it's the day of the famous same-sex double wedding, but the men restlessly roaming the store tonight aren't thinking about the symbolic exchange of vows and rings. We're more interested in exchanging groans and bodily fluids. Perusing the packages in one of Church Street's dingier porn stores, we've got another ritual on our minds. We're gonna take our videos/DVDs home, sit down and stroke the right buttons on our remote control units.
Porn is everywhere in the queer community. What started out as an underground industry and then became a way for men to get off safely in the age of AIDS has mushroomed into a fact of life for most gay men.
Even the cool ones.
The guys here in the store aren't exactly cover models, but they aren't the trench-coat-dark-glasses set either. Just horny.
Most of my gay friends -- smart, urbane -- have favourite porn actors they discuss with ironic vigour.
Walk into many bars and you'll see naked men flexing or going at it on TV screens over the bar. Check out the bookmarks of any computer-owning fag and you'll find a few skin sites. Believe me.
So gay porn's here, and it's queer. Or is it?
Scratch beneath its shiny new surface and you'll find the old, anachronistic gay turn-ons. The ones we're not supposed to have anymore.
Settings are still often in traditionally homophobic locales, like military bases and locker rooms, reflecting a time when these institutions were off limits to open queers.
And straight guys are still hot property -- either the straight actor who's "gay for pay" and only "tops," or the so-called straight character, like the bridegroom who gets blown by the best man before the wedding.
"Those are the classic scenarios," says Michael Caponcini, manager at Priape, an upmarket gay erotic boutique -- no sticky floors, thank you -- that orders 200 porn flicks a week.
"Everyone likes the straight boy, the thrill of the chase. The handyman, the plumber, the mechanic. There aren't new scenes. There are just new actors."
Speaking of new actors, Blake Harper and Jason Branch, two porn stars (and real-life lovers -- they met on the set of the 1998 video Chapters) are currently in town in Making Porn, Ronnie Larsen's off-Broadway comedy about the gay porn industry (see theatre listings, page 67).
Ticket sales, of course, are brisk. Obviously no one's scared off by the $45-$50 ticket price ($5 extra for the first three rows).
In the play, set in the early 80s, Harper plays Jack Hawk, a married straight actor who grudgingly becomes a gay porn superstar. More evidence that the straight-guy-goes-queer scenario still hasn't stiffed.
It's fascinating that Jeff Stryker, Ryan Idol and Rex Chandler -- two of whom have acted in the Making Porn show -- remain the biggest recent stars of the gay porn industry, even though their heyday was in late 80s and 90s. Ironically, all three say they're straight, or "heteroflexible," as Priape's Caponcini puts it.
Harper, a Windsor, Ontario, native, puts his politics where his mouth is and actively dislikes the straight-guy stronghold.
"Personally I'm not into seducing a straight man," says the winner of the Best Actor and Best Oral Scene awards from the Gay Video News 2000. "I like to have sex with men who want to have sex with other men.
"It's an insult to work with actors who call themselves straight. And I don't know how you can call yourself straight and get fucked in the ass by a guy."
"Eroticizing the straight man is the attraction to the forbidden," says NOW writer and escort Gerald Hannon, who's experimented himself with porn in his short film Cousin Mike. "It also gives the lie to the straight-gay divide. Sexuality is more fluid than we pretend it is."
Playwright Larsen, who's in his early 30s, has no time for PC porn.
"Give me old porn with a trucker or marine," he says on the phone from West Hollywood. "I want to see negative depictions of gay life."
Caponcini adds that the old "bareback" porn (without condoms) from the pre-AIDS era consistently sells well at his store.
"Everyone says pre-condom is hotter than condom," he says. "Even if they can't do it, they enjoy watching it."
Gay guys getting turned on by straight guys, latex-less sex -- is this pure and simple internalized homophobia? And how come everyone looks the same -- white and buff?
"The range of looks in the porn industry is so narrow," says Richard Fung, a filmmaker, writer and programmer. "There's this glossy doll-like look I don't find attractive. But I realize that there will always be people who idealize these bodies and for whom sex with those sort of models in porn will remain a kind of ideal.
"But I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that people who are turned on by this are self-hating and in the closet," says Fung. "What turns us on has to do with society, with what things are illicit and supposedly not good for you."