the rise of bareback porn: interview with robby mendez

interview. nivardo valenzuela

Over the past few years, there has been a rise in production and consumption of bareback porn, a genre of gay porn in which actors have sex without condoms, alongside a growing, more public and voiceful barebacking movement outside of the realm of porn. Over the last few months, there have been some studies and polls (see here, here and here) that seem to indicate a rise in HIV/AIDS cases in correlation with a rise in barebacking. In this conversation, Mendez shares with us some of this thoughts on barebacking and the intolerance it produces within the gay community, as well as his experience in the gay porn industry.

Vaffanculo Magazine (VM): You are a Korean-Mexican mix, do you identify with one culture more than the other? Why do you think there is a general lack of asians in the pornographic industry in the United States?

Robby Mendez (RM): I wish I could be more Korean, but the truth is that I was born in Mexico where I learned Spanish and I grew up in the US [which is] the reason I know English now. So I'm mostly Mexican, although I'm proud to be part Asian. I just wish I spoke Korean and knew more about that beautiful culture. I'm not sure why there are not that many Asians in the porn industry. I think [it] is more cultural than anything else. In my personal opinion, [it] sounds to me that they are not as open as we [latinos] are. I have seen so many beautiful Asian guys at my parties, but they are very shy. So guys come out and enjoy your sexuality.

VM: What do you find in a man sexy?

RM: Muscles, masculinity, a sexy face, sweet but strong and of course a nice package (porn ruined my life LOL). I don't really care about race, but I do love my latinos because of my culture.

VM: Can porn be art?

RM: I think porn is hot and extraordinary, there itself is art, of course art varies a lot. So it's up to the viewer to decide which studio has the best in art.

VM: What has been your relationship to porn? When did you start watching it? Please tell us about your beginning in the porn industry.

RM: I always have loved porn, since I was little. I remember I used to get magazines of naked men and hide it under my bed. I watched porn for the first time with my older brothers (straight porn of course) and it was hot. I used to dance for and I was asked to do a solo and then [some] videos for in 2004. Then I did another 2 scenes for Factory Video in San Francisco and after that I worked with Marco Paris for I just recently did a couple more scenes for and one for

VM: Where/from whom did you get most of your sex education?

RM: I got my sexual education mostly from friends. I did watch porn from a very young age, but I also knew the importance of condoms. We do need to be more open about it and know all the risks, after all, sex is a natural thing. Porn is just a fantasy and people tend to forget that.

VM: You've bottomed for several tops in the course of your career. What attributes make up a good top? With whom would you say you have had the best chemistry?

RM: Being a good top [is] boring at the beginning because almost everybody forgets that we need to open up before we start fucking like porn stars (at least in my case, it feels amazing, but it hurts every time). So tops, remember to get that dick all the way in and move slow for the first [few] minutes, after that you can fuck as hard as you can.

I think my favorite porn star is Antonio Biaggi. He's just so damn sexy and sweet. From the first time we met through, we clicked.

VM: Barebacking has a history of fear, shame and guilt in relation to HIV/AIDS. You've done some scenes with condoms, however, your body of work is predominantly bareback, what made you decide to shoot bareback? Do you approach barebacking differently outside of work?

RM: I have to be honest— It was a personal decision. I love the feeling. Plus, I only watch bareback porn just because it is extra hot and more natural to see bareback action. With that said. I also understand the risks and even if I do bareback porn I always promote safe sex and to [go] get tested often.

VM: For the most part, the straight porn industry has a well established and controlled system safeguarding against possible outbreaks of STDs and HIV (as documented in the New York Times article Unlikely Model in H.I.V. Efforts: Sex Film Industry), where performers are required to test periodically, every two weeks. Does the gay porn industry have a similar approach? How have the studios who produce bareback porn, with whom you've worked, handled this?

RM: The only thing I can say is that as a porn actor, I take care of my health and I get tested every month. I believe that all porn actors should get tested one week before and after every shoot.

VM: Some people correlate bareback sex and drugs (such as poppers and cocaine).

RM: I try to avoid any kind of drugs when filming or in my personal life. I only use [poppers] when I have more than a one hour shoot and only a few times. I understand that any kind of drugs are not good for my body (as a host of my parties and a public figure I need to be sober at all times).

VM: "The Internet Is For Porn", a song from the musical Avenue Q (maybe you've heard it) humorously draws the relationship between our online browsing habits and porn. An ExtremeTech article gives insight into the amount of traffic and data storage required: "Xvideos, the largest porn site on the web with 4.4 billion page views per month, is three times the size of CNN or ESPN, and twice the size of Reddit. [It also hosts over 100TB of porn.]" Another article noted that researchers have also found that 30% of all web traffic is pornography.

The internet also creates a problem of piracy and there has been some talk about a decline of the porn industry.

RM: As a Director and Producer I do not support piracy at all. I have seen my work in different sites and I have to send them emails to take them down. I believe all those free sites are illegal and yes, we do take our work seriously. So please guys do not share any kind of porn with anybody, support our industry so we can bring better quality videos and models. Right now I distribute my porn with the biggest online distributor

VM: With the profiliciation of homemade/amateur porn on sites like XTube, users for the most part showcase their videos for free.

RM: I support that, anybody who wants to do free porn should be able to do that. We as studios [aim] to provide the best quality in porn though, but do not take our work and put it on those website for free.

VM: You launched your own production company and website. Please tell us a little about what the process has been like.

RM: One of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I started my website in December of 2008 with a 720 HD camera, a simple host site and a Paypal account. After a year I got my ex-boyfriend involved and we got a professional 1080 HD camera, a professional hosting site by and the best billing company in the industry: CCBill. Now I got myself a new director (Logan Scion) and we just went to Las Vegas to film 4 scenes with Jake Knight and Santiago Figueroa. So my studio just keeps growing and getting stronger. I can finally say I went from amateur to professional.

VM: Lets talk about the gay community for a bit. Identifying as gay seems to be developing into more than just a sexual preference. Gay now encompasses a myriad of various stereotypes propelled by mainstream media. There is a growing movement called Gaybros, as defined by the founder, Alex DeLuca:

"Gaybro is someone who doesn't fit the narrow definition of what "gay" means as promoted by popular culture. In our group we have athletes, tradesmen, Soldiers, farmers, and everything in between. I like video games, paintball, sports... and people don't really expect gay guys to like any of these things. I think a lot of young men who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality feel like doing so would require them to change who they are, and that simply isn't the case. I created Gaybros to provide a space for these guys to gather and talk about shared interests and to break down stereotypes and promote the idea that you could be a gay man and still be exactly who you've always been."

It seems to boil down to an issue about masculinity, femininity and coming to terms with being gay. How similar/different are the persona(s) you create on screen and yourself offscreen? Do you think such movement or new label is necessary?

RM: Damn, that's a hard question because I don't really know how I act on camera. That's for my fans to comment about. I do know myself offscreen and I think of myself as a very down to earth guy, very sweet and loyal, dork, loving with my friends, family and fans. Every time I go out I make new friends. I do consider myself masculine, but sweet.

VM: There is definitely discrimination and intolerance within the LGBT community, at different levels. There are people and groups who are intolerant towards bareback porn and demonize the bareback scene. I know that recently you had a situation with such intolerance and hatred. Have you had any other similar experiences in the past? Why is bareback such a threat?

RM: I will always have haters about this issue. In the past I tried to talk to them, but they just blocked their minds to me, so now I just block them or ignore them. It's the way somebody approaches me that will make the difference to how I reply back to them. I do not waste my energy with haters anymore. True, our own community is so fucked up. I do see their point of view about bareback porn and bareback sex. But I believe that with education, guys will know and understand that bareback porn is just a fantasy and that bareback sex is a choice (barebacking comes with risk and we need to know [the risks]). Most of these guys are either suffering from not being able to do it, they have anger because they have HIV/AIDS or because they lost a friend, lover or a family member with AIDS. That is the reason I volunteer with charities such as Group Life LA, give money to AIDS/LifeCycle LA, etc to make guys aware, [for them] to know their status before is too late. I know a lot of guys who love to bareback more than I do, but they are afraid of getting tested. To those guys I tell them: Please guys, know your status before is too late. Love your body and your partner(s) and keep yourself healthy.

VM: You said bareback was a personal choice. Did you ever fear or have reservations about barebacking?

RM: Yes, always.

VM: Is fear what keeps people from barebacking?

RM: Fear will always be there for me, but its something I'm ok with. I believe there's a lot of people that practice sex without condoms. The only difference between them and me is that I'm open about it. I'm not sure about the rest of the world. I just know I take care of my health, I get tested often and if I ever have an STD I stop sex until I'm clear. Simple as that.