To witness Ron Jeremy have intercourse is to witness a grizzly bear eat a flamingo, or an orphan try to break into a vending machine. He is a manifestation of the grotesque male id, jamming fingers and genitals into every orifice at every opportunity, doing all of these things simultaneously, not making sense, not following some plan, just a man bludgeoning the human body with his sexual impulses. It is like watching a chimpanzee try to open the package of an Xbox controller.
You don't masturbate to Ron Jeremy having sex, because using a Ron Jeremy scene to masturbate is like using a volcano to barbecue—it’s probably healthier to stand back and watch it have its way with the innocent. For Candy Stripers 2, a 1985 film about a hospital and doctors pretending to look at pieces of paper, Jeremy won the AVN award for Best Supporting Actor. During an early scene, he’s sitting at a desk in his office while one of his nurses gives him a shoulder massage. They kiss and then he pulls away and scowls, as if he is disgusted with himself for being incapable of literally inhaling another human being. His breathing sounds like an 18-wheeler accelerating from a dead stop.
Women have always been the focus in pornography, with their exaggerated screams and contorted faces, because the male viewers who live vicariously through porn, eternally narcissistic and insecure, protective of their fragile egos, need the women to be Totally Loving That Cock. But Jeremy is central to his scenes. He is not, like most anonymous porn cocks, coolly detached or numb to the act; he is a strange loser, a figure we can relate to as he grunts and celebrates that he is having sex at all. There is no macho dehumanization; he calls women’s breasts “boobies” and their butts “tushies.” He says this to their faces, to the camera. He calls them “hunny” and puts a towel on the ground to protect their knees if they are going to give him a blowjob outdoors. He has a real, honest fascination with the female body. His eyes glaze over, bewildered, lustful, grateful that he is alive and this woman is alive and that he is allowed to touch her parts.
In Erotic Starlets 22, from 1987, Jeremy sits on a couch in a navy blue tracksuit next to Christy Canyon, who is wearing only a bra and underwear. When Canyon takes her bra off, Jeremy makes a face like he has witnessed the moon landing while on opiates, like he has come home to find Cleopatra playing Wii Fit in his living room. You could argue with great confidence that there has never been as sincere a human response to an event as Ron Jeremy looking at a woman’s breasts. You can say pornography is artificial and explicit and caters to our most septic compulsions, but Jeremy is not misogynistic or dishonest.
“Ron Jeremy, Big-Dicked Hedonist Icon” is a subject that’s been discussed over and over and does not warrant much reconsideration. But “Ron Jeremy, Devourer of Women,” revisited in the context of the porn you most recently watched, is sort of a revelation. Modern male porn stars are supercharged fuck robots, seemingly immune to the emotions and sensations normal people experience during sex—the act is just furious, constant, mechanical motion. Jeremy’s sex scenes are totally carnal, exposed, and human. He has to pull out every three minutes to strangle the base of his penis and tell the girls to stop bringing him so close to having an orgasm. Jeremy’s performances are unsexy and weird, but their dysfunctionality is captivating. He’s a shriveled man covered in back hair, glistening, hunched over, with a stomach so massive, so swollen and perfectly spherical it looks like his bellybutton is going to pop out and send him flying around the room like a deflating helium balloon.
It is nearly impossible to care less or show less of a concern with your public appearance than Ron Jeremy does. He wears button-down shirts with metallic flames on them and T-shirts for the spectacularly awful rock band Hinder. He dresses like someone whose house burned down and instead of money his insurance company gave him a gift card to Kohl's. He is built like Dr. Robotnik. He looks like a generic, slightly racist mascot of a frozen pizza brand. He is very obviously bald, but maintains the long, brittle, greasy black strands that hang down the back of his head like an animal pelt drying in a West Virginia cellar. He exists perpetually in a state of recently-divorced dad—shirt untucked, sometimes no shirt at all, always looking as if the room he is in is one he wandered into accidentally, but he'll hang out for a bit because he is out of canned beans and Wheel of Fortune doesn't start for 16 minutes anyway. He looks permanently covered in warm mayonnaise and old steel wool.
Male porn archetypes usually have one defining characteristic: black, or vaguely European, or “alternative” (wears flannel). But Jeremy is just a kind of lumpy, sweaty problem. Porn actors are aloof and indistinct, and most of them are just attractive enough that it’s conceivable that this woman would fuck the UPS guy, but they’re always innocuous and forgettable. They are an instrument, a tool. But Jeremy is so undeniably there, he is happening all over you, and you have to deal with it.
His Twitter feed reads like someone doing a vaudeville act on a cruise ship while periodically thrusting his erect penis at your grandmother. He sounds like a less manic Dom Deluise and speaks in sentences that are less sequences of words and punctuation than they are rapid hums of crass, recycled double-entendres. During a scene in Jurassic Cock: Old Geezer Massage with Jennifer White, who is Jewish, he says, “You know the difference between Jewish girls and a pound of Jell-O? Jell-O jiggles when you eat it. Let’s see if we can change that.” He is the XXX version of Henny Youngman.
He has endorsed hot sauces, skateboards, and male enhancement pills. He has his own brand of rum. There is a shamelessness, a willingness to debase himself and wring every cent and ounce of notoriety out of a wrinkled, fat man’s sexual prowess that seems so purely, triumphantly American. In a 1997 interview with Salon, he talked about hoping to eventually get out of the porn business. Sixteen years later, he appeared in something called Pee-Wee’s XXX Adventure: A Porn Parody. He has pursued mainstream acting, but his roles in movies and music videos are not so much characters as they are symbols of late-20th century depravity, of everyman triumphs and the possibility of dollar-and-a-dream upward mobility in this country. He can only play Ron Jeremy.
He is the down-for-whatever schlub, planting his face on everything, because he has no priorities besides sitting in this chair or fucking that girl. He has perfected the art of outward apathy and indifference. This is a Jewish man from Queens who named his brand of rum "Ron de Jeremy” and once showed up to an interview wearing crocs and sweatpants. He has smashed pretension as a concept into a thousand pieces. He revels in the improbability of everything he does. He is gross, he is naked, he does not care. We are still watching.
John Saward likes O.V. Wright and eating guacamole with no pants on. He lives in Connecticut. Follow him on Twitter @RBUAS.