- 28 Jul 16
Connor Habib is a gay porn star with a difference – an ex-creative writing teacher who enjoys discussing Irish literature and cultural theory. Oh, and he loves his job.
“Hey! You’re Olaf, right? Ha! Fancy meeting you here!” Hot Press had arranged to meet American gay porn star Conner Habib in the main bar of the Salthill Hotel in Galway. Somewhat amusingly, we actually bump into each other – cocks in hands - in the gent’s toilet.
Laughing, he tells me that he immediately recognised me from pictures on my website. Averting my eyes as he urinates, I mumble that I also recognise him from his. Even with his clothes on. We have very different websites.
Small, dark and handsome, and wearing faded denim jeans and a t-shirt, the 38-year-old looks like a typical Yank tourist. In one sense he is: he’s currently holidaying around Ireland with his long term boyfriend. However, he’s opted to mix a little business with pleasure. A mutual film industry friend put us in touch and suggested to me that he’d make a good interview subject, as he isn’t “your typical gay porn star.”
I don’t actually know any gay porn stars, but I have a feeling this is probably true. While his website (connerhabib.com) features plenty of NSFW hardcore imagery, there’s also a well-written, thought-provoking essay section and a blog.
“He’s happy to present a site that mentions pornography, Rudolf Steiner, meditation, food, and books all in the same place,” his biographical page states. “That’s the point of this site and maybe his life, he thinks. To integrate everything and show that sex and intellectualism and dance music and philosophy and spiritual feelings do not belong in separate, discreet boxes, but rather all meet and intermingle in each person.”
You Ever Thought of Being In Porn?
We head into the bar and order a couple of pints of Guinness. He’s a friendly, sincere and literary type, quizzing me about my favourite Irish authors before the digital recorder goes on. He’s already familiar with John Banville and Kevin Barry, but makes a note when I mention Mike McCormack and Rob Doyle. “I’ll have to check them out.”
Of Syrian descent, Conner was born in Pennsylvania in 1978. “Middle of nowhere,” he shrugs. “Grew up in a small town called Catasauqua, which was an extremely repressed and oppressive place to grow up. KKK marches, skinheads and all that, but more than that just a very dulling, soul-killing attitude. I go back now and it’s very pretty to me and it’s charming and everything, but it just felt like life or death growing up there.”
He first realised that he was gay in his mid-teens. “I went on a vacation to Ireland when I was 15, with my mom, my stepfather and my sister. My porn name comes from that trip to Ireland because I was at a pub in Killarney and there were two guys dry humping each other just as a joke. Two straight guys having a go at each other, and one of them was like, ‘Oh Conner... Conner... Conner!’ I had already started having feelings for guys and I was just going berserk inside watching this happen. It was the first time I drank, too. So, the full-on realisation was right after I left Ireland.”
He takes a sip of Guinness. “So yeah, my birth name is Andre Khalil. I wrote an essay about picking the name. So Conner came from Ireland, and then I added ‘Habib’ - which is ‘beloved’ or ‘sweetheart’ in Arabic.”
Although obviously very bright, he didn’t do well in school. “I was a failure in high school. Almost literally,” he says. “I would not have finished but somehow I got by – then waited a couple of years and went to university and loved it. I went to school for religious studies then transferred to University of Massachusetts from Pennsylvania and did creative writing. After that, I went to grad school for creative writing and organism evolutionary biology.
“Higher education was perfect for me. Undergrad I really loved, but I hated where I grew up and where I went to school. There was nothing encouraging me to pursue anything that I liked or wanted at all.”
Having decided that he was homosexual, he never explored the obvious alternative.
“I’ve never had sex with a woman ever,” he admits, “but as I get older the more intrigued and sexually interested I am in women. I probably will eventually, but there’s a certain thing that it’s like you make a decision and you really have to gather a lot of strength in you to identify one way or another. When you’re a kid and you decide, ‘Okay, I have to go through all this shit to tell people I’m attracted to men’. Which is what I say now, actually. I don’t even say I’m gay or anything. I just say I’m attracted to men because that is true.”
Habib spent his twenties studying and then teaching creative writing. His career in gay porn only began when he hit 30. “Porn had been on the horizon for me since I was a kid,” he recalls. “I saw it first when I was seven, by accident. I mean a lot of kids see it, just curious kids investigating. I imagine more kids have access now. As I got older and started to understand what it was, I thought, ‘That can be your job, why wouldn’t everyone do that?’ It made no sense to me why you wouldn’t do that. And also all the cool kids in my school were talking about it so I wanted to be what the cool kids were talking about.”
He was offered his first porn shoot following an appearance in a TV commercial. “Yeah, I was cast in a commercial and the crew for that commercial owned a porn company,” he explains. “They came up to me afterwards and were like ‘Have you ever thought about being in porn?’ I said, ‘Have I ever not thought about being in porn?’ because I’d been thinking about it since I was 12. So I did this scene. It was an orgy in a gym and I wasn’t physically attracted to any of the guys that I was cast with. I was really worried on my way there, but when I got there it was like the most amazing thing. It felt natural. You have to sort of overcome it. It’s like getting to the end of a diving board; by the time you’re there, you’re not going back.”
Surprisingly, his family were quite accepting of his career choice. “My sister was the first person I told, and she was like, ‘Oh, that’s the exact right job for you’ – because she knew me. Then she told my family. It was Thanksgiving and she went to spend time with them. They were all sitting around the table and they said, ‘Where’s your brother and what’s he up to?’ She told them and she describes a moment of silence and then my 70-year-old aunt saying, ‘The key word here is star, everybody!’ So they were great.”
It Used To Be Lucrative In The '90's
Conner has since appeared in more than 200 hardcore films, including such titles as Crotch Rocket, Dad Goes To College, Stick It In and Piss On Me. Although he’s currently on a break from acting (if that’s the correct term for fucking on film), pornography is still how he makes his living. “I give lectures around the world, mostly the US but also other countries, about sex, sexuality and pornography,” he explains. “Pornography is this particularly popular thing to talk about on college campuses as you can imagine, so I talk about it there – not about how horrible it is, but actually how much it helps certain communities and how it can help people if you can just sort your head out about it and learn how to encounter it in the right way.
“Actually it’s not even about encountering it the right way. It’s encountering all the bullshit ideas about it that the world has fed you the right way – and dismissing them. So I do that. I have a book in the works which is this sort of philosophy book/memoir, that’s in the negotiation phase right now, essentially.”
Conner was interviewed in Jon Ronson’s most recent book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. “Yeah, Jon was looking for someone who knew about sex work to talk to when he was writing about shame and humiliation, and wondering how porn stars aren’t ashamed and humiliated, so I reached out to him and he immediately was like, ‘Let’s talk’. He’s great and so that’s how our conversation came about.”
Culturally, Conner finds himself in quite a strange position. “I’m talking about sex in public and it’s a little weird because I don’t have a book out and I don’t have a TV show,” he muses. “In general we only talk about cultural figures that have an object, but actually so many people that are doing work – their object is action. So we’re always like ‘who has the book out that we can interview?’ or an album out or a movie out, which is really unfair. And let me just say this for myself, because I want a book out. I mean, it will come out, and I will be thrilled to be interviewed then by you.
“It’s not just sour grapes – but it’s just there’s so many people I see doing great things that would never be interviewed,” he continues. “We don’t consider a porn movie a movie that you could interview someone for. So there are even things that are objects that aren’t considered interview-worthy. That’s something I think about a lot, actually. It’s like ‘can’t my action be my object?’”
He says that he genuinely loves making pornography. “Sexually, it’s very gratifying for me. I love watching porn but, for me, you get to have sexual experiences that there’s no way you could have outside of pornography.”
Although he’s averaged about 25 films a year, porn hasn’t made him wealthy. “I haven’t made a lot of money,” he admits. “Well, I’ve made a lot of money, but I don’t know how to manage money. I’ve never been wealthy because of porn. It doesn’t work like that. It used to be lucrative in the ‘90s, but not anymore. But it’s been a good career for me, in that it’s opened a lot of doors. It’s changed and refined my personality; it’s changed and evolved my sexuality; it’s taught me to understand and have more empathy for others. It’s given me so much. It’s not like that for every porn performer, but it’s like that for me – and it’s like that for a lot of other sex workers.”
Is there anything he wouldn’t do in front of a camera?
“I wouldn’t do anything that I hadn’t done or at least fantasised about off camera, because I’d be too nervous. I wouldn’t try something for the first time on camera.”
Does Conner Habib have a motto in life?
“I have,” he smiles. “This sounds egotistical, but there’s no precedent really for what I’m doing. There aren’t many porn star writers/cultural critics/philosophers/biology students. I mean there are people who are porn star intellectuals, for sure, but because of that the path is pretty murky. I don’t have a guide, so I just have my motto, which is, ‘I’m the action and change that I’ve been waiting for’.”