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Putting the gay back in adult video awards shows

2012 Cybersocket Awards

Gay San Diego

The list is legend

The GayVNs. The Grabbys. The Hookies. The XBiz Awards. The Hard Choice Awards. Presented in venues across the country from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles and celebrating the movers and shakers of a multibillion-dollar industry, gay-porn award programs are as diverse and sometimes as kitschy as the people they recognize.

But each event has its own spirit, its own agenda and its own vibe. And with the continuing demise of studio-backed gay porn production and the growth of Internet-based products, the Cybersocket Awards show, now in its 12th year, seems to have foreseen what others in the industry had not: The Internet revolution was a force that was not only here to stay, but that would disrupt, dislodge and eventually displace everything we had come to expect from gay adult entertainment.

Gay porn matters

Despite being the object of cultural derision, all-male adult video remains an endlessly fascinating and vital component of the gay-male experience, as does female-on-female porn for the lesbian experience (albeit perhaps to a lesser degree).

Why? Because it is largely within the realm of the gay adult picture that young gay men learn about the nature of their own sexuality.

Given the squeamishness and homophobia that continues to run rampant throughout mainstream Hollywood when it comes to depicting gay sexuality, and the limits imposed by geography upon the distribution of indie cinema – independent and alternative films are a secondary vehicle aside from X-rated media for communicating gay sexuality – it’s not at all surprising that young gay men still end up taking their cues from gay porn as a simple matter of sex education.

Cue the Cybersocket Awards

The Cybersocket Awards are presented each year by Cybersocket Magazine, cofounded (along with Tim Lutz) by the burly and eminently likable Morgan Sommer. When asked to summarize how his awards stand out from other notable awards programs (some now defunct), Sommer remarked, “The Cybersocket Awards were created originally to stand out from the other industry awards at the time, that ignored Web sites and the role the Internet played in the business.”

According to Sommer, at that time, Cybersocket produced the only adult-oriented Web awards program.

“Over the years, a few of the other big awards shows in the adult market added Web categories, just as we have added non-Web categories,” Sommer said. “At this point, everything has converged but we are still highly focused on Web content and voting online.

Fan participation is another big difference, Sommer says.

“It is akin to the People’s Choice Awards,” he told San Diego LGBT Weekly during a recent interview. “It was also a way for us to honor our customers and the sites we wrote about every month.”

And while this year’s program appeared to have record crowds, and with the demise of the GayVNs (sponsored by the adult industry publication, Adult Video News), not everyone is so sanguine about what has become of the pomp and ceremony attached to the ritual. J.C. Adams, of the widely read and sourced GayPornTimes.com, was somewhat more detached. “There is nothing like the interest in gay porn awards now as there used to be in the ’90s. I think it’s because gay porn is essentially a niche product now. People can find sex tapes from celebrities and tube sites and so on …”

However, he says, that indifference about gay porn could be replaced with the kind of interest made famous by the girls from Sex in the City circa 1998.

Gay San Diego

“Depending on where technology goes,” says Morgan Sommer.

Blood sport

But while the average spectator who comes to one of these programs as an adoring fan hoping to rub shoulders with one of their favorite stars, bloggers, tweeters and gossip mills are simultaneously busy at work, hoping to generate their own share of attention with accusations of favoritism and unseemly connections to Cybersocket’s advertisers, whom many accuse Morgan and staff of rewarding disproportionately.

Dewayne Helms is a San Diego native and, ironically, a relative of the late ultra-conservative standard bearer, Jesse Helms, about whom he writes on his popular adult blog DeWayneinsd.com.

Helms, who has been covering the gay porn scene for years, was quick to draw contrasts between the Cybersocket Awards and another, well-known program which has also seen its fair share of accusations about favoritism, the GayVNs. “Morgan Sommer has guided The Cybersockets into the Peoples Choice Awards of gay porn,” he said. “Sure, you might have some groaners in the categories, but you will have that in any popularity contest.”

Gay San Diego

According to Helms, there is a level of resentment among some in the more “establishment” porn news-and-awards industry.

“(Nagging) from San Francisco about The Cybersockets is just sour grapes since the demise of (certain) ‘bought and paid for’ (awards programs),” he said.

When asked to parse the distinction, Helms took no prisoners. “Returning to the analogy of the Peoples Choice Awards versus The Grammys: The perception is that the GayVN’s were the ‘industry awards’ and, therefore, more legitimate. The problem is the GayVN’s never grew up into a legitimate award governed by a valid gay industry and/or performer organization. It was producer-rigged and everyone knew it.”

“Absolutely not true!” retorts Janet Gibson of AVN. “The GayVN Awards are nominated by and through a committee, a committee that includes forty-two people [within the gay porn industry].”

More damming, according to Helms, is the fact that the GayVNs were never really a gay awards event.

Gay San Diego

“It was an off-shoot of the AVNs – the straight side of porn,” he said. “Why the hell did we need a straight-porn news site handing out gay porn awards?”

Before going by the wayside, Helms says, the GayVN’s were perceived by many to be the Raging Stallion/Falcon Studios awards, because of the prolificacy of recognition for those studios to the exclusion of many other worthy nominees. The favor, he says, was squarely in the corner of porn producers who “owned the show.”

The big night

Monday evening, Jan. 9, the 2012 Cybersocket Awards went off without a hitch despite, what Morgan Sommer describes as 19 hours of “pure hell” leading up to the event. For one hour, some of the biggest and brightest lights in the gay porn industry were shuffled on and off a red carpet hosted by legendary San Franciscan and Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, Sister Roma.

The awards themselves were presented by Los Angeles’ famed drag queens, Las Chicas Angels, on a stage in the main dance room of The Factory in West Hollywood, as gay porn legend Chi Chi LaRue made her presence felt as the evening’s DJ directly behind them.

As the crowd cheered on the winners and losers alike, and as the young Millennials took their place on stage, ready to take on the mantle of gay porn superstardom, one couldn’t help but notice members of older generations looking slightly nostalgic for a time before the Internet made these awards ceremonies and all that was magical and yes, even glamorous, about gay porn anything but the commercial, democratic and wholly unremarkable affairs they’ve become.

For a list of the evening’s winners, visit LGBTweekly.com.



Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=19876

Posted by LGBT Weekly on Jan 19, 2012. Filed under Entertainment News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

10 Comments for “Putting the gay back in adult video awards shows”

  1. [...] It’s a bit late, but here’s an interesting write up of the 2012 Cybersocket Awards in LA. [...]

  2. Not a mention about the total lack of color at the Cybersockets this year. They need to do a much better job of reaching out to black and Latin gays so they too will vote because it’s a problem when there re no/very low numbers of men of color. Just as when you have an election with no females running, one would logically analyze why that is and try to change the trajectory for a decline to an incline. Cybersockets is no one’s People Choice Awards as People Choice Awards are racially inclusive. Instead of checking to see what the old heads were waxing nostalgia over, perhaps you should have looked to see where all the dark skinned nominees were.

    • It’s ironic that Victor Hoff’s feature story failed to mention an alleged dearth of representation of men of color at the Cybersocket awards. Victor Hoff, who is Caucasian, specializes in journalistic coverage of men of color in the adult entertainment industry. Check out his blog on the subject at menofcolor.blogs.com. The focus of the piece was about the survival of a gay-owned show over non-gay events through the years. Had it been a comprehensive expose on the Cybersocket Web Awards, and the story had failed to address the issue of men of color, I think it would have been a major oversight. However, you bring up an interesting point that we may want to jump off with as a starting point to a follow-up story. Can you elaborate in an email to me at editor@lgbtweekly.com? (–Ed.)

      • I’m aware of Mr. Hoff’s work, it by no way makes him an expert on the subject, but it does seem weird that a guy who talks about diversity and has a blog dedicated to it would put all of that aside to rave about a site he has previous taken to task for colorless representation. .

      • I as well agree whole-heartedly with YesHeDid.

        The fact is that while the author, Victor Hoff talks about the lack of diversity in gay porn on MOC Blog, and HIS HISTORY of taking awards like the Cybersocket Awards to task for that lack of diversity, him covering an awards show like it makes him come off as two-faced and a hypocrite. Especially for those who of us he has gained the respect of for addressing the much UNadressed topic of racism in not just the gay porn, but in the gay community as a whole.

        And with that being said, I wonder if you will make good on addressing this issue. Because everyone else from the magazines Out, to Instinct, to The Advocate act as if they will racism in the gay community, but their actions say “keep sweep racism under the rug”. So excuse me for being cynical in suspecting that your reply to YesHeDid might have been nothing more than a response to shut him up for the moment, hoping his annoyance will blow over.

        One thing I can I’m sure of is that that it won’t, just as mine hasn’t.

  3. Well first what I am about to write has nothing to do with sour grapes- in fact Dewayne and I had a convo about this last December about the CyberSocket Awards.

    Particularly the Surfer’s Choice Awards category of Best Porn Blog.

    I personally think that in 2013 there needs to be an additional category. Best Gay Porn Review blog in the Industry Choice section.

    On the nomination list, along with Dewayne- who like me writes a real review blog and not just a porn sales blog- were blogs that had not been updated in ages, ones that simply slaps up a picture and a scene description all linked to affiliate links. Same with the previous years. When I looked at the nominations a big “WTF?” was flashing over my head with some of the nominees.

    It is a bitter pill to swallow when one realizes that sites on the nomination list are there because they sent the most hits to the CyberSocket site via the awards banners. That is how the nominees are selected. They can deny it if they like but it is a marketing campaign plain and simple.Those who manage to get their readers to click on the cybersocket banner the most are on the list.

    It is also hard to see sites that put minimal effort while folks like me, Dewayne, Aussieboy63 from Australia, MOC, to name a few blogs, all do in our own way real reviews and real insider industry reporting don’t get the recognition deserved. A lot of time and effort are put into our work that goes beyond slapping up a picture linked to an affiliate code and writing a sentence or two- or worse copying and pasting pre-written scene descriptions!

    Now go ahead and call it sour grapes- again I assure you that it is not that. I am talking about the credibility of the awards.

    So maybe the Surfer’s Choice ones are fine as they are. Maybe they are a popularity contest or a best merchandiser- marketer of Cybersocket contest.

    But shouldn’t awards be given based on merit rather than how well you plaster the banner for people to vote?

    If I had twittered the banner every day, pasted it on every post I did and sent it to the 500 people on my facebook I probably would have been on the short list of nominees. Instead, naive as I am sometimes, I had it minimally on my site.

    I have a HUGE readership that I have built up over the past three years. I know that a lot of them did vote and click that banner. They didn’t have to buy anything and loads of folks told me they did it.

    When the nominations were closed I looked and saw at least two blogs that hadn’t been updated in months! Is that something to give a nomination or worse an award for?

    It is almost like American idol.

    You know who the real good bloggers are- the ones that put a lot of time, effort and original thoughts and writing into their sites but in the end either an industry insider that has nuzzled up to ChiChi LaRue or some other blog that is not a real critical review blog but just a vehicle to sell merchandise is nominated or wins an award.

    Anyhow, I really did not expect a nomination at all to be truthful.

    I am just going on my fourth year.

    This year’s winner of the Best Porn Blog is a good site but it pales compared to what Dewayne does on his. I think he deserved the award this year. The man has been doing his site for years, and like me actually watches the material before he writes a review and yet where is his award?

    Awards should be based on merit and work put into whatever it is that is being nominated.

    Until that starts to happen in the porn industry it is very hard to take these awards seriously and I consider awards like CyberSocket as credible as American Idol.

    BTW- I really enjoyed reading your piece btw- very well written!

  4. Have to agree with YesHeDid as well. I pretty much cover twink porn ion my site and one thing I winge on about is the lack of integration on som,e of the major sites…at least some that I have access to and cover White twink after white twink gets boring.

    Now the excuse is black and Latino adult entertainment does not sell like white sites do. I think that’s a bunch of crap. Look at Randy Blue- he mixes things up and is very successful.

    I think if sites like Helix and Boycrush and even Next Door Studios would mix things up more often and hire some of the handsome- non-thuggish twinks of color out there they would draw in more subscribers. Then we may see more men and twinks of color out there and perhaps at the awards.

    I will shut up now LOL- I will doing my “State of the Industry” address on my site Monday LOL

  5. Sorry, but blaming one writer for the racial biases of of the people of who vote on these awards is just ridiculous.Where were all the black, Latino and Asian voters? They had just as much of an opportunity to promote their studios, sites and performers as well as anyone else. They could have voted on these awards like anyone else. This was open to anyone and everyone. Could it be that many of the studios just have crappy content regardless of their race or ethnicity?

    Furthermore, Mr. Hoff is not writing for his blog. He is writing for a newspaper/web site that decided that this was the angle they were going to approach the story with. I’ve personally been reading his blog for years and think his critics here are being unduly harsh. One piece that you don’t agree with doesn’t eliminate years of commitment to a worthwhile cause on his behalf.

  6. I’m more offended that it’s considered a gay event – when 80% of the guys are straight/bi guys who don’t date or have relationships with guys!

    More like prison-gay porn awards – doing what they have to do to get a paycheck!

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