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I Went From Being A Porn Star to University Lecturer

Ruggero Freddi was lecturing in maths and engineering when a newspaper revealed he used to star in gay porn, sparking a national debate.

by Niccolò Carradori
24 November 2017, 12:46pm

Photo courtesy of Ruggero Freddi

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy

Ruggero Freddi is a 41-year-old maths graduate who is currently teaching Mathematical Analysis and Clinical Engineering at the University of Rome. Ten years ago, though, he was better known as Carlo Masi, a gay porn star with an exclusive deal at COLT Studio Group – an influential American production company that has been producing gay pornography for over 50 years. Until recently, this part of his past was only known to certain gay porn aficionados – his students at the university had no idea.

But in October of 2017, Freddi's past became public after Italian newspaper La Verità published a still from one of his films on their front cover. That cover sparked a national debate in the country, about whether it's appropriate for a former porn star to teach at a university – especially such a prestigious one.

But the response wasn't only negative. Following the reveal, Freddi appeared all over Italian TV and radio, and in national and international publications – the story reached Vanity Fair and one of the country's largest newspapers, Il Corriere della Sera. He appeared on current affairs programmes and daytime television, which is remarkable in Italy – homosexuality and porn are often still considered taboo in the country.

Freddi used the fact that he was suddenly so in demand with Italian media to speak out publicly on LGBTQ rights – especially marriage equality – as well as the state of Italian politics and the education system. One of the country's most popular talk shows, Pomeriggio 5, invited him to be a regular guest on the show, to comment on news and culture issues. Despite all the attention, his academic work remains his main focus, and after a short break from teaching, he recently returned to work at the university.

I called Ruggero Freddi to find out what it was like to suddenly be thrown into a national media storm for his past as a porn star, and if it changed his relationship to his students at all.

VICE: Hi Ruggero, what was that moment like, when everyone found out?
Ruggero Freddi: It was a mess. From one moment to the next, my phone didn't stop ringing – everybody wanted an interview. It was very stressful, but I tried to be kind and reply to everybody who got in touch.

How did it all start?
A lot of people think it started with the article in La Verità, but it had been building up on social media for a while. Some students posted about their "muscular professor" on a Facebook page related to the university – by which they meant me. That post got loads of comments, and eventually someone recognised me from one of the porn films I was in. The thread continued to grow and it was eventually picked up by a bunch of gossip websites.

You recently went back to teaching. What was the reaction among your students like?
It was fine. Sure, a few rude people pointed and stared, but I just ignored them. I've received a lot of support from my colleagues and my supervisor, too. Mostly, people tell me that they appreciate that I've communicated a positive message throughout all of this.

Did you discuss it with your students at all?
No, not at all. I only talk about maths with my students. But I am working together with the university to try to organise conferences on LGBTQ issues and HIV awareness.


Watch: 10 Questions You Always Wanted to Ask An Alternative Porn Director


How did you originally end up in porn?
It was pretty random. I had always been a fan of the work of COLT – not only because they're pioneers in producing gay porn, but also because they've always championed sexual liberation. Their scouts had come across some pictures of me online, and got in touch. I was flattered and said yes to doing a soft-core movie that would only involve me doing some foreplay. I wasn’t ready for hardcore porn yet – I had just finished my degree and wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do with my life.

Did you ever worry it would hurt your academic career?
No, not really. I always thought that if I returned to academia, my CV would speak for itself. And I was excited to try it out – I’ve always liked porn, and wanted to work with people and organisations that make an effort to change society's perception of sex. It wasn't easy at first, though. I initially had some moral issues with doing hardcore, but when I eventually did it, I quickly decided I wanted to go down that path.

How long did your career in porn last?
About six years – from the age of 28 to 34. I still feel a strong allegiance to COLT – I think it'll always be a part of me.

Why did you stop?
I stopped at a time when, professionally, things were going really well for me. But I had some disagreements with COLT and, being 34, I thought it was my last chance to start fresh and try a new career. So I did. For a short while, I tried to remain in the entertainment industry – TV, theatre, that sort of thing – but it didn't fulfil me. I quickly realised that I just wanted to get back to academic work.

Do you ever miss it? The working environment, the job itself, or the money?
I obviously miss the money and the attention you get when you're a porn star – being appreciated by fans, not having to queue for clubs, that sort of thing. But the industry seems to have changed. Guys I know in the business tell me that they feel that standards have slipped a bit – they think there's less care and attention for actors these days.

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