“All I ask of Thee, Lord/ Is to be a drinker and a fornicator/ An unbeliever and a sodomite/ And then to die/ And then to die very suddenly.”
This 17th-century quotation from Claude de Chauvigny, alias Baron de Blot, is printed in the most recent edition of the US chapbook Straight To Hell (#65, 2006) under a photograph by Reed Massengil of a half-naked man sporting a semi and wearing a T-shirt that reads “Power up with Jesus.”
The Manhattan Review Of Unnatural Acts, The American Journal Of Cocksucking And Current Affairs, The US Chronicle Of Crimes Against Nature, The New York Review Of Cocksucking, The American Journal Of Revenge Therapy, The American Journal Of Dicklicking… call it what you will, the gay porn chapbook currently known as Straight To Hell (STH) has printed true-life sex stories from “average Joes” and the odd literary celeb for more than 35 years.
Founded in 1973 by editor — and cult figure — “reverend” Boyd McDonald, STH has maintained a substantial and loyal fan base with its direct sex testimonials from gay men — mostly anonymous — worldwide. Interviews and articles from the likes of William S Burroughs and David Sedaris have also appeared over the years.
As part of an ambitious project to place much of the back catalogue on-line, current editor Billy Miller was recently in Toronto to scan vintage STH issues only available at the Canadian Lesbian And Gay Archives (further proof of the archives’ long-standing claim to possess the largest queer periodical collection in the world). Miller describes the early incarnation of STH as “a zine before zines.”
As in the olden days, most new stories in STH are unsigned. Miller feels anonymity gives the zine a freer, more open feel. He has sage advice for potential contributors. “Don’t write it; just tell it,” he says. “I don’t want to hear about moonlight glinting off someone’s eyes.” Cum dripping off someone’s cock, however, will suffice. While the writing takes great delight in remaining true to graphic details, the pages have also been graced by beautiful black and white photographs by artists as illustrious as Robert Mapplethorpe and Bruce LaBruce. The most recent issue sports an engaging LaBruce snapshot of a gorgeous naked man with erect penis and crutches.
Many items from the early years were later edited by McDonald into a series of books with titles such as Sex, Filth, Lewd and Scum. McDonald also wrote for a variety of gay magazines, gaining a reputation as a significant writer/journalist during his lifetime. He died in 1993 but stories from the McDonald era are still reprinted on the website for The Guide (search Guidemag.com for “sex stories”), a travel info mag now owned by Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra. Miller took over STH in 1989 after a 1980s term by editor Victor Weaver. Miller describes McDonald’s contribution as ripe with personal wit and astute politics and feels his aim is simply to maintain the standards McDonald set.
Gore Vidal once described STH as “one of the best radical papers in the country.” Referred to by its editors as “the cumrag of the stars,” this perfect little jerk-off journal holds a special place within the history of gay politics. Resisting the mainstreaming of gay representation during the early ’80s, McDonald insisted upon maintaining very low production standards. The zine’s look continues to satisfy readers’ nostalgia for a time when gayness was perhaps more concerned with what Miller refers to as “fucking and sucking” than the complex milieu that has become the “gay lifestyle.” Without glossy photos or apocalyptic fashion-conscious advertisements, STH may be considered a fabulous breath of stale air in the midst of an over-produced, gloss-affirming world of fresh new faces on the fag mag horizon.
Miller sees basic differences in the ways in which history has affected STH content. He acknowledges that a post-9/11 environment encourages rampant surveillance and censorship. McDonald’s tenure was also pre-AIDS, a period when, according to Miller, sex stories seemed less restrictive. “You don’t get as many stories about piss drinking and shit eating.”
So don’t turn to the pages of STH for tales that focus upon particular sexual appetites. There is plenty of diverse detailed reading that locates environment, physicality and raw sex within fast-paced, engaging narratives.
STH used to be famous for publishing stories of youthful shenanigans. My first exposure was the following excerpt from a 1975 issue: “I started sucking cock at the age of seven. I was seduced by a dirty old man of nine.” But Miller admits that the current climate has forced him to not print some recent submissions due to their graphic description of paedophilia. It seems much of our life experiences is still unpublishable.