Tom Daley
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Porn Panic!

Porn Panic!

1026 PORN PANIC O2 X390 (JEREMY LUCIDO) | ADVOCATE.COM

Competing With the Homemade Porn Star“I can’t believe The Advocate is calling me,” says 25-year-old Mike Rizzo of Belmar, N.J., who is also known as “oboymikee.” “Everybody wants to be famous somehow, I guess.”

Online, Rizzo is best known for his XTube videos (there were 11 of them at press time), which have been viewed more than 3 million times. The videos, most of which feature Rizzo by himself, are simple in content and far from professional in production value. But they’re not horrible. The scenes are well edited, generally shot with two cameras, and include foot-tapping music.

“There’s no money in it. I shoot them all at my house. It’s an ego boost,” Rizzo says. “I put a new video up a few weeks ago and it already has 700,000 hits. The other day someone at the grocery store recognized me from XTube. I’m a plumber. I’m not going to get famous being a plumber.”

Ten years ago, “amateur” was just a tab in online thumbnail photo galleries. Today, it’s one of the most commonly used keywords when searching for porn. “People like amateur work because it seems so close to you,” says “LordBenthefirst,” a college student who shoots XTube videos between classes. “It feels like you could have sex with this person if they lived in your town.”

The rise of amateur porn began about nine years ago when sites like SeanCody.com, RandyBlue.com, and CorbinFisher.com began filming young, nervous, and generally straight men having sex with each other. These companies are now some of the most lucrative in the business and offer top dollar for the right model. But the success of the genre these sites created could destroy them in the end. “I think [sites like SeanCody.com] are really getting hurt by all of the real, free amateur stuff on XTube,” says Titan Media’s Webb. “If you’re just looking for a hot guy who is jerking off on the couch, why pay for it when you can get it for free?”

And now amateur content is being offered in real time, for free. I signed on to the live webcam site Cam4.com and moments later was watching, along with 2,000 others, two relatively attractive young men having sex. I could even offer the men suggestions and critiques using a chat room on the site. Skeptical and pretty certain I was watching a prerecorded scene, I typed, “Hey, can you move that pillow?” Seconds later, it was hurled across the room, out of the frame. Everyone’s a director, I suppose.

Many people in the business believe that the popularity of amateur videos will bring about the demise of the traditional porn star. “Models were asking for and getting $3,000 to $4,000 per scene one year ago. Now they have to really negotiate to get $2,000,” says gay-porn reporter Damon Kruezer, publisher of KruezerAtNight.com. “Well-known twink performer Aaron Tyler was doing video work full-time nine months ago, but now he’s an office temp. And Brodie Sinclair, who is a CockyBoys exclusive model, says he has to work part-time at a burger joint and part-time as a personal trainer in Miami to pay the bills. Both men are escorting as well.”

“When amateurism is celebrated and anyone with an opinion can publish a blog, post a video on YouTube, or change an entry on Wikipedia, the distinction between expert and amateur becomes dangerously blurred,” writes Andrew Keen in his book The Cult of the Amateur. According to Keen, the Web 2.0 phenomenon is not just strangling the economy but killing culture. “We are facing the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated,” he says.

But is pornography an art form or simply a masturbation tool? Should we really worry if the beloved skin flick is being sullied by the ever-growing attraction to the gratis, do-it-yourself variety?

“In the early days of the industry, porn filmmakers came out of film schools. They were trained in Hollywood and brought a level of professionalism,” says J.C. Adams, editor of the industry news site the Gay Porn Times. “The rapid growth of the amateur has pushed out the actual filmmakers. Now, with the economic condition it’s harder for these guys to make the kind of films they want to make since everything is reduced to a seven-minute scene on XTube. There aren’t too many of them left.”

That’s music to the ears of plumbers like Rizzo. “I think it’s about time,” he says. “We could never compete with [porn studios] because they have all the money. I’m doing this out of my paycheck. I’m glad we’re giving them a run for their money, because I love doing it.”

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