Sk8ing Through a Hot Niche

Michael Hayes
Producing content to fit the growing emo-twink and skater boy niches presents an immediate and rather obvious problem: once the performers dispense with the setup (if there even is one), there’s scant evidence that the content is in fact skater-specific.

“Most of the time, you don’t have skateboards or roller skates in the actual sex scene,” Angel Benton, SaggerzSkaterz’s director of marketing tells XBIZ. “Skater is a very specific niche, and it’s all about the look and the attitude of the performer, not the skateboards and roller skates per se.”

That look and attitude can best be described as consistent with the Orange County, Calif. skater lifestyle.

Performers who are popular with skater boy fans are often pale, scrawny boys decked out with spiky, bleached blonde hair and, in some cases, a smattering of tattoos. But while skating is often a young man’s game, skater content shouldn’t be confused with twink, according to Benton.

“It’s sort of like one of those [venn] diagrams,” says Benton. “Not all twinks are skaters, but a lot of skaters are twinks.”

But that’s not how a prominent gay porn blogger sees it.

According to him, skaters are best understood as an offshoot of the “chicken” niche. A subset of twink, chicken is so named for its emphasis on young and frequently underweight performers who play up their youthful appearance by showcasing bodies devoid of muscle mass frequently achieved as men reach maturity.

“Chicken is a niche that’s been around since day one,” he said. Skater, it seems, is just the most recent incarnation of that original chicken content, made hip by tapping into a current counterculture lifestyle.

But the taxonomy of skater may not just be a question of the model’s appearance. According to Rene Bolinski at XY-Distribution, skater is often distinct from twink in that it puts a greater emphasis on hardcore sex.

There’s a lot less romance in skater, Bolinski tells XBIZ, and the customers generally prefer it that way. “The main point of the scene [in a skater movie] is very hard, fast sex.”

According to Bolinski, skater boy films also frequently delve into elements of fetish that include BDSM and water sports.

But regardless of the precise definition of skater boy, all agree that the niche has been popular as long as mainstream skaters have been on the cultural map.

Like other genres, skater doesn’t exist in a cultural vacuum, and the producers of the content acknowledge that the niche will only go as far as its mainstream counterpart will take it.

“It’s always like that with any kind of porn,” Benton says. “A mainstream event or trend will always translate into adult entertainment.”

But with skater boy content, gay producers have found a niche with long-term bankability because America’s skating sub-culture has managed to withstand the test of time and emerge as more than a mere trend. Indeed, skaters, while they are not the dominant cultural force, are not exactly underground either. Rather, they are well known, accepted (to varying degrees), and understood as a bona fide lifestyle niche.

“It ebbs and flows of course, but skating has been popular for a long time, and that’s why skater boy content has been so popular,” says Benton. “Skaters themselves have been popular for more than a decade, and that popularity has gone through cycles, which is why you see the same sort of ebb and flow on the adult side.”

That popularity has also been boosted by the web itself, according to Benton, who points out that niche content has gotten a real shot in the arm because of the specialized nature of the Internet.

“You couldn’t really market something as pure skater boy before the web,” Benton explains. “You needed to cast a wider net and have something for everyone. But with the web, I think you see a big growth in skater boy content because we’re able to really meet that niche.”

Today, Benton says SaggerzSkaterz classifies about 15 percent of its total content in the skater niche. And while some of that content gets DVD distribution, the primary point of emphasis has always been — and will continue to be — the web, because that’s where the customers are.

It would be easy to tag skater boys with the classic “bad boy” label, and according to Bolinski there’s certainly an element of the bad boy appeal in skater content. “On one hand, skater boys are clearly bad boys because they like rough sex, and the scenes are often filmed in unusual settings.”

But rough sex performed far from the friendly confines of the bedroom, doesn’t exactly equal bad boy content. And skater boys aren’t bad boy twinks in the classic sense, according to Benton.

“We have thugs, real thugs who just got out of prison,” says Benton. “To me, that’s a real bad boy. Skater boys are naughty, and I think there’s a hint of bad boy with them, but if you’re looking for a true bad boy, you’re not talking about skater, you’re talking about thug porn.”

That’s a sentiment seconded by the prominent gay blogger, who says the bad boy appeal in the skater niche is more about the “allure” of danger than any real overt bad boy theme.

While it’s difficult to create a precise customer profile for the skater boy niche, Bolinski says those who buy the films often fall into one of two groups.

“Either the customers are younger men interested in skaters and the skater lifestyle, or they are older men who are into fetish elements of the content,” says Bolinski.

But according to Benton, the appeal is more about lifestyle than anything else because fetish can often be a distinct genre unto itself.

“We see a lot of personal ads on the community portion of our website,” says Benton. “[From the content of those ads] it’s pretty clear that there are a lot of men out there looking to date skaters. Those men are men of all ages.”

As with almost any genre niche, there are often stars that define the niche (for a period of time). And according to Benton, there are a lot of customers who drop in and out of the niche because they follow a specific star more than the style of the genre.

But it’s a sad fact that skater boy stars don’t last long because their young age is often a big part of what makes them so popular.

“We had a real find a couple years ago named Kelly Cooper,” says Benton. “He was really great and very popular in the skater boy niche. He still shoots for us, but he’s not as skinny as he used to be, and he’s not as young either, so he tends to shoot a lot more for other lines these days.”

Another popular star, Kyros Christian, also trades on his young, scrawny appearance. But how long a star like Christian can sell a youthful underground appeal is anybody’s guess. Skater boy stardom, it seems, is often a fleeting thing, as today’s stars graduate to become icons of altogether different niches.

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