Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Don’t Make Porn Films 




T

here are no second acts in American life” noted F. Scott Fitzgerald, but
obviously he was wrong. Fitzgerald was writing about the idea of redemption—not,
as is usually assumed, dumb luck or chance coming around again. Certainly
American life, for some of us, is replete with redemption, especially if
you are in any way connected with right-wing politics. Mel Gibson can spew
anti-Semitic epithets and then repent and seek the guidance of “leaders”
in the Jewish community. Michael Richards (Kramer on “Seinfeld”) dealt
with his racist tirades by seeking counseling (not that he didn’t need
it). Married, with many children, Reverend Ted Haggard, while denouncing
homosexuality from his evangelical pulpit, carried on a several year “affair”—paying
for sex with a male prostitute—and, when discovered, took a two-week therapy
session to become heterosexual again. He lost his church, but regained
the trust of his congregation. Even Newt Gingrich came clean to Pat Robertson
and confessed that while persecuting Bill Clinton for his Oval Office shenanigans,
he was engaged in covert adultery himself. 


All of this is nothing compared to Matt Sanchez. In January this USMC reservist
and third-year Columbia University student complained about being mistreated
and called a “baby killer” by members of a campus socialist organization.
He soon found himself a darling of the conservative media establishment
who loved the idea that a member of the armed forces—and a person of color
at that—was under attack by members of the “cultural elite.” But the fame
was brief when the news broke on a gay blog (Joe.My.God.com) that a few
years ago Sanchez performed under the name Rod Majors in popular gay porn
films with titles such as

Beat Off Frenzy

(1994),

Jawbreaker

(1995), and

Touched by an Anal

(1997). And who can forget the inimitable

Glory Holes
of Fame

series? Sanchez also had his own escort service, charging $200
for at-home sessions and $250 for sessions at a client’s home. 



T

o Sanchez’s credit, he admitted that all of this was true—although he
fudged the timeline, claiming that his porn and hustling career was over
15 years ago. He denied that the escort ads (with his phone number and
photo) were his, claiming they were placed by an imposter. Not one to shy
away from controversy, Sanchez valiantly, and pointlessly, defended himself
on these discrepancies to a kind, but unrelenting Alan Colmes on the latter’s
radio show. 

Bronski-1


Sanchez claims that his porn work was just a job, that he is not gay, and
that he is now a conservative, patriotic Marine who regrets his past actions.
In a piece he wrote for Salon.com, he claims that porn “reduces the mind,
flattens the soul.”  He could be telling the truth as not everyone in gay
porn is actually gay (in the industry it’s called “gay for pay”) and people
change all the time. 



I

n any case, Sanchez seems to be enjoying his newfound public persona.
He has appeared on many TV and radio shows where he talks about his life.
He writes frequently on his blog about a host of issues. There is no chance,
however, that Sanchez will become the next William F. Buckley, as most
of his posts are naive, ill informed, and silly (on March 31, 2007 he wrote
about the transgender “menace” on television). In all likelihood San- chez
is a serial exhibitionist—porn was great for a while, now he is fashioning
himself into a conservative pundit with a backstory as an ex-porn star
and current Marine. 


So the hypocrisy here rests with the likes of O’Reilly, Sean Han- nity,
and Ann Coulter—with whom Sanchez had his photo taken at the early-March
Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where she made her infamous
“faggot” remark about John Edwards. It is interesting that they have not
yet denounced Sanchez. When they have spoken about him, it is with the
ring of redemption, although they have certainly not taken him in as a
comrade-in-arms. 


But it is also true that they have not grappled with the complications
of Sanchez’s predicament. The military’s “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy
may very well mandate that Sanchez be forced to leave the Marine Corps
he claims to love so much. A recent article in the

Marine Corps Times

,
while vaguely sympathetic, indicates that it might. It would be simple
and easy for progressives to say “good, who cares”—why should anyone join
the army—but keep in mind that, while the gay rights movement campaign
to get rid of the “don’t ask/don’t tell” is unfortunately implicitly pro-U.S.
military, it is also addressing the sometimes deadly physical and psychological
violence that open and closeted gay people experience in the armed forces.
 


But Matt Sanchez and his career in the Marines is really a side issue.
The more complicated question is how do we as a nation deal with the fact
that our elected leaders, people in the news, and even our heroes, often
act in embarrassing ways. The gay bloggers who excoriated Sanchez (and
Newt, and Ted, and Mel) have always held Bill Clinton up to a different
standard. Progressives are far more willing to understand and forgive Jesse
Jackson and Martin Luther King for their extra-marital actions than they
are to give Newt Gingrich a pass on essentially the same behavior. Certainly
in this context, Matt Sanchez acted moderately well—not denying his actions,
but saying that he regretted them—than did many others. 



S

ure, part of this is just a political game—progressives will revel in
Gingrich’s or Sanchez’s admissions and conservatives will continue to paint
Clinton and Jackson as evil philanderers, but that doesn’t really move
us forward. The once completely secure boundaries between public and private
have seriously shifted. We now understand that what public people do in
their private lives matters, just as we now have a far more lenient attitude
toward the folly of human behavior. This is complicated and progressives
are understandably driven crazy when former gay porn stars take the “high
road” of right- wing politics or when Gingrich happily commits adultery
at the same time as he is castigating Clin- ton for similar actions. 


In the end these continual back and forth retaliations are debilitating
and beside the point. All of these actions, not surprisingly, are sexual
in nature. Maybe it’s time that we stop pretending there is a traditional
standard of sexual behavior—invariably involving monogamy, “family values,”
not acting in porn films—on which we all agree and on which we insist on
judging public figures. There is nothing wrong with judging people on ethical
standards, but let’s apply those standards consistently, and to ourselves
as well. 









Z








 






Michael Bronski teaches at Dartmouth College. He is the author of


Pulp
Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps



(St. Martin’s Press).