Q&A: Corbett Harper, Former ‘Speedo Student’, Moves on from XXX Classroom Controversy

Q&A: Corbett Harper, Former ‘Speedo Student’, Moves on from XXX Classroom Controversy

SHARE

Corbett Harper, formerly known as Speedo Student, is no stranger to controversy. The amateur porn performer rose to Internet stardom last year when his blog—where he published pictures and videos of himself posing in Speedos and masturbating in classrooms (NSFW) at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa—went viral (Queerty, Huffington Post). The attention turned sour when the university found out and community backlash forced him to take academic leave.

But it did jumpstart his career in professional porn. He was signed on to Dirty Bird Pictures and starred in “Speedoboys,” featuring Kaden and Shawn of ActiveDuty.com, but the film was pulled following the threat of a lawsuit from Speedo. For now, he is back to blogging, and although he posts plenty of hot pictures, he has left the classroom behind.

We tracked down Corbett to see how it all went down, and what the next move is for the budding porn star.

Where are you from? What was it like growing up?

I was born in Maui, Hawaii, but I’ve grown up all over the western US, mostly Colorado and Montana, and did three years of college in North Dakota. I had a fairly quiet childhood; I spent a lot of time reading books and building up my private library. I also did a lot of writing, drawing and horseback riding, and before I went off to college I was taking flying lessons. It was peaceful but fun.

What was your coming out experience like? Does your family know about your porn career and the drama that has ensued?

Yes, I am out to my family. My coming out happened quite accidentally when I came back over Thanksgiving break [in 2009]. My parents were actually more surprised to hear that I had been sexually active than that I was gay, which they’d suspected for a while. They do also know about my blog and adult work; I was forced to tell them to avoid having them find out from the local press after the latter made a big news event out of my story. We are somewhat at odds over it.

Tell us about your experience at Hawaii. What prompted you to take the now-infamous photos and videos?

Corbett Harper in the classroom

Quite frankly, I ended up going to UH as the most obvious option after getting run out of a university in North Dakota for campaigning for reform of their ROTC programs. The classroom photos started out as my tribute to the speedo challenge that Australian photographer Shannon Boh did on his blog. I wanted to work along the same lines, but with a theme specifically related to Hawaii and to my status as a college student. The video was an afterthought, since it occurred to me that my viewers would find it very erotic to see a solo shot in a real classroom. I shot the video footage myself, but for the photos I had the help of a very good friend of mine.

I certainly did not expect such a fuss to be made over the video. I assumed that very few students on campus would ever see it, as my blog was targeted specifically at gay guys, and that if they did they would not care much about it. I thought that they were sufficiently mature and open-minded about sex to realize that there was nothing particularly unusual about what I did. Instead, I was confronted with hostility, public insults and the organized opposition of the student LGBT center and the administration.

The Hawaii student newspaper published a story about you being “investigated,” warning people: “Do not attempt to approach the student.” What’s the story behind that, and how did it pan out with the university?

As for the statement in the student newspaper, that was not issued on behalf of the university. It was written by a reporter who thought herself clever and inserted without university approval. A number of faculty members condemned the statement as uninformed, threatening and poor journalism. The paper retracted the statement fully as soon as I informed them that its contents were libelous and that I intended to sue if they did not. In addition, one student in the queer studies department raised the issue that the paper had previously printed a leading article, by the editor himself, discussing the best places to have sex on campus and naming a professor’s office or classroom as among them.

The administration resolved the issue by placing me on academic probation and charging me a fee for sanitizing the classroom I had filmed in. This was accompanied by a hostile letter making it clear that they held I had somehow done something wrong, even though my actions were clearly protected by the student conduct code. I responded by filing for academic leave, which I am currently still on. However, until the university acknowledges that I was and am in the right, I doubt very much I will return to school there.

Do you have plans to do anything else in porn, or have you “retired”?

I have not retired, no. I don’t think I will ever fully retire from porn until I start to lose my youthful looks. Until then, I’ll probably be doing something along those lines continually, even if it is just keeping my blog updated. I would like to continue making movies, but that may not be feasible. I have applied with more than a dozen studios and producers, but so far I haven’t received more than a couple expressions of interest and no firm commitments in spite of my online success. So my future in the adult industry is very uncertain right now.

Tell us about Speedoboys, the film.

Corbett Harper at the beach

Speedoboys was the film that resulted from the notoriety I earned with my classroom speedo solo video. Dink Flamingo of Dirty Bird Pictures noticed the online controversy over that video and invited me to make a series of films with his studio. We shot what was to be the first of these in April [2010] in San Diego. The idea was to continue my personal theme of speedos in a way that would transition from the solo videos I was known for to full professional sex scenes. The film included four scenes shot with Active Duty.com models Kaden and Shawn, two of which I bottomed in. My personal favorite was the third scene, which was a duo jerk-off scene between me and Shawn that included plenty of speedo teasing. Speedoboys was released at the end of May and reached number 2 on the JRL chart the next month.

Unfortunately, Speedoboys is no longer being distributed because we were confronted with a legal challenge from Speedo several months after its release. They claimed that the use of the word “speedo” in the title of the film and in my blog and psuedonym somehow infringed their trademark, and that the context in which I was using it damaged them “in the eyes of right-thinking members of society.” I quote from the letter Dirty Bird and I received from their lawyers. It was obvious from this and other phrases that their threat was motivated by homophobia and social prejudice, whatever it might claim in the way of trademark infringement.

This is hardly the first time Speedo has pursued such a course. Unlike some other swimwear companies, they put a great deal of effort into marketing their products exclusively as athletic apparel, not as style accessories for gay men. They have a track record of seeking out any use of the word “speedo” in connection with gay sex and suppressing it by legal threats, while quietly allowing more innocuous uses of the word to continue. Their efforts have been successful so far only because their targets are individual bloggers and small producers, who do not have the resources to fight the corporation. If the issue were to go to court, it would readily be seen that the word “speedo” was in use before Speedo attempted to trademark it, and that in any case the word is now a part of the general lexicon and thus not eligible for trademark protection.  Aside from the fact that Speedo has no real legal grounds for their efforts, this attitude is simply bad business. Chi Chi LaRue pointed out to me once that Calvin Klein has made a fortune from never complaining about the use of his underwear in porn films, since that is effectively free promotion for the brand. Instead of being similarly sensible, Speedo is thus pursuing a deliberate policy of trying to alienate a large percentage of its customers.

However, sadly for both me and Speedoboys, Dink Flamingo did not choose to pursue this issue and complied with their demand to pull the film from the market, advising me at the same time to shut down my original blog. Very unwillingly, I did so, and I now regret that. The film is no longer on the market and there are no plans to make any successors to it anytime soon. I am trying to keep the blog going at a new address, but I will admit that it has been difficult after the disappointment.

Where did you get the pseudonym Corbett Harper?

The name Corbett Harper resulted from a couple of suggestions I made when we were trying to come up with a stage name for my first movie. I made a couple of suggestions and my producer offered some alternate combinations, and Corbett Harper was the one we settled on. The first part is a tribute to one of my favorite writers on military theory, the naval strategist Sir Julian Corbett. The last part refers back to an alias I was using online right after I first came out, which was Jeff Harper, a name I thought sounded wholesome. So there are some references within it.

Do you plan to go back to school?

Back when I was in school I was majoring in history and minoring in political science.  As of right now I’m not sure if I intend to finish college. For all practical purposes, I’ve reaped all the benefits of a college education. I’ve done my four years, I’ve learned a lot from some truly amazing professors, and I don’t see the point in continuing on with something I’m bored with simply to conform to a social preference for college degrees.  I may have to cater to that prejudice, though, just in order to be able to get a job. I really don’t have any career plans at the moment, either. There are certainly many things I’m interested in doing, such as writing, aerospace research, investment management, and environmental work just to name a few. The trouble is, I will have to be very creative and entrepreneurial in pursing those goals, since I’ll never have the paper credentials to gain employment in those areas. For the moment, I’m just planning on a move back to San Diego in January 2012, after spending the past year taking it easy in Hawaii, and we’ll see where that leads!

Catch Corbett Harper on Tumblr and Twitter as well as his blog.