What’s one of the most challenging things you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing?

“I think it’s assumptions and how they pertain to sex work in general. Whether it’s escorting or work in gay pornography, people expect a certain level of sexuality and maintenance, I guess, from you. So it becomes difficult when trying to meet people—when it comes to trying to meet them in a platonic or even romantic sense—they expect you to be hypersexual, and that becomes awkward at times, because as sexual as I am, I’m not my porn self when it comes to trying to find a relationship with someone. And so it’s awkward when they expect you to be this person who’s expecting x, y, and z from them.

“For example, my last relationship failed miserably, because he thought he needed to be a very sexual person with me, and that was not the case at all. So it’s a case of reality vs. fantasy. They expect the fantasy, because that’s all they know you as, I guess, and they don’t get to or choose to understand the person behind the porn. Yeah. I’m a little drunk, so I don’t know if that makes any sense.”

How do you balance your romantic life and your porn life? Obviously the porn is your work life, but do your work life and your love life bleed into each other at all?

“They definitely bleed into each other. The only way to really differentiate is through conversation and communication. Not a lot of people are open to that communication. They try to be, but there’s definitely a lot of insecurity within different relationships, I guess. In the relationships I try to form, I try to assure them that there is definitely a boundary between the two, and I can separate the two, because I live it. But it’s difficult for partners to try to separate work from play, and therein lies the problem, really, the insecurities and different comfort levels—which is totally fair and fine, you know, because everyone has a different experience with sex and sexuality. I definitely have myself in the last couple of years with even learning about my own sexuality within porn and outside of it—so I understand that some people can be very difficult to not convince, but assure that I’m looking for something different when I’m in a relationship with them and that it’s different. You know, like, there’s a reason why I do this work and there’s a reason why I’m with them. I’m in a relationship with them because I choose to be, not because I’m obligated to be. It’s not a job. It’s a choice. Not that there isn’t pleasure in my job, but there’s that difference.”

Has doing what you do for a living changed the way you have sex outside of work?

“I don’t think it has, necessarily. I think that the only difference has been just the way I think about sex. So that has changed my perspective of casual encounters—like hook-ups—and more meaningful encounters—like when I have sex with my boyfriend. Sex with my boyfriend is different from sex with random encounters, because the feelings are different. The emotions are definitely different. The intention is different. Everything is different about it, because it’s a different type of encounter.

“So porn has taught me that the different encounters are not only okay, but they can be separated. In porn, it’s not only work, but it’s creating a fantasy within a different bubble, and then, doing it with a different random encounter, is a completely different means to an end, and then doing it with a partner is also different. You can separate it—if you’re that kind of person—if you’re open to it. It’s definitely not for everyone. But if you’re open to these different experiences, they can definitely happen. It’s certainly difficult, but it can happen.”

Have you been able to have any serious relationships while you’ve been involved with this type of work?

“I’ve had one, and it lasted quite a while. It really was my fault that it didn’t work out. But it’s all about just communicating with your partner about your intentions—your entire thought process—in regards to sex, because if their main insecurity is sex, then that can be easily alleviated with easy communication and open communication.

“For example, if they’re insecure with the fact that I’m hooking up with a bunch of very attractive men—within my job description—then they can express that to me and I can express back to them why it is very different from the way that they and I encounter each other. But again, in dealing with sex, it’s difficult, because it’s such a carnal activity, I guess, that trying to separate work from personal life when your work is sex is tricky.”

Does it make the other aspects of your relationship more important?

“It makes it more important just because the time we spend together is definitely more important, because I’m choosing to be with them doing x, y, and z—outside of the sexual relations. Like, I’m obviously choosing to spend a majority of my time with them because I enjoy their company. And if I didn’t enjoy their company, then I would be choosing to do so with some other person. So I guess it comes back to that it’s just a different relationship. Sex with someone is totally different from my emotional relationship with them. That’s hard to explain, and hard to verbalize, and hard to manifest, because a lot of what we perceive as a general romantic relationship also deals with the physical. And within porn, everything is physical. And not a lot of people outside of that world understand it, because they just perceive porn to be one way, I guess.

“That’s why I always love showing people behind the scenes—what we do outside of filming porn—because it’s very much like—we’re goofing off, we’re sleeping, we’re drinking, we are not involved in any way sexually with one another, because that’s the main reason why we’re there—sexual. That sexual chemistry is what brings us together, but there are many other reasons that kind of keep us there—which are intentions and relative perspective and all these other things. So it kind of breaks the illusion of the porn fantasy, but I think it’s important for people who aren’t within the industry to understand that it’s not exclusively all carnal.”

What are some of the important things you’ve learned from your experiences in the porn industry?

“I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that sex is difficult, and it’s tricky, and it’s messy, and it’s wonderful. So all those things kind of come together to create this fantasy that is perfect for everyone. People perceive sex as a perfect means to an end, so when it comes down to it they have this elaborate fantasy, and if it doesn’t go their way then it’s not, I don’t know—sex is messy and I think people need to understand that, is what I think have learned from it—from the physical level to the emotional level.

“It’s work and it’s something that you need to try over and over and over again, until you finally realize what you do like. Because when I first came into it, I guess, I did not completely understand the different levels and the different variables that are involved in it. I didn’t know who I was sexually, and you learn a lot about yourself when you open yourself up to question and explore other people’s fantasies.

“I was very vanilla when I first came into sex. I never considered threesomes to be something I would enjoy. I never considered leather and kink and fetishes to be something I enjoyed. Then just saying ‘Okay’ to it and opening myself up to questioning it was mystical and confusing, but also amazing and scary. But that is sex. Sex is scary. Sex is not safe. Sex is dangerous. That’s why we do it, I think. We hook up because of the mystique and the, I don’t know, the adventure behind it.”

Would you say that sex involves a certain degree of vulnerability?

“No. Completely. Especially within gay men—I mean we hook up so readily with one another, without knowing a lot of key factors. Like I could hook up with someone without knowing their first and last name—without knowing who they really are or without knowing who the person is behind the man I’m letting inside me. Like, that’s a lot of vulnerability right there, and certain relationships don’t necessarily factor that in.

“Women are more careful, more calculating. Men with each other, just let it happen, because we all know the end game—which is pleasure—and that’s a lot of vulnerability right there. And I think we open that door and we don’t question it as much.”

What are some of the good things that have come from your experiences in the porn industry?

“The good things are, now I know what I don’t like. I mean, when you try new things, it’s about trying to figure out what you do like, but a great deal has to do with what you do not like about it. I think the good thing is that I figured out things that I don’t necessarily care for—whether it comes to physical activities with another person—like I know that I don’t like certain scents, certain touches or verbalizations. And so it’s kind of about learning your own limitations. That’s the great part I’ve learned about this experience. But limitations also only take you so far, because your limitations can definitely change within the course of days, hours, minutes, years.

“So I think that sex is definitely something that you have to learn to factor in, depending on your current experience, because something that you may be experiencing right now may not open you up to x, y, and z, I guess.”

What are some of the moments or places, when looking back, where you may be able to see how you arrived where you are now? What were some of those milestones or turning points?

“I think the milestones included just being more comfortable with where I was professionally. One of the big reasons I guess I got into porn in the first place was because I was not sure where I was professionally. I had just quit the ballet and I didn’t know what to do right afterwards, so that moment of questioning and that long period of like ‘This is my life and now I don’t know what to do with it’ kind of opened me up to questioning everything else. I was lost and so I questioned everything else in life that I was doing—sexually, romantically, professionally, creatively, emotionally.

“That vulnerable experience, I guess, allowed me to ask myself, ‘Is this really what you want out of life?’—from every perspective. So that left me questioning myself in a lot of different ways. And it left me open to a lot of different suggestions and persuasions. I think that’s a great thing, because you have to leave yourself open to questioning yourself and questioning yourself to the core. That did lead me to gay porn, but that could have led other people to, you know, a career change, a relationship change—different modalities of changing their life in one way or another.

“To me, I was young, so it was a way of changing my entire being. I guess I wanted to change my identity to a certain degree. I wanted to feel more attractive, more wanted, I guess. So it was a good thing.”

What were some of the challenges you faced in making the transition from ballet to porn? Was it difficult?

“It wasn’t really difficult necessarily. I think the difficulties lay in the different relationships that you had with people—especially when—since I am a little bit younger—it changed the relationships I had with friends who I was just meeting at the time—they saw me as one way, and then all the sudden they knew me as that porn guy, or that escort, or that hooker—whatever. Young people tend to be vicious, because we don’t know any better, and we want to form opinions very quickly, and create labels very quickly, so that we know where we stand with other people and relationships.

“So that was difficult, just because I was trying to form my own opinion of myself, and my opinion of myself has always been very high—which is good, because I didn’t care what other people thought as much. People thought of me as being deviant, as being dirty, as being slutty. Those words are sometimes detrimental to a person’s ego, but for me I was just like, ‘If you don’t like me for this, than I don’t care to have you in my life’ necessarily. So I thought of it in a very radical sense, I guess.

“And having that kind of mentality made me stronger, but also toughened me up to having more vulnerable relationships with others. So it was twofold. It was very double-edged. I became stronger in one sense, but also became very much hardened in another.

What advice would you offer someone who might be exploring their own sexuality or contemplating getting into porn?

“Don’t do it. No, porn is difficult. It’s such an extreme. If you’re trying to find yourself in a sexual manner, porn is a very great device for doing that, because you’re doing it in a very controlled setting. But in general, I think porn kind of brings out the best and worst in people. It brings the best out of you, because you have to learn how to deal with a plethora of different understandings and different kinds of people that will judge you. They will love you for it. There’s a lot of praise, but there’s also a lot of backlash. And so, if you’re strong enough to do it, then you’ll become stronger for that; but if you’re the kind of person who easily succumbs to criticism, then you’re going to want to conform.

“For me, porn has always been a means to an end. I did it because I wanted to save up money to do x, y, and z—for me it was culinary school—so I wanted to save up for school. And also in the back of that, I was exploring my sexuality and kind of just, you know, figuring myself out in a very carnal manner. But a lot of people don’t really have an end game, and I feel like that can be very dangerous for them, just because there gonna succumb to, ‘Well, now I’m just a hot commodity. How else can I prolong this?’ So it becomes a challenge for those who don’t quite know how they’re going about it.”

So it’s important, then, to have some sort of exit strategy or goals beyond the work itself?

“It’s always important to have some sort of exit strategy for any type of job that you have, but especially in this industry where it’s all so very temporary. Looks are only gonna get you so far. Obviously you can transition from twink to daddy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to go seamlessly. So it’s always good to kind of have that in the back of your head—which is: this is an industry based on physical looks and performance and what-not. It’s good to kind of always have a back-up plan.”

Do you feel any pressure to look a certain way or to appeal to a specific audience?

“Completely. When I first started this, I was a giant twink. I was twenty pounds lighter. And that’s not to say that the reason why I started bulking up was because of that, but it definitely added to it. I definitely think that the way I look now is perfectly fine, and I don’t need to change the way I look, but the demand definitely increases your likelihood of changing yourself. And I can only hope that I do it for good reasons and for myself. The reason I started bulking up was in great part due to responses I was receiving in regards to my own looks. People loved it, but there could have been more. You know? I always received that notion that like, ‘You’re cute, but there could be more.’”

That message that you’re not enough?

“That message that you’re not enough is always there. It’s ever-present in the gay community, but it’s definitely even more present and more potent when you’re working in an environment and an industry where physical looks manifest themselves in such a way. So, I feel like I’ve been doing it in a very safe and very thoughtful manner, but I don’t think I would have done it, if it wasn’t in such high demand.”

I would assume, and maybe I shouldn’t, that drugs and/or alcohol might play a role in the industry. Have you found that to be true, and what impact does that have on you?

“I try to stay true to myself. That’s all I can really say about that, because I drink enough as it is—like it’s a social thing. The advantage with gay porn, I guess, is that certain drugs and certain vices are more readily available to you, because you have those connections to a different world, I guess. So it’s really on you. It’s really on you to decide if that’s the kind of path you want to go down. I mean, I’ve chosen to drink as much as I possibly want, but also to kind of keep myself in check. It’s all about keeping yourself in check within this entire atmosphere. I mean it’s all about having a means to an end.

“If you’re lost, it’s easier to succumb to drugs and rock ‘n’ roll than it is if you have an end goal in mind—like people who want to pay their bills and do porn because it’s a really easy, fun, and quick way to save up money don’t easily succumb to the party sensation and mentality, I guess. I don’t want to speak for everyone when I say it, but I think that definitely is true—when you have an end goal in mind, you are more readily able to make decisions in the spur of the moment. If someone asks you to go to an after-hours party, you know exactly how to deal with it, or at least how you should deal with it—which is, ‘No. I have work in the morning, and I really should be going to work because of x, y, and z reasons,’ or, ‘Fuck it. I don’t have anything to do tomorrow. Let’s just do it. Why not?’ So it falls on you.

“I mean, to get into gay porn, you have to be an adult in the first place. You have to be eighteen or older. And you have to have the capability to make your own decisions. And so, you shouldn’t have to be babysat. You have to make your own decisions and you have to live with those. So if you make the decision to party, then you know what, you do that, and if you can get out of it, you get out of it. But at the end of the day, you are your own person, and you have to kind of deal with those consequences—whether they’re positive, negative or what have you.”

Is your family aware of what you do for work?

“Oh, they’re totally aware of it. It’s not something that we talk about fondly, but they know and they understand (is not the right word) it happens. They know it happens. They would rather it didn’t. Some people, especially the older aunts, my uncles, and my mom, obviously don’t want me to be doing it, but others, like my cousins, find it fascinating. So it’s fascinating to them and it’s detrimental to my future to others.”

Speaking of your future, where would you like to see yourself in five years or so?

“That’s a hard question, because whenever people ask about a five-year plan, I never know how to respond to it. I like to go with a one- or two-year plan, because no one ever knows what they’re going to do in five years. Five years ago, I never thought I’d be in a hotel room in fucking Springfield, butt-ass naked, in front of cute bearded dude, talking about gay porn. So my one-year plan is to have enough money saved up to start considering culinary school as a viable option. My two-year plan is to finally be in culinary school and be paying off the debt. And then my three-year plan is to be working and have no debt.

“Again, five years ago I was in the ballet. Five years ago I was dancing for renowned artists and not considering that this was something that was even possible at all. It was never in my wildest dreams to be doing gay porn—not that it’s bad, but it was just not an option. It wasn’t anything. So yeah, my one-year plan is to do that. I like to do shorter-term plans.”

Because things change?

“Things change drastically, and I’ve learned that as I grew older, nothing works out as you would it like it to—which is wonderful and exciting, but scary and wonderful.”

Why did you leave the ballet behind?

“I woke up one day and it had become a daunting task. And that was a really scary reality for me, because all my life I had grown up loving waking up every morning and having to go to the studio, warm up, and get ready for a twelve-to-sixteen-hour day. It was what I loved. Then one morning I just woke up and instead of the thought being, ‘Thank God I get to go into the studio,’ it was, ‘God fuckin’ damn it! I have to dance with the same people for fourteen hours today,’ and that was a very scary thought.

“It was a very scary thought and a weird perspective shift. I didn’t want something I loved to be something I dreaded for the rest of my life. So I started making arrangements to take some time off, and I just never looked back.”

Why culinary? How did you come to that decision?

“I’ve always loved cooking. So it was a back-up plan. It was something that I adored growing up. When I came home from a long fourteen- or fifteen-hour day, I would be cooking—because I was hungry. When I was in the ballet, I wanted to eat. So it was a general passion to create some random dishes to eat after a long day. I knew that it was a back-up plan for a long time. I knew that when I was like thirty-something, forty-something, fifty-something, it would be something that I would do.

“I didn’t know that it would be something that I would do so early, because I thought I would be quitting the ballet when I was a little bit older. But I figured the present/now is as good a time as any. So I’m working to start doing it now.”

From what I have heard so far, I gather that opportunities just seem to sort of present themselves at different points throughout your journey, and whether or not you’ve planned to make that choice, you sort of make the best choice at that moment with the available options you have at that time, which carries you along to wherever you are supposed to be. Do you feel like you are on the right path?

“No. I definitely do—living where I do. I mean New York City kind of is that perfect city, where an opportunity or multiple opportunities will present themselves to you, and you just have to be strong-willed and determined and hard-working enough, that when, not if, that door opens, you either take it or you don’t—because the door will open. And I feel like people generally, out of fear, out of doubt or what-have-you, don’t choose to take it.

“Every single opportunity that’s presented itself my way, clearly I’ve taken it—gay porn, I mean, being one of them. But yeah, it’s about seizing the moment and making the best you possibly can of that moment. I mean, gay porn is not exactly something that is thought of in as positive a light as it can or should be, but it is a great way and has been a great way for a lot of different people to figure out and save up money, to sort of create a way or a means to an end.”

Almost like a stepping stone?

“Yeah, a stepping stone. There are a lot of people that it’s been a great opportunity for, and that’s kind of all I want. It’s gonna follow me for the rest of my life, but I would rather it follow me in a positive light—like, ‘That chef was once a gay porn performer. Let’s talk about that and not have it be negative,’ I guess.”

Is there any shame or guilt that comes along with this profession?

“Do I feel any personal shame or guilt? God no. I take complete ownership of and am proud of everything that I’ve done. There’s never been any shame for it. It sucks if anyone’s going to make me feel guilty for it, then I’m going to make them feel guilty for every other thing they’ve done in their life. No, there’s no shame in sex, so I don’t think there should be any shame in producing sex.”

Yeah, obviously there’s a market for it, right?

“There’s clearly a market for it. So people wanna see it. I don’t see any shame in it.”

You must be exposed to praise and criticism. How do you deal with the critics?

“Generally, I don’t listen to them, but I like constructive criticism. So every once and a while, if it’s being said enough, I will change something. For example, there were a few people that complained about my chest hair and all these things, so I decided for a scene or three to shave my damn chest hair, get rid of my piercing, and be more clean-cut. So we’ll see what the response is to that. Honestly, most of the criticism is about physical aspects, so it’s easy to change—if it’s like my haircut, or body hair, or something like that, that’s easy to change. But changing my personality is a lot different.

“So far, no one’s ever criticized me for being a douche or being too nice, or this or that. But physical changes in this industry, where everything is related to physicality and looks, are easy. No one’s ever said I’m too (name a personality), it’s always been like, ‘His hair’s too long,’ or, ‘This is happening,’ or ‘This is happening.’ It’s a business based on looks, so I’ll listen to that.

“But if someone is saying that I need to speak up more on this issue or that issue, gay porn is not the place to be looking for a hero; especially since I started doing bareback porn, people are like, ‘Well you used to work for the HRC. You used to work for this. You used to work for AIDS organizations.” I’m just like, ‘This is my fantasy persona. If you’re wanting me to speak up about issues pertaining to the LGBT community, look to my real self, not my hypersexual, fictionalized, marginalized, sex worker persona. If you want me to speak out about AIDS activism, look to Elle, not to Eli.’ And I don’t think they should be exclusive—ever—like, ‘You may like somebody sexually, but I’m not going to judge your entire being off of that. You should judge me for it.’”

Did you have any fears about performing bareback sex?

“The only fear was really just, people going back and trying to criticize me for being hypocritical, I guess. It was difficult. I looked to my friends who are very smart, and very calculated, and very honest about it, to be able to answer and respond to it—which is really that, ‘This is a facet of what I do. So if you really want answers pertaining to that, don’t look the sexualized version of me, because the sexualized version of me is going to answer very sexually,’ and with good reason, because this is gay porn.”

And you want to maintain the fantasy.

“You want to maintain the fantasy. If they want the reality, then they need to go to the real, not the fantasy. So that’s how I’ve kind of answered to it, because obviously HIV is a very real risk. It’s not something to be taken lightly, but we all do this as hypersexual beings and we all make decisions as adults and all that other crap. At the end of the day it’s consenting adults choosing to do what they do in a controlled environment.”

You must take certain measures and exercise certain precautions to assure as much safety as possible.

“We all take every measure to ensure that every performer is safe and every performer is informed. The way I think about it is that I have bareback sex in my personal life. I have safer sex in my personal life ,and it’s just an extension of what I do, but I will take ownership of it in a different way from—when I’m doing it as a gay porn performer, to when I am doing it as an HIV activist, as a person, a citizen or whatever. So I think it’s just different. There are differences to the different facets in which I present myself.”

Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share?

“‘You gotta give ’em hope.’ It’s by Harvey Milk. It’s my favorite.”

What does that mean to you?

“To me all it means is that there are a lot of people out there with fear, with anxiety, with confusion, with uncertainties, and you have to present yourself in the most real way possible—whatever that means to you—and that will continue to provide them with enough light to continue doing enough of what they’re doing right now to go on and to figure out what path they want to choose—because the path you choose will always change, I feel. Again, I chose one path and was going down this ballet route, then I decided to go down this gay porn route, and now a culinary route. And so, it’s just all about maintaining the fact that things will not necessarily get better, but you get better.”

How has it felt to talk about these experiences with me?

“I was really drunk, so that was really difficult.”

Did you feel comfortable, though?

“Oh, completely. I wasn’t ready, necessarily, but I was comfortable.”


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Elle's Interview - Hearts of Strangers
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Hamden,CT, USA