Benjamine Heath is a tall and flower-shaped 25-year-old who moved to New York from Arizona with one friend, no high-school degree, and a Starbucks job transfer. That was eight years ago. Now he helps his boyfriend, Jason, run one of the only gay-porn studios in New York City—a successful midsize company called CockyBoys. His nom de porn is “Benny Morecock,” and his title is creative director.
There’s nothing groundbreaking about CockyBoys content, which tends toward relatively vanilla activity performed by cute, scruffy models. The studio is run like porn studios have always been run, with paid directors and actors. Membership, which includes access to films on its website, costs $29.95 per month, and there are currently between 4,000 and 5,000 active members. Still, there is something about the CockyBoys aesthetic that gets porn wheels turning—an ironic touch that’s light enough not to compromise the simple pleasures of whacking off. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like CockyBoys,” says Erik Schut, managing director of TLA Video, America’s largest retailer of gay adult films. “They’re just fun. It’s not the same old blah-blah-blah. They’re not formulaic.” The content, actually, verges on that—sex is hard to reinvent. What’s different is the sensibility, and the sensibility belongs to Benny.
Last fall, Benny started co-hosting CockyBoys parties at Le Bain, the club at the top of the Standard, and Eastern Bloc, an East Village gay bar, with Paper magazine’s Mickey Boardman. The parties were notable for attracting a crowd not typically associated with the porn business—designers, musicians, and editors like Prabal Gurung, Nicola Formichetti, Jake Shears, and Ariel Foxman. These were porn parties, but they were not porny. At another event, in an immaculate Tribeca party space, the socialite Marjorie Gubelmann guest-D.J.’d. The industry’s abiding paradox—sex is glamorous, and porn is sex, but porn is not glamorous—seems not to apply to CockyBoys. As Paper’s Drew Elliott puts it, “they can do things that a normal porn company can’t do.” This is a license that Benny works hard to maintain. (He’s likely the only creative director in the business.)
“We try to stick to college studs with an edge,” Benny says one afternoon at the CockyBoys office in Long Island City, outlining the company’s porn niche. “Cute guys with personality, maybe some tattoos. There’s a new term I heard—otter. It’s basically a young, skinny bear. Or a hairy twink. Personally, I think otters are really hot.” (Worth noting: The term otter has been around longer than Benny’s career in porn.) Dressed in a formal shirt and suspenders, he is as two-dimensionally thin and neatly pressed as an envelope. “I wouldn’t be shocked if I learned that he was the world’s most convincing female-to-male transsexual,” Boardman says. “There’s a Johnny Depp quality to him. You have to stop and think: What am I seeing?” With his watchful mien and velvet-painting face, Benny doesn’t come across like the avid porn consumer that he is. On his desk sits a ball of alpaca yarn; he has been crocheting, he says, “a patchwork quilt of differently shaped squares in muted colors.”
His computer is cluttered with projects. There’s a gallery of images for the website, a folder labeled MORE AMAZING TYPOGRAPHY! and a daily to-do list that is actually a composite to-do list culled from a master list of to-do items. The desktop is Harry Potter–themed. Sometimes Benny will work fourteen- or sixteen-hour days. “I get up, I drive, I work, then I go home and probably work some more,” he says. “I’m not a stressful workaholic, I just like getting stuff done.”
As he speaks, a man pops into the office to give Benny a kiss. “I’m Adrian,” the man says.
“My boyfriend,” Benny adds. “One of them.”
And here lies a second explanation for Benny’s—and, by extension, CockyBoys’—microfame. Adrian explains that he is driving upstate to the house that he shares with Benny, who is now puppyishly tugging on Adrian’s hand, and Jason, who is the CEO of CockyBoys. The three men have been together for just over four years—a “throuple,” Benny calls it, putting air quotes around the dumb word. Their throuplehood is more or less a permanent domestic arrangement. The three men work together, raise dogs together, sleep together, miss one another, collect art together, travel together, bring each other glasses of water, and, in general, exemplify a modern, adult relationship.
Except that there are three of them.
It began in 2008, when Jason went to get his hair cut at Bumble and Bumble. The stylist’s assistant was cute, and Jason asked if the cute assistant could wash his hair. The assistant, who was Benny (he’d quit Starbucks), agreed, and the two exchanged numbers. That night, Benny went over on the pretext of meeting Jason’s dogs and wound up spending the night. He woke up the next morning to find Jason’s boyfriend, Adrian, shirtless in the kitchen cooking eggs. Jason had already left for work. Adrian, who is almost satanically good-looking, was polite to the stranger on his couch. Benny was intimidated by Adrian and didn’t know what to do, so he ate a plate of eggs and went home.