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Special report: Gay-4-Pay in Prague

In the dark corners of Eastern Europe, economic crisis drives straight men into gay porn.

Thomas, an art history professor at Kennesaw State University who frequently writes about sexuality and representation, estimates that the small countries of Czech Republic and Slovakia are now the second largest hubs of gay porn, after the U.S., which alone — according to different producers — makes up about half of the global gay porn market.

Straight men work in American gay porn, too, but not in such large percentages. According to Rod Barry, a former marine-turned-porn-star, straight porn actors in the U.S. earn about $400 for a scene. In gay porn it is three, five, or even eight times that amount.

But globalization has changed the wage structure of the porn industry. In Eastern Europe, men are willing to do porn for a lot less. “That’s the downfall of the business," Barry says. "The cheap guys from Europe flood the market with crap product."

Exactly how much gay porn is produced in Prague is impossible to estimate. Much of it is now done by opportunistic amateurs with cheap webcams at home, their apartments dressed up as massage parlors or photography salons. Some 15 large and midsize gay porn production studios operate in the Czech Republic. Bel Ami/BAO, Ayor, AVI Films/Staxus and William Higgins are among the most visible names on American video store shelves and among them release a new DVD almost every day. They also post hundreds of sex scenes online weekly.

In American gay sexshops, customers can find DVD titles such as “Inside Prague,” “Czech Up: Medical Fantasies,” “An American in Prague,” or, the most anticipated Bel Ami title of 2010, “Five Americans in Prague.”

Higgins releases one new DVD for retail sales and three DVDs for the online streaming companies each month. He also posts 13 main video scenes, 12 casting videos and two backstage videos every week online. AVI Films release up to three videos a month. Other producers, such as Michael Lucas, outsource their American productions here from time to time because, as he says, there is plenty of talent, both on the modeling side and on the cinematography side. Moreover, the production costs are about a third cheaper than in the United States.

In the gay community worldwide, Prague has a reputation of being an extremely liberal city, even though there are no gay neighborhoods, no blatant “out and proud” storefront signs or rainbow flags, and seeing gay men holding hands is rare outside the dark, underground gay bars, most of which cater to tourists. It is, nonetheless, a city in which, according to Higgins, “sex is not a big deal,” and where categories of gay, straight or bisexual — the way they are understood in the United States — cease to carry much meaning as thousands of men like Justel insist that homosexual behavior, whether on- or off-screen, does not make one gay or even bisexual.

Martin Justel.
(Iva Skoch/GlobalPost)

A few months ago, Justel was unemployed and looking for a job. Paging through the help-wanted section of a newspaper, he noticed an ad for modeling. He came to the casting call of Higgins' studio and learned that modeling was a euphemism for performing in porn. Those working in the adult film business are always called models, not actors, no matter whether they merely pose naked or engage in an orgy with a dozen other men.

Justel was selected as “model material,” and he was flattered. Mainly, though, he needed the money.

His girlfriend also liked the idea of him earning extra cash in porn. Engaging in sex with men doesn’t make her jealous because it is all about “just sex, not attraction,” he explains. “She would mind if I did it with women.”

Inside the porn factory

William Higgins has short white hair, a beard and silver-framed glasses. Typically dressed in khakis and a photographer’s vest, he looks more like Ernest Hemingway than a gay porn purveyor.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/commerce/100323/gay-porn-prague