I started writing for this fine-ass publication in 2003, about a year before executives from a previous owner started a naughty company that would later land them 93 little indictments. (Oops!) Maybe there was some extra sex in the air because of it all, but that time in general was a weird era. And I was covering weird shit.
Mostly here to write about the local music scene, I occasionally contributed to the front-of-the-book section called Sucka Free City to profile interesting people in San Francisco, including some very creative sex workers. It was really fun to meet and cover diverse people who were exploring beyond the limits of conventional sexuality, but I always wrote about their ideas from a non-participatory distance. I learned an awful lot, but didn’t put too much of it into my personal practice.
I wrote a lot of short club and concert previews each week, tackling the occasional longform music feature here and there — but when I did those, I preferred to find ideas that weren’t emailed to me by a publicist so I’d have something different from the pack. I was really excited when I learned that one of my favorite local groups, who had risen to international prominence, had actually gotten their start producing music for gay porn videos made in San Francisco. “What a cool story it would be to get some of those videos and discuss their early work,” I thought, naively. My editor agreed that it was something worth investigating, so I began in earnest.
One of the group members laughed when I shared my story angle. He told me that the songs were nothing to write home about, but he still hooked me up with the head of the video company, who was happy to provide me with the old movies if I came by the office. I don’t remember exactly where the company was located, but my mind conjures up an image of me visiting a tawny, Hayes Valley-esque office with ultra-tasteful design. A really handsome man with perfect white teeth was my contact. He handed me a bag full of VHS tapes and told me that everyone who worked at the office also starred in the productions.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t look at the titles until I got them home, where I could look at them in private with my personal peanut gallery. The videos were called Fistful Thinking and The Hole Punch, yet I somehow didn’t realize what sort of content they were going to show until my friend and I put one of them on and screamed. This is ignorant AF and please don’t @ me, but I didn’t realize the elasticity of the human ass until seeing it prodded with fists and fist-simulating power tools — and that’s not a euphemism. There were actual power tools involved.
I had only ever heard about some adventurous vaginas that liked to be fisted and had never thought a fist could fit anywhere else; I still have questions. I later found out that the company was a pioneer of making and marketing male fisting videos, so I’m guessing I saw the best of the best at the time?
I didn’t get very far in my viewing, because my eyes felt tender. The performers might have been enjoying what they were doing, but my butt started hurting in empathy. Upon reflection, the artist was right, the music didn’t hold a candle to their later recorded works, which have creatively sampled the sounds of items such as a preserved cow’s uterus, a washing machine, freshly cut hair, and the amplified brain activity of crayfish. I gave the tapes to someone more interested in the visuals, told the editor I didn’t have as awesome of a story as I thought I did, and asked to kill the piece. Years later, it still feels like a failure, but it also was a turning point in the evolution of my writing career.
The experience may have shattered my sexual innocence, but it also taught me that some ideas are better in theory than in practice — and to think thrice before pitching ideas to prominent publications, something which has led to producing stronger work. I suppose I have anal fisting to thank for that.