On a June day in 2008, I found myself in a novelty sombrero. I was dangling my feet in the deep end of a swimming pool at a ranch outside of Santa Fe, sporting a red Forever 21 sundress, $1,000 worth of borrowed turquoise jewelry, and wide sunglasses, which I hoped would make me appear glamorous … and anonymous.
It was the afternoon of day two of Playgirl’s annual Campus Hunks photo shoot, an event that I’d coordinated, budgeted, contracted, and conceptualized. And the hunks were coming.
In the last 48 hours, I’d gotten to know this ragtag pack of models pretty well. I knew all about their girlfriends or wives. All about their ambitions and their day jobs—pro basketball, fitness modelling, veterinarian. All about their rationalizations. Carl, who had the adorable, dopey, eager-to-please countenance of a golden retriever, spent long hours in the hotel hot tub explaining that, though he was definitely straight, he did gay porn videos as a sort of cockeyed Christian goodwill mission. “I’m here on this planet to make people happy,” he insisted. “And if it’s by having sex with another guy on camera—if that’s my talent—well, as long as I’m putting positive energy out there into the world, then I’m so happy to do it!”
Despite how strange and sweet and human these men were, it was hard not to see them just as oversize (and anatomically correct) Ken dolls. The truth about asses and dicks is that they’re basically just muscles, like pecs and biceps. When they’re all bronzed and polished to perfection, they don’t even have the qualities of human flesh. They seem like plastic—or machinery.