Porn newbie Ty Mitchell isn’t just a burgeoning gay sex symbol — he’s also a regular on Brooklyn’s underground drag scene as Kelsey Dagger, self-described “part female wrestler part telenovela star.” Rather than keeping these identities wholly divorced, like some kind of Hannah Montana with a Truvada prescription, Mitchell’s thoughtfully caustic take on contemporary queer life — channeled primarily through his Twitter account — fuses what may seem to some as conflicting identities to reach a more well-rounded understanding of the current state of gay culture. And according to Mitchell, drag and porn have much more in common than you may think.
Out: Do you consider yourself a porn “star?”
Ty Mitchell: Yeah, mostly because I think anybody who has the audacity to fuck on camera for money and public distribution has the right to call themselves a star. It’s kind of like how even obscure drag queens get to call themselves queens.
Is that a backhanded way of reminding me that you’re a drag queen?
No they’re just not that different — except for the whole gender part. A lot of porn scenes feel like Drag Race main challenges, though.
What was your biggest misconception about porn before you started doing it?
That I’d wind up working with a lot of dumb, douchey guys who don’t like me and just want to get paid. Those guys are out there, but I’ve really liked pretty much everyone I’ve worked with. Everybody is invested in keeping the mood sexy, and generating an earnest attraction to each other.
Is having sex on film banal or exciting?
It’s exciting, even if it can be tolling and hard work. I don’t have any kind of film or acting background so it’s all very glam to me.
Is there a lot of room for improvisation?
Surprisingly yes. Most of the time there have been lots of opportunities for me to provide some input on like, what the next position should be. They all have an interest in making things as authentic seeming as possible.
What’s more performative, drag or porn?
I don’t really think one’s more performative than the other. Bad drag and bad porn are both marked by being too contrived and disembodied. Good drag and good porn are both premised on a performer being really authentic, but also that that authentic self just happens to be compelling. I think that’s what people mean by ‘talent.’ I guess, at the moment, people are into amateur porn more than they’re into amateur drag.
Would you ever do porn in drag?
Yeah, if it was some artsy thing, I could see that being really cool. I don’t think I could keep the wig on through the scene, though. The better question is would anybody watch it or pay for it?
Do people still pay for porn?
Not enough, but I sort of get why. I want to see the industry find some way to innovate porn so that it could be financially sustainable — but to be totally honest porn isn’t exactly populated with the brightest minds of the marketing world. Not a lot of focus groups and market research going on, it seems.
Drag queens, conversely, seem to be much better at marketing.
Yeah well, drag queens get to be visible in ways that porn studios can’t. Drag isn’t regulated the way sexual content is. I like to think that those restrictions are becoming unsustainable, but who knows anymore. Society as a whole seems a lot more conservative than I thought it was.
Do you get a sense that PrEP has made a huge impact on the porn industry?
Yes, undeniably. But there was bareback porn before PrEP got big. I think PrEP really changed gay culture, i.e. destigmatized the desire for barebacking. I think gay porn and gay culture inform each other in interesting ways.
Does drag have a similarly symbiotic relationship with gay culture?
Not quite. I don’t think drag culture informs gay identity with quite the same potency that gay porn does. Gay porn prescribes and describes our very desires. Drag has that relationship to gay culture, as something that distinctively belongs to us, but not to gay identity. After all, you can be gay without getting into drag, but it’s a lot more rare to be gay without consuming some kind of gay porn at some point. I think drag has repeatedly challenged gay culture and will continue to do so, and that’s something gay porn doesn’t really do.
Does drag still belong to us now that RuPaul is selling it to straight people?
Yes. It’s not like drag queens are enjoying newfound power just because straight people are paying more attention to them. Some of the greatest drag queens we know still split a bedroom in Bushwick. I think the fact that drag still occupies this relatively low rung in the larger culture means it’s still a queer thing.
What drag queen’s porn would you most want to see?
Trinity K. Bonet.