What It's Like to Date a Porn King

By: Gay.net Contributor
7.20.2014

Op-ed by Tyler Helms

He was sitting on my couch, it was all still new, and I asked him something that had been weighing on my mind. “What is the biggest misconception people have about you because of what you do?” His answer was simple yet poignant. He replied, “People sometimes don’t think I’m a person, with all the feelings they have.” The question didn’t come out of left field; after all, I was sitting next to Michael Lucas, a man whose name is synonymous with gay adult entertainment. He has built an empire from his God-given endowment and infamously used his platform to share his strong and controversial opinions. But in this moment, he was the guy I was seeing, someone I met on the matchmaking app Tinder and was growing to care about.

I asked that question earnestly, but in full disclosure was juggling my own misconceptions as I began to navigate the uncharted territory of dating a porn star. There is a preconceived notion, one I held, that people in his industry cared only about sex, in the most extreme way — the illusion that his life was consumed with drinking, drugs, and endless parties with naked men, a 24-hour orgy of madness, all being filmed. And most frightening, that given his profession, there was no capacity to actually love someone outside of the bedroom, or at all.

I continue to find these notions couldn’t be further from the truth. Michael doesn’t drink, doesn’t do drugs, and doesn’t like loud music. The majority of our time is spent ordering Thai food, going to the gym, and binge-watching shows on Netflix, in which he inevitably ask 9,000 annoying questions in the most charming way. He calls his 93-year-old grandmother at least three times a day and wants to talk more about how I am feeling than I often want to share. His ability to connect emotionally is unparalleled, and our most intimate moments have been the ones when we can’t stop laughing; they're just as intimate as the moments between the sheets. Our relationship is healthy, kind, nurturing and he makes me laugh like no one else.

Admittedly, I have been surprised. Particularly as I have fielded the judgmental statements from others like “You can’t actually fall in love with a porn star” or “Be careful, you might catch something.” To me, these statements are less about my relationship with Michael and more an illustration of how we are focused on the wrong things. Whatever happened to wondering if people were treated well? If they felt safe and were happy? In a community and culture that rallies around the idea that love can come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, it continues to surprise me how quickly we will dismiss something that doesn’t fit into the mold we have artificially set for ourselves and others; living by misconceptions, rather than reality.

As an HIV-positive recovering addict, I have lived firsthand the result of people’s misconceptions, particularly in the minefield known as dating, and been categorized based on circumstances, rather than known and understood for the person I am. But despite having lived it, I had forgotten to actually do it. Michael may run a porn empire, he may have sex for the world to see, but he is not devoid of the ability to develop a relationship that matters. He has the passion and care to see me, for me. He's unfazed by my HIV status, supportive of my recovery, and genuinely interested in all the crazy, amazing, bizarre things that make me me.

I think a lot about our conversation on the couch that night and his simple and poignant answer. I think about it when people ask, “What's it like to date a porn star?” How we and even I live in a culture so fixated on the sexual aspect of our existence that we forget to see people as people. We're so concerned with what other people think, we are unable or unwilling to challenge ourselves to discover what people feel. 

Now listen, this is not a public service announcement for dating adult entertainers. I’m not sure there is any profession you can categorically deem "fit to date." Hell, I’ve dated doctors, lawyers, and executives with inappropriate lives, fixations on sex, and inabilities to carry on healthy relationships that would put your ideas of adult entertainers to shame.

But rather I share our unique pairing — a Jewish Russian porn mogul and this Southern-raised neurotic advertising executive — as a boldface personal example to challenge what we think we know. Because once we strip away the labels, opinions, and need for validation, we might be fortunate enough to be sitting on a couch with an unlikely match and have the ability to greet that opportunity with an open mind and open heart. 

As for those who wonder what it's like to date a porn star, I hope you have the good fortune to find out.

TYLER HELMS is a senior vice president at Deutsch Advertising and an HIV/AIDS advocate serving on the board of Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjhelms.

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