‘Colby Does America’: A Queer Porn (R)evoloution
Colby Does America is a free, independent, anti-capitalist queer art/porn project. Pornstar and artist Colby Keller is creating unique pornographic films for every U.S. state (and some Canadian provinces). Each film involves different teams of volunteer actors, editors and directors, using $45,400USD of funding, attained via crowdsourcing site IndieGoGo. C.D.A. is ongoing, with 11 films online and others forthcoming. C.D.A. also has an e-mixtape, Instagram, and Tumblr – where fans’ contributions (.gifs, art, questions, comments) become part of C.D.A.’s intermedia.
With a B.A. in anthropology from UH and a MFA from MICA (alma mater of Jeff Koons, David Byrne) Keller breaks the industry stereotype of the uneducated, unaware porn model. Since 2004, Keller has featured regularly on major gay porn sites MEN.com, CockyBoys and Sean Cody among others. Keller considers the Internet “a revolutionary tool for distributing content” (Playground) with “no middleman, no arbiter of taste” (Scuglia 114) between porn audiences and distributors. Jiz Lee, another queer porn actor/academic, considers the Internet “an increasingly accessible – and commercially sustainable – vehicle for depicting alternative sexual expression that offers subversion, diversity and…artistic spunk” (273) not often seen in homonormative porn.
It may be jarring for some when scholars assert: “porn is a valuable and politically vital project” (Russo 249) but this fits with Keller’s perspective on his work:
“I wanted to make all the videos I create for Colby Does America free… To see what would happen if I gave capitalism the middle finger and just gave away everything, my worldly possessions, my labor and my body. To make it all available, for anyone who wants it…for free. For me this project, is another step in the direction of revolution. Maybe I will inspire others to give themselves away for free as well. Who knows?” (Playground)
Keller presents his films concealed behind flowers in a digital jardin secret, each state flower concealing a different pornographic experience, easily accessible but not easily identified. C.D.A.’s website also features an alternative form of revenue to crowdsourcing: the Whorestore. Objects used in the making of C.D.A. are resold at a high price, thereby allowing Keller to gain revenue by recycling equipment the project no longer needs.
C.D.A.’s films, realised by different volunteers are unique, with distinct methods of queering porn. For example in Colby Does Maryland, viewers experience how “extra-diegetic sound can be used to…re-signify a single [pornographic] film as art” (Mitarca 95). While Keller masturbates in a forest, a soundscape jumps between audioclips from Dark Crystal, Mitt Romney’s speech Corporations Are People, The Ricki Lake Show and the British National Anthem creating a tangential narrative of homonationalist rhetoric implied to be as self-serving and old-fashioned as retro-visual aesthetic it accompanies.
Colby Does New York employs experimental visual and editing aesthetics, playing with the continuity and sound. Day-Glo fetishwear and overlapping editing draw viewers into “a psychedelic sphere where sex is a colorful and exuberant experiment, but more importantly, sex is funny” (Colby Does New York).
When porn only provides “a limited view of what sex looks like, it can define and limit our notions of who has sex, what kind of sex they have, and, ultimately, what ‘normal’ sexuality looks like” (Lee 273) – sexual expression is inevitably normativised through repeated exposure to porn’s repetetive and restrictive conventions. Keller is breaking away from the mainstream, homonormative, dequeering pornography that he considers “very formulaic: We’re going to give each other mutual blowjobs, maybe the top will eat the bottom‘s ass, then there are three fucking positions, then they both come. Who in [their] right mind has sex like that?” (Keller, Vice)
Unfortunately, like any indie film project, Colby Does America will fail to impress some queer porn readerships due to budget-related limitations. C.D.A.’s diverse range of technical aesthetics is hindered by a lack of a matching level of diversity (of race, size/shape, gender, age) in C.D.A.’s actors. Queer porn has “the potential…to expand our conception of queerness and sex through diversified portrayals of marginalised bodies in an ethical, safe and consensual environment” (Lee 272). Non-normative masculine bodies: trans men, non-cis persons, and QPOC must be represented to avoid accusations of whitewashing.
With no financial incentive, Keller sometimes struggles to find volunteer performers, limiting how diverse C.D.A. can be. Keller, a cis white man has (thus far) mostly sexually interacted only with other white male normative cis bodies, which has problematic implications in a narrative where Keller is supposed to be ‘doing’ America.
Nevertheless C.D.A. arguably heralds “the end of gay porn as an industry, but also the beginning of what can be termed as crowdsourced storytelling” (Scuglia 116) in contemporary queer porn. Viewers are incited to consider a vital que(e)ry:
If a viewer redefined their definition of porn to encompass work like Colby Does America, would that choice in turn redefine the parameters of their own sexuality?
“Colby Does New York.” Colby Does America. 2015.
Keller, Colby. “Colby Keller Is the Marina Abramovic of Gay Porn.” Interview by Hugh Ryan. Vice. Vice, 5 July 2014. Web.
Keller, Colby. “Descubre Al Pornstar Comunista Que Se Está Tirando a Toda América [Discover the Communist Pornstar Travelling Across America].” Interview by Ignacio Pato. Playground Magazine. N.p., 27 Aug. 2015. Web.
Lee, Jiz. “They Came to See the [queer] Porn Star Talk.” Porn Studies 2, no. 2-3 (2015): 272-74.
Mitarca, Monica. “Voice-over, Music, Diegetic Sound and Pornography.” Porn Studies 2, no. 2-3 (2015): 272-74. doi:10.1080/23268743.2014.995952.
Levin Russo, Julie. “‘The Real Thing’: Reframing Queer Pornography For Queer Spaces.” C’LICK ME: A Netporn Reader: INC Reader Series, 2007, 239-53.
Scuglia, Benjamin. “The Last Days of Gay Porn.” Psychology & Sexuality 6, no. 1 (2015): 111-17. DOI:10.1080/199419899/2014/984517.