In the 80s, after meeting Leigh Bowery at Kinky Gerlinky while dressed as Minnie Mouse, Aiden Shaw went to LA, hooked up with Chi Chi LaRue, and became a gay porn superstar. Since, he’s posed for Pierre et Gilles, published two books of poetry and three novels. His book My Undoing talks of his recent life experiences, including being HIV-positive and falling into a coma after a 1998 car accident in Brussels. One of his many other books, Sordid Truths: Selling my Innocence for a Taste of Stardom is a real must-read.
Aiden spoke with Mark Adnum via email in April 2005.
MARK ADNUM: Aiden, almost ten years ago you said that gay culture was a big pink thing that made you want to puke. Has your opinion changed?
AIDEN SHAW: I guess, I don’t feel so strongly about it. I don’t know if I ever did. [He said it here.] Very little makes me puke.
Disappointed might be more accurate.
MA: It does seem to be a generally reductive culture, and though it claims to nurture diversity and individuality, it vigorously does the opposite.
AS: I agree.
MA: For example, whenever your writing career is mentioned in the gay press, it’s quickly dissolved into gossip and titillation about your more famous career as a porn star. Does this frustrate you?
AS: I agree with you again, but no it doesn’t frustrate me. I’ve gone beyond accepting such responses. Now I expect it.
MA: Having said that, few new writers have such an effective marketing angle and your image appears on the cover of all your books.
AS: Sex has always been the first angle of marketing for most products.
MA: Joan Collins does the same, and so, like hers, your books have instant marketability.
AS: Most music CD’s have the artist’s image on the front. It’s just about being recent.
MA: I think this undermines your credibility as a writer for many.
It’s all one and the same. All me. I’m not going to deny parts of myself to fit somebody’s idea of what a writer should be.
MA: People assume that porn performers are lousy actors …
AS: Yes they do.
MA: … but I think they’re misreading the format …
AS: I agree. It’s not about acting …
MA: I’m sure there’s plenty of behind-the scenes tricks, but psyching yourself into x-rated action in front of a camera seems like a rare skill to me …
AS: I agree with this.
MA: … and the way many gay porn stars create personas that synthesise masculine and homosexual iconography and mythology is very impressive.
AS: I agree that personas are created and masculinity is synthesised, but no more so than most gay men do everyday of their lives.
Also, it’s not so difficult.
Firstly, most gays have done it all their lives –- from the first bullying in the playground, to picking up others for sex.
Secondly, often the market savvy video company –- having had more experience creating homosexual iconography and mythology, — play a huge role in the deception.
The reason I’m not interested in watching porn is simply because it’s not actual. For me it’s like watching food. No actual use to me.
MA: What avenues do you think exist for a gay porn that’s a little more, say, warm, rather than just hot?
AS: I’m guessing it’s popular because it works. So why fix something that’s not broken. If it doesn’t work for somebody –- as with me – just don’t watch it.
MA: Smoking crystal and getting fucked for a day and a half is perfectly acceptable behaviour for many, but if government or medicine aren’t seen to be conspicuously prioritising gay rights and gay health, gay activists howl “homophobia” and come down on it like a ton of bricks.
AS: Sometimes for good reason. It’s not a logical equation. Just because some gay people behave a certain way doesn’t mean that homophobia isn’t rife and a very real problem.
MA: But do you think gay guys tend to look everywhere but in the mirror for responsibility and help?
AS: I guess it’s the way some people deal with stuff. It’s not just a gay thing.
MA: Are you fully recovered from your car accident? Do you remember anything about your experience of coma?
AS: Hey. Wait and read the book.
But thanks for asking.
MA: Onto movies, what films do you tend to enjoy?
AS: All sorts. Slow, thought provoking. Sci-fi with state of the art special affects. Naïve art-house. Well acted anything. Complex, twisted plot driven thrillers.
MA: Do you go to see movies like Mambo Italiano and Camp, or do you attend gay and lesbian film festivals?
AS: Not really. I’ve been disappointed too many times when at L&G film festivals.
MA: Movies which tend to be gay-applauded feature pious characters sweet enough to rot your teeth. This in turn contrasts with the traditional gay love of monstrous, grotesque celluloid divas who usually played villains, such as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. What do you think about this?
AS: I think you are far more interested in film than I am.
MA: Do you imagine your novels could transfer to the big screen?
MA: What’s your opinion of Rupert Everett?
AS: What a strange last question. I don’t know him that well.