Web personalities have presence. Forget all the stuff you read about the internet deadening the social instinct. It’s rubbish. Marshall McLuhan was right, the internet is simply a gigantic extension of our nervous system. “Can you feel me now? Hi, nice to meet you!”
When it comes to Nightcharm’s new editor, Mark Adnum, well — his is a big presence. We’ve never met in person but for years — through email, Facebook and following his online ventures, I’ve experienced Mark’s presence, his distinct facets: Charismatic. Funny. Inquisitive. Smart.
He’s also steeped in a gay mindset that’s refreshingly anachronistic. Of another time. Which is to say, very different from the commodified gay male matrix we witness today. There’s nothing wrong with that world (if you like that sort of thing) but the same ole sameness gets boring. Mark is like an unruly antidote, sharp-edged and a bit subversive. Maybe it’s his Australian heritage; after all, the continent started out as a penal colony. Sometimes crime does pay.
I’ve tracked Mark’s online enterprises for years. Especially his cinemaphile-infused site Outrate, and his homo-confessional The Wishing Well (where men let it all hang out about their fantasy obsessions or fatal mistakes — broken condoms or hearts).
As a fellow publisher I’ve appreciated his efforts to keep creating in an economy of diminishing returns. 15 years on and many of us struggle to stay lucrative online. And I’ve also envied his perspicacity and successes, like the time he landed an ace interview with my favorite social critic Camille Paglia. The bastard!
So, no more preamble, let’s get to the yakking:
David K.: I’ve always loved your work on Outrate, and you’re the perfect guy to move into the editor’s chair at Nightcharm. What are your plans for the site?
Mark Adnum: I’d like to build on John Calendo’s legacy of observing the porn in pop culture and vice versa. I also loved how Shawn Baker’s encyclopaedic passion for gay porn covered everything except the actual porn. So in a way it’ll be more of the same, but with a heavy emphasis on the more.
I’m not American and I grew up in the 80s, so I bring a bunch of influences and interests that haven’t really been major threads on Nightcharm before. I want to introduce more sporno, more forgotten icons, more hotties you’ve never heard of. Readers needn’t worry about their regular trickle of smut, however, as I’ll be turning those taps onto full as well.
DK: So, I’m sorry, but you’re such a stud and I’ve gotta know — are you cut or uncut?
MA: Cut. And he did a really good job too.
DK: How do you see the role of porn in your sex life? I mean, is your preference for actual sex or for porn?
MA: Definitely porn. I was born and raised in a coal mining town four hours drive northwest from Sydney, so I cut my teeth (at least in my imagination) on the beefy blue collar blokes that surrounded me. I’ve never outgrown my tastes or fantasies since about age 16, and finding sex that tunes into that area for me is (almost) impossible.
DK: Well, that’s turning me on. Say more please!
MA: These are men that rarely shave — their face or any part of their body — and they slouch around in their work shorts and boots at the pub after a day of manual labour looking like they could really go a quick blowjob. They rarely shower either and if they do it’s only after their (lucky) wives or girlfriends have refused to give them head until they do. There’s an organic sexiness to them that you can really feel, especially when you have one of their dicks in your mouth and they’re calling you a cocksucking slut or, alternatively, when they cruise past you in their pickups, shirtless after another summer’s day fixing things by using tools.
DK: OK, so my monitor just melted! Should I press you for more, Mr. Editor?
MA: If you like, but you’ll probably get nowhere. I’m almost always more interested in thinking and talking about sex than I am in actually having any.
DK: Wow, that’s a buzz-kill. How do you mean?
MA: Well, let me give you an example. I was fooling around with this really hot guy once and he said that he had a harness. He got it out and started putting it on and I said “Oh, it’s kind of like putting on a bra, isn’t it?” I thought the comparison was really interesting but of course the night was ruined for everyone. Another time a guy put on some “raw” porn and I couldn’t really get into it because I’d just finished reading Tim Dean’s Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking and so my head was full of that. To ensure the mood was completely ruined, I launched into a verbal review of the book just as he was trying to kick start some action.
I’m just hopeless, honestly, and please let me take this opportunity to apologize to all the poor men who’ve had the misfortune to have attempted sex with me.
All of which is to say, the answer to your question is: Porn, definitely. And daily.
DK: I hear you’re an utterly devoted Barbra Streisand fan.
MA: You hear correctly. I’m so excited about Release Me, her new album of previously unreleased material drawn from her five-decade career as the world’s most popular entertainer. I wish she hadn’t chosen to tour again, though. The last ten years have not been kind to her voice, with both her liquid diamond upper register and her supersonic engine power both well and truly gone. Delivering most of her great standards in the spine-tingling fashion she’s made us all come to expect is no longer possible, not live anyway. The happy days where she could blow the roof off Madison Square Garden with the climactic notes of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever will never be here again.
DK: So it’s your basic Gay Diva Worship 101. But why Streisand for you?
MA: I’m very introverted and quite narcissistic so Barbra — who lives alone on Planet Streisand — is my Patron Saint. I think too that her comprehensive duality – she’s dainty but ballsy, omnipotent but insecure, beautiful but unattractive and so on — really appeals to people like me who always seem to be at sixes and sevens with themselves. She’s us, refracted in majestic superstar form.
DK: That’s an incredibly detailed observation, it makes me wonder if you do relate to many contemporary gay men?
MA: No, and I never have. I watch The Boys In the Band and think “these are my people” and then I go out into the gay world and everyone seems to be mouthing these mantras about same sex marriage or “woofing” at each other and I just feel like a complete alien. Hence, I spend a lot of time at home or at the cinema. However, I know The Boys In the Band by heart.
DK: It sounds like you don’t speak their language.
MA: I refuse to speak the contemporary vernacular and I can’t stand listening to it either. When I hear “power top” I just think of a sunroof, and “pig bottom” sounds like something from a George Orwell novel. I wonder if anyone still wears hankies? That was such a classier way of getting your sexual preferences across in shorthand. I have a light blue one, which I could wear on either side, depending on my mood and the other guy’s build.
DK: You’re taking me back in time 25 years or more — a time when AIDS was so much more present.
MA: Was? Please. HIV/AIDS is only more turbulent and omnipresent today than it ever was. It’s like the pharmaceutical innovations of the mid 90s changed everything and changed nothing. A continuous feed of information and resources on HIV has been in place for more than a quarter of a century now, but to what effect? Many men — of either status and across all age groups — engage with all things HIV in a very inconsistent way. Conversely, many others don’t seem to exhibit any real awareness of HIV at all. It’s such a frozen and surreal atmosphere, and I suspect a form of Stockholm Syndrome is at work.
DK: I suspect you may be right. What would you say to, say, a young 18 year old gay male just making his way into the world?
MA: I’m certainly not in a position to tell anyone what to do. And anyway, the distance between what gay guys say and what we do can barely be measured in light years, and I don’t exclude myself from that. I guess what I would I suggest is that history is fun, if only because it has things like Valley of the Dolls, early Falcon porn, and now, sadly, Gore Vidal in it.
Watch some Fassbinder movies. Read Camille Paglia. Have sex in a way that makes sense to you — don’t give into peer pressure. Discover the music of Giorgio Moroder. Travel. Visit Nightcharm.>