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By Trevor Ballanger

by Trevor Ballanger

Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

Sex only needs two partners to happen. Pornography, on the other hand, takes many more. While the industry isn’t as prevalent in Chicago as it is on the West Coast, voyeuristic Chicagoans may have unknowingly seen some of their favorite X-rated performers such as Lane Place, David Law and Gus Lewellen on the el train.

Two years ago, hairstylist/photographer Place, 45, decided to create a website depicting his physical interests. He and his partner now operate the locally based gay porn website LaneXPlace.com, inspired by the work of porn enthusiast Lewellen. Place wanted to create a free site that was creative and respectful of everyone involved, as opposed to an

exploitative environment.

“That’s not the theme of my site,” Lane said. “I wasn’t seeing something in porn. So then I decided to just do it myself as sort of a joke to see if I could make it artistic and hopefully make money. I managed to make it artistic.”

Law, an adult performer based in Chicago, said the Chicago porn industry is predominantly gay because of the city’s gay-supportive community. Despite this, Law, 35, found his way into straight porn in 2003 after graduating from law school—the source of his stage name—and decided he no longer wanted to practice.

He said a counterculture lifestyle appealed to him, so he decided to find a way to apply his degree to something he could enjoy. Enter the porn industry, where he first found himself working behind the camera, managing the business side of a Florida-based company called X-Pics.org. Later, other associates would cast him as an actor in these films.

“The adult industry was an answer to [my needs],” Law said. “As I met people in the industry, some other companies said, ‘Hey, would you ever consider performing?’, and I said, ‘Well, why not? It’d be a life experience.’ I ended up doing more in front of the camera than behind

the camera.”

Since then, he has worked for numerous porn companies in Illinois and across the country and has participated in a range of genres, including amateur bondage, discipline and sadomasochism. Today, he operates his own company, DavidLawXXX.com, while also doing legal support work for intellectual property cases. He said he uses his website as a way to advertise himself as a performer but still needs his second job to get by, as the adult film industry isn’t as lucrative as it was a decade ago.

Lewellen, 35, also felt the need to take a second job, despite owning his website, WindyCityXXX.com. Aside from doing porn, he said he uses his tech company to make ends meet, providing his services to both the industry and outside clients. Many porn companies aren’t staffed with a tech advisor on-site, making Lewellen an ideal freelance candidate since he also performs

on camera.

He said several of his outside tech clients are aware of his participation in the adult film industry, but he’s not ashamed of it. People finding out was inevitable and came as no surprise to him because he’s done various TV interviews for the FOX morning channel and G4TV’s “Wired for Sex,” which explored the Internet’s involvement with porn and its ramifications.

“It’s not something that I try to hide,” Lewellen said. “At the same time, I don’t go out of my way to let people know. I mean, people have seen me on TV a couple times. They’ll say, ‘Hey, you’re on TV,’ but it’s never been

an issue.”

His amateur porn career began six years ago when he started making films and posting them on his personal XTube.com account. When he noticed his videos becoming increasingly popular, he decided to set up his own site. But first he needed to make a substantial number of videos.

Lewellen, who identifies himself as straight, said he oftentimes uses both his girlfriends and acquaintances to perform with him on camera, and sometimes the videos encourage romantic relationships. Lane said he finds the majority of his partners through street fairs and gay social networks like Grindr.com, noting he’s been videotaped having sex with teachers, firemen and even a judge. His website conceals the faces of everyone participating in the video to protect them from damage to their jobs or reputations.

A major issue in the porn industry is the high risk of infectious diseases. Porn companies are often unwilling to foot the bill for testing, so they seek performers from other countries who are willing to go without testing, Law said. Many performers in the U.S., however, will not work with actors who have performed outside of the country because of the increased risk of contracting disease. The same standard applies to the gay porn industry, which he said has been less vigorous about regulating sexually transmitted

disease testing.

Legal battles are another danger of being in the porn industry. In response to claims that pornography is prostitution, Lewellen said the participants in his videos aren’t paid, but he can understand why people would consider porn to be prostitution. By the same token, he pointed out that there are married couples filming pornographic videos in their homes and selling them to companies, and he questioned whether that could be considered prostitution.

“If you look at the companies that are finding random people and paying [them] to shoot a scene and look at the definition of ‘prostitution,’ it is prostitution,” Lewellen said. “I think that’s why it’s illegal in a lot of places, because they don’t really make any distinction between the two.”

Law said the porn industry struggles in Chicago for this reason. Producers in California have peace of mind about the legality of porn since the state declared in the 1980s that it is a form of expression, not obscenity. The Midwest has a more conservative mindset, he said, making it difficult to find willing participants and financial success like that of the industry on the West Coast.

“To me, I think prostitution is for personal services,” Law said. “[Porn is] for entertainment purposes. I don’t perform necessarily for my own gratification. I do it for entertainment purposes, for the camera and to create a product. That’s the irony of it. The more public you are doing this, the more legal it seems. The more private you are in the sexual exchange, the more illegal it is.”

According to him, Chicago doesn’t enforce any laws pertaining to the production of adult films, such as condom laws. However, he said a license is needed to film, and if porn is filmed regularly in a particular area or house, it could be deemed a “house of

ill repute.”

Lewellen was hit with an obscenity case after attending and filming a swingers club at a friend’s house two years ago, which was raided by the police. He said after they found out he was involved with a porn company, they took his cameras and erased the contents in order to use their own edited surveillance video against him and accused those involved of having sex in a public area.

Educated in computers, he was able to retrieve the deleted film on his camera and give it to his lawyers as evidence, and the charges against him were dropped. Others involved in the raid chose not to fight the case and plea bargained the charges down.

All people involved in porn do it for different reasons. Lewellen said some people do it for the money, others to satisfy their needs as exhibitionists. According to Place, he chooses to perform as a way to counteract sex addiction. Instead of doing a 12-step program or succumbing to the issue, he said he feels this is a healthy way to manage his problem.

Porn is an industry that exists behind the scenes but is no secret to the public. The first words welcoming guests to Law’s website are “Publicly abhorred, privately adored.” While Chicago may not be the command center of the industry, its adult performers work together in their own close-knit niche, making sure their careers continue to move forward.

“It’s an energy that you’re like, ‘Goddamn it, I want more of that,’” Place said. “The older I get, [I realize] any kind of addictive personality is never going to

be satiated.”