Intergenerational gay porn works out the complexities of filiation and paternity the hardcore way
I bought a t-shirt last year at a book fair. Navy blue with cream colored text, the fan-made tee is emblazoned in a vertical, sans serif font with the words KANSAS CITY TRUCKING CO. It’s one of my favorite articles of clothing. It’s non-descript enough that I can wear it anywhere, though those in the know instantly recognize the title of Joe Gage’s 1976 porn film. I’m like a teenager branded with the name of my favorite obscure band, and the smiles I get (nearly all from men over fifty) feel like the knowing glances exchanged by two music nerds passing in the street.
Joe Gage is the father, or I guess by now the grandfather, of intergenerational gay porn. At seventy-one years old, he still pumps out old-timey movies that buck nearly all recent adult industry trends. He shoots feature-length films, coaches performers on their lines, and inserts little homages to obscure mainstream films of yesteryear. The performers always use condoms, an increasingly rare stance in the floundering, chaotic realm of post-PrEP pornography. Gage isn’t afraid to push buttons, and he’s not afraid to stick to his guns.
His most recent epic is a three-hour adventure called Dad Out West. It’s the fourth entry in a series of films about a father played by hunky, blue-eyed Allen Silver. In gay zoological parlance, the fifty-three year old Silver lies somewhere between an otter (lean, furry) and a polar bear (the fur is white). In each film—previous titles include Dad Takes A Fishing Trip, Dad Goes To College, and Dad Gets Into Trouble—Silver has about three sex scenes with a variety of men, nearly all of whom are a generation or so younger than he is.
These films feature an element of real cinematic drama, which is another rarity in commercial porn these days. Scenes build over time. Gage’s dads and sons don’t have sex with one another, because that would be crossing a line. But the dads will jerk off while watching the sons bottom for surrogate authority figures, holding the son’s head in place while the younger man fellates a third party, for instance. When an uncle fucks his nephew it’s made very clear in the dialogue that they’re only related by marriage and there’s no blood relationship between the two. Though flirting with the incest taboo is what animates Gage’s output, actually breaking it would be going too far.
Characters in Gage films are rarely gay in whichever sense of gay we generally think of. They aren’t in long-term relationships with other men, they don’t date one another, and there are never visual signifiers to indicate that they might self-identify that way. It might be reactionary or it might be revolutionary; in either case, it’s out of time. Gage characters are butch archetypes who are emotionally secure enough that the physical rewards of gay sex are wholly compatible with homosocial friendships and an otherwise heteronormative blue collar lifestyle.
These men also exist in real life. A visit to any cruising park, bathhouse, rest stop, or adult video store will reveal a whole world of men for whom the closet is not even a consideration, let alone an obstacle. In college, I’d visit a park I had read about on the internet, one where men in cars pulled up to other men in cars and arranged to sneak off to the woods together or, if one of them lived nearby, to go home together. The men I met in the park were always considerably older, despite the built-in awkwardness. I never quite got the hang of cruising etiquette, and at this particular park the excitement of getting caught was mitigated substantially by the risk of having your car towed if you were in the woods too long. Still, it was all fun enough that I kept going back.
In early 2009, I launched a Tumblr to pass the time while working a mind-numbing data entry job. I called it Naked Pictures of Your Dad, a riff on a song called “Naked Pictures of Your Mother” by the Detroit band Electric Six. The site’s content varied over the course of its six-year run, but generally it mixed vintage erotica with contemporary men’s fashion, homoerotic art, photos of dreamy soccer players, and occasionally some of my own photography. There was a lot of nudity and I’d guess that only about fifteen to twenty percent of it was comprised of commercial porn (a blend of gay and straight still photos.) The site had a following of just over thirty thousand followers towards the end, but Tumblr abruptly deleted my account in June over a spurious copyright infringement claim. (They’ve been shutting down adult blogs more often, and it’s generally assumed this is related to the company’s 2013 takeover by Yahoo. They never replied to my request for an explanation.)
I used to frequently hear from men who stumbled upon the site after searching some combination of the words “naked,” “pictures,” and “dad.” I’ve never been good with faces, but these strangers helped me identify vintage porn and physique models like Helmut Reidmeier, Sean Gallard, and Paul Barresi. We bonded over our fondness for the young Paul Newman and the older Sean Connery. Occasionally they would send me NSFW photos and, on more than one occasion, adult men would confide an unsolicited fantasy about a father, an older cousin, or an uncle.
Whenever that happened I always found myself at a loss for what to say. I had nothing beyond the obvious courtesies. (“Thank you for telling me your story, that sounds really hot.”) I’ve never entertained a fantasy about my own father, in the same way that I’ve never found myself turned on by a real-life boss, doctor, FedEx delivery guy or plumber. Real life just isn’t very porny sometimes, which is the whole reason that porn works.
But maybe the point isn’t for me to relate to these guys. Maybe reality isn’t the point at all. Without the means to act on their urges or express them publicly, maybe they’re just looking to share a fantasy that’s no more real than two porn stars pretending to be suddenly related via marriage to a woman that never appears on screen. So in that sense, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the porn stepdad who goes on a camping trip with his totally-not-blood relative and the demanding teacher who makes the misbehaving student stay after class for detention. But if that’s the case, why are intergenerational porn scenes so hot right now?
Big, mainstream companies like Men.com and the newer Icon Male are both flooded with variations on the same theme. The two most popular scenes at Men.com (according to their home page) are My New Stepdad Is A Pervert and Son Swap. (My Two Daddies and the construction-themed Daddy’s Workplace aren’t too far behind). At Icon Male, Dirk Caber stars in Daddy’s Big Boy, while Adam Russo appears in both The Stepfather and My Son’s Best Friend. (There’s also a series there called His Daughter’s Boyfriend, presumably for variety.) It’s all the same scene, every time, and I’m clearly not alone in enjoying a vast majority of it.
Kansas City Trucking Co. was the first in a trilogy of Joe Gage features that also includes El Paso Wrecking Corp. and LA Tool & Die. He took a break towards the end of the last millennium, but now he is back, cranking out movies as quickly as he ever has.
One of the more enjoyable parts of following Gage’s career is the fact that his films have gotten progressively more ridiculous over time. I remember renting Tulsa County Line when I was in college. It’s a mildly experimental collection of unrelated sex scenes strung together by following two Oklahoma park rangers on patrol. There’s sex in a men’s room, sex in a doctor’s office, and sex in a log cabin. (There’s also a really peculiar intergenerational jerkoff scene involving early webcam technology.) In one scene, a forty-ish Fish & Game deputy played by Chad Johnson stumbles upon a cabin full of college-aged boys that have just discovered someone’s porn stash. The film, and especially the bodies of the performers, stood in stark contrast to the other porn I was renting at the time, a mix of plotless jerkoff scenes with barely legal skaters and, at the other end of the spectrum, the sumptuous (and equally youth-oriented) epics of the late Jean-Michel Cadinot.
Tulsa County Line was 2002. Flash forward a few years and behold Joe Gage’s Sex Files, an anthology series now in its eighteenth installment. With titles like Doctors and Dads, The Night Before The Wedding, and Divorced Men’s Support Group, the series straddles the border between real-life fantasy and sex-mad delusion. Hypothetically feasible men’s room hookups and dalliances in the forest have given way to bukkake bachelor parties, cop orgies that include bail bondsmen and court reporters, and complicated group exams that manage to combine family, medicine, and the military. In Runaway Sons, the most recent installment, it’s an overeager corrections officer who introduces dad to the joys of watching his son bottom.
A few years ago, I was hired by a hookup site to guest-edit their blog while their regular guy went on vacation. That eventually turned into a weekly freelance gig, one where I got paid to review porn scenes and interview performers about their work and their lives. I had no idea how much dad-son porn existed in the world, even though I was well-placed to have encountered much of it already thanks to my Tumblr.
Max Sargent was the subject of my final interview over at that hookup site. Like many older porn performers he has a day job, one that some might find incompatible with his adult work. He entered the porn industry via Mike Gaite, a younger porn actor that he was dating. I recently spoke to Sargent again, as someone who might understand the dad porn phenomenon from the inside.
“There’s a certain titillation in doing things that you’re not allowed to do,” he says. Joe Gage plays off of the real-life tensions that actors can bring to the set. In Dad Out West, Sargent plays dirty uncle to Mike Gaite, his real-life ex. “There’s a strict line between fantasy and reality,” Sargent tells me. “And rules will be broken.”
I ask Sargent whether he has the experience I had with my Tumblr, where fans will share sometimes excessive feelings about their own father figures. “Several guys on Twitter have talked about their crushes on teachers,” he says, “and when they do I sort of slip into character. I’ve had guys that I’ve been with actually talk about liking their uncles. Or cousins. I’m thinking of someone specifically who was referring to these great situations that had happened to him. He wasn’t coerced, it seemed like a very natural thing.”
There’s a lot of displaced parental fantasy in straight porn, too, lest you think that gay men are any more deviant than anyone else. Occasionally there’s a sleazy stepfather, but the incest taboo is a strong one. More often than not in porn it’s a mother and daughter who for some reason find themselves having sex with the same man, generally a new boyfriend for one or the other of them. There’s also at least one site dedicated to white fathers that are forced to watch their daughters having sex with black men, a more heteronormative and racist take on the Gage formula. On the other hand, I’ve watched (and really enjoyed) scenes where a young man takes his girlfriend home to meet dad and finds himself as the unexpected intruder in a surprise three-way.
Porn is escapism, a chance for even the most promiscuous people to vicariously live out situations and physical positions that are too impractical, too consequential, or too unattainable to reach in real life. (That’s why the very different condom debates in gay and straight porn are argued so passionately from all sides.) Moral arguments about plotlines won’t get anyone very far.
Dad porn is a phase. A few years ago the Peters Twins and the Visconti Triplets were all the rage, so it makes sense that intergenerational family outings would come next (if only for the fact that they’re easier to cast). Facial hair and body hair have also made a big comeback, and performers like Silver, Caber, and Russo all have varying degrees of facial scruff and chest hair. When Mackenzie Pearson published her article this spring about girls going wild for Dadbod, she was not talking about the kind found in gay porn. Still, older men’s bodies have since become a part of the national discussion. (“The body all men should strive for,” declared a BuzzFeed headline in April. “A sexist atrocity,” Time said in May, though that didn’t stop the New York Times from asking readers to “Show Us Your Dad Bod” in June. And so on.)
Dad Out West introduced a new character to the narrative, a grandfather played by Scott Reynolds, a man with a walrus moustache and the sort of body we’re not accustomed to seeing on men over fifty. In one promotional still, Reynolds and Silver are photographed from below against a Southern California desert landscape. They stand slightly apart from one another, urinating together in the direction of the camera.
A nine-year veteran of the porn industry, Silver says that Gage adapted his Dad character to fit the performer’s own personality. “Because I love the daddy-boy archetype in my own life,” Silver says, “and he had to make this character be kind of a nice guy. There’s nothing mean-spirited or abusive about him, but these amazing situations keep presenting themselves to him.”
“If it were literally presented as incest then no, I wouldn’t be interested. But that’s not really the story there. I love a power and surrender situation, where you’re assuming power over someone with their consent. I know I can sound like a hippie, but if you’ve ever experienced that side, it feels wonderful.”
I asked if there was any kind of negative blowback from presenting the incest fantasy. “It’s a fantasy,” says Silver. “And I think people get that. The negative feedback I get is mostly from people who are basically ageist and think I’m over the hill and shouldn’t be out there.”
I can only imagine the harsh comments that Reynolds might expect, but Silver loves the idea of Pops, the grandfather, being incorporated into the story. “It’s three generations now, and there’s a fantastic idea that this is a family lineage. There’s nothing coercive, this is just what this family does. And it’s a little kooky, but he’s a cool old coot. I’ve never seen anything like that before in a movie.”
My own dad and I have never had a conversation about porn, especially about the kind of porn that I like, and I’m sure we both prefer it that way. I don’t think he knows that I wrote for a hookup site, or that I had a dirty Tumblr for six years. He probably doesn’t know that I’ve always been attracted to older strangers, ones who don’t look anything like him but who aren’t afraid to call me son, anyway. Porn like this allows us to explore our fantasies without any physical or emotional hazards getting in the way. By placing the figure of the father at its center, dad porn displaces his power over our fantasies and allows the son to finally grow up.