The Dick-Shrinking Unsexiness of Porn Photography

If I see a guy so cold his leg hair is standing on end, I want to give him a foil blanket, not a fuck.

I don’t know who needs to hear this: But I hate the glamour shots from porn studio shoots. I hate them in the way you hate anything that makes you feel embarrassed for someone else. No one should feel embarrassed for porn stars! One should feel only benevolent lust!

And you know exactly what I’m talking about: The highly posed (and highly Photoshopped) still images of models with gravity-defying erections, posed so casually it becomes ostentatious. Here’s an Adonis—forced by a photographer and a studio to hold his breath, clench his biceps, tilt his torso just so—leaning against a pillar, his smile saying, “Hello there!” and his eyes saying… well, nothing. His eyes are dead.

This man’s leg hair is standing on end! Someone get him an afghan.

Even worse are the ones where body hair is standing on end, clearly indicating a climate-challenged environment that makes the hard-ons even more impressive. Goosebumps can be Photoshopped out; body hair doesn’t get the same treatment.

In this, the year of our Lord COVID-21, why are porn studios continually ignoring the lessons of hookup apps and fan platforms? Scroll through the performer’s Twitter account—hell, scroll through someone’s alt account—and you’ll see more funny, charming, sexy-as-all-hell photos than you’ll find in one of the slickly produced shoots from the major porn conglomerates, where that same performer’s individuality is smoothed out with an airbrush and a filter or three.

These pictures appear to be leftovers (or hangovers) from the era of gay porn mags, where naked, erect men were splashed on centerfolds. But I always found those to be the same shade of Max Factor pancake makeup bland, too. Maybe I’m a romantic at heart, but when I see an erection I want it to feel the same way Cindy Sherman once described her photos: something that teases with the promise of a story. All I see in these photos are biological responses to external stimuli.

Does an erection divorced from context count as sexy?

That’s where the influencers who have become gay culture’s new porn stars shine. They’re certainly not more authentic; HBO’s recent documentary Fake Famous shows just how easy it is to imitate a fabulous lifestyle until someone starts bankrolling it. But those influencer pics and the teasing clips on Twitter that lead to an Only Fans account are more evocative than what the major studios are doing. Men.com has turned to comedy; Naked Sword | Falcon signs social media stars as exclusives, while touting its executives rather than its models on the key art for its videos.

And they all continue to pump out carefully posed photos like children enamored with an anatomically correct Ken doll. They’re turning cocks from objects of lust into objets d’art. There’s a sterility to these posed and processed images that makes sex feel like a sanitized, pre-approved product, similar to the old softcore skin flicks on Cinemax. More tellingly, very few of them have any joy or heat. They feel like test shots for a particularly racy JC Penney catalog, not photos taken on the set of a porn.

Intellectually, I know that shortly before or after these pics were snapped the men in them engaged in sweaty anal sex. But these pics can’t convince my dick.

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1 Comment

  1. Also true of photos of actors in plays. If the photo is taken during a session, it tends to be deadly, and fake. But Fred Fehl (and some others) started taking photos during the performance, even when too dark. And these photos were far superior, full of energy and honesty.

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