Paul Morris is the boss at TreasureIslandMedia (TIM) and has his name on hundreds of the biggest selling DVDs in history. One, ‘Dawson’s 20 Load Weekend’, was recently named the second most important gay porn film ever. Another is ‘The 1000 Load Fuck’ which has the distinction of holding the world record for the most watched scene ever.
From simple beginnings in San Francisco, Paul Morris has built the biggest gay porn brand over the past 22 years. TIM now has seven studios across the globe producing hit after hit. His fans are so loyal that they have the company’s logo tattooed onto their bodies at their own cost. That’s something which brands such as Apple, McDonalds, and Google can only dream of.
Morris started producing bareback films in the mid-1990s when HIV and AIDS were much bigger issues than they are today. He received death threats, bans, continual controversy, and was called a murderer and much worse. Nowadays the entire industry has copied TIM’s style and condom-free porn now accounts for well over 90 percent of the gay market.
Here Morris talks to Paul Stag about how TIM started, the highs and lows of being in porn, and where the industry is heading.
How different was it making and selling gay porn in the late 90s, and how does it compare to today?
Porn has always been the most agile industry, negotiating radical changes in technology, medicine, and social turmoil. Fortunately, this means the genre is in no danger of diminishing in impact or expression. Unfortunately, this opens the door to people who are only interested in money and fiscal growth rather than having a deep, sincere, and vested attachment to the deeper meanings and roles of porn.
To many you are an industry pariah, the poster boy for irresponsible sex. How tough has it been?
I guess the low point for me was the fifth or sixth year of being in business. I was receiving death threats at the time – you get used to those pretty quickly by the way. At one point I was advised by the cops to move as the threats were coming to my home. The positive aspect was that I spent a few years living in hotels, which I loved. I think when you look back on difficult years, it always turns out that they were also in a strange way the happiest years.
How did you discover the biggest bareback star of all time, Dawson?
He discovered us. I’d made a movie called ‘What I Can’t See’ which was the first to feature a tremendously slutty bottom wearing a blindfold so he couldn’t see any of the men fucking him. I remember the shoot was wonderful – there was so much lube and sperm in the room that my camera kept slipping out of my hands.
Soon after it was released, I received an email from the guy who became Dawson. The email said that watching ‘What I Can’t See’ was his first experience of knowing that he wasn’t alone, that there were other men who loved taking loads as much as he did. He wanted to be in porn but wasn’t sure about it. I encouraged him to hold off and think about it more. In general, if a guy isn’t sure, I tell them to take plenty of time before plunging in. It can be a life-changing experience, and even the most committed cumslut is a man with a life, relationships, a job, a family, and so on. This must be considered seriously.
He thought about it for well over a year. To be honest, I’d pretty much forgotten about him. But then one day he wrote and said that he was now absolutely certain. Since he was on the east coast, I had him contact Max, and the rest is history. ‘Dawson’s 20 Load Weekend’ was all Max and Dawson. It’s a beautiful movie.
You have always been something of a rebel. How do you feel now that most of the industry has caught up with you and gone bareback?
The more people there are who are making porn, the better the chances become that the deep messages and meanings of our incredible sexual nature will be recorded and sustained. Unfortunately, most of the gay porn being made is very poor quality and has a terribly low level of true content. But that’s always been the case.
The fact that more producers aren’t using condoms in their shoots doesn’t change that. If I were to give any pornographer advice, it would always be the same: work harder, produce slower, and strive to represent what’s real and true rather than what you can just get away with. This work is crucial.
Let me be clear that when I say ‘pornographer’ I’m talking about the people who have made this their profession. I’m not nearly so stern with guys who produce individually or simply to augment their income.
What is the future of gay porn?
That’s a great question given the state of the world. At this point I don’t believe a thinking pornographer can in good conscience ignore the worldwide trend to the right. In the US it’s particularly vile and extraordinarily dangerous. Even just in terms of mass shootings, right-wing militants are generally terrorising vulnerable sectors of the population. So how do we – or should we – meaningfully express a sane and inclusive politics in our work?
Firstly, it’s important that gay sexpigs come to realise that they are – and they must be – a potentially powerful political force. Of course, this has been the case in the past and it’s gone very badly. Think of the homosexual movement that provided crucial support for Hitler, yet many of those men were slaughtered by him later.
As you know, I spend much of my time exploring the general terrain of gay sexuality and desire, the ways in which we use them to define and solidify our individual and group identities. And I’m very sad to say that we are in the middle of an enormous upswing in sympathy for, and even allegiance to, fascism. Bruce La Bruce has been commenting on this for a while now. While I disagree with him on the general nature of fascistic expression in erotica and porn – he errs by defining particularly worshipful camera angles as being inherently fascistic – I think there’s a lot to what he says. There are too many similarities internationally to Weimar Germany – a riotous socio-libidinous groundswell co-extant with sustained right-wing pushes and the relative poverty of the masses for instance – for us to ignore.
If I were given the task of educating young gay men on the important lessons to be gleaned from their own history, I’d have all of them study the life of Ernst Röhm. He was commander of the Sturmabteilung (SA) which translates to Storm Battalion. The SA were a horde of around three million alienated and impoverished German youth-thugs. In terms of the erotics of homosexuality, it could be argued that he was the most successful gay male of the 20th century. But his awful life is also a strong lesson about the absolute self-destructive stupidity of a homosexual favouring, or even fetishising, fascism in any form.
This repulsive eroto-worship of fascism – which is perhaps most insidiously represented in Tom of Finland’s work – dovetails with the myth of the ‘alpha male’. Let me just say this outright: there are no alpha males or beta males. As human beings and as gay men, we are infinitely more complex than that. The notion of any male somehow equipped physically or emotionally to be dominant over others is utterly ludicrous. And I mean ludicrous in both senses of the word: it’s folly and it’s an idea useful in sessions of play, a role for a purely situational realization.
And yet I find now, more than ever, gay men buying into the fantasy of alphas who are variously defined as such according to the size of their muscles, their cocks, their balls, and so on. None of these absurd distinctions have any actual merit whatsoever in the real world. Not one of the men I’ve known with big muscles, big dicks, big balls, big whatever – not one has stood out as anything other than a complex gay male, neither alpha nor beta nor any other kind of primal social ranking. And I speak from the truly vast experience of a hyper-sexual lifetime.
That leads me to think that one aspect of new pornography that needs to be nurtured is the enhancement of general awareness among queer sexpigs of their true nature. The power and responsibilities of their political presence. This can’t be done in a way that preaches or dictates obviously. Look at the disaster that was pro-condom porn. It must be honest, direct, and above all, real.
Emma Goldman said something like: “I don’t want to be part of a revolution that doesn’t allow dancing.” As queer sexpigs, we don’t want to be part of a general movement that doesn’t privilege sexuality, fucking, sucking, and the encouragement of the in-depth exploration of the particularities of our desire-world, of our actual nature. That has to be central, a demand.
This will be a hard pill for most straight folk to swallow. They feel easiest with us if we marry, settle down, raise children, and pay all our bills and mortgages on time. That, of course, is utterly unacceptable.
As sexpigs we are wild, nomadic, experimental creatures of the Id. We follow our sexual natures because that is the core of our identity and a primary source of our happiness in life. This can’t be compromised or sold out.
Does porn set an example that fans truly copy?
Not if it preaches. Then it tends to annoy and repel – witness 99 percent of the anti-bareback porn over the last several decades. Trashy shit.
On the other hand, the most porn can aim for is simple and straightforward veracity. What men copy from porn is one thing and one thing only: that which they recognise in themselves. In this sense, good porn can be seen – and used – as a finely-tuned social barometer. This was certainly true for the work of great pornographers like Wakefield Poole, Brad Braverman, Peter de Rome, or Steve Scott.
I tend to think of gay pornography as akin to cartography. We are involved in the massive project of mapping the vast terrain of male-male desire and sexual practice. If you go back to early maps, they show things like the edge of the world, a continent of demons or monsters, and so on. Most gay pornographers today, unfortunately, produce porn that resembles these ancient maps. They are purely unreal, purely based on ignorance and a lack of direct experience.
Regrettably, I’m talking about many of the well-known people who are currently producing. And while I won’t say that fantasy and silliness can’t occasionally be refreshing and entertaining, we also deserve the more serious work as well, the pornography that maps behaviours and practices accurately and honestly. We deserve this and we need it.
Is the HIV crisis over?
Absolutely not. So long as gay and queer men rely on big pharma for their health and wellbeing, and so long as big pharma is focussed on obscene profit rather than the well-being of the people, the crisis is just eclipsed but not over. Remember that Gilead, the big pharma company that produces PrEP, is owned by truly terrible people. For example, major stockholders of Gilead are George Schultz (Nixon cabinet member and executive at Bechtel) and Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defence under George W. Bush and a proponent of torture and generally evil man). These are the men who own HIV and make obscene profits from PrEP. While ever people like them profit from HIV, the crisis is far from over.