For some, pornography is a basic part of the human balanced diet, as commonly consumed as fat and salt – but where did it come from, and what did our ancestors do before Pornhub?

Firstly, we can’t underestimate the ubiquitousness of porn in modern society. A quick Google search shows that not only do searches for gay porn beat those for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they give them an absolute thrashing.



But whereas chat about Marvel is common pub fodder, the history of gay porn is a less well-trodden path.

So here, PinkNews takes a brief look at the fascinating history of gay porn from its earliest beginnings to the modern day.

Related: Lesbian porn: A brief and sexy history

(Creative Commons)

What was the first gay porn?

Scientists are largely in agreement that homosexuality has existed for as long as sexuality, and depictions of the male form in art have existed for tens of thousands of years.

There were saucy close-up drawings of women’s bodies on cave walls at least 37,000 years ago.

And there are 3,000 year old artifacts from Ancient Egypt showing gay scenes, and even a 2,000-year-old gay sex cave painting by the San Bushmen in what is now fiercely homophobic Zimbabwe.

Out of the caves and into the galleries

Related: This is why straight men watch gay porn

Of course, visual art isn’t porn – but it’d be disingenuous not to recognise the fuzzy line between the two throughout history and where historical art representations of the male form will have influenced later pornographic movements

Swanky auction house Sotheby’s says that homosexuality “has been a perennial concern of artists since the beginning of art.”

Gay sex and gay sexuality has widely inspired art around the world, and sometimes there’s even crossover between the two, if you look at some swoonsome paintings and sculptures of Saint Francis of Assisi for instance.

Art isn’t porn, but works steeped in homoeroticism are a clear influence and part of the history of porn.

This is judging from everything from eroticised celebrations of were-they/weren’t they couple Achilles and Patroclus, to the explosion of queer art in the lead up to and after the (partial) decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK in 1967.

Gay porn photography

From early adopters Louis Daguerre to William Fox Talbot and Oskar Barnack in the 19th and 20th centuries, photography came to the fore and like any technology, some of the earliest uses were erotic and/or pornographic.

As with paintings, the nude form was one of the earliest to be captured and idealised.

In the prevailing heteronormative culture, that often meant naked women for a male audience, but if you knew where to look, male nude photography was prevalent in subcultures too.

One of the most mainstream examples of sexualised photography and porn crossing over was in the work of Robert Mapplethorpe.

And those of you with Snapchat probably know the relationship between porn and photography is still experimented with today.

Beefcake and stag films

All that was just foreplay, though.

Softcore gay porn in the middle of the last Century was dominated by so-called “beefcake” photos comprising hot, muscley, shirtless guys, often handsome filmstars or bodybuilders.

Founded in 1945, Bob Mizer’s Athletic Model Guild produced photos, magazines and short films of bodybuilders in “posing pouches” (think G-strings).

As immortalised in Thom Fitzgerald’s 1998 movie Beefcake, AMG’s Physique Pictorial led the way.

The likes of DRUM, Young physique, Manorama, MANual and Beach Adonis followed. Supposedly celebrating fitness, working out and athleticism, most readers were there for the very sexy pics.

On the harder side of things, the earliest porn flicks were called “stag films.” Black and white, short, silent and straight, they were screened in frat houses, brothels and the like.

Released in 1920, French film Le ménage moderne de Madame Butterfly is one of the earliest surviving films to show actual gay sex.

Well, all sorts of sex. Oral, anal and vaginal between men, women and all the combinations you can imagine.

Over in the US in 1929, there was The Suprise of a Knight, which featured full-on anal sex between a man and someone presenting as a woman, before a reveal at the end showed it was two men getting it on.

Other gay porn films followed in cinema’s earliest days, but because of the extreme marginalisation of the gay community, gay porn remained secretive and progress was slow until the 1960s and 1970s.

Related: Qantas ‘disappointed’ with rugby star who said gays go to hell, but won’t end sponsorship deal

The sexual revolution

A couple of decades after the end of WWII, the Baby Boomers came of age and the sexual revolution began in earnest.

Along with increased acceptance of sex out of marriage, widespread availability of the pill, the legalisation of abortion and the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality (all before the onset of HIV/AIDS), came the first seismic wave of porn.

While it wasn’t gay porn, films exploring homosexuality were in abundance in the mainstream for the first time.

They included the likes of Kenneth Anger’s groundbreaking Scorpio Rising in 1963 and Andy Warhol’s Blow Job the following year.

Then came the spate of legal cases arguing the toss over what was ‘indecent’ and ‘obscene.’ What was legal or not legal. What was constitutionally-protected free speech and what wasn’t?

Those arguments continue to rage on in courtrooms around the world, but the upshot of it was, by the end of the ’60s porn was legal, available and maybe even in your local cinema.

Porn goes mainstream

On the heels of the sexual revolution was the mainstreamification of porn. Warhol’s Blue Movie was released in ’69 (nice), which included unsimulated (straight) sex.

It ushered in the so-called Golden Age of Porn – the pre-video era of luscious, film-shot smut classics like Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones and The Opening of Misty Beethoven.

Gay Golden Age porn quickly followed. Wakefield Poole’s Boys in the Sand starring Casey Donovan led the way in 1971, and as early as 1973 you had Nights in Black Leather looking at the leather scene as porn became more authentic and diverse.

Sex, guys and videotape

Related: Gay marriages are less likely to break up than straight ones, study reveals

In the 1980s nearly everyone invested in a video recorder, and VHS became commonplace in many homes.

The new video format was a boon for consumers who didn’t necessarily want to watch their porn in a sweaty room with a load of other people enjoying it at the same time.

Crucially though, video wasn’t just about how you watched gay porn. Rather than shoot lush movies on very expensive film, producers could shoot the same scenes at a fraction of the cost on videotape.

If the ’60s and ’70s saw the emergence of gay porn movies, the ’80s and ’90s was a full-on explosion.

Falcon, Huge, Catalina, Titan, Hot House, Colt, Raging Stallion: the market grew and countless gay porn studios sprang up.

There were plenty of sex shops and other less family-friendly outlets who did trade over the counter, and there were plenty of mail-order male orders, too.

And as well as the more-professional outlets, anyone with a few hundred dollars and willing performer (or two… or more) could shoot a gay porn film and many did.

The sheer demand for gay porn made turned was once a niche underground scene into a massive multi-million dollar industry, which meant that even some straight men were going gay for pay.

Pre-condom era and the return of barebacking

The advent of HIV/AIDS at the start of the 1980s arguably derailed the sexual revolution and certainly changed how people felt about unprotected sex.

It meant an end to barebacking as the standard in gay porn, as most major studios insisted that performers use condoms for anal sex.

In recent years though, as testing and PrEP continue to improve, some large studios like Treasure Island, Hot Desert Knights and Eurocreme are now making bareback movies once more – proving controversial with some health professionals and gay health bodies.

Gay porn on demand and Do It Yourself

Related: Famous London bookshop Gay’s The Word window smashed by vandals

The industry was naturally happy to see DVD replace VHS, and gay porn consumers initially pay a premium for all that sex in super high quality.

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At the same time, satellite and video-on-demand meant big profits as fans shelled out per-night or per-movie for the less-than-fully hardcore gay porn from their satellite or cable provider (the harder stuff was still restricted to licensed sellers).

But the internet was going to change gay porn forever.

You don’t need an expensive camera to make something watchable these days, and you don’t need a VHS production line either.

All you need is a smartphone and a user account with one of the major Porn websites like Pornhub, YouPorn, RedTube, xHamster and the list goes on.

(Pornhub)

The globalisation of porn means that fans of every niche and kink can be catered for. If you get off to doctors, feet, superheroes, teachers, wigs, or The Simpsons, there’s porn out there for you.

In the old days, if only a few thousand people shared your fetish then you were probably out of luck. In our connected world, those few thousand people are now a community.

With the barriers ripped down, the market has also become flooded by willing amateurs undercutting the pros, exhibitionists not wanting any money and the even bigger problem of piracy.

The challenge now is to make gay porn of a high enough quality and easy enough accessibility that people will pay for it from an ethical provider rather than choose one of the free or less-than-legal options.

That way performers and producers get paid and the industry can stay alive, and sex workers can be fairly paid and treated for the work they do.




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