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What is gay for pay and how does it impact our society’s perception of homosexuality?

What is gay for pay?

Gay for pay has been a porn sensation for nearly two decades now. I personally found myself enamoured with it since early adolescence. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, gay for pay stands for porn featuring men who identify as straight but perform gay sex in exchange for money. The advent of websites like OnlyFans and JustForFans made this phenomenon even more ubiquitous, with thousands of ostensibly heterosexual men dabbling in gay action for pay.

Many believe that this trend accelerates the shattering of gender stereotypes and is an indication of our society’s discarding of sexual labels. But is this truly the case? Or does the gay for pay obsession only solidify our toxic relationship with masculinity and deep-rooted homophobia?

Where to find gay for pay

Nearly all the major gay porn studios today, including Sean Cody, and Corbin Fisher, produce enormous volumes of content portraying supposedly straight dudes getting tricked or lured into having gay sex. Other websites, such as Broke Straight Boys, are dedicated exclusively to making films featuring young heterosexual bros reluctantly engaging in gay action for money (seeing their bewildered faces as they begrudgingly accept a stack of cash has been a relentless turn-on for me as a teenager).

On platforms like OnlyFans and JustForFans, where people have the ability to produce their own adult content, men who identify as straight produce all sorts of content directed at gay people—whether by experimenting on their own or doing collaborations with other men (most of whom also classify themselves as heterosexual).

Some argue that by allowing themselves to experiment with other men, even though it’s supposedly strictly for financial purposes, these guys break the rigid conventions around masculinity. In an article titled The straight men doing gay for pay on OnlyFans and JustForFans published on Dazed, journalist Josh Schot writes that men performing gay for pay sex “are proof that there are innumerable expressions of heterosexuality,” adding that, they are “contributing to a rupture in the expectations that are placed on heterosexual men.” 

It is true that many interviews conducted with gay for pay porn actors reveal an overall casual approach by the actors to their work. Straight men running OnlyFans and JustForFans accounts seem to especially represent a shift in attitude toward male-on-male action—describing it as a no-big-deal type of thing that they do not bother hiding.

Yet for all the supposed ‘sexual-liberation’ promoted by gay for pay actors, claiming that they “detoxify masculinity,” as stated by Schot, seems to be a bit of a stretch, considering that the actors’ perceived heterosexuality is their biggest selling point and allure. The entire emphasis in this type of porn is placed on the guys’ professed straightness and willingness to engage in a sexual activity that they don’t ordinarily find appealing. This is particularly evident in OnlyFans and JustForFans content, where guys proudly announce that they’re ‘pushing their boundaries’ by performing gay sex. This implies that same-sex action is still very much taboo; a boundary, as they say.

What’s more is that gay for pay content overwhelmingly features broad-shouldered, muscular men who are dripping with testosterone, almost invariably refer to one another as ‘bro’ and never miss an opportunity to flex their muscles and bounce their pecs at the camera. It seems to me, then, that these guys don’t so much “rupture the expectations” placed on heterosexual men as they overcompensate for violating them. To a great extent, gay for pay porn doesn’t upend mainstream tropes of masculinity, but rather reinforces them.

But what is at the root of queer men’s obsession with guys identifying as straight performing gay sex? The most obvious explanation is the fantasy that’s associated with it—the thrill of attaining what is supposedly unattainable or, to some, even forbidden.

It could also be seen as an indication of internal homophobia entrenched in the psyche of many queer men, and a primal desire to win the validation of the alpha male. Our glorification of textbook machismo and rejection of any type of behaviour that is visibly queer or feminine as inferior and unappealing could be viewed as testaments to lingering and unresolved shame about our identities.

Gay for pay can’t take full credit

There’s no denying that our society is becoming increasingly tolerant of diverse expressions of gender and sexuality, and the fact that more men who identify as straight allow themselves to engage in gay sex is certainly a byproduct of this unfolding change.

But claiming that these men or porn studios are the impetus of this shift in consciousness is downright misleading, for by emphasizing the actors’ heterosexuality and masculinity so bluntly, gay for pay porn perpetuates restrictive perceptions of gender and the classification of queerness as taboo and fundamentally flawed. After all, gay for pay is still all about the labels.