Gay-for-pay is an insinuative term used more commonly with male (and, less frequently, female) actors, pornographic stars, or sex workers that identify as heterosexual but are paid to act or perform gay professionally. The term has also applied to other professions and even companies with the same core concerns and criticism in place.[1][2] The stigma of being gay or labeled as such has steadily eroded since the Stonewall riots began the modern gay rights movement in 1969. Through the 1990s, mainstream movie and television actors have been more willing to portray homosexuality, as the threat of any backlash against their careers has lessened and society's acceptance of gay and lesbian people has increased.[3]

In the gay pornography industry, which uses amateurs as well as professional actors, gay-for-pay refers to actors labeled or believed to be straight who do gay sex scenes. Some actors who are actually gay or bisexual will be marketed as straight to appeal to the "allure of the unattainable", because straight men (or those newly coming out) are virgins to sex with other men, and "as in most gay male settings, the young, the muscular, and the unfamiliar are more sought."[4]

CriticsTemplate:Who object to the term because many people define sexual orientation by which gender one is attracted to regardless of which gender one has sex with. OthersTemplate:Who object to the term because it promotes internalized homophobia that being straight is more desirable.

Mainstream actors

A heterosexual actor who plays an LGBT character in movies, television shows, or theatre used to have extra attention paid to the possibility that they were themselves gay although that trend has diminished. This would apply to actors such as Queen Latifah (Set it Off), Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry), Dirk Bogarde (Victim), Eric McCormack (Will and Grace), Keanu Reeves (My Own Private Idaho), Matt Damon (The Talented Mr. Ripley), Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain), Judy Davis (Serving in Silence), Charlize Theron (Monster), and Mitch Hewer (Skins). In this sense, the "gay" part comes from the identity of the characters they play, rather than any explicit sexual act that the actors perform.

Many LGBT roles are purposely void of overt displays of sexuality that are commonplace for heterosexual roles. Often the "big gay scene" involves a lip-on-lip kissing or implied sexual coupling. One storyline from the popular primetime TV series Will and Grace centered on the two gay male characters protesting NBC for editing out the big gay kiss that had been promised.

Some in the gay community have criticized Hollywood actors and film studios for "whitewashing" the gayness of some gay characters. Will Smith, for example, was criticized for famously refusing to do any kissing scene when he played a gay character in Six Degrees of Separation which the sexuality was central to the story and plot. More recently, "playing gay" in Indie films (usually for lower pay) has become an opportunity for Hollywood actors to showoff their gravitas and acting range like Russell Crowe in The Sum of Us.[5]

Up through the early 1990s, when Tom Hanks played a gay character suffering from AIDS in Philadelphia, most Hollywood actors avoided playing homosexual or transgender characters for fear of being identified too closely with the characters they played. (British actors have been "playing gay" for at least a decade; e.g., Daniel Day-Lewis, Rupert Graves, and Jeremy Irons). More recently actors have been emboldened to take on all manner of roles including LGBT characters like James Marsden in the psychological thriller/AIDS drama The 24th Day and the ensemble drama Heights, Guy Pearce in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Clive Owen in Bent and Paul Rudd in The Object of My Affection.[5]


In gay pornographic movies, actors who identify themselves as heterosexual, but who nevertheless perform explicit sexual acts with other males on film (see Ryan Idol, Clay Maverick, Mike Branson, Jeff Stryker, Wolf Hudson, Peter North, etc.) do not face the same stigmas as the mainstream acting counterparts and indeed can rise quickly to being featured actors. These actors often play the "top" roles but this is not always the case (see Kristen Bjorn bio and some articles of Bel Ami models).

Female-on-female sex in straight porn does not usually carry the same level of stigma as male gay-for-pay sex. Indeed it is a strong fantasy subject so references to female porn actors as gay-for-pay are more rare.

There is a proliferation of gay pornographic videos with a story that features an ostensibly heterosexual male being seduced into a gay male sexual act. An example of this is Latino Fan Club, a film production company which specializes in producing amateur gay pornographic films in which pornographic actors are billed as "Straight Latino Street Thugs" appear to reluctantly have sex with one another. The video production company website also offers contact information for hiring these "straight" models as escorts and prostitutes.

People involved in the gay pornographic industry consider that some gay pornographic actors who identify as straight are not truly heterosexual. Because some gay men consider heterosexual men to be objects of fantasy, some gay porn producers have almost certainly described some actors as heterosexual to increase sales and publicity for their product.[6] Moreover, many gay or bisexual men who star in gay porn films may wish to be identified publicly as heterosexual for personal or professional reasons.

Some straight actors have started acting in gay porn (like Matt Sanchez) only to be accused of being gay while others first step was to strictly do solo scenes.[7] The higher pay scale and profile within a production often leads to group scenes where a straight actor only "tops". Many times a "top" actor will then be sought as a bottom and the debut is often treated as a notable event or even its own release.[8]


Most male pornographic actors are paid much less than their female counterparts in straight porn. Male porn actors, however, get paid more, on the average, in gay porn than in straight porn. There are also more opportunities to become a "star" in gay porn than in straight porn where the focus of attention remains on the actresses. As a response to criticism in the gay community, some of these actors (perhaps with the advice of their publicists) would sometimes claim that they are in fact bisexual although they are indeed "gay" for the money.

There is also a theory that some of the "straight" actors (such as Ty Fox) are actually closeted or bisexual and using their acting in gay porn is a legitimate career step which allows them to also experiment with their sexuality.[9]

Sex workers

In the sex worker industry, the term may also be applied to straight and bisexual people of all genders (including "male escorts") who have sexual contact or scenes with a client or another sex worker of the same gender. Although sexual contact is often involved, sex scenes or solo scenes (like masturbating to climax) or even a BDSM scene for the client's stimulation can take place. Sexual arousal without direct sexual contact may also occur in such niche trade like muscle worship. As in porn work, a gay-identity is not necessary to make money from a gay clients and consumers.

Go-go dancers

Go-go dancing originated in the 1960s and were eventually appropriated by burlesque and striptease establishments, which in turn became known as "go-go bars" but many gay clubs had male go-go dancers (called go-go boys) during the period 1965-1968. After that, few gay clubs had go-go dancers until 1988, when go-go dancing again became fashionable (and has remained so ever since). "Go-go dancers" that perform at night clubs, special parties, circuit parties or rave dances in colorful bright costumes (which may include battery operated lights), with fire sticks, or with a snake can also be called performance art dancers or box dancers. Large circuit parties and gay clubs often have very attractive go-go boys of all sexualities who will allow patrons to touch and rub them but only for tips. Some criticize the practice of employing straight dancers to perform erotically for gay audiences when gay performers are available.[10]

See also


  1. Phillips, James (September 19, 2006). Blazin Squad, gay 4 pay?. Pink News. Retrieved on 2007-10-19.
  2. Palmer, Brandon (September 19, 2006). Klixxx Home: Gay Webmaster Resources, Gay 4 Pay. Klixxx. Retrieved on 2007-10-19.
  3. Pew Global Attitudes Project (June 2003). Views of a Changing World (.PDF), Washington, D.C.: The Pew Research Center For The People & The Press. OCLC 52547041. Retrieved on 2007-07-11. 
  4. Leap, William L "Public Sex/Gay Space By William L. Leap, 1999, pg. 62" Retrieved on 2007-06-06.
  5. 5.0 5.1 von Metzke, Ross (September 21, 2007). Gay 4 Pay - Straight Actors in Gay Roles. Gay Wired. Retrieved on 2007-10-19.
  6. Template:Cite magazine
  7. Template:Cite magazine
  8. Template:Cite magazine
  9. McMillan, Dennis (January 27, 2005). Getting Behind Gay Porn Productions. San Francisco Bay Times. Retrieved on 2007-10-14.
  10. Musto, Michael (September 25, 2007). Hillary and Condi and Dykes, Oh My!: Plus items of purely prosthetic appeal.. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2007-10-19.

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