The Wild Issue: Gaytanamo

No doubt the world of porn qualifies as wild. With all those hot bodies, infinite positions and dirty imaginations, the adult film industry is one monstrous jungle of sexual kicks. But what happens when those kicks get political? Can the lascivious be judicious?

Gaytanamo drew fire even before anyone lost precious fluids. In early January, The Washington Blade accused Jersey-based production company, Dark Alley Media of “fisting their way out of the Geneva Convention.” Here at Queerty, we wondered why Matthias von Fistenberg and Owen Hawk chose to name their porn after Guantánamo Bay: the controversial American holding facility where terror suspects are subject to psychological and physical torture. Hawk told us:

Gaytanamo does not trivialize peoples suffering, but uses images and representations in order to attempt change in perception.

When we are put in front of the reality of our own violent desires, we are no doubt uncomfortable. But it is precisely because [we] are not put in front of these desires — and therefore never get to understand them — that policies born out of this repression, a la Guantanamo, are even possible.

Now, Queerty contributor James Withers offers his take on Gaytanamo conflict, after the jump.

All of the previous Gaytanamo-related hand wringing seemed rather strange for a film that hadn’t even been released. From the stills I saw everything looked like a tame encounter at the Black Party, even the shot of Danny Fox all oiled up, tied to a chair with his head being held by a mean looking chap called “The Violator”.

Now that it has been released, everyone can unwind his or her panties (unless you’re an all-around porn hater, in which case those undies can stay nice and tight), because Gaytanamo is not some homage to the effectiveness, nor necessity of torture in this post 9/11 world. In fact, Gaytanamo is so against state sponsored brutality, the score includes Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who spent most of his career trying to navigate the whims of power. Taken as a political statement, Gaytanamo should make the folk at Amnesty International misty-eyed- and keep their palms hairy.

The plot plays out like a border-crossing fantasy. Fox appears as a German tourist accused of having a bomb. Hooded men take him to some dank facility. His claims of innocence are ignored – in truth all he is carrying is a dildo. His tormentors proudly acknowledge the only rules that will be used are secret memos from the Department of Defense: an overt dig at the current government. So with it’s anti-torture bona-fides all lined up what was/is the problem?

“People were responding to the title. What they wanted to despise they created but we didn’t make,” Hawk said describing the film’s early critics. The handsome porn star also thinks early naysayers were so dismissive because of the all the skin. “They instantly saw exploitation. There is bias and prejudice against the genre and there is no way they could see something different.”

Von Fistenberg acknowledges that abduction scenes are nothing new in gay porn, but Gaytanamo aims a bit higher, moving past the canned kidnapping or trite torture and toward a more polished, political film. “We are used to porn pretending,” Von Fistenberg muses. “Everything is contrived and poorly executed. In our film there is a realism and that suddenly disturbs people.”

Neither Hawk nor Von Fistenberg are dewy-eyed idealists. They know a lot of folk who rent “Gaytanamo” are simply going to fast-forward to the sex scenes and they’re fine with that. They want to make clear, however, that they are using their unorthodox medium to express their disgust over the Bush administration’s anti-terror policies, the disregard of the Geneva Convention and the secrecy that is part and parcel of the U.S. Patriot Act. Von Fistenberg insists, “I’m a pornographer and if I want to say something, I will. I’ll show you very hot sex, but also show you want is wrong with the government.” Not to mention shining a titillating light on our torture-crazed culture.

It’s a well-trod yet increasingly timely topic: torture’s moral and political efficiency. Whether it’s Daniel Craig getting his balls beat with a rope in Casino Royale (Von Fistenberg riffs on this scene in his flick) or super agent Jack Bauer in 24 knocking heads to find out a terrorist’s primary objective, torture pervade popular culture.

In Bauer’s world, torture always works, which contradicts a whole lot of military experts, from Sen. John McCain to General Jack Vessey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported, West Point dean General Patrick Finnegan sat down with 24‘s producers and asked them to quit the torture route lest they send the wrong message about American security practices and legal morality.

I’m not convinced a successful TV show somehow teaches American soldiers to beat down on a suspected terrorist. The true instigators of torture – purposefully vague road government policy, dispersion of responsibility and inadequate supervision – really do fist the Geneva Convention. Except for the gloves and lube, of course. Gaytanamo simply provides a sexually charged scapegoat.

This ongoing national debate underscores the Gaytanamo debate. The images, not the torture, brought the furor. It is much easier to get the moral outrage meter jacked up over gay porn, than the actual seedy stuff that is being done in our names. Want to get steamed over something? Do some reading on Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington, described by U.S. News & Report as the “central architect” of many of our policies in this post 9/11 world. His work’s far more insidious than a bit of porn.