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Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Sex(y) Boy and Treasure Island Media

The controversial TIM poster
If you consider yourself the most controversial bareback porn company in the world, how to stay in the news?  How do you remain 'controversial'?  In practical terms this arguably means being ever more outrageous, more shocking and more scandalous.  A remorseless engine of filth and depravity.  Yet, rather like Jaws: The Revenge, there comes a point when things just don't work anymore.  It's a sequel too far.

I'm not sure we're there with Treasure Island Media (TIM) yet - they are a loved brand which continues to operate in the counter-cultural space of bareback sex - but the pressure is undoubtedly there to keep being controversial.

Yet, any such pressure could be ephemeral or indeed, misguided.  As long as legislators and judges keep seeking to use law as a tool to limit, and potentially criminalise bareback sex, TIM will be able to claim the role as counter-cultural icons.  Given the widespread practising of bareback sex within same-sex encounters, they are also able to be 'popular' counter-cultural icons.  A double win.

Moreover, simply being there and being the celebrated stuff of masturbatory sessions across the globe is not, and has never been enough for TIM (NSFW).  I was therefore fascinated to see them seek to associate themselves with another taboo act in recent weeks.  The taboo of taboos.  The big daddy of controversy.  Yes, inter-generation sex.

Legally defined typically as paedophilia when involving children, inter-generational sex remains the social horror of our time.  To label someone as a paedophile is to pronounce them socially and potentially physically dead.  They are transformed into the ultimate evil within society.  Our understanding of paedophilia is increasingly nebulous, encompassing someone who accidentally downloads a paedophile image alongside another who rapes a child.  Whilst we can accept that someone might want to watch The Sopranos and not seek to become a mob boss, Weeds and become a (fairly useless) drug dealer with cute kids or Hung and seek to become a wooden (in every sense) male escort, or indeed, even if we aspire to any of these things, we won't actually do it; we can not contemplate even curiosity around the image of someone under 18 years old.  This is is despite English law finding is acceptable to sleep with someone aged above 16 (shag 'em, just don't take a picture).  It is indeed a curious socio-legal landscape.

The original Edelfelt painting
Yet, despite this, I've been struck by the way in which social media - notable Twitter most recently - has enabled those aged below 18 and indeed, below 16 to express their sexual desires, arrange hook-ups and document their sexual encounters.  Similarly, uncertainty and fears are sometimes expressed.  In short, human beings and their complex sexual awakenings are laid bare.

Into this fascinating cultural maelstrom enters TIM, apparently deliberately seeking to play with the issue of age.

At the start of the month, TIM uploaded a poster on their social media sites promoting a new film release entitled Return to Meat Rack (it's a sequel but hopefully better than Jaws IV).  It depicted two boys playing with boats on a lake or by the sea.  The young boys and the composition evokes innocence, a deliberate counter-point to the function of the poster - promoting a film about men fucking.  To date, the postings on Facebook have resulted in 76 comments from TIM followers and fans with a mix of reactions but many are negative, suggesting that TIM have gone 'too far'.

It's through these comments however that we learn (thanks to one culture vulture fan) that the picture is in fact from Albert Edelfelt and a quick Googling reveals the picture to be dated from around 1885, an oil on canvas production and entitled 'Boys playing on the beach' (LeikkiviƤ poikia rannalla).  Interestingly, there is a third boy in the original picture (see above) who is edited out of the TIM composition.

An earlier TIM poster depicting a 'child'
None of this is entirely new however. TIM previously published rejected posters from years gone by including one allegedly of a young (rather affluent looking) Paul Morris, aged 8 on a scooter (pictured right).  The slogan - which apparently deliberately evokes inter-generational behaviour - states 'A Better World One Boy at a Time'.  Boy is one of those words that can be taken to mean a male child but which is also used extensively - especially in 'gay' circles - to denote a young male - typically twinkish looking which is to say slim, smooth, well errr, boyish.  A twinkly boy is OK to lust after, whilst a real one isn't.

All of which are broad points I've made before but it is TIM utilising the idea of age and hidden desire as a marketing tool which is fascinating and new.

They apparently believe - and I think they are right - that just as homosexuality, then bareback sex were desires which have had complex social and legal relationships, so too is inter-generational sex.  Put simply, they think that gay men probably quite like boys more than we'd care to admit.  Such is the history of claims that homosexuals were out to 'take your children' that once again a silence is imposed for social and political reasons within the gay community - and the point I accept at the start of this paragraph will be toxic for many.

Jackson Taylor
Yet, leaving that aside, there is the less radical, but perhaps no less controversial idea that children can be sexual beings.  This is the revelation that social media already offers to anyone willing to see it, and raising difficult social and legal questions about consent and contemporary domesticity.

Morris has a Flickr page (NSFW) where he uploads some wonderful images freely available to all those who pass through an age barrier.  What always makes these photos so engaging - at least for me - is the use of captioning.  This allow the viewer to be located in the moment and somehow lends greater power to the image.  Much as when we look at a photo we have taken or were present for, we add an inward dimension to the image - context and emotion  - so too, do these captions add something.  His latest model obsession  -and potentially hit - for the studio is a twenty year old man/boy called Jackson Taylor (pictured left).  Morris has uploaded several pictures of Jackson and he comments under one image: 'I said "I'm thinking of signing you on. What do you think?" He responded "If you get me fucked all the time, I'll sign the contract in blood." If you saw him at the next table in a restaurant you'd think he was the picture of innocence and naivete. But this boy is one of the most voracious sexual predators I've ever met. We signed the contract before he'd even put his clothes back on.'

In this and a number of other comments, Jackson is anchored as a sexual being of today. Seeing Jackson getting fucked in Manfuck Manifesto (see more here, possibly NSFW) viewers of TIM pornography are left in no doubt about that sexual status.  Yet, we also have Morris posting on his photos (under the Jackson image reproduced above) the following fascinating text: 'I asked "How old were you when you started fucking?" He said "I was four. I seduced the 12-year-old twins who lived next door." I responded "Precocious--if it's true." He looked at me like this and said "Believe it or not, but it's true." He's 19 and has an understanding of sex that's truly rare.'

So now Jackson is a sexual being since four, and moreover, a sexual predator since four.  There is no question that he is the abused, or the 'victim'.  Defining him as the predator, and Jackson using the term predator - to denote an encounter with older boys - locate him as the individual with power.

This photo on Morris' Flickr page was uploaded on February 12th but it wouldn't have been a total surprise to TIM fans who might have noticed this post (NSFW) on TIM's Island website (this evolved out of their blog) which appeared on February 8th.  It introduces us to Jackson and his story.  It states:
Born in rural Sicily a scant 19 years ago, JACKSON TAYLOR (born Giuseppe Bontade) began his career as a primo fuckisto at the tender age of four. “I knew what I wanted to do from very early on,” says Mr. TAYLOR. “Our neighbors in Sicily had a pair of twins—they were 12. They gave me my first experience, my prima apertura, my grand opening. The affair lasted nearly a year.” Forced to flee their native village by irate clergy and outraged villagers, Mr. TAYLOR’s family took their precocious son to America, land of the free and willing. “Once we reached the Land of Opportunity, it’s pretty much been a straight-up path to Treasure Island Media for me. Of course it’s been my lifelong dream.” When Mr. TAYLOR approached T.I.M., the welcome was warm. “I know genius when I fuck it,” quipped porn legend PAUL MORRIS. “This boy may be slight of stature, but his bunghole can take anything we give it.” When asked about future dreams, Mr. TAYLOR wrinkled his boyish nose, shrugged coquettishly and said, “I dunno… Donkeys and dogs, maybe! And I like cheerleading.” JACKSON seems to be on a mission to take every load in America. We’re not wasting any time helping him! Watch him getting plowed by Ethan Wolfe in his TIM premiere, MANFUCK MANIFESTO.
So, here we have the 12 year old twins again (yes, incest is subtly hinted at too) and then we move into a blurb that seems to have been written by someone who has spent too long watching bad daytime soaps.  It's hard not to raise an eyebrow or a chuckle at the 'forced to flee' section.  This does of course also serve to cast doubt over the whole story but true or otherwise, TIM are making use of it and as with so many things that TIM do, truth as a fixed permanent concept must be abandoned in favour of a postmodern framework.  In the final section of the Jackson blurb we move into the positioning of Jackson as boyish, with innocence deployed to denote youth.  A sex(y) boy clearly and, his media persona suggests, a slutty one at that.

TIM started 2011 with a determination to push HIV positive porn and that - to my surprise - didn't work out.  This year, they are not stating they re trying to push a new area of controversy but there can be little doubt that like the boys in the Edelfelt picture, they are dipping their toes in the water.  This is one to watch with implications well beyond the world of bareback porn.

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