Daniel Allen Cox SHUCKs it All by Laura Roberts

Daniel Allen Cox, our Boy Montreal (photo by Farah Khan)

Hustling isn’t the most glamorous job. It can make you a ton of cash, sure, and probably garner sufficient quantities of your drug of choice too, but you’ll always be viewed as nothing more than a whore. It won’t matter that you have aspirations beyond selling your ass to the highest bidder, that you are a complex and intelligent individual, that you’re a really good writer. As one of the characters in Daniel Allen Cox’s new novel, Shuck, observes, “Writers are writers, and whores are whores.”

In Cox’s case, these supposedly diametric opposites have met, made out and created a gay porn lovechild that references Dennis Cooper, JT LeRoy and the Marquis de Sade. Am I talking about Cox himself or his fictional alter ego, Jaeven Marshall? At times it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Both have had careers in New York City’s porn industry, posed for nude photos and written obsessive lists after pawing through other people’s trash, but what really separates the two of them?

Cox tells me that Jaeven is more privileged than he ever was: Jaeven’s pager number had the coveted 212 area code for Manhattan proper rather than the Bronx’s outer-borough 718, where Cox himself used to live. Beyond that, Jaeven is street-smart, able to make the best of bad situations with charm, intelligence and attitude. Which doesn’t mean Cox is lacking in those departments, it’s just that Jaeven, like all fictional characters, is cosmetically enhanced. His highs are higher, and his lows lower.

Even so, for Cox, New York is realistically gritty, wild and crazy – just as I remember it, having been an outer-borough gal during the same time Cox was there (though it took Montreal to bring us together). Shuck’s New York is hard and nasty, much like the novel’s one-night stands and porn shoots. Yet, somehow, there is still poetry to be found on the city’s mean streets, and a sense of wonder that comes through in Jaeven’s most private diary entries. Despite his egotistical assertions that he owns the city even as he’s losing all control, Jaeven makes us believe his words. He is, after all, Boy New York.

Does this make Cox our Boy Montreal?

Cox says he hasn’t really ruled out a return to porn. He certainly didn’t leave the industry on bad terms, assuring me that he has the highest respect for his fellow actors and had a lot of fun shooting flicks like College Cocks 101 and Brooklyn Meat Company during his New York days. Since starring in porn isn’t exactly anathema to the unusual hours and day jobs writers often tend to keep, who knows what might happen?

But Cox’s main interest these days involves baring it all via his writing instead of shucking his pants. He says that one of the motivations for writing the novel was “to portray the beauty of unusual relationships.” Indeed, few – if any – of the novel’s relationships can be described as normal, but then again, how many of us can truly say our own lives are blissfully average? Cox expands on his sentiment by adding, “People can have fulfilling, exploratory relationships without having to say ‘I love you.'”

Though Shuck isn’t the tale of a hustler with a heart of gold, it’s also not about victimization – two themes common to most tales involving prostitution. Shuck‘s characters are neither naive nor abused; they have chosen their positions, and do their best to defend them. This more balanced, perhaps more realistic approach reflects Cox’s own experiences in the sex trade, which he says were “extremely positive.”

When I ask Cox if he has any suggestions for those who seek to get involved in sex work, he says that his own entrance into this world was simultaneously both unconventional and everyday. “A guy on a bicycle gave me a business card that said they were looking for male models for a photo shoot,” he recalls. “He was on a bike just in case someone took it the wrong way, as hothead New Yorkers occasionally do.”

For those who have been seriously considering a life of easy money and frequent nudity, Cox says he’ll be offering advice in his mock-lecture Unzip 101: The Fine Art of Shucking Your Pants at his Montreal book launch, taking place at the downtown Chapters (1171 Ste-Catherine St. W.) on Friday, Oct. 3, from 7 to 9 p.m. C’mon out for some free pointers, and maybe even a bit of pant-shucking action to boot!

(Originally published at Hour.ca)