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Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012

Where Are the Straight Asian Men in American Porn?

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In your "porn" experience, was there any deliberate attempt to exclude Asian males from being performers? Also, could you say if phalloplasty is common in American porn?

Since I have never worked in the porn industry, I consulted with the amazing Jiz Lee to answer your question. Jiz identifies as a genderqueer porn star (using the pronouns they/their) and as hapa, and they have had experience working with both independent and mainstream porn producers. In addition to being a personal crush of mine, Jiz has been interviewed and has blogged about the representation of Asian Americans in porn and has challenged stereotypes of all kinds in their own work.

Jiz replies, "Let's first confirm that we're talking about the same thing. First off, I'm assuming that we're limiting the discussion to pornography produced in the United States; for example, there are plenty of Japanese male porn performers cast in videos produced in Japan. Secondly, I'm also assuming that you're referring to heterosexual or 'straight' porn. There are a fair number of Asian-American men in gay porn, and though it's not as common, there are men who are tops and working as directors; for example, Van Darkholme, who is a Vietnamese-American gay-identified man. (I should also note that though [it's] a smaller niche, there are also Asian-American transmen in porn such as J-Bird, Christopher Lee and Steelhead Chen.)

"Asian men are often portrayed as asexual in Western culture. In general, it's difficult for most straight men to break into the porn industry, and it's one in which male actors tend to make a lot less money than their female co-stars. Furthermore, our culture favors professions in medicine and technology over pornography. So the few guys who choose to perform in pornography definitely challenge this stereotype. And in this century, we've seen some changes.

"In 2003, James Hou released a documentary, Masters of the Pillow, which profiles professor Darrell Hamamoto and his work to produce a porn featuring an Asian-American male in a film called Skin on Skin. (He ended up casting an Asian-Canadian actor.) Not long after, filmmaker Jeffrey Lei did a mockumentary on the absence of straight male performers called Dick Ho: Asian Male Porn Star, interviewing Mika Tan. Mika [is] a porn star and outspoken advocate for more Asian-American actors, who even self-funded her own film. Unfortunately, she's not had much luck pitching it to producers/distributors, who operate under the assumption that there's not a strong enough market for these men. One performer has been challenging this notion, however. The reigning king of Asian-American males is Keni Styles, a Thai dreamboat who hails from the U.K. Keni appeared on the scene in 2006, working in Europe and later moving to pursue work in Los Angeles. Of his work, I'd recommend PURE (which also features Asa Akira) and his starring role in the upcoming Bruce Lee XXX parody.

"Though the work I do is primarily independent pornography in San Francisco's queer porn scene, I have also worked for a few mainstream companies in L.A. (Digital Playground, VIVID, Evil Angel), and I've not heard of any deliberate attempt to exclude these men. I too was interested in the subject (here's a blog post [http://jizlee.com/wordpress/dick-ho-the-lost-footage/] I wrote several years ago ) and I think that since that time, we've started to see a shift in the perceived porn audience and influence in the marketing of pornography. I'd love to see Mika's film distributed and more beautifully charismatic men like Keni working in porn."

In terms of phalloplasty in American porn, I don't believe that it's common at all, largely because phalloplasty is currently an inexact science that does not produce very good aesthetic or functional results and also costs quite a lot. My guess is that you might be asking this to determine whether the size of male porn stars' man bits is natural or surgically enhanced. Just as Olympic athletes have exceptional physical talents that are far beyond what most of us possess, male porn stars often have penises that are well outside the normal size range of the average guy—that's why they get jobs in porn.
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