In the years since pornography became perhaps the first commercially viable online business, the distinction between real and fantasy -- between amateur and professional, paid and unpaid -- has become increasingly blurred. In fact, among today's gay-porn industry leaders are online businesses referred to as ''professional-amateur'' sites, pro-am for short. These include SeanCody.com and RandyBlue.com www.randyblue.com.
But most of these pro-am sites traffic in a special brand of fantasy: unattainable straight men, often in the military, who are only ''gay-for-pay.''
''I think there's definitely a growing shift away from gay-for-pay,'' says Gary Blumenthal, an online-porn industry veteran. Instead, people want to see more reality, more ''openly gay models, the type of people you see online everyday.''
''I saw all these great videos of couples and I thought, 'What if we just gave them a little boost in the filming and production?'''
Unlike high-production, professional porn, filmed using multiple cameras and a large crew over many hours, OntheHunt's scenes are shot in real-time and usually last only an hour or less. A professional porn star is paid to be on hand at the shoot and can slide into the action if deemed necessary. But the focus remains on the amateurs, who also get paid for their roles. With no real crew to speak of, there's also minimal editing.
Professional porn is focused on perfection. But, says Blumenthal, pro-am sites like OntheHunt ''break down that fantasy, burst the bubble. Breaks in the action, or penetration scenes that might not go well at first, we leave them in.''
If it's genuine, Blumenthal wants it.
Since launching in July, OntheHunt -- which has a membership plan separate from Manhunt -- has had 4,000 Manhunt members apply to star in about 90 ''episodes,'' with close to 200 members captured on film. Some members have gone on to become bona fide professional porn stars, including Hot House-exclusive David Dakota.
''We're always looking for new things we haven't seen before,'' says Blumenthal. ''Or new pairings of people, like a bearish guy with a twink, or an Asian with a Latino.''
If audiences like what they see, the virtual world of porn may be heading to new realms of reality.