David Pevsner is an actor, playwright, model and sexual pioneer whose work we’ve featured here before. I had the chance to talk to him about his unique career and his ongoing artistry posing naked and erect for a variety of photographers.
On your blog you state “Why am I posting these pictures? I posed for them, I’m proud of them, and they are no longer my “dirty little secret”. I want all of us to feel good about our physicality and our sexuality, and not ashamed or embarrassed the way so much of society dictates. Over that…so over it.” I agree so completely with that statement! It’s such a refreshing attitude.
The thing is, there are many men all over the web proudly showing themselves naked and hard, but you’re a rare case of a working Hollywood actor whose phallic exposure was intentional, and you continue to get work. That says so much about how far our culture has evolved in accepting our innate sexuality. Until recently, that would have been a complete career-killer.
I’m curious if you can elaborate on your statement and how your experience has brought you to such a conclusion
I feel as if I’ve spent so much of my life feeling shame about my body and my sexuality, some of which was self-imposed, but mostly what I’ve taken in subconsciously. I was afraid to become an actor in high school because I knew we would have to share dressing rooms and that freaked me out. I was embarrassed to go to the pool in a swim suit on vacations… my sisters would point at me and yell “Woo-Woo!” and make me feel just awful.
There was always fear and shame attached to exposing myself in the slightest and it took me years to get over it, but the scars run deep. Even when I started working out and became prouder of my body, I still felt like there was a sexual sensationalism to it rather than a health or aesthetic aspect, and that fed the deep seated shame and major low self esteem.
The more I build my blog, the more comments I get from men saying that they feel the same way… it’s the prudishness and fundamentalist bent of the country we live in that gets in there and really screws up our body issues. And on top of that, you have the whole “Love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit which essentially means we don’t hate you as long as you don’t fuck. Well, of course they hate us no matter what, but they’ve demonized gay sexuality so completely, and I don’t think young gay folks can really understand that.
All they feel is shame about themselves and their bodies and orientation and that God doesn’t love them. I’m Jewish and not particularly religious, but I do believe that’s a big part of why we’re so screwed up about sex. And we still have those a-hole fundamentalists trying to move into every aspect of our lives… it’s rampant… and I wanted to finally step forward and say no, you can’t make us feel bad about ourselves anymore.
The body, all bodies, are beautiful when we can be confident and joyous about them and what we can do with them. Stay out of my business, bedroom, and sex club, and we’ll stay out of your church. On top of that, there’s the coyness attached to showing the penis, the one taboo. It’s made such a big deal when a model or actor goes full frontal, but mostly they find every possible way to cover it up because of “mystery.” Oh please. It’s fear and shame. Show your penis and your whole life is going to fall apart, you’re a pariah, you’re a pervert, the world will explode blah blah blah… Christ. It makes me so mad. “Private Parts.” Please. Done with that. Half the population has a dick. Get over it.
To me, what you’re doing is revolutionary. You’re challenging a powerful and commonly-held consensus about the body and sexuality, and proudly putting those ideas where they really belong to us as men.
It’s about being honest and open, about acknowledging that nature puts sexuality at the forefront of our lives as men. Not only is there nothing wrong with that, it’s a positive and wholesome expression of our identity. To live openly and without regret – that’s an extremely mature viewpoint.
What advice would you give to men who’re struggling with body shame or guilt over their innate and natural sexual desires?
First of all… never compare yourself to anyone else. Learn to love the body you have, but do what you can to stay healthy. I do believe exercise and diet are important for health reasons, but the bonus is what it can do for a body. Having said that, I love that we’re finally acknowledging that you can be sexy and sexual at any size or age, but confidence is really the key. Confidence is sexy.
Here’s the big thing: Imagine that it’s your last day on earth. Imagine that you’ve spent your whole life squelching your true sexual feelings because of what your family or boss or friends would say. Your whole life. Never allowing yourself to fall in love with that guy who makes you weak. Never having that great guilt free evening of romantic, playful, hard, nasty, voracious sex. That’s an eye-opener.
Also think about countries like Uganda, Iran, Russia, where gay men can be tortured or killed for holding hands. Doesn’t that make you angry??? Doesn’t that make you want to lead a full, satisfying sexual existence for those people who can’t? Doesn’t it make you want to stand up for who you are, to advocate for them and what they’re going through? Think about all the kids who commit suicide because of the shame they feel… it’s so hard to process when you’re surrounded by bigotry and hate.
We as adults have strong coping mechanisms, but it’s important to show these kids that you can be out and happy and live a full life. I think it’s really brave to decide to come out, live an authentic life, follow your dreams, love who you want to love. It’s brave, but it’s also the best thing you can do to find true happiness and also spread the word that gay is good. It’s never too late to do it, but don’t wait until the years are ticking down. If your friends or family won’t support you and that’s what you fear.
You realize of course that they love who they think you to be, not who you truly are. Surround yourself with people who support you, who love you no matter what. It may be painful to let go of the rest, but hey, they might come around. I have always felt that once I came out, it was my responsibility to educate people on what it means to be gay, and I have never lost anyone important in my life. There may have been resistance but almost everyone came around. I don’t come from a fundamentalist background, so maybe it was easier for me, but it’s not just about being a good gay. Be a good person, read, use your talents, learn to laugh, show interest in people and what they’re going through, get outside of yourself. Oh… and get a good shrink. Therapy can be a blessing.
My generation also came up during the AIDS crisis which put a great deal of fear into our sexual lives. I can’t honestly say that’s gone away, even with Prep and the cocktail making it all manageable. Those scars are deep too. You just have to be careful and don’t do anything you’re unsure about and don’t mix recreational drugs and sex. Have sex, great sex, but know what you’re comfortable with and stick by that. It’s never fun waking up the next morning and thinking, crap, why the hell did I do that last night?
Look, we have to learn to be proud of ourselves and own and take responsibility for our choices. Being gay is not a choice, but you can choose to act upon what your body and heart are telling you to do… and you’ll be all the happier for it. Just shut down those negative voices and move ahead into the light.
That’s such excellent advice. It’s really important to know that others who seem so put together have come through a lot to get there.
Let’s lighten things up a bit with a couple of fanboy questions: Who are some of the people who’ve influenced you, in philosophy, art, theater, film, etc?
In terms of the arts and being an actor and singer, well… at the risk of being the gayest gay in all of gaydom… Barbra Streisand. I sang along with her from when I could get the needle on the record, and I loved how free and emotional she was. I was also inspired by a lot of the great musical theatre performers that I listened to on albums I took out from the library.
I loved the cast album of “Seesaw” with Michele Lee and Ken Howard, Zero Mostel in “Fiddler,” Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer (my little gay heart!) on “The Sound of Music” soundtrack, Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews on their “Live at Carnegie Hall” album…. I wore all these out and more. They really fed my desire to be a stage musicals guy. Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Wizard of Oz,” all the old MGM musicals… I saw every one of them. I used to write little musical plays in grammar school, but finally got the nerve to audition for a real musical in high school. Prince Chulalongkorn in “The King and I”… not politically correct, but what the hell did we know back then? That was the beginning for me.
I was a singing/dancing monster as a teenager, so I didn’t really focus on much else except what I had to study in school… I was a great student, but I really only cared about performing. I can’t say I formed any kind of my own ideology of any kind until I moved to New York City. I got there right when the AIDS crisis was starting, and there was so much anger and so many political goings-on, and so many friends getting ill and dying. I went to ACT UP meetings to support and learn, and I just lived my life, out and proud, hoping to do something to educate folks and fight the raging homophobia that was just out of control. One of the best things I’ve ever been a part of was as a volunteer trainer on diversity for the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York. Andy Humm and Ann Northrup are two fantastic activists that I worked with. We’d do diversity trainings on homosexuality in schools, corporations, anywhere that had a need, and I felt like we really made a difference, and Andy and Ann were huge influences. I took a vow that I would never hide in the closet and I’ve been true to that.
One of our readers asked something that I’ve been curious about myself… For the most part, your modeling is focused on the aesthetics of the male body, but so far you’ve only shown one photo online that includes any sexual activity or even cum shots (that I know of).
Do you purposely exclude sexual acts in your imagery? And can you please elaborate a bit on your goals, philosophy, and other issues involved for you as an image-maker?
I get asked a lot when I’m going to go all the way, make a video, full on sexuality, and to them I usually say… when the right thing comes along, I probably will. The reason I don’t want to jump into it is because I want to make sure I’m happy with the images that go out and I would like the sex to be a part of storytelling. There are folks doing straight out sex, mostly in porn, that do it great… I don’t know it that’s something I would excel in.
But as a storytelling device a la “Shortbus,” “Intimacy,” or “Nine Songs” — films I really admire for the way they use graphic sex — that’s what I’d love to be a part of. Some of the pics I put out probably read more porn than art, but I want the pictures to run the gamut, and I’m pretty careful that each image says something I want to say… and that’s not to say there won’t be more extreme content in the future.
I’m expecting that folks reading this will be laughing because they probably think everything I do is porn… I’ve said so often that one man’s art is another man’s porn, and everyone’s line is different. Just showing your dick is porn to some. I don’t know… I’ve been really enjoying expressing my sexual and artistic freedom in these photos, and the fact that some guys (and women!) seem to be inspired by a man of my age putting it all out there in a thoughtful way, trying to make a statement about freedom from shame and celebrating our bodies… it’s been a great ride and in a way, it has been the most political thing I’ve ever done. It certainly has had its consequences, and I’ve had my share of snarky haters, but it’s to be expected and I accept that. I’ve had way more positive feedback, and it feels strangely right that I’m the guy doing it.
You’ve obviously made it a priority for yourself to be honest and proud about posing for these photos. It has to be a challenge sometimes to work in the mainstream movie business. But I think you’re an example of how things are changing. Audiences and studios aren’t as shocked by actors being human and sexual any more. I’m curious what your experience has been like on the mainstream side. How have you been received by casting agents, etc?
I don’t really know if it’s changing. I just lost my commercial agent because the casting people were turning me down. I get it… commercial clients are very careful about the faces that push their products. I know my agent felt bad, but I told her she was free to drop me and that I take full responsibility. I don’t feel bitter or angry about it. I wasn’t exactly the commercial type anyway, but I know if you put yourself out there this way, the whole world ain’t gonna buy it. And honestly, I haven’t had as much mainstream TV or film work as before, but I’m shooting a new film next month, I’m in a film called “Spa Night” that will be in competition at Sundance (my debut!), I start shooting a new season of “Old Dogs and New Tricks” soon, plus I have my own projects… a CD of my dirty little comedy songs called “Most Versatile” (look for it soon!), my one man musical “Musical Comedy Whore”, a club act called “Schwingin’ My Songs”, and a film I wrote that I’m amassing the talent for as I write this.
Besides all that, I have a personal organizing business called Address the Mess that I love. And then there’s my blog of pics as well as my running Facebook commentary… I’m pretty loud there and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have my voice heard. So I don’t know where this is all going to lead me, but I feel like I’m nurturing a brand for myself, a kind of shameless, gay, multi-media actor/singer/writer. If that sounds limiting… I don’t think so. We have so many stories to tell, and I want to tell them all. I play mostly doctors and lawyers on TV and it’s fun and worthwhile, but my best opportunities have always been the independent stuff, and I don’t think the dick pics are going to affect that.
The big question I ask, and I really really want to find the answer… why is showing yourself in a naked, sexual way a career killer? Why? I really want to know. It’s just assumed that if you’re fully sexual on camera, your career’s over, at least for a gay man, but why?
Besides the obvious homophobia and gay panic by some straight guys in the industry and the self-loathing of some of the gay ones… why? The Children? They shouldn’t be looking anyway. But for free thinking adults in a pretty progressive industry, I don’t get it. Matt Damon made that comment about how gays should essentially stay in the closet because it ruins their mystery. Of course, he can hold his wife’s hand on the red carpet and it tells us everything without saying a word, thus ruining HIS mystery. And maybe that’s part of the sexual thing, but come on…
Short of penetration, plenty of actors have shown their bodies in sexual situations. Why is a hard dick or real sex the line? I really want to go beyond conventional wisdom and figure it out. We are pretty fucked up about sex in this country (especially gay sex) and you can say I’m being delusional to think that could change (especially in this insane right wing political climate we seem to be mired in), but one great performance in a film by someone who’s put it all out there is all it would take, I think.
That’s the journey I’m on right now, and I really wonder if it will ever change. I guess I’ll find out, and I’m ok with that. When asked why I would put these photos out by that commercial agent, I told her my desire to express this part of me and make a statement trumped my need for a mainstream career. Foolish? Maybe. We shall see if I can have both.
I honestly feel such respect for that attitude. It’s not many people I’ve met who could or would risk so much to be so honest about themselves, but I feel like as your audience we share that optimism and I know you have a lot of fans from BateWorld!
So, lastly, with that in mind, what are some of your upcoming (ha) projects?
Well, I’m in a couple of independent films….”Open” that’s in post production and will start doing the festival circuit and “Spa Night” which was a hit at Sundance. I’m also doing my one man show “Musical Comedy Whore” at a theater in LA in a couple of months. We’re going to start shooting season 4 of the web series “Old Dogs and New Tricks”, and my CD “Most Versatile” will be coming out soon. I’ll eventually have all the info on my website, davidpevsner.com as well as putting stuff on my Tumblr blog and Facebook. I’m also @davidpevsner on Twitter.