In 1977 I bought my first flat cloth cap – in navy cotton twill with leather detailing on each of the crown sections and a striped lining. It was a souvenir from a family trip to Jamaica, bought from a Rastafarian man selling his own designs at a stall in Kingston. At the time I saw the purchase as a defiant act: the feat of a post-colonial religious activist.
Behind these images of ‘real’ people – building, plastering, carrying heavy weights, fixing things or more generally just getting their hands dirty – is a not-so-subtle invitation to eroticise the workers, their bodies, their performance of ‘real’ masculinity. The hashtag #realpeople implies a distance, both erotic and social: they are ‘real’ people, we are not; this is ‘real’ work, ours is not.
It’s an autumnal afternoon in London’s Soho and I’m meeting porn-legend Buck Angel. I must admit, I’m more than a little nervous. Very few contemporary porn stars have inspired as much discussion – both academic and journalistic – as Buck Angel. As someone who was born female, and worked as a professional model, but then changed sex and pursued a career in pornography, Buck challenges many cultural and social expectations. Buck is, arguably, one of the first Female to Male (FtM) transsexual performers in the adult entertainment world and could even be credited with starting a new genre of pornography. Known as ‘the hunk with a pussy,’ he coined the phrase ‘It’s not what’s between your legs that defines you’ and the erotic potential of his films all stress that gender performance exerts as much sexual allure as what is (or is not) between the legs.