Happy to be on this side of a new year in a new city with a life that also feels totally new. Below is my review of 2013: things I did, things that happened, things I read/saw/listened to, people I fucked and more. But before going back, go forward – Here’s a little update on what’s coming this year:
My book, now (and I think permanently) titled How To Learn about Freedom by Having Sex will be out in Fall this year! It’s due at the publisher (countercultural mavericks, Disinformation) at the end of this month. So I’m on it every day. I’ll be publishing excerpts here throughout the year.
My first movie of 2014, The Mix is out from NakedSword this January. You can click here, sign up and get the scene (NSFW!). If you click through to NakedSword via my site, I get a little kickback money, always helpful. Anyway, I got to play a snotty writer (jeez, thanks, guys) and then get fucked by Conner Maguire (pictured below right – THANKS GUYS) while I’m hanging upside-down from a tree branch. It was a lot of fun. It’s the only scene I have coming out for awhile as I finish up my book. Then I’ll be shooting again in March. I’ll also be making my own porn this year, with help from a few of my friends.
The Conner Loves Everyone Podcast is coming – I’m hashing out the details. Basically it’s me, a co-host (TBA), and conversations with guests from the margins of culture. If you have any suggestions, now’s a good time to let me know; I’m in the formative stages. It’ll be up and running mid-2014.
I’m giving lectures around the country and will list the dates here as they come. If you’d like me to speak at your school or organization, reach out via the info here and we’ll discuss the details. You can also always hire me as a writing coach to help with projects. I promise it’ll be more exciting, less expensive, and ultimately less soul-destroying than getting an MFA.
My new web series is also in the works – if it’s not distributed via Logo/NewNowNext like my last one, it’ll be up one way or another in the next few months.
I’m also dedicating more time to the blog, so you can expect at least two entries a month. Thanks for sitting with me.
2013 Year in Review
This post is intended to give people who are new to me a way to get acquainted, and for those who’ve been hanging with me for awhile to go deeper or check out some of the stuff that was on my mind last year. Feel free to tell me about your year in the comments: your favorites and what you loved (and who), what you’re looking forward to, what you checked out from my lists/what you think I should check out.
2013 was the year that marked a slow fade from being a porn star/writer to being a public intellectual. I know that all might sound pretentious, but I’m not sure what else to call it. I made less movies, I wrote more, I had more published, I did more media and lecture appearances. That old model of someone in the public eye who does real scholarly and thoughtful work and interacts with cultural currents is coming back (largely because of social media) and I’m happy to be a part of it, and so thankful that you’re reading this/interacting with me on twitter, listening and getting into it with me when needed.
Last year, I broke up with a boyfriend (we’re still friends, he’s awesome), I taught online courses on Sexual Revolution and Anthroposophy, I gave lectures at a bunch of schools and organizations (the Museum of Modern Art in New York – at their PS1 Dome, at Amherst College, and at the William Way LGBT Center in Philadelphia among many others). My talk at Corning Community College in New York was canceled because of sex- and porn-negativity, and it ended up being a national news story (I gave the talk anyway, and I’ll revisit the whole thing and discuss the aftermath in a one-year-later entry this March). My NewNowNext show went on hiatus, so I left you to sexually fend for yourselves (I’m sure you’re all doing fine). It’s archived though, including my episodes on how to top and how to kiss, in which me and my buddy Justin go at it. Also on hiatus is my NSFW website, ConnerHabib.com – I’m reworking it to better suit everything I’m up to; so it won’t exclusively be a porn site anymore and will largely be safe for work (with links to NSFW stuff). Or at least as safe for work as someone like me can ever manage to be. Right now, there’s a picture of me in my undies and a redirect to here.
I moved to a new city, just as San Francisco slipped into a trend of tech-hipster-ornamentalist-conservatism (I can explain what that means someday, just let it slide). One of the signals that it was time to leave SF was the nudity ban imposed by gay District 8 supervisor Scott Wiener. So ofcourse, to express my irritation, I conceived of and wrote a porn series with my friends at NakedSword (NSFW) called The Cover Up about a self-loathing San Francisco supervisor named Scott Cox who hypocritically has sex with nude protestors. It was publicized all over the country (here’s an article in the Huffington Post about it), even though the porn itself ended up being a bit clumsy and silly. Still, the sex is, well, sexy, and I had a lot of fun with it. Now I’m in LA. You can’t be naked here, either, but you can certainly wear less clothing year round. My friends have been calling me from the East Coast, telling me they’re in something called Snowpacalypse or Snowmageddon or Snownarok or Snow, uh, whatever. Anyway, usually when they call I’m sitting under a fig tree or watching hummingbirds or something.
I published a lot of work in 2013, so I can’t list everything here (although I’ll be creating a bibliography/CV page with everything I’ve published for this site soon). Here are some of the highlights:
My most read essay of the year appeared on this blog. I wrote “Why Do Gay Porn Stars Kill Themselves?” shortly after Arpad Miklos and porn director John Bruno committed suicide. Then, just after I finished writing it, another porn star, Wilfred Knight (pictured left), took his own life. It was a rough time for everyone in gay porn, and the questions that were aimed at us didn’t make it any easier. Often they were callous or based on a sort of urgent ignorance. So the essay was a rebuke to anyone who would even ask the question posed by the title. The essay also serves as a quick primer on how to make our experience creating, starring in, and watching porn healthier.
Also appearing on my blog in 2013: the final installment in my “Guys I Wanted To Fuck in High School” series – about the boy I fell in love with my senior year.
I wrote a few pieces for Buzzfeed’s LGBT section, including one about my porn name vs my birth name (Andre Khalil), and the difficulty in maintining a balance between the two. I also wrote about the meeting point of fantasy and reality in porn, and how the distinctions between the two may be to simplistic. I started an online column – Profanity! – at Vice, and wrote about how masturbation and internet freedom are intertwined, and about a forgotten occult science, among other things. I also wrote critical essays to respond to the film Lovelace, in praise of the novel Me and Mr. Booker by Cory Taylor, to facilitate examination of gay hookup apps, and to condemn writer Alain de Botton’s terrible book on sex.
My essay on my mentor, Lynn Margulis – “As Above, So Below” - was reprinted in the excellent collection, Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel. The book is edited by her son from her marriage to Carl Sagan, Dorion. Dorion’s a thoughtful editor, and most of the other contributors are big time scientists. It was a huge honor to be a part of this act of love, reverence, and grieving for Lynn. My other anthologized essay last year was “Rest Area Confidential” – my thoughts on sex at rest stops, which originally appeared on Salon.com and was featured in Best Sex Writing 2013.
2013 began slowly as far as my movie releases, but ended with a flurry of them. My favorites were directed by porn maverick Joe Gage. If you don’t know much about Joe, here’s an interview with him in BUTT Magazine. His movies are all about the set-up and the tension, two aspects of pornography undervalued by many other directors. That focus always makes for a fun shoot: lots of dialogue, lots of eye contact. Joe directed me in scenes with Adam Russo and Colby White for Titan Men (NSFW). In the scene with Adam, we’re dressed in tuxedos, talking about sex with each other’s siblings (who are celebrating their wedding to each other in the next room). It’s typically fucked up, but in a gratifyingly sexual and well-paced way.
My favorite movie to be in was Joe’s Armed Forces Physical. I have two scenes in the movie, both threesome, both sort of ridiculous, both with men I was really attracted to. One of the scenes is with performer Andrew Justice (pic of me star-struckedly fixing his collar on the right). I’ve had a huge crush on Andrew from afar for years. Joe overheard me pining for him one day and so surprised me by putting us in a scene together. The scene itself isn’t all kisses and hugs, but hanging out with Andrew over the weekend in the woods where we shot was. A highlight of my career. You can access Armed Forces Physical by signing up on the NakedSword supersite.
I never like “best of” lists for books, because every book is new every year. If you’ve never heard of it, and you read and love it, it will have the immediacy of its release date. So, many of the books here aren’t new. But they’re new to me and I loved them. Because I was researching for my own book, I read more on sex in 2013 than I had all together up until then. Some of the books I really loved included: Roger Lancaster’s biting and engaging Sex Panic and the Punitive State, which explores when, where, and why panics about sex kick up in Western culture. Relatedly, Judith Levine’s Harmful to Minors and Sinikka Elliot’s Not My Child both detail the general sex panic surrounding adolescent sexuality; Susan Clancy shows how moral furor can damage the lives of children who have been sexually abused in The Trauma Myth; and Lawrence Wright focuses in on problems with memory retrieval in his gripping narrative of a Satanic ritual abuse panic in Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory. I reread Adam Phillips’s masterpiece, Monogamy, a series of vignettes on the problem and solution of monogamy in our culture.; every sentence is loaded with radical and profound though.
Giving up the Ghost: A Story of Friendship, 80s Rock, A Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means To Be Haunted by Eric Nuzum was deeply moving to me. Nuzman, who grew up in Ohio, seemed to be describing my own struggle through teenagedom, with all its tragic missteps and supernatural pulses. Really beautiful. Also entertaining and paranormal was Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation by Mitch Horowitz. The book is a catalog of the religious movements that shaped our nation. Some have obvious occult dimensions, others are more subtle; for many readers, the movements detailed will be new (some were for me, even though I’m well-versed in all that esoteric stuff). I also absolutely loved The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorainne Warren by Gerald Brittle. I listened to it as an audiobook after my interest in the Warrens was rekindled by the movie The Conjuring. It’s terrifying and fascinating, wherever you stand on occult matters. It was my favorite book this year, and I plan to read it again.
I read lots of fiction last year, but was curiously unmoved by much of it. That said, there were a some stunning exceptions. Along with, like, everyone else in the fiction-reading world, I was blown away by many of the stories in Karen Russell’s new collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove. “Proving Up” and “Reeling for the Empire” were both terrifying and sat nestled amongst lighter, friendlier stories in this bizarre collection. Buy it at least to read those two superb stories, which will stay with you for a long, long time. I also really enjoyed a lot of Joyce Carol Oates stories, if not an entire collection. My favorite was “Strip Poker,” which is about as sinister and tense as it gets. Finally, my friend Jake Shears got me to buy one of the bleakest, most brutal books I’ve ever read, Donald Ray Pollack’s The Devil All the Time. Serial killers, spiders, dead animals, murderous cops, darkened landscapes. I still feel as if I owe Jake a thank you and that he owes me an apology. Read it and laugh and then get a sick feeling in your gut and tremble.
I didn’t make any of my own music outside of the shower last year, but I listened to so much. Most of the highpoints were the discoveries of new artists or particular songs rather than albums. That’s how things are going, I suppose; an album takes up too much mental space – we’re focusing, singing along, and thrilling to a new song and a new feeling. An album is a landscape, a song is an evening.
Some new bands I fell in love with in the past year: Gang of Youths from Australia – particularly their Walkmen-esque “Sudden Light”. X Ambassadors, with their weird combination of crooning and clattering drums – here’s their single, “Unconsolable.” Sures, also from Australia, and their echoing, progressively loud single, “Waste.” Mariam the Believer from the band Wildbirds & Peacedrums went solo; her voice is haunting and combines strangely timed beats with a new age sensibility. Bizarre witch music. Here’s her video for “Invisible Giving.”
Bands that have been around for a bit but made me happy, sad, tap my foot, close my eyes and wish I had a different life as a musician: My friends the Dismemberment Plan reunited to release Uncanny Valley, a surprisingly warm album with music that’s not afraid to be happy and loving. The opener, “No One’s Saying Nothing” is a favorite. The Plan was also my favorite live show of the year. They’ve lost none of their frenetic, crazy energy on the stage. Natalia Kills’s album Trouble is witty, sad, catchy. Her song “Saturday Night” was a favorite of mine last year. My favorite electronic-meets-analog artist, Tim Fitz, released a new EP called Unscene. You can download most of his music for free on band camp. Panic! At the Disco continued to evolve, get better, catchier, more fun, more sing-along-able. They incorporated some Cut Copy feel into their work and released Too Young To Live, Too Rare To Die – one of my very favorite songs “Girls/Girls/Boys” is here. My best friend, Jeb Havens (picture right) released a whole bunch of covers last year – recording mostly in his closet while he slowly became one of the best-regarded and most-listened to signer songwriters in San Francisco. Here’s his cover of Lady Gaga’s “I Wanna Be with You” (which eventually became “Dope”)
I feel my teenage punk rock self cringe a little when I admit that the music event of the year for me was not remotely underground or unknown. Instead, it was the release of ArtPop by Lady Gaga. I don’t need to write much about it. You’ve probably already drawn your lines and picked your sides with her (Though how anyone could fail to love an album with the lyrics “Aphrodite lady/sea shell bikini” in one of the singles is beyond me.) I’ll just say, to explain this polarization, that ArtPop reveals Gaga’s biggest moment in the public eye was the only moment out of sync with the rest of her career. The straight-ahead pop of Born This Way (and to a much lesser extent, Fame Monster) never gave people an idea of just how completely bizarre she was – meat dresses notwithstanding. It’s not a farce. I saw Lady Gaga play many times before “Just Dance” came out; at drag shows, in hotel lobbies, and more. It was her, two wiry back up dancer girls, some duct tape, and a mask. It was strange and out of place. When she was working her way up to being famous, it was completely new and exciting. Then she got famous, and people lumped her in with other pop divas like Katy Perry or whatever. It’s a misunderstanding that ArtPop displaces. Many people aren’t ready for it; the whole album is like a signal sent backward through time. A crazy blend of Sun Ra, Arabic music, industrial, hip hop, Dub, 1970s pop, and top 40, ArtPop is amazing if you let it in. Here’s the mindbending iTunes concert that puts many of the songs on display.
Movies, movies, movies. I saw over a hundred movies last year. I have no idea where I got all that time. As per custom, I’ll list my favorite that were released in 2013. Spring Breakers and The Great Beauty seem like unlikely bedfellows. The former is the melodramatic, loud, absurd depiction of a pretty girls wallowing in sex, drugs, guns, and freedom (plus, a corn-rowed James Franco). The latter is a breathtaking and heartfelt look at how to live and love; often compared (too easily, I believe) to Fellini. But both movies are movies made by editing – a trend not started by, but given permission to flourish by, Terrence Mallick’s Tree of Life in 2012. Both Spring Breakers and The Great Beauty work to engage through a collection of images, sounds, bursts of feeling. They’re the sorts of movie that would have been almost incomprehensible to viewers before the age of the internet. The world had to be made ready for both films. They’re both excellent and both depend on, for some of the grandeur, being seen on a big screen. If there’s no possibility of that, just download/stream them. But if they show up in a theater near you, go, go, go.
I also loved Jagten (The Hunt) which is all about the sort of sex panics described in some of the books I mentioned above. A small town school teacher is accused of abusing one of the kids at his school, the town goes apeshit, the movie gets under your skin. Passion by Brian De Palma wasn’t the greatest movie, but it was a whole lot of fun. It’s a late 1980s-style film about women grasping for power in the workplace. Watch it and let me know if you start pressing your finger to your friends’ foreheads when you insult them. You’ll see what I mean after you watch it. Last but not least was the Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Hope. The movie is one of three in Seidl’s series; which can be watched out of order, thankfully, because it was the only one playing near me. It’s about girls at fat camp, and it’s an oddly flat movie. There’s nothing dizzyingly high or low about the film. It takes its time, and evokes life perfectly.
All right that’s it for now. Stop. Forward again. See you soon. Love.