Three sex workers

(Warning: very plain talk about man-man sex; no X-rated images, but several right on the line.)

The immediate impulse for this posting is the death of three very popular, hunky pornstars in the last year (each with his own sad story), which has led me to think about the term sex worker (as applied to men) and its penumbra of reference to men who make a living from their bodies. And about the challenges of a life in porn.

As for the men, I’ve posted X-rated images on AZBlogX, in “Deaths of the pornhunks”:

#1: very smooth massive muscleman Erik Rhodes, died 6/14/12, posing as a leather top

#3: massive musclebear Arpad Miklos, died 2/3/13, being worshiped by an armpit-licking twink

#4 hairy hunk Wilfried Knight, died 3/5/13, about to kiss Michael Lucas (and get fucked by him)

Stories on each of them, first from gay porn sites, then from other sources.

Erik Rhodes. The man, from behind, on the front cover of the Cross Country Part 2 porn DVD:

(#1)

From Al’s Gay Porn Stars:

Buffed Erik was a Falcon porn star from Long Island, New York, who was born in February 1982. He stood 6ft 3ins tall, had brown hair and green eyes, an 8.5-inch uncut cock and bottomed and topped on film. He went from being a porn shop counter clerk to go-go dancing before getting into XXX in about 2004 – but he’d also done legit modelling. In the bottom five pix, he’s seen topping and bottoming with Brent Corrigan in The Velvet Mafia. Corrigan went by the name Fox Ryder in that movie. Rhodes went on to top Jason Adonis in The Farmer’s Son before moving into directing for Falcon. Sadly, he died in 2012 of a heart attack in his sleep after several years of taking steroids and drugs.

From Wikipedia:

Erik Rhodes (born James Elliott Naughtin) (February 8, 1982 – June 14, 2012) was an American actor who starred in gay pornographic movies. He was an exclusive for Falcon Studios, and was versatile in his public as well as in his private sex life. He was also notable in New York’s gay nightlife and social circles, most notably for his relationship with fashion designer Marc Jacobs.

Rhodes, who was openly gay, was the second porn star to perform in the top role with noted top-man Matthew Rush as the bottom in the film Heaven to Hell. He also topped longtime top-man Jason Adonis in his first onscreen role as bottom in the film The Farmer’s Son directed by Chris Steele. [That is, Rhodes made something of a career of topping tops.]

Rhodes made his struggles with drugs and depression public for years. He was a blogger and frequently wrote of his heavy usage of both club drugs and bodybuilding steroids. He died in his sleep from a heart attack on June 14, 2012. He was cremated per his family’s request. Rhodes’s HIV positive status was revealed via an article published in the New York Times posthumously, however, the revelation of his status generated controversy.

The NYT obit, by Jacob Bernstein, gives you some sense of the man:

The bereaved reactions on Twitter came from all over: Kim Hastreiter, the editor of Paper Magazine; Bruce LaBruce, the independent film director; and Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters, who called his recently departed friend “brave” and “honest.”

The source of their grief?

Erik Rhodes, 30, a 6-foot-4, 258-pound gay pornographic-film star who died last Thursday in Manhattan from a heart attack after a nearly decade-long career that had made him an unlikely celebrity in some New York social circles. He appeared regularly on Page Six, spent time with the designer Marc Jacobs, was profiled in magazines that had nothing to do with pornography, and shot an ad campaign for Loehmann’s.

Over the last few years, he had also been the author of a harrowing (and frequently clever) Tumblr feed, on which he detailed his escapades escorting, his rampant steroid use and his stories of winding up in psychiatric wards after crystal meth binges…

Mr. Rhodes, whose given name was James Naughtin, was signed to Falcon Video in 2004, and became one of a handful of recognizable faces in an era when the industry was going through a painful economic contraction, thanks to online file sharing and free pornography sites like Xtube.

“The gay porn audience often looks to a hulking macho fantasy, and he provided that,” said Michael Musto, the Village Voice gossip columnist who was friendly with Mr. Rhodes. “He was Thor, the Hulk and the rest of the ‘Avengers’ cast wrapped in a gay package. And the fashion connection and the fact that he had a brain elevated him from your everyday escort-slash-porn-god and gave him texture.”

Mickey Boardman, the editorial director of Paper, said, “We would see him out all the time,” adding: “He was hilarious. He was totally self-aware, and the stories he would tell me were unbelievable.”

He fell apart, self-awareness and intelligence intact, right in front of everybody.

(Rhodes was very much Not My Type — Wilfried Knight, who’ll come up in a while, was — but he did what he did very well, and huge numbers of gay men adored him. Everyone to his taste.)

Arpad Miklos. The man, right down to the top of his pubes:

(#2)

Still massive, but nothing like Rhodes. The Al’s Porn Stars version of his story:

Arpad Miklos was a big, muscular, daddy who made movies with the likes of Euro director Kristen Bjorn, Titan, Falcon and Hot House. He appeared as Francois Kagylo. Born in Budapest, Hungary, in September 1967, he stood about 6ft 2ins tall and had a 9-inch uncut cock – so big was it that his Hungarian co-stars in Bjorn’s movies nicknamed him ‘Frankenswanz’ (Franken-cock). He was mainly a top and outside porn was a chemist. Arpad made his debut in the mid-1990s and was still making movies more than 10 years later. In 2007 he won the Best Top Escort award. Sadly, he committed suicide at home in New York City in 2013.

Wikipedia doesn’t even deal with the suicide:

Arpad Miklos (Péter Kozma, 11 September 1967 – 3 February 2013) was a Hungarian pornographic actor who appeared in gay and straight pornographic films.

Miklos was born in Budapest, Hungary. He used to be a chemical engineer before becoming a porn actor. He last resided in New York City, where he also worked as an escort.

Apparently he fell into a deep depression about his HIV status and his aging (he was in his middle 40s when he died).

Rhodes and Miklos: two talented men who came to make their lives off their astonishing bodies, in porn and hustling, and then came apart in sickness and despair.

The porn life is far from easy. You have to paste together gigs of all kinds and you have to travel a lot. And you’re offered ways to (temporarily) ease the difficulties and erase any pain. Maintaining any kind of stable companionship is tremendously hard. I’m amazed at guys who manage all this pretty well. (Reading the diaries of gay pornstars like Adam Killian is a lot like reading those of my acquaintances who are professional musicians — especially soloists, chamber musicians, and composers. So many projects, so much travel.)

Wilfried Knight. In a (cock tease) photo:

(#3)

The youngest of the three, also talented, and (oh alas) partnered. From Al’s Gay Porn Stars:

Wilfried Knight was a hairy hunk who found fame in 2004 with director Michael Lucas’ production company. Once voted the hottest porn star by Out magazine, he was raised in France and worked as a personal trainer in London and as an acupuncturist among other jobs. He stood about 6ft tall, had an 8-inch uncut cock, a degree in law and both topped and bottomed. He had studied law in France, Belgium and Greece. Wilfried took time off from porn for a while to concentrate on other work, studies and fighting cancer but returned looking hotter than ever – and in 2010 he was named performer of the year at the GayVN Awards. Knight killed himself early in 2013, while living in Vancouver, Canada, just weeks after his American husband took his own life during a long-running battle with the US immigration authorities over their relationship.

A longer version of the story (by Sunnivie Brydum), from the Advocate magazine:

Wilfried Knight, an acupuncturist and porn star, has … killed himself just two weeks after [his] husband also took his own life, according to The Raw Story. Both men lived in Vancouver, Canada, at the time of their deaths.

Knight was a French citizen [born Wilfried Chevalier in Germany on 2/19/75, according to Italian Wikipedia], who married his American husband, Jerry Enriquez, in Canada in 2011, reports Raw Story.

But the so-called Defense of Marriage Act made it impossible for Enriquez to sponsor Knight for spousal-based citizenship in the U.S. Desperately seeking a way to stay together, Enriquez found work with the athletic company Lululemon in Vancouver last year, and the couple moved to Canada, where Knight had full legal access to his husband’s benefits.

But Enriquez was fired by Lululemon, and five months later, Knight came home to find his husband dead by suicide.

In a blog post written on March 2, Knight places the blame for his partner’s death squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. immigration system. The post is titled “My partner’s life and death and its lesson: U.S. Gay Marriage Must Pass on a Federal Level.”

A massively sad story. You will recall that DOMA was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court on 6/26/13, a bit over three months after Knight’s suicide. Despair is cruel.

Like the other two, Knight was a rentboy — rentable by himself or with his husband. Not all pornstars escort, but a great many do, to pay the bills (and it involves a talent they’ve practiced and perfected).

Sex workers. All three of these men were sex workers in two ways: prostitution (performing sex acts in exchange for money from your partner) and porn acting (performing sex acts in front of an audience for money). The notion that these two activities have a significant commonality — correspond to a conceptual category — is no doubt quite old, but the term is relatively new. From Wikipedia, which has a somewhat wider use of the term:

A sex worker is a person who works in the sex industry. The term is used in reference to all those in all areas of the sex industry including those who provide direct sexual services as well as the staff of such industries. Some sex workers are paid to engage in sexually explicit behavior which involve varying degrees of physical contact with clients (prostitutes, escorts, some but not all professional dominants); pornography models and actors engage in sexually explicit behavior which are filmed or photographed. Phone sex operators have sexually-oriented conversations with clients, and do auditive sexual roleplay. Other sex workers are paid to engage in live sexual performance, such as web cam sex and performers in live sex shows. Some sex workers perform erotic dances and other acts for an audience (striptease, Go-Go dancing, lap dancing, Neo-burlesque, and peep shows).

… The term “sex worker” was coined in 1980 by sex worker activist Carol Leigh. Its use became popularized after publication of the anthology, Sex Work: Writings By Women In The Sex Industry in 1987. The term “sex worker” has since spread into much wider use, including in academic publications, by NGOs and labor unions, and by governmental and intergovernmental agencies, such as the World Health Organization.

… The term is strongly opposed, however, by many who are morally opposed to the sex industry, such as social conservatives, anti-prostitution feminists, and other prohibitionists. Such groups view prostitution variously as a crime or as victimization, and see the term “sex work” as legitimizing criminal activity or exploitation as a type of labor. In the view of Melissa Farley and other anti-prostitution feminists, all forms of sex work, including stripping and performing in pornography, are simply different types of prostitution.

For men, the widest concept in this domain would take in all men who make a living by their bodies, from laborers and athletes in agonistic contact sports (like boxing, American football, and ice hockey) at one end — though nobody takes them to be sex workers or anything like them — to male hustlers at the other. But there’s quite a lot of territory in the middle, involving men whose livelihoods involve the display of their bodies: for instance, acrobats, trapeze artists, dancers, actors, models (especially underwear models), and athletes in the “body sports” (skaters, gymnasts, swimmers and divers, etc.). In many people’s minds, underwear models are conceptually close to sex workers of the central type, probably because perceived hotness — physical attractiveness and desirability — plays a part in judgments of how good they are at their jobs, so that projecting hotness becomes part of their jobs.

[Addendum 7/20/13. I’ve now posted on AZBlogX about a fourth man, Josh Weston, who died in December (of complications from AIDS).  Another pornstar (and male hustler). Some details of his life, plus two X-rated photos, on my X blog.]

2 Responses to “Three sex workers”

  1. maxvasilatos Says:

    this is so sad… sex work is a rough business

  2. Interpreting photographs | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] posting (as #2). The front cover (featuring a naked but not genitally nude Erik Rhodes) is #1 in “Three sex workers” of 7/14/13 on this blog. From Falcon Studio’s press […]

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