Under the Posing Strap: The Real World of Muscle Porn
The tanned-orange young man on the computer screen looks quizzically over his left shoulder. He listens to mumbled off-camera commands. He shuffles his feet, appears uncertain, glancing right and left a little uneasily. He looks down at the floor and nods his head a few times. Clearly, he’s nervous.
I sit back in my chair and watch the screen intently. "Whenever you’re ready, boss," I murmur.
In the background, someone calls out cheerfully, "Okay, show time!" The uncertain kid on the screen suddenly morphs into a scowling, cocky alpha male. A cruel smile flickers across his lips. His eyes come alive. He tilts his head back, turns three quarters to his left, and raises a huge, meaty fist.
BAM! His 19-inch left biceps peaks impressively. He cocks his right thumb around the strap of the tiny skintight red posing trunks that barely conceal his manhood, then swivels around to the right, and raises his right arm. POW! He’s flexing huge double guns at me now.
Calmly, I start browsing through folders, looking for suitable music.
WHAM! The kid onscreen leans forward, taunting and daring me. His mouth is now open, his tongue hanging out. He goes into a ’crab’ shot, the daunting Most Muscular pose. Every vein pops. Then, the unthinkable happens. In the mirror behind the kid, a door opens, and the shambling studio general manager strolls in, wearing a headset, a clipboard in his hand.
The image jiggles and suddenly veers. Now we’re looking at a concrete studio floor. CUT! I see bare feet. I hear an angry voice, apologies, a slammed door, more camera drama, more commands. A few seconds of nothing. The camera rights itself, and the kid’s back, once again looking at me over his shoulder. He looks frustrated, now a little bored, but still game. He nods again, wearily, and starts over.
Meanwhile, I have found some suitable nameless rock ambient something-or-other music clip. I import it onto the soundtrack. I change the color of the image slightly, adding saturation and dimming the brightness just a tad. How about a vignette filter? I’ll think about it. I cut the offending intrusion from the Final Cut Pro timeline, move the footage forward, hit enter, and lean back in my swivel chair.
There’s another three hours of this start-and-stop stuff. Outside my open studio window, I can hear the hum of Sixth Avenue midnight traffic. It’s raining. It’s going to be a long night.
Welcome to the exciting world of editing online muscle porn.
I am an HD video editor. I edit muscle videos for online distribution. There’s a lot of paying fans in the virtual world that closely follow my every video update. I have seen my work pirated dozens of times on other websites and on YouTube. There’s competition from other muscle websites, the best of them well designed, cool and professional, the worst cheap-looking and, inevitably, harboring insidious computer viruses.
I have more than 4,000 music clips stored. I have built many websites from scratch. I author DVDs in DVD Studio Pro. I write breathless muscle copy. I keep my antivirus licenses up to date. I empty my own garbage.
I work at night so as not to disturb my neighbors with loud music, or the raw soundtrack’s grunts, groans, and shouts. If I wear headphones while editing, I’m likely to miss a blip of camera noise, an unwanted door slam, a cell phone ring tone, or worst of all, the director’s quiet instructions. One slip, one moment of real-world intrusion, and I get a terse e-mail with the request to re-edit. We want to avoid those. I’m not paid for mistakes.
Every few weeks I get Fed Ex deliveries of portable hard drives loaded with hours of raw muscle footage from new models. It’s my job now in this virtual office to supply online fantasies to three different private membership websites. One of the websites is G-rated, but the other two are adult and explicit.
The explicit stuff is so tame it doesn’t even qualify as vanilla. Most of the bodybuilders on camera are not professional adult models. They’re hopeful young competitors from all over the world, young big boys just trying to make a living. Sometimes, for an extra paycheck, they’ll do a solo masturbation scene. On occasion, not only is the explicit scene the first time they’ve performed sexually on camera, it is also their first video shoot.
It’s my job to make these guys look good. So how did I get here? Where did this new online adult entertainment niche come from?
The Muscle Biz
Ever since the early 1960s, brightly colored men’s physique magazines have been prominently displayed on magazine stands around the world, splashed with images of huge, grinning musclemen, often posing with adoring, bikini-clad, big-breasted girls in supplicant positions, gazing up at the god of the month with adoring eyes.
"Muscle and Fitness" publisher Joe Weider brought 20-year old Austrian Oak Arnold Schwarzenegger, under contract, to the United States in 1968. When Charles Gaines and George Butler released their book of photography on Southern California bodybuilders, Pumping Iron (1975) and the subsequent hit documentary (1977), a tipping point occurred in the gym world. Joe Gold had sold his small California Gym chain in 1970, but after the movie appeared, Gold’s Gym began to go global.
Whereas in the past gyms were largely confined to inner city YMCAs, new gym chains like Bally’s and World Gym sprang up, seemingly from nowhere. Formerly empty warehouse spaces were converted to weight-lifting gyms. Gyms appeared in strip malls, shopping centers, in city centers and along the highways.
After baseball legend Jim Palmer stunned the world with his "banana hammock" Jockey underwear ads, bodybuilders took the cue. The posing trunks worn by competitors onstage and in the magazines grew ever briefer. While in the 1960s and 70s, the bodybuilding business model previously had, at least on the surface, been all about promoting strength, health, personal power, and a vision of eternal youth, by the 1980s, as bodybuilding hit the mainstream, it became inevitably -- and blatantly -- all about sex.
Muscles had become big business. As bodybuilding grew into a popular national pastime, it was inevitable that gay men and women would find their way to it.
Celebrated gay icon body models like Joe Dallesandro and Peter Berlin in the 1970s made way for the bigger, buffer Frank Zane, Lou Ferrigno, Bob Paris, and Mike Mentzer, and, later, Mike Francois, Gary Strydom, Franco Santoriello, Matt Mendenhall, and Berry de Mey. Their looks spurred thousands of out and proud gay men into hours of grueling weight lifting, strict dieting, expensive supplements, and careful skin care.
It has been theorized that gay men in the 1980s, in response to the worldwide AIDS pandemic, began to show up on the gym floor in even greater numbers than they had ever before.
After all, bigger was better.
In the next two parts of this series, Bob Sanders looks into bodybuilding and gay men, and muscles in the Millennium - the nuts and bolts of what has become a lucrative online gay porn niche business.
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