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The Incredible Story of 'Passio,' the Gay Porno Starring Jesus

The 2007 film was billed as a "cockbuster jam-packed with unrepentant religious ecstasy."

ByMark Hayillustrated byLia Kantrowitz

Photo collage featuring film stills of Passio.

While the life and teachings of Christ are the root for some people's sexual hangups, shockingly little of it is explored in the realm of porn. Although the industry thrives on low-hanging fruit, parodying popular narratives and pushing big, shiny taboo buttons, what exists of "the greatest story ever told" uses Christ in limited, deracinated capacities. For example, in Him, the lost 1980s gay porn about the Son of God’s sexual self, Jesus only shows up as a figure in a lustful young man’s fantasies. More recently, 2015's In The Flesh features a man who is clearly Jesus returning to the Earth to preach a new gospel of sexual indulgence (“go fuck yourself!”), but he's only skittishly referred to as “Aman.”

It's easy to understand why even pornographers might pull a few punches when it comes to sexing up Jesus. On one hand, earnest, mainstream artistic projects depicting a sexual and explicit Jesus have been violently attacked by perturbed believers. On the other, there may not be much demand, the core force that truly drives porn productions. "Jesus porn" isn't a key search term at times when one might expect it to spike, like Easter or Christmas, meaning it's safer and likely more profitable to just lean into, say, Easter Bunny or Santa smut.

But while Jesus porn, especially explicit and biblically grounded content, is shockingly rare, Rule 34 remains true (for now at least). Which is to say, there is at least one notorious professional hardcore porno about the life of Christ. In 2007, a recently formed gay porn studio, Dark Alley, released Passio, a "cockbuster jam-packed with unrepentant religious ecstasy."

Art by Lia Kantrowitz featuring film still of Passio

The film opens on a rooftop in LA. Surrounded by candles, a man in a toga writes "Passio" on a laptop. The screen indicates it's a new gospel.

The laptop screen bridges four vignettes that open basically right before the sex begins. The first features two disciples before the cross—supposedly post-crucifixion—who show their respect, then fuck on a bed in front of it. The second sees Pontius Pilate topping Caiaphas, the high priest who supposedly conspired to kill Jesus. Next is the Last Supper, opening somberly, but pretty quickly moving into the disciples sensuously feeding each other over grapes and bread (and bagels, for some reason), until suddenly everyone's clothes pop off as if by magic—a jump cut—and they all start fucking in a free-for-all gangbang. The final scene features a priest whipping Jesus on the cross with a leather flogger. He then starts to worship Jesus's cock, with a bit of light ball torture mixed in. Soon after, he unties Jesus, who immediately leaps down off of the cross and begins dominating the priest. This ends with a cumshot on the ass/back of the priest.

Basically, the film depicts key scenes from the life of Christ, like the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, and finds some pretense to turn them into hardcore fuckfests. Passio garnered serious attention in outlets like The Stranger, but most of the commentary was fairly critical, painting it as a shameless attempt to rile up religious conservatives in a way that could potentially send dangerous backlash towards the wider gay community. (Devout Christians, on the hunt for any attempt to make a gay porn film about the life of Christ since a 1984 chain letter emerged claiming one was imminent, seem to have ironically missed or ignored the film entirely.)

Was Passio just a flagrant attention-grab from the same studio that brought the world, also in 2007, such openly provocative titles as Gaytanamo? This Easter, I caught up with two of the individuals behind the film, director Matthias von Fistenberg (a pseudonym) and Dark Alley owner and producer Rob Felt, to ask them exactly how Passio came to be and what they meant to achieve with it. These are their words:

Matthias von Fistenberg: The idea came from my frustration with hundreds of years of art. I love Renaissance art, how it is very sexy, except for one topic: Jesus. When you see Jesus in art from that period, you see attempts at sexualizing the body, but they were tiptoeing around it. I always thought we should just make him sexy. You cannot draw people in with only suffering and pain. You need something people can connect to on a subconscious level, which is sexuality.

There was no particular trigger [that led me to turn that idea into a movie]. It just hit me one day. I felt like: Enough tiptoeing around the subject. I want my Jesus sexy! That’s it. I called my partner because I knew we had a shoot that weekend and it wasn’t particularly defined. I said, “OK, we need 50 meters of fabric and lots of bread. We’re going to do the Last Supper and the Jesus story. We’re going to show that it can and should be like us. It should be sexy. It shouldn’t be miserable.”

Since Jesus was a mythical person, we can all imagine what he looked like. So I thought it would be a good idea to put our spin on the classical story [laughs]. I felt like we were in the best position to sexualize it, because we were porn producers.

Rob Felt: When you’re an upstart, under-funded porn company, you can’t do things on a big scale, but you certainly can afford two pieces of wood and some rope to make a cross, and some pieces of cloth. So it basically came from figuring out what we could do with the resources that we had, that could get our name out there into the world. That was the commercial aspect of it. It’s an attention game. You’re trying to get a brand going and doing things that get a lot of attention.

Von Fistenberg: I didn’t write a script. The Bible is full of stories that lend themselves to reinterpretation, but the Crucifixion and the Last Supper were the easiest targets because they’re the most somber and holiest. So these are the scenes we went after. There is an element of violence or masochism in the scenes on the cross, whipping Christ, and such things. So we played with additional S&M undertones: The priest whips Christ. Then Christ comes down off the Cross and rapes the priest. It was a crazy spin on things that I thought were going to be completely wrong. But at the same time, I was going to make it sexy. You’d watch it and feel disgusted by it, but also turned on because it was done with super-hot models, and obviously they’re having fun.

We made it in New Jersey. Religion is a little less intertwined in life there than in Europe, [Note: von Fistenberg is Polish], but we got a little pushback from people on set. They felt like it was something we shouldn’t really be doing. Many people had a slightly distasteful look on their faces.

Each element of it felt forbidden. But each time I felt that, I felt more like: OK, we should do this. And everybody went with it… Everybody understood it was a crazy idea. Some people thought it was going to be a huge flop, a waste of money, but they needed the model fee. On another level, maybe the idea seemed so crazy that people thought, “Oh, maybe it’s going to be good.”

Felt: To promote the movie, we worked with a well-known promoter in New York. He did a gay pride parade in New Orleans where he had this model—not the model from the movie, because he was from Europe—who walked the parade carrying the cross. He recreated, like, this scene out of The Passion of Christ, but it was to help us promote this film. The Jesus tradition is so rich with symbols that there are many promotion avenues you can go. And Easter comes around every year...

Von Fistenberg: We tried to just have a few bloggers write about it. And they did. We had a news agency in Italy, who thought it was valid to cover, too. They spun it as distasteful, like, "American pop culture: Look what they’ve done now." Still, I was happy to see it taken seriously. When you make gay porn, x number of scenes are made everyday and nobody really cares. But making something like this, for me, was a real effort. I tried to be serious when making the film, even though I didn’t expect to be taken seriously. That someone did take us seriously meant that we touched something that resonated.

Felt: We had high DVD presales. People were curious to see the film. But our main streaming partner, usually they put our movies on the front page, and they wouldn’t put this one on the front page. A guy who worked for the company later told me the owners said, “I know we’re selling porn here, but we have to have some morals, right?” I was surprised because on the front page you see, like, I Fucked My Stepmother. In this industry, we’re not the moral safeguards of the world. We’re here to press buttons and push boundaries. So it’s interesting when you find them.

I remember as a teenager reading things like, "We’re going to march on Washington, but no drag queens or guys in leather because we want to look like respectable, tax-paying Americans." The reality is that respectability politics has never gotten anybody anywhere. It’s a stupid argument that gets dusted off anytime anyone gets uncomfortable with something another gay person is saying.

We’ve been having that argument in the queer community for, like, a gazillion years. And the bear never got poked. I don’t think that’s what we were trying to do… We might’ve gotten one email, but nothing that sticks in my mind. When we did Gaytanamo, we certainly got more.

Von Fistenberg: We got a lot of followers out of the movie. But, no sequels. I think I got it out of my system. I proved the most sacred topics can be portrayed as flesh-and-blood sexy, not just pain and suffering. That was it… I’m not crucifying anybody on video now [laughs].

Felt: When you experiment, play with these things on the edge, for the most part, your customers don’t care. A lot of the times, they see it like, “Why are you gratifying your urges to do this stuff rather than just giving us what we want?” They’re clear with what they want. It’s not experimental stuff. So with projects like Passio, we were just amusing ourselves—otherwise we’re just in this creative vacuum that is pornography, which can be infuriating if you have any kind of creativity.

But the industry is not based on films so much anymore. Our space to do these things is limited. We haven’t given up on that as part of our mission, if you will. But we don’t have any plans to do anything like Passio: The Second Coming. Which would be the obvious title.

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