The Raging Bear Out of Control: Our Colby Keller Interview– Part 2By Shawn Baker / Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
To say earthbound colossus Colby Keller is a lot to handle in every sense can’t be understated; why we couldn’t even hope to accommodate him in a single interview! So now begins part two of our epic Q&A with the stubbly, crafty behemoth who’s a fusion of the soul of Che Guevara and the body of Peter Krause. Wussy straight boy models! Fuck the selfish Free Market! Porn Is Power! An explosive bareback gang bang swan song! Colby gave and gave some more, and boy are we proud of the conclusion.
Recently, model Kevin Crows announced his porn hiatus, specifically stating that “I just got tired of having to ask if my scene partners were tested.” Is this an awkward subject you find yourself broaching in an industry whose all-male side lacks a regulated testing policy? Do you ever worry that condoms alone can’t and won’t protect you from all STIs?
Hmm. Is Kevin Crows straight? I used to be a stickler for mandatory testing when I first started in the business too. The politics of condom usage and testing aren’t as cut and dry as you’d like to imagine. Most studios don’t require testing because they use condoms. Straight porn requires testing because they don’t use condoms. Some gay companies require testing even when using condoms, which is a bit of a double standard (but also seems reasonable given the job description). Sometimes the language of “testing” is used to reassure straight models scared of having sex with gay men. Porn should provide a sex-positive work environment after all and everyone should feel comfortable, but catering to the (sometimes irrational) fears of certain models at the expense of others can also create an unnecessary layer of contempt.
Of course, I worry about condoms not protecting me from every STI. That worry translates to my own personal sex life as well. Worry is a natural part of being an active sexual being in the 21st century (let’s remember, it’s also an everlasting fact of heterosexual intercourse). Sex is like buying chicken at the grocery store. Sometimes its covered in E. coli, sometimes its not. It’s the risk you take. You can’t live your life in fear, but you also can’t be careless. Cook the damn shit.
Colby Keller — the artist, the thinker, the man — has some markedly Left-leaning Communist and Socialist ideas. Has America let its young people down? Are you angry?
Angry!? I’m more than angry! America, and the selfish, amoral “Free” Market religion it spreads like peanut butter on burnt toast has let the world down– young and old alike. My recent rediscovery of the Communist Idea (and its odd metaphorical compatibility with the type of radical emancipatory Christianity I grew up on) has actually made me happy again. I’m tired of being a liberal “leftist” with no greater strategy at hand than a well-worn knack for complaining. The left is sad and lazy. We haven’t gotten over the repeated failure of our many revolutions. Wa Wa. We like to think the current political and economic situation is inevitable. There is, however, a solution. Its our collective responsibility to spread the gospel and make that IDEA a REALITY, no matter how many times we have to repeat it, fail, and repeat it again.
Communism is the Way, the Light and the Truth. We can no longer afford to neglect the core moral values which frame an emancipatory ideology. The Right certainly hasn’t abandoned their core values. Everyone’s little brother can mouth the importance of individuality and self-interest. What about equality and social responsibility? Granted, truth and justice are always a much harder sell, especially when paired against outright selfishness. Some things about America ARE great. Like the idea of democracy and personal liberty. . . some things state socialism just doesn’t do well. The Right lives for the past. Lets learn for once, and try something new.
There’s been a notable upswing in young people turning to both sex work and older, wealthier “keepers” to see them through tough fiscal times. Do you ever bristle against thinking of yourself as a marketable product or commodity? Does that clash with your personal politics?
Strangely enough, I don’t bristle at the idea of being a commodity. I’m alive at the very heart of Capitalism after all. . . where value is defined, ascribed, and articulated. I exist both as a type of literal commodity and the labor which inscribes that commodity with value. In an odd sense, I can claim both limited control over the means of my own production AND all the concomitant alienation my labor inevitably reproduces. There may be no better place to learn about demand, desire, and value than as a porn star (ehem, “sex worker”).
You’re something of a Jack of All Trades: visual artist, contractor, nanny, computer tech, porn model. You’re candid about relying on porn to help you get by. In the digital age, the secret porn side career is even harder to keep under wraps than ever. Recently, fellow stars Collin O’Neal and Jay Armstrong faced porn blowback in the form of harassment and even job termination. Some men fall into the trap of becoming porn “lifers” who are never able to leave the business and find that they’ve mortgaged their futures for the temporary monetary gains porn offers. Are you worried that your side career could derail potential opportunities for you in art or academia down the line? Has that happened already?
While its always tempting to engage the “what-if” alternative history game, I’m not sure where exactly wishful thinking leads anyone. I could have been a lot of things. When I was twelve, my goal was to be an Indian chief, and, well, that didn’t happen. Porn has literally saved my life on more than one occasion. I’d be lying if I tried to claim otherwise. We all make decisions that alter the course of our lives. Take responsibility and move forward. Be creative. That said, porn does mark you. It’s a legal profession and shouldn’t prohibit anyone from obtaining a particular job. I’m always very suspicious of those kinds of claims. It sounds a little too convenient to believe whole cloth– like the porn equivalent of an urban myth. And why shouldn’t people make a career of porn?
Porn is the one field of entertainment where that option appears automatically precluded. I don’t fault anyone for using their experience to build a professional career, no matter the type of labor involved. God knows, its hard enough to turn a buck in this world. We’re all whores of some kind. We all have a fucked-up relationship to our bodies and sex, even those of us that “do” sex professionally, and that relationship makes it very easy for us to fault our decisions when it comes to our innermost intractable desires (both to stick our dick in things and to earn money to feed ourselves). More than anything, the language we are missing in this conversation is the language of labor. Despite its correlations with “acting” and “performance,” porn is often seen as a debased and degrading form of manual labor. Instead of bemoaning that fact (if only I didn’t do porn I’d be President!) we should reclaim the labor our bodies perform for what it is:
The Adult Film Industry is currently in a crisis of identity. Insiders and viewers alike sense that the era of the banner Porn Star — one who has exclusive billing with a single studio, headlines features, and can ultimately make a living off his star status — has come to a close. We’re now seeing models toiling for multiple outlets under countless generic aliases like Dawson, Tyler, or Kyle, and pulling in as much money as they can over the brief course of a year before vanishing into oblivion as quickly as they arrived. Your career has spanned a decade. Has this trend affected you personally?
As you’ve noted in several other questions, I’m a bit of an oddball. I’ve never been a star. I sneak under everyone’s radar. Colby Who? If you’re going for longevity in this business, its better to be an extra than a star. While the current economic crisis may have aggravated that tendency, I don’t think the basic porn career trajectory has really changed much since I started working in the jizz biz. Maybe I’m just a stubborn old nut, but I’ve seen my fair share of hot new stars fall by the wayside (often the scenes I’m most often remembered for involve them). You’re only a star ’til the cum hits the fan. You can debate whether or not our innate sexualities play a factor in this process or whether Capitalism, in its constant drive to privilege newness, plays a bigger hand. Nobody will be a “star” for long in porn, unless, of course, your dick hits your ankles.
As viewers, we’re used to very clipped, military-issue, hyper-aggressive hairstyles worn by models. You make of point of wearing unusual, angular, and asymmetrical hipster ‘dos. Is there a non-conformist motivation behind that? Are you too cool for school?
Dude. I can’t afford a hairstylist. I cut my own hair. I also have three cowlicks, one right above my forehead, that make symmetry a particularly vexing problem. Oddly enough, I also look pretty awful shaved. I tend toward that slightly disturbing/slightly arousing pubescent-man look. You work with what you’ve got. I can’t be all things to all people.
A few years back I can recall you joking that because you had defaulted on your student loans you were giving serious thought to going condomless if it meant pulling in more movie offers. It seemed you were joking, but I’ll admit that I found the idea dismaying. The gay sector of the business is asking models to take more risks for less pay. Is there a point at which you’ll balk and just walk away?
Well, I have walked away on my student loan debt. . .which doesn’t mean much. The government will hunt me ’til the day I die. Part of me never wants to get a conventional job just to fuck the bastards! That is, if those jobs existed. Let’s see the fuckers try to cash in on the Keller estate once I’m gone. Cardboard boxes won’t get you much.
Until then, its a hard-knock life and I’m a very hungry hippo. Chipotle doesn’t pay for itself. I haven’t crossed that line yet and hopefully won’t have to. Although, don’t think I haven’t fantasized about going out with a bang– a bareback cum-dump gang bang where I spontaneously implode from AIDS at the end of the scene. If there is one sure-fire way to end a career (and go down in history) that might be it. Until explosive fast-activating AIDS evolves, I’ll wait in the wings.
Models tend to use porn as a calling card of sorts — a means of upping their profile and marketability as escorts. Is there a defined ethical line for you between porn and hustling that you’re not willing to cross?
Well, there is definitely a legal line. We often like to forget that one profession is legal and the other is not. When I first started doing porn, I told myself I would never have the kind of sex I didn’t want to have. I may have made a few exceptions here and there along the way, but I certainly DO see an ethical distinction between porn and escorting. For one, porn is a performance. Its a type of entertainment. The client I’m serving isn’t my immediate sex partner or the studio editing the footage, but the audience that consumes a record of the performance. More often than not, I’m having sex with someone I might otherwise like to fuck off camera. I don’t feel like I’m compromising my sexuality to accommodate the desire of the client.
Escorting has a much closer relationship to the classical definition of exploitation. The client is literally using the body and labor of the sex worker to get off. I suppose if you have a fetish for being used, then things might be different. Often, that’s not the case (or isn’t initially). I have several friends who escort. I’ve seen the way it alters their personal sex lives, often for the worse. Regardless, I stand in complete solidarity with all my fellow sex workers, regardless of the precise legality or ethical implications involved in their choices. Any number of jobs imply similar alienation and exploitation. Escorting is hardly unique. Its not my job to judge. Just to cum on command. In short order, escorting is simply not a form of labor I’m willing to subject myself to. I made a commitment to myself when I started down this path; it’s a commitment I intend to keep.
I feel that your appeal stems from your nebulous appearance. At first blush, you seem bear-like, but you have a youthful, pleasingly dorky quality that blunts that. You’re also too tall, imposing, and hirsute to pass as a cub. You’re too fit and athletic to fully qualify as a hot nerd or a chub. You seem too gentle and playful to be a full-on wolf. How do you classify yourself, if at all?
Oh Jesus. I don’t like any of those. Nebulous is good. I’m a cloud.
The term “Recession Porn” has been bandied about lately as a catch-all term for the schadenfreude of hearing about the unending economic plights of others, but I notice you’ve used the term quite differently as a literal porn subgenre about down-at-heel working class men taking out their monetary frustrations on each other. In my mind, you’re the embodiment of this subgenre — a warm, lumbering, picaresque gentle giant weathering the poetry of poverty and doing his best to smile as he soldiers on. Do you see yourself in that way?
I think you just wrote my new byline!
Opening photo credit: © 2011 Gabe Ayala from Rolling Blackouts. (Thank you Gabe!)
Visit Colby at bigshoediaries.blogspot.com
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