This audiovisual essay provides an aesthetic analysis of the works of the iconic gay porn star Joey Stefano, focusing solely on the actor’s reaction shots throughout his back catalogue of porn titles. The work places these in split-screen juxtaposition with Andy Warhol’s infamous 1963 experimental short Blow Job from which it takes formal, aesthetic and thematic influence. Stefano (real name Nick Iacona Jnr.) was known within the industry for being one of the first superstar ‘power-bottoms’ (or ‘hungry-bottoms’) (a gay porn performer who is known for his aggressive and frenetic enjoyment in receiving anal penetration), but his experience in the porn world was also a tragic story that led to his death in 1993 from a heroin overdose in a run-down motel in Los Angeles.
The various academic and fan-oriented studies of Stefano often portray him as a sympathetic, passive victim of industry abuse. This video essay uses the figure of Stefano as a means to challenge traditional binaries around active/passive sexuality. I want to argue firstly that the power behind Stefano’s success and his continuing legacy lies not only in the fetishised bodily display of his empowered penetrability (that is, his ass and the phallic signifier of his enjoyment in being penetrated – his erect penis); but also in those moments of ecstasy that are conveyed in the facial portraiture of his films. This video essay pays particular attention to the significance that the reaction shot plays in the viewers’ identification with the bottom during the sex act that is only further amplified in empowered, yet passive, figures like Stefano. By omitting shots that privilege the body in the throes of the sexual act that are seemingly used to legitimise the sex act being filmed as ‘real’ (e.g. penetration shots, group/wide shots, the money shot/ejaculation), this video essay focuses instead on Stefano’s face in his blissfully ‘receptive’ state as a commodity in itself
‘Flow/Job: A Video Essay on the Pornographic Facial Portraiture of Joey Stefano’ by Elliott-Smith, D. Dec 2017 inTransition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Image Studies. Issue 4.4. http://mediacommons.org/intransition/2018/01/10/flowjob
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