn blogs and streaming sites this way, even though I’ve never indicated anywhere that this is accurate. I’ve never been contacted by any Latin-only studios or asked to play explicitly Latino roles, and would politely decline if I were. But after all the white dick I’ve peddled, flattered, and framed with my own body, it’s still unclear how eligible I am for that upper echelon of desirability, whiteness, and for the preference it guarantees.

At times I am vulnerable to the glimmering vice of comparison, and wonder if my career has moved along more slowly than my peers because of my race. This crosses my mind, but feels dubious, and crosses back, and forth again. I do well for myself, but have never been offered an exclusive contract with any studios, and never felt like I was in high enough demand to negotiate convincingly for better pay and working conditions. Certain studios became bored by me quicker than I expected, and other major ones still have yet to give me a chance. Art and fashion people do not fawn over me, or really notice me at all.

I consider all my other shortcomings or reasons I might not suit somebody’s taste, and this is my least favorite part of sex work, belonging to a catalog of bodies alongside my friends and lovers and fellow hustlers. They insist that the grass is just as brown on their side and remind me about my own successes, but the possibility still paces its way through my mind, whether things would be different if I were just a bit less ethnic looking, a bit more convincingly a boy next door. They don’t ever have to wonder this.

I never needed to explain myself like this until I came to New York. I don’t remember it being so difficult to answer, but until then, my unrepentant faggotry was the greatest difference anybody acknowledged between me and my surroundings. Although white supremacy and anti-blackness stay constant, I think that the rest of the racial schema may vary regionally. Some places, like the Southwest or the Pacific coast, can put me in a familiar pattern of bodies better than others, like the Northeast or the South.

Where I come from everything jumbles and mashes together, and nobody cares long enough to put it into any real order. You see it on the map, housing developments that sprawl across the valley in labyrinths of middle class taste bought by service sector incomes. People live here and leave and live here again, and sometimes they start a family premised not on the school system or the natural beauty but on just how darn cheap it is to have a big house and an easy winter. I grew up with plenty of people who looked like me in Las Vegas— they even call it the Ninth Island. I grew up with a lot of Mormons, too, and maybe that’s why I didn’t date a white guy until after I left.

I started piecing together the Type I was when I took notice of the lovers that white men took after me. With exceptions afforded by light skin and defined muscles, I tend to get fucked by guys who are into small brown boys. Some of them even say so. Why does this lacerate me? These men don’t play fetishistic games with me, don’t fixate upon race-play roles, at least not any that they ever tell me about. They do what has been asked of them all along, branch away from desiring more white men and dignify men of color as desirable. But when I learn this about somebody, it’s hard to feel sexier because of it. Instead, I want to transcend it, to somehow become the universal Type. I feel the vile twitch of competition with other brown boys in the room. Perhaps desire fails to dignify. Perhaps there is still much of me, the white parts, that are still in denial.


I could say I’m Pacific Islander, a Census term that summons a void and maybe some distant drums in the American racial imagination. Or I could say I’m Polynesian, a word that satisfies people as much as it prompts them to look at me as marvelously exotic. I could say I’m Hawaiian, but to the colonized ear— most ears— this sounds not like an ancestry, but a hometown, when it has been far away from me my whole life.

To console myself, I take pleasure in being a rarity, an outlier with better stories than explanations. I look the way I do because of colonialism and militarism, because of wannabe playboys and almost showgirls, because of a birthmark and a circumcision. I am hapa Kanaka, I am mixed, I am mongrelized mutt, but I am not what you think you see. I cannot flatten this, and this is at once a privilege and a problem. You cannot find more of me, and eventually, neither can I.

XO

TY


*PS— I want to clarify that these epigraphs have very simply represented what I have been recently reading, watching, and listening to. They do not necessarily relate to the entry in any direct way except that I consumed the work around the time of writing. They are ambience, as well as light recommendations. This is a book club, after all.

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Prodigious Bottom

It's an honor just to be nominated.

Inspo—

“I’ll give you anything you need, just let me be a greased up freak” —Macy Rodman, Greased Up Freak Part 1

“As a continuation of the celebrity-worshipping ethos of The FameThe Fame Monster explored the darker side of that mentality, examining complex questions about the unfortunate aftermath of becoming famous. Gaga had gone from being “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” to a “Monster,” now unable to pull herself away from the allure she had spent so much of her life chasing. Fame had come fast — she had gone from performing in sweaty dive bars on New York City’s Lower East Side to selling out arenas and stadiums — but at what cost?” —Michael Cuby, Looking Back at a Decade of The Fame Monster, the Album That Made Me Gay

“Thank you for listening.” —Kaneisha, Slave Play


Of course I was a Colby Keller fan. Nothing all that obsessive. I was in college and seemed to be reading a few of the same books he loved to reference. I didn’t watch many of his scenes, but in those halcyon tumblr days, I appreciated what he was trying to do— break the mold of a disposable gay whore and potentially even break into mainstream media. 

This was a peculiar cultural moment for male sex work, when RentBoy operated in flagrante and Queerty gossiped about Austin Wilde and HBO’s Looking depicted a calm, cool, and autonomous male escort. Gay representation was pluralizing enough for it to feel like sex work might not foreclose any hope of mattering to the world, even just the gay world. It might even guarantee it. Eventually, Keller positioned himself as an accelerationist Trump voter, a provocation that either caused or coincided with his fade-out from the industry. Not long after, I began to send out model applications.

I didn’t usually have a favorite porn star, but occasionally certain performers would stand out. Marcus Mojo was compelling to me at one point. Igor from Machofucker could still own this hole. Long before all that, I used to light up when I’d come across either Brent. Yes, Corrigan and Everett. Their film together was one of the few I would go back to and still get off on re-watching. But beyond the sex scenes, I was mesmerized by the excess of personality that distinguished characters from types, even if those personalities weren’t altogether good ones. From the vantage of a mid-2000s early adolescence, I was piecing together an obscure star system of gay names and faces like it was a hanky code between me and my web browser, or better yet, like it was a history. Once I was older I taught myself about earlier, grander star systems of gay porn, and around the same time ran into Brent Corrigan at a party. I admitted to being a fan, and through nervous giggles asked for a photo together.

I’ve never been all that interested in meeting celebrities. We’d be meeting on extremely inequitable grounds, indulging in an exchange that I’ll remember for a long time and they won’t, that means a lot to me and mathematically means little to them, even the humble ones. I want to work with somebody I admire instead of just make introductions, or even party together. I hate feeling like a plebe— or worse, a climber! I don’t pretend to have any healthier relationship to fame and celebrity than anyone else. Wanting to work or collaborate with these people on equitable terms might be even more delusional than hoping they’ll remember me for giving them a bump at a gay bar. Does Emma Stone remember me? I’m doubtful, but it sure feels good to drop that name.

But fangirling over a porn star leaves a chalkier taste than the encounters between mainstream celebrities and their fans. For one thing, we’re on the X-List, worlds beneath the singers, actors, and even the reality stars of the pop culture pantheon. We live closer to the celebrity exhibitionists, social media influencers, in not only how our obscurity ranks but also how smoothly we can make a living off of a personal brand (not all that smoothly). For another, we have the ability to herd the raucous demands for more and more exposure into a simple, subscription-based transaction. There’s fans, and there’s Fans.

Even still, our stardom lives behind the padlocks of private accounts and incognito tabs. We are not meant to be recognized in public, because to do so betrays an embarrassing elephant, a dramatic irony— you’ve had sex with me, without me. One cannot escape the uncanny paranoia that I have seen you through the screen, that just because you have given your time and fantasies and cum to me, that I have received them. 

Sometimes this compels people to send me their nudes, as if my publicized hole pics are a personal sext awaiting reply, or as if there’s a cosmic imperative to restore some kind of balance between us. Sometimes this compels people to confess to me about the moment I appeared in their feed, and that they did not breach the platonic boundary of getting off to my videos. But congratulations, you’re everywhere! 

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I’ve picked up a lot of cues about sex work from women, whether they’re friends, writers, or advocates I’ve encountered over the years. Because of this influence I was once very weary of maintaining a secret identity and of the threat of being stalked or harassed. But audiences to gay sex differ a bit from those who consume women’s sexual performances, especially online. Male sex workers get harmed and harassed, especially black men, but our reply guys tend to be a bit easier to handle than women’s. Perhaps men just treat other men better, or perhaps the male hustler is imagined as a more violent and intimidating figure. Perhaps gay culture’s sex objects emerge through a confluence of desire and admiration, of wanting to have and wanting to be, and this produces a subtler, more embittered kind of denigration than the vitriol men lob at women. A full comparison is beyond my scope here, but suffice to say I am less imperiled by my gay fans than I’d initially feared. A lot of them are quite similar to me.

I get a lot of guys who compliment my writing, or my “brain.” Sometimes this feels underhanded, the subtext that this suitor sees something special that the others don’t, or worse, that I’m not like those other dumb whores. I might just be defensive. But more and more, these encounters don’t feel like that, and I meet people with genuine and tremendously affirming things to say about my work as a well-integrated whole. I’ve met people for whom my work opens up conversations, and maybe even possibilities for how we can encounter the people we admire. People I hardly know have shown up for me.

I don’t really want fans, and I’m not sure anybody really does. I want exceptionality without isolation, and I want good faith without free rides. I want patrons and I want readers and I want to belong to a community of people passionate about what they do. Take this as a toast then: to the X-List, to local heroes, to making it, to faking it. I’m grateful to be heard.

XO

TY

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