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Will Social Media Pressure Stop the Gay Porn Industry from Hiring Racists?

The outcry following the debut of a model with Nazi tattoos may be a sign things are changing for the better.

Zachary Sire

Cameron Diggs, whose body art includes symbols affiliated with white supremacist groups. Photo courtesy CockyBoys.com

Warning: Most of the links in this post lead to NSFW things.

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Other than a bat mitzvah, gay porn is about the last place you'd expect to see someone tattooed in symbols affiliated with white supremacy. Yet gay porn is exactly where you'll find Cameron Diggs, a Dallas-based male stripper and gay-for-pay porn actor whose torso is drenched in tattoos, several of which are symbols popular among white supremacist groups.

Upon the release of a scene for San Francisco-based gay porn studio NakedSword last April, commenters on gay porn blogs (including industry news blog Str8UpGayPorn, which I've been the editor of since 2013) excoriated Diggs for the tattoos—specifically the Iron Crosses on his chest and the SS Bolts on his hips, both of which are classified as hate symbols by the ADL. (Disclosure: I was employed by NakedSword as a blogger and screenwriter between 2010 and 2013.)

Despite the backlash, NakedSword (the company for whom Diggs filmed the majority of his scenes) continued to promote his work, as well as a live appearance in Chicago at an industry awards ceremony last May. As the controversy continued to grow, neither NakedSword nor Diggs responded to multiple requests for comment on the tattoos' significance, or lack thereof. It was entirely possible, of course, that Diggs wasn't a racist at all, and the tattoos were just a very unfortunate coincidence. The Iron Cross, for example, is often used in surfing and skateboard culture in a completely non-racist manner.

But then, on or around July 13th, NakedSword suggested to Diggs that he could issue his own statement—by way of a comment on a Str8UpGayPorn blog post—to "clear his name," as NakedSword's publicist told VICE.

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"I believe people should want to be proud of who they are and where they come from," an account using Diggs' name wrote on Str8UpGayPorn on July 14th. "I feel like we are suppose [sic] to continue our race and our culture. [...] When it comes to having kids, I prefer to stay inside my race. It's nothing hateful towards any race, it's just what I believe. Why is that so wrong? Does that make me a racist?"

Hours after the remarks were published—which were not run by NakedSword first, the studio's publicist confirms—porn studio CockyBoys removed a Cameron Diggs scene that had been on their site since mid-May.

"We removed Cameron's scene after reading his response," CockyBoys director and CEO Jake Jaxson told VICE. "His statement does not represent the basic values of mutual respect and acceptance that is the mission of CockyBoys."

On July 25th, NakedSword abruptly canceled the release of a Diggs scene that was scheduled to go live the next day, even after it had been advertised for months as the grand finale to the studio's "International Playboys" series. NakedSword still refuses to comment on Diggs, his tattoos, his remarks, or why they pulled the scene (the studio's head of production, Pam Dore, would only tell VICE that she was "out of the office" when the decision to cancel the release was made). Diggs did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Cameron Diggs. Photo courtesy NakedSword.com

In the past, scenes featuring gay porn stars who have committed statutory rape and even murder (Mike Dozer and Sean Cody's Addison, respectively) have not been pulled down from studios' websites, even after news of their convictions spread. And in my nine years of reporting on the gay adult industry, a studio (let alone two studios) has never removed or canceled content due to a performer's personal beliefs—that is, until now.

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So, what made Diggs special? White men with sexual "preferences" working in gay porn is nothing new. But thanks to social media and industry blogs, those "preferences" are being exposed, shared, shamed, and retweeted to such an extent that studios can no longer pretend to be oblivious.

In his Str8UpGayPorn comment, Diggs wrote "I prefer to stay inside my race." Last June, model Paul Canon tweeted "I am not sexually attracted to colored people" and "im [sic] attracted to beautiful people..if that cuts a certain race or type out, then so be it..neither [Canon or husband and fellow gay porn model Damien Kyle] is racist" this June. When asked to clarify his tweets, Canon emailed the following to VICE: "How about you go do your research..ive [sic] worked with models of just about every race." And he may be proof that the industry hasn't changed as much as one might hope—since his controversial tweets, Canon hasn't lost out on any work. He's been hired more, and only become more popular.

Sexual "preference" is a widespread and increasingly visible problem within the gay community at large. As Gawker's Rich Juzwiak wrote about the issue this July, "discriminatory attitudes shared openly on Grindr and similar hook-up apps are often explained away with the attached caveat of 'sorry—just a preference,' as if to imply that sexual preferences are immune to the influences of society at large."

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"'Preference' can be a way of conveying thoughtlessness," Juzwiak continued. And the prevalence of blatantly discriminatory language and attitudes within the gay community takes on added weight when considered in light of the brutal HIV epidemic among men of color who have sex with men. As Juzwiak noted, this February, the CDC projected that one in two black men who have sex with men (MSM) and one in four Latino MSM will acquire HIV within their lifetimes.

Studios can no longer afford to pretend to be oblivious. If they do, they risk being labeled just as discriminatory as the models they hire. A handful of studios have had longstanding policies in place to not hire models who refuse to work with models of different races. One of them is GuysInSweatpants, an independent studio launched in 2013, run by owner and performer Austin Wilde.

"It's happened once, and [the model] wasn't booked after he requested 'no black or Asian guys, please,'" Wilde told VICE. "Had he made that request once already booked and flown out, he would've been sent home."

Jaxson has had similar experiences booking models for CockyBoys.

"I've had performers tell me that they're not 'into' black guys. More often than that, I hear guys say they don't want anyone 'too gay'—which I find just as offensive," Jaxson says. "In both of these instances, I won't consider that performer any further."

Whether or not the example made out of Cameron Diggs will prevent those with similar attitudes from becoming gay porn stars is yet to be seen, but veteran performer Diesel Washington—who's been calling out discriminatory gay porn stars for years—is encouraged.

"I know the guys over at CockyBoys and NakedSword, and I knew they would quietly do something about the situation," Washington told VICE. "I don't think this will weed out all of them, but it will slow some of them down."

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Two weeks ago, Washington took to Twitter to cite every recent example of racism he's seen in the industry, which extends far beyond a single performer like Diggs. Having worked in gay porn for nearly 10 years, Washington has seen firsthand how the industry has failed to evolve on racial issues, and he's almost always the only model in the gay porn industry willing to speak out publicly.

"It's getting to the point where models are almost blatantly pushing racist agendas," Washington told VICE. "Like, throwing it in people's faces on social media, and dismissing entire races. As gays, we should be more progressive than that."

The gay porn industry is one of the only places of employment where someone can attempt to dictate who they will or won't work with based solely on race. How is this possible? According to Jaxson, "Most gay porn is produced by straight-owned conglomerates, and 'gay' is just a small fraction of their overall business—so these kinds of sensitive issues largely go ignored and unaddressed."

Of course, if producers and directors aren't willing to reject racist models with "preferences," gay porn consumers—through comments on industry blogs and social media—will just do it for them, as they did with Cameron Diggs.

Zachary Sire is the editor of gay porn industry blog Str8UpGayPorn. Follow him on Twitter.

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