Sean Zevran Questions Hugh Hunter Over GayVN Nominations Withdrawal: “I’m Suspicious Of His Motivations”
Last month, white gay porn star Hugh Hunter made news when he posted a tweet announcing that he wanted his nominations at the upcoming GayVN Awards withdrawn due to the show’s category honoring “Best Ethnic Scene” (a category that has since been removed). This week, biracial gay porn star Sean Zevran has written a thought provoking and important article for Efniks that questions Hunter’s motivations in asking to be removed from the awards show, while reminding that the issue of racism in porn is about much more than one awards show or one white gay porn star’s tweet. Zevran’s must-read article in full is here, and here are excerpts:
Though I share concerns about having a de facto “separate but equal” category and about the fetishizing of racial minorities, with the elimination of categories such as “Best Ethnic Scene,” my larger concern is that talent of color in the gay porn industry will find it more challenging to be recognized.
Now, I was only shortly behind Hugh Hunter in withdrawing my own nominations, but I suspect his and my reasons for doing so are slightly different, and I want to be forthcoming and clear on exactly why I withdrew my nominations. My fans, and those with whom I was nominated for this particular award, deserve an explanation.
Foremost, I withdrew my nominations because I wanted to show my fans, especially those of color, and the rest of the industry, that I am serious about wanting to see real change; that I want to not just talk about it, but be about it. Never in my entire porn career have I received so many texts, emails, and social media messages from fans, blogs, and publications alike asking what my response would be to the latest gay porn controversy. So, I thought maybe this would be an opportunity to add momentum to the conversation. Maybe this would be an opportunity to create a narrative that is driven mainly by the experiences and stories of people of color in the gay porn industry.
Secondly, I withdrew my nominations because I was angry, not at GayVN, but at the way the situation seemed to be unfolding. After receiving news of Hugh Hunter’s bombshell and reading the letter he sent to GayVN, I was angry that some random white guy had seemingly decided to take it upon himself to use the struggle of gay porn actors of color to get attention. Hugh Hunter is being praised right now by gay media and porn blogs as some kind of gay porn social justice icon while actors of color who have been talking about this for years continue to be ignored and forgotten, actors that came before my time, even.
I agree with Sean Zevran with regard to how models of color have indeed been calling out racism in the porn industry for years. And with regard to Hugh Hunter seeking attention, well, that would be nothing new. Full disclosure: Hugh Hunter sought attention on Twitter earlier this year when he unsuccessfully called for a “boycott” of a different awards show—the Str8UpGayPorn Awards (where he was not nominated for anything). Unlike the understandable issue he had with the GayVNs, Hunter tweeted dozens of blatant and bizarre lies about Str8UpGayPorn (so many that I had his Twitter permanently suspended for harassment—although he quickly opened a new account), including the lies that I published his name and address, and that I threatened to contact his landlord and his family. What these nonexistent threats were, where they were supposedly published, and why/how I would do any of this (I have no idea who Hugh Hunter or his landlord or his family are) was of course never explained by Hugh Hunter, because none of these things ever happened here, as everyone already knows.
So, while Hugh Hunter was correct to call out the “Best Ethnic Scene” category at the GayVNs, his history of provoking social media drama (just last month, he and his husband were having a public Twitter war with a porn star half their age) and desperately seeking attention—at the expense of others—makes me question his sincerity on this or any issue, and Sean Zevran was correct to question his motives. He continues:
For me, it’s more than a little unnerving that Hugh Hunter, again, a white guy, seems to be getting most of the attention for something that should be about us and how we feel. That in itself is telling. It also makes me suspicious of his motivations. I mean no disrespect to Hunter with what I’m about to say, but the things for which he was nominated put him up against some stiff competition, and had I been placing bets before he withdrew, I wouldn’t have placed bets on him to win anything at all. Mind you, this is less of a criticism of his talent in the industry and more of a compliment to those he was up against. He was up against some serious industry veterans, and Hunter wasn’t even nominated for “Best Ethnic Scene.” After all, he couldn’t have been. He’s white.
Forgive me for being skeptical of his motives. For a white guy who had next to no chance of winning, it seems something other than fortuitous that he would decline all of his nominations and try to blow the whole thing up on his way out by crying “Racism!” As a friend of mine often says, “Stay in your lane, boo. This ain’t about you.”
I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. If so, then I apologize to Hugh Hunter and the entire industry. However, I think if Hunter had been serious about addressing the problem of racism in gay porn, he would have first reached out to the talent that was nominated for “Best Ethnic Scene” and asked us what we thought about it. Furthermore, he would’ve sought out someone at GayVN, as I did, and asked about the reasons behind having an award for “Best Ethnic Scene.” Instead, he reached out to neither those nominated for the award nor anyone at GayVN before creating a spectacle by withdrawing his nominations and posting an explosive letter to Twitter. I think it was selfish. The best course of action would have been for all of us to sit down together and ask “How can we make this better?”
Doing such would’ve been quite simple, as I’ve demonstrated. For example, after exchanging a few text messages and making a couple of phone calls, I found out exactly who to contact at GayVN so that I could get GayVN’s perspective on the whole thing. I heard their side of the story while also voicing the concerns that many gay actors and fans of color have about having a “Best Ethnic Scene” award. The conversation was professional, understanding, and compassionate. GayVN has acknowledged its missteps and expressed interest in reaching out to more actors, studios, and fans of color in order to better understand how to tackle this issue. That is how progress is made: by talking to people, getting their perspective, listening, learning, and turning knowledge into action.
That, honestly, is more or less what I’d been planning to do before this whole thing blew up and every blog and gay publication began raving about it. I could already see the direction this was headed: a few blogs and publications would pick up the story and run with it for clickbait for a while, as they always do; Hugh Hunter would get a pat on the back for virtue signaling; the story would eventually blow over and people of color would once again be left in the dust with nothing actually being done to make things better.
It probably comes as no surprise that, once again, Hugh Hunter has taken to Twitter for more drama, and he’s responding to Sean Zevran’s article. Hunter labels Zevran’s article “unfortunate,” and he goes on to make a veiled threat against Zevran, writing, “I could make assumptions as to why you did this, but I won’t.”
Sean Zevran was correct to question Hugh Hunter’s motives, but at the same time, Hunter’s history of self-interest and penchant for drama might’ve actually done some good for once, given that at least the real issue of racism in gay porn is finally being openly addressed more than it ever has before. Read Sean Zevran’s full article here.