Back Stories – Tyler Knight

A percentage of people out there might sometimes think “hmmm… I have sex, and I look hott without my clothes on – I could be in porn!”  And a greater percentage of men out there might sometimes think “hmmm… I bang my [fill in sex partner of choice] pretty damn good two or three times a week – I could be in porn!”

But very few men from these legions of boisterous stallions actually attempt to knock it out for pay. And of these men, only a small handful are actually capable of having sex professionally. Tyler Knight is one such man.  He took some time out to share his thoughts on sex, porn, and work with Porn Valley Vantage.

So this interview has been a long time coming man, and I really just want to start out by saying “thank you” – thank you! Now just to get everyone up to speed, how long have you been working in the industry and what got you in?

“Just before I turned to adult, I was working in an investment banking/retail stock brokerage firm. But the firm imploded, and I was out on my ass…. and I’ve now worked in the adult film industry as male talent for eight years, though there is a bit more to it.

I had been working as a model for various clients such as JC Penny, Karl Kanai, and Bugle Boy Jeans (this was in the ’90s!) and had done some print campaigns for beer companies. I’d also done some commercials and network TV stuff here and there. One great one was this Silly Spring Fashion Show skit for ‘The Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno where I strutted across the stage modeling a fish tank as underwear …complete with live fish.

Anyway, twelve years ago, my modeling agent got me a job posing nude for a now defunct Australian women’s magazine, Women’s Forum. A few years later I was exiting the library and a gentleman, Gino Colbert, gave me his card. A few weeks later I was on my first set for a VCA feature.

Wow, just like that?!! What was it like?

Well, it was the second worst day of my life up to that point… This was back when VCA was in the business of making big budget features, before Larry Flynt bought them out. Basically, it was a restaurant scene with me; the contract girl, Chloe; the crew of about two dozen people including grips, a boom mike guy, two camera men, the director, a video tech behind the monitors, and the ‘c-light’ guy whose job is to hover a light near the ‘action’ to make sure its well lit; AND a dozen civilian (non-porn) extras sitting at various tables for atmosphere surrounding Chloe and me. Not what I expected!

At that point, aside from girlfriends and my mom, the only others I’ve been naked in front of were my doctor and God. I’m not going to lie, I was scared shitless. For those of us who fight, or have fought, MMA (I have), you know all about the adrenaline dump you get just before you gotta throw down. I’m the guy that runs to the bathroom a million times, while listening to my iPod, trying to calm down right before. Everyone has a different way of dealing with it. Point is: imagine yourself trying to get an erection in the midst of the adrenaline dump. Talk about performance anxiety.

Whoa… makes me want to laugh at all the dudes I’ve heard say ‘I could do that, I could totally be in porn’… So then what happened?

Well, I was dressed as a waiter, waiting off camera for my cue, with sweaty palms and cotton mouth in full effect, murdering myself with viciously negative inner-monologue and doubt: ‘What if I’m too small and she laughs? What if I pop too soon? What if I forget my lines? What if the extras laugh?! What the hell does ‘open up for the camera’ mean?!! Shit, a table! How the hell is that going to work? I weigh 200 lbs, I’ll snap it… SHIT… that’s Randy fuckin’ Spears over there! I can’t compare to him! Is Randy looking at me? That’s kinda weird…WHAT IF I CAN’T GET IT UP??!!”

OK Tyler I’m starting to get stressed out too!!… Then what happened?

So Chloe is at the table delivering dialogue to another girl, who after a short exchange, gets up, and leaves. That was my cue and the PA gives me the nod, so I walk over.

As soon as I step under the lights, I noticed the temp is easily 20 degrees warmer. I deliver my dialogue at Mach 5 while staring at my shoes. Apparently that was good enough (hey, it’s porn after all) because the next thing I know, she’s undoing my pants and reveals…. Mr. Softee!

The next twenty minutes seemed like a year that would never end. After stroking it long enough to get semi-hard when the cameras were off, I weakly said I was ready. As soon as the cameras were back on, I wilted again. This repeated three times, and each time I could tell the crew was getting more and more pissed.

So then the director, who has seen it all, hands me a stack of magazines and tells me to go off set away from everyone else, jerk off enough to get hard, and come back when I’m ready. ‘I can do that. I’ve jerked off a million times,” I said to myself.

So I flip through the selection of magazines, Juggs, Black Tail, etc… I go with Juggs, and three, as in the number 3 – one, two, three strokes into working up my wood I POP IN MY HAND!! I wanted the Earth to swallow me up! I was FUCKED!

Oh god… because it’s not difficult to bang some chic while getting filmed in front of a bunch of others in of itself (for the very first time, I might add), but now you’ve just popped on top of it – I mean, we all know guys bounce back instantly from that (jk)… What did you do???

Well the way I figured it, I had two options. Option 1: man up, go back on set, and fess up to blowing the day’s shooting. Option 2: calculate the trajectory such that, if I were to jump out the second floor bathroom window and roll on impact, I will be okay. Hmmm…

My IDs were in the production manager’s pocket, and I was wearing a shirt and no pants. Running around Downtown LA with a shirt but no pants is only cute if you are named Winnie the Pooh, so I went back and faced the music.

(pictured: Tyler Knight Lifelike Inflatable Doll, center, appearing on “The Colbert Report” 2010)

Wow… well I guess it worked out it the end though, didn’t it?  I mean, you’ve been in the business now for eight years like you said… I assume it has to have gotten better, so what’s your favorite thing about your job now? What’s maybe most surprising or unexpected?

Favorite: autonomy.

Most surprising: autonomy is an illusion. That, and also how isolating fame (or infamy) can be.

Unexpected (yet shouldn’t be): Overt relativism. Race, gender, and age are reduced to commodities to be exploited or liabilities to be purged, with little to no consideration for the underlying human beings – people with feelings, hopes and dreams – that are relegated to categories.

Also, I am surprised by the lengths some will go to make a dollar… even when those lengths and decisions, legal or not, may put lives at risk – it’s astounding.  And I don’t just mean ‘theoretical’ lives; I mean in general practice, like during the HIV scandals.  Consider:

A. The cavalier attitude regarding HIV tests by many [members of the industry]. The tests are seen as an expensive annoyance, rather than a failsafe.

B. The mixing of the gay and heterosexual sides of the industry – by allowing gay male performers to cross over and perform on both sides, the risk/reward matrix is raised further for all involved.

C. The nonexistent transparency by AIM to members of the adult industry at the performer level regarding whom may have been exposed to HIV – for example, a person (whom I will not name) was once approached to work with an exposed male performer.  [The male performer] knew he had been exposed, but he solicited scenes anyway.  Because there was no comprehensive list of those exposed available to performers, there was nothing preventing [that same performer] from working on the basis of printed test results that, although not expired at the time, were ipso facto null and void.

This distinction is vital because many talent shoot content for trade; and they depend on the results stated on printed tests. Ordinarily performers do not have access to the paid AIM accounts that producers may be privy to …accounts wherein the results may be more current.

I mean, for fuck’s sake – when I was exposed as first generation back in 2004, the entire goddamn world knew about it. To this day, my name will show on a Google search about the Darren James infection. And you know what?  I’m okay with that. I chose this career path – one as a public figure – and it was in the public interest to know.  My professional peers deserved and had every goddamn right to know I had been exposed. Period.

My opinions about these issues are in the minority, but I don’t care. The few that may agree with me won’t speak up because they fear loss of work. The talent pool in general suffers from the ‘abused housewife’ mentality… Like ‘maybe he won’t beat me if I don’t burn his toast’… or more fitting, the ‘house negro’ mentality.

D. The laissez faire attitude about production moratoriums during [possible] HIV outbreaks – how is this even optional?  Do I want Cal/OSHA and other organizations to crack down on the industry? The better question may be: what is the adult industry doing to protect its weakest members so that it’s not necessary for an outside source to step in?

Without digressing too far, my point is: there seems to be no limit to the lengths some will go to make a dollar. And, in general, talent are seen as expendable as any other piece of equipment used to make porn.

So then, what advice or suggestions would you give to someone looking to start a career as talent today?

Don’t. There is no end game in it.

[interviewer is slightly taken aback]… Hmmm, well this may be a slightly redundant question, but has working in the industry affected your personal life?

There is no way you can do my job reflexively, over and over, without it having an effect on how you view women. I mean, unless you’re a rapist or a sociopath, there has to be some mental adjustment for most guys (TT Boy and Rocco Siffredi, the best performers of all time, are among the few rare exceptions I would say). Let’s be honest – I get paid to objectify women so that men can do the same vicariously through me. It takes its toll.

I have to keep myself in check sometimes when meeting new non-porn females because the protocol for acceptable interaction is vastly different in the real world. I actually go out of my way to overdo respectfulness, or I simply avoid interaction all together, with some attractive females I train with at the various gyms/schools I frequent. If I’m not recognized, I n-e-v-e-r bring up what I do for a living. I knew all this going in and I promised myself that if my point-of-view ever took on a misogynistic pitch, I’d quit on the spot.

I love women. I don’t want that to change.

So you obviously do not regard your current occupation as your life’s work, but where do you see yourself in, say, five years then?

I’ve no ambitions of directing, but I do have well-defined and attainable goals. Pursuing them gives me satisfaction. One of them is to be known primarily for literature and to relegate my adult film career as an anecdotal footnote. The manuscript of my first novel, a roman à clef parable based on my tenure in the adult industry, is done. I’m working on the second.

If people are interested in reading some of your writing or simply following you in your process, is there anywhere they can go?

My blog is: www.tylerknight.com.  Several of the short stories there have already been published in print and on-line literary journals.  Read ‘Bukkake’ first.”

Ummm… wow. That was intense.

Tyler Knight touches on several very loaded issues, issues that often set members of the industry at odds with one another.  These include, but are not limited to, the situated experiences of talent, the commodification and exploitation of performers/workers, and race.

All of these issues are extremely complex and require quite a bit of discussion and unpacking, but I’m gonna let you guys think about this one for a while.  Consider the lived expereinces that Tyler has shared with PVV and the implications therein…

My discussion of and comments on Tyler’s insights are coming soon – ’cause talking about what others actually do is what us scholar-types do best ;)

(pictured throughout: Tyler Knight and some of his work, courtesy of Tyler Knight)

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PVVOnline’s feature Back Stories explores the lives of people who work in all aspects of adult production. Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated –email me!

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