July 30, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Edward James “EJ”
Culture Representation: Taking place in the Los Angeles area, Atlanta, New York City, Brazil and Spain, the documentary “Pornstar Pandemic: The Guys” features a predominantly white group of men (with one African American and one Latino) who work in adult entertainment, doing non-sexual videoconference interviews about how their lives have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Culture Clash: Most of the men talk about how they deal with online haters, crazy fans and misperceptions about men who do gay porn for a living.
Culture Audience: Fans of these adult entertainers are obviously the target audience of “Pornstar Pandemic: The Guys,” but the documentary might also appeal to people who are curious about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting people who work in porn.
The first thing that people need to know about the documentary “Pornstar Pandemic: The Guys” is that it has absolutely no sexual activity and no frontal nudity. “Pornstar Pandemic,” although it has a very catchy title, is basically a very tame interview documentary where male adult-film performers (some more famous than others) are shown in friendly videoconference calls talking about how they’re handling the coronavirus pandemic since the pandemic shut down filming of anything where social distancing is not possible. The interviewees, who do mostly gay porn, also give tours of their homes and show some of their socially distant outdoor activities. The only nudity in the film is when one of the porn stars (Dante Colle) is seen taking a shower and his backside is briefly shown.
If that’s not sexually interesting enough for viewers, there are plenty of places online to see these performers doing sexual activities on camera. But if you’re curious to see what their personalities and lives are like when they’re in semi-quarantine, then “Pornstar Pandemic” might be worth checking out if you know that this movie about porn stars doesn’t have any porn in it.
However, the running time for the movie is a little too long (132 minutes), and boredom might set in quickly for people who are expecting a lot of raunchy talk. There’s hardly anything in the documentary that would be considered sexuality explicit dialogue. It’s a very mainstream, non-pornographic film, but that doesn’t mean the movie is appropriate for everyone.
Longtime adult-film director/producer Edward James “EJ” directed “Pornstar Pandemic: The Guys” as his first mainstream documentary feature. Most of the job is in the editing, because the movie is really just a series of videoconference segments, mostly moderated by adult-film performers Alter Sin (who’s from Spain), Alex Lecomte (from Brazil) and Jack Loft (from the United States).
The movie begins with Sin and Lecomte interviewing Loft at the partially furnished home that Loft shares in Atlanta with his manager, who is not interviewed or seen in the movie. Loft, Sin and Lecomte together then do individual interviews with Colle, Pierce Paris, Elijah Wilde and DeAngelo Jackson. And then, at the end, EJ (who is not seen on camera) interviews Loft, Colle, Paris, Wilde and Jackson. All of them say that their families and friends know that they do porn for a living. They also say that cyberbullying and criticism are unavoidable on social media, and it’s best not to fall into the trap of believing all the harsh things that people say.
In this documentary, Loft is one of the newcomers to porn. He talks about how the coronavirus pandemic shutdown happened soon after he filmed just one porn scene, after moving to Atlanta from a small town in Iowa. Loft (who looks like he’s in his early 20s, and whose physical appearance would put him in the “twink” category) says of his choice to do porn for a living: “I’ve never been the type of person who thinks sex work or pornography was something to be ashamed of.” He adds that “every gay guy” he knows is on Only Fans and/or watches porn.
Loft also says that his family and friends know about his decision to do porn, and they’re okay with it. He believes that for people in his generation (Generation Z), taking naked selfie photos and making consensual sex videos are less taboo than it is for previous generations. He also believes that in the future, there won’t be as big of a stigma for this type of activity as there is now. “Ten years from now, there’s less of a chance of someone trying to use my adult films and my adult pictures against me. In 10 years, I hope it won’t be a big deal.”
This is where Loft shows a major blind spot when it comes to gender, because he doesn’t really seem to understand that when it comes to posing for pornographic photos or doing sex videos, men get a lot less negative reactions and society shaming for it than women do. Loft is also openly gay, so any videos of him having sex with a man wouldn’t be as shocking as it would be if he were a man who presented himself as straight in his personal life.
There are many variables in how porn stars’ sex work will affect their futures, but women who’ve done porn in the past definitely have a harder time overcoming the stigma that comes with it. For example, “Million Dollar Listing New York” reality star Fredrik Eklund, a real-estate agent who is openly gay, has freely admitted to making gay porn videos in his past. Would a woman in the same circumstances be given the opportunity to star in an internationally televised American reality show? At this time, realistically? No. The double standard is real, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Loft also says that he’s noticed that since the pandemic, people are spending more time online but also being more authentic with their feelings when they’re online. If he’s able to become a more well-known porn actor, he says his two biggest fears are that we won’t look good-enough on camera and that he’ll be misunderstood as disrespectful or inauthentic.
Just like the other performers interviewed in the documentary, Loft says he’s been focusing more on his online activities as a way to make money. And working and staying in shape is obviously a huge priority for all of the actors who are interviewed. It goes without saying that the pandemic doesn’t stop these performers from doing “solo” videos.
Colle (who lives in a small trailer in Malibu, California) says the pandemic has given him more time to work on content for his videos that people can access by subscription or pay-per-view. Colle, who says he doesn’t want to label his sexuality, comments that he’s lucky that his parents have been completely accepting of him doing porn. He also talks about the misconceptions that people have about men who enjoy having sex with men and women. Colle mentions that gay people can be just as prejudiced as straight people who think that sexuality means that you have to choose one gender to be attracted to sexually.
He also shares some stories about what some crazy fans will do to get him to notice them. He says that he uses his parents’ address as his mailing address, so they sometimes get some very kinky mail. Colle also mentions that because he learned from his parents to be smart about saving his money (maybe that’s why he lives frugally in a tiny trailer instead of a house or apartment), he says that he’s not financially panicking during the pandemic, unlike many people he knows who lost their incomes and are running out of money because of the pandemic.
Colle shows some of his workout routine. He also admits that since the pandemic, he doesn’t shower every day, and sometimes he’ll go up to three days without showering. And in case anyone cares, Colle has two very adorable French bulldogs, who make an appearance in his individual interview segment.
Speaking of cute pets, Paris (who lives in Los Angeles) shows two kittens that he’s fostering and plans to adopt. Paris says his hometown is Bozemon, Montana, where he used to be a farm worker. He opens up a little about his high-school days, by saying that he was sort of a “class clown” who got along with various cliques in his school.
And he says that the he’s had a “fetish” for anal sex ever since he first heard a gym teacher mention it in a high-school sex education class. Just like Colle, Paris says he’s open to having sex with men and women in his personal and professional lives, but on camera, Paris is mostly known for having sex with men.
Paris also says that he got inspired to do porn by a TV show (which he does not name) that had crazy sports stunts. He admits that his income has dropped because of the pandemic, but he’s doing more solo videos and his fans like to see his “naked workouts.” He adds, “That’s what’s keeping me busy and making me money.”
When asked how he prepares for doing a porn scene, Paris says that he’s found that he has to spend at least 45 minutes before doing a scene to get mentally and physically ready. He mentions that if he just nonchalantly shows up on the set without that preparation, it has a negative effect on his performance.
Wilde is fairly new to porn, compared to most of the others in this documentary. Currently living in New York City, he says in the documentary that he was born in Montreal but grew up in New York. He used to by a gym trainer as a day job, but due to the pandemic, he lost his gym job. Wilde also says that, as a former go-go dancer, he especially misses going to nightclubs, dancing, and being able to hug his friends.
DeAngelo Jackson, who identifies as gay and lives in Atlanta, is one of the veterans in this documentary’s group of performers. He’s been doing porn since 2008. He says that he lost his virginity in a porn scene, and he describes that experience as “traumatizing.” Unlike the other people interviewed in this documentary, Jackson says his strict and religious family has difficulty accepting that he does porn for a living.
His father was in the military, so Jackson says that he grew up as an “Army brat” in various countries and learned to appreciate different cultures. He also says that when he’s not performing, he’s an “introvert.” There’s a scene in the documentary of Jackson playing a video game wearing very skimpy brief underwear that leaves nothing to the imagination.
At the 2020 GayVN Awards (the Oscars of gay porn), Jackson became the first person of color to win the Best Actor award. He says he’s humbled by the prize, but he also understands that winning the award is something bigger than him, because it’s symbolic of breaking a racial barrier in the porn industry.
He also hopes the prize means that more people will look at black men in porn as not just a “fetish” but award-worthy actors. Wilde, who is also a person of color, mentions toward the end of the documentary that he hopes to follow in Jackson’s footsteps, but Wilde says that would just be happy to be nominated for any award.
When asked for his advice on what he would tell men who are new to porn, Jackson replies: “Know who you are,” because he’s seen too many young men in their late teens and early 20s get “lost” and overwhelmed in adult entertainment because they don’t have a strong sense of identity. Jackson also echoes what some of the other performers say in the documentary: Be professional and treat it like a regular job.
Except it’s not like a regular job. Some of the men interviewed in the film say that their parents and other family members express concerns that they will get HIV or AIDS in their line of work. This is an issue that seems to make porn actors very defensive, because porn actors say that the people they work with in porn are regularly tested for HIV and other STDs, and that it’s actually “safer” to do porn than to have sex with random people who aren’t tested.
One thing that all of these men have in common is that at the time of this filming this documentary, they didn’t talk about being in any committed relationships, past or present, although Colle says dating someone who also does porn is sometimes easier than dating someone who doesn’t do porn. And none of them admitted to having sex during the pandemic, although it’s kind of hard to believe that they’re all celibate during the pandemic. But based on what’s implied in the documentary, even without the pandemic, what they do for a living makes it challenging to have a long-term, committed relationship with a love partner.
Ultimately, “Pornstar Pandemic: The Guys” is a very simply made documentary that can serve as a time capsule of how some male porn stars were living during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic. (This movie was obviously filmed before June 2020, because director JR says in the documentary that movie production should return to normal by June 2020, but that ended up not happening.) People who are expecting sexually explicit content in the documentary will have to look elsewhere. This movie is really a series of interesting, but not particularly fascinating, conversations to show a more human side to some current and aspiring male porn stars.
Breaking Glass Pictures released “Pornstar Pandemic: The Guys” on DVD and digital on July 28, 2020.