Here’s something we all wouldn’t mind hearing: It’s about to get really hot. “I’m doing some fire eating and body burning at this upcoming show,” Chris Harder says, so casual he could be talking about what he had for lunch. “My friends say, ‘There’s no basic way to eat fire.'”
And there’s not, really, but Harder’s career has been anything but “basic.” Originally from North Dakota, the “boylesque”-turned-pornographer got his start in children’s theater – no joke: he was a sheep in “Charlotte’s Web” – before traveling the world to perform bawdy stripteases and have sex on camera. The international erotic art exhibition, Dirty Show, held Feb. 7-9 and 14-15 at the Russell Industrial Center, brings the entertainer to Detroit during Valentine’s Day weekend. (The New York-based performer will be the first porn star to appear in the event’s 14-year history, according to founder Jerry Vile.)
While doing some packing – meaning, putting clothes in a suitcase – Harder chatted about making lunch ladies blush and the problem with people calling him a “porn star.”
How do you even get to the point where you’re comfortable putting fire near your face?
I wanted another challenge to bring to the stage besides just stripping, and I’ve always thought it would look cool. This past summer I took some classes from a friend in England. Once you get over that initial shock, it’s a lot easier.
Are you always trying to raise the bar?
Even in a career like striptease, where most people think it’s a one-trick pony, there really are a ton of possibilities. There’s definitely more than what meets the eye.
I’m doing the opposite of what many porn actors are doing. I am getting into the adult industry now, at 27, when many people start younger than me and then expand into other areas. I have been doing that, and now I’m expanding into porn. More than ever, I think sex is becoming integrated into popular culture in ways that it wasn’t five or 10 years ago. The possibility of being a sex worker with other career spinoffs is definitely happening for many people right now.
I think porn is interesting, too, because it’s one of the few professions where, if you make a few videos, suddenly you have the “star” label slapped on you. I don’t think of myself as a “porn star” any more than I do a burlesque star. I think of myself as an entertainer at the end of the day.
But “entertainer” is pretty vague, don’t you think?
I should probably just accept it; I sound like the Fiona Apple of porn. You know how she was like, “This doesn’t mean anything!” But I do think it means something for sure, but I guess calling yourself a “porn actor” feels kind of ridiculous. I feel ridiculous saying “porn star,” so I don’t know. But for lack of a better word, sure, porn star. I’m a porn star. Thanks. That’ll be my new positive affirmation every day now. (Laughs)
Why is the term “porn star” hard for you to accept?
I feel like I have worked in a variety of entertainment fields. I’ve done children’s theater, theater, a bit of film, television and commercials, and modeling and porn modeling.
Hold up. You’ve done children’s theater?
(Laughs) It seems like a traditional kind of porn career, right? Yeah, when I moved to New York, I came here about five years ago with every intention of being a “serious actor.” And then, of course, I got cast in “Charlotte’s Web” – the traveling children’s musical theater – and I actually went back to the Midwest and traveled through Wisconsin playing a giant purple sheep. My nose looked like a vagina and I made kids cry all the time.
What does it feel like knowing you’ll be the first porn star to appear at the Dirty Show?
I am really flattered because I know not every entertainer necessarily fits into every show. As a male entertainer in burlesque, I wasn’t always getting cast in fancy dinner party shows. My stuff has always been more comical and now it’s getting more sexual on stage, so the fact that they are bringing me out as a male burlesque performer and a male porn star, I’m really quite flattered.
What do you have planned?
I don’t just wanna do a striptease. I have some more spectacle, big costume-based numbers, but I think sometimes I forget that the sexuality of the piece just emerges from taking off clothing. My style has always been kind of a cross between Tom of Finland and Liberace – and now it’s a lot more Tom of Finland. But I kind of have a goofy personality.
There’s been controversy regarding the school that suspended an 18-year-old Sean Cody model, Robert Marucci, for doing porn. What’s your take on how that was handled?
It’s unfortunate that they chose to make such a big deal out of it. If you really want to reprimand someone because you feel it’s a moral obligation, you think you’d find a more clever way to do it as opposed to creating this media coverage that pulls your decision into question.
I would never tell someone to go do porn, just like I would never tell someone to go drink alcohol, but I think it can be a part of the human experience. I don’t want to say, “kids, go make porn,” but certainly if all needs are being met – and for porn that’s being of legal age – I think it’s horribly wrong to shame someone for exploring their sexuality.
The other argument regarding this is that he’s having bareback sex in the video. And bareback sex in porn has obviously been a hot topic lately. What are your thoughts on bareback sex in porn, and could you see yourself doing it?
I will never do bareback porn. That is just a personal choice. I don’t say that to shame people who do perform bareback in scenes or companies who market bareback porn. Just as with that high school student, at a certain point you are an adult legally, and we have to take responsibility for our personal decisions.
I want to say this as carefully as possible because I don’t want to take some kind of moral high ground, but I feel like bareback sex is a fantasy. When we fantasize, we don’t necessarily fantasize about our partners putting on the condom or taking out the dental dam! (Laughs) But I don’t think professionally I have a responsibility to practice safer sex with condoms because, again, I am an adult. We can’t play that constant game of who’s responsible for children’s upbringings. All I know is that, personally, my responsibility to myself is not to do bareback porn.
Tell me about your decision to change your professional name from Go-Go Harder to your real name, Chris Harder?
I’m trying to take a less-than-regular path in the adult industry. I’d at least like to have a name and appearance that is an initial hook. I think that goes back to performance as well. As performers, we have to trick our audience into liking us – and gay men are no exception to that rule. It’s also easier for people to get into Chris Harder than it is Go-Go Harder.
(Laughs) Well, you know, I’ve always been kind of tight, but once you’re in, you’re good to go.
With a last name like “Harder,” how could you not use it?
I won’t lie, it does come from a place of vanity. I do think “Harder” is a great name. I remember when I was in second grade and the lunch lady would always stumble over my name – and literally, for five years! I think it makes people blush a bit.
I wonder what the lunch ladies would say now if they knew you were doing porn.
Oh god. Probably, “We knew all along. That Harder boy, he was a weird one.”