The sexy video starts with a handsome, humpy daddy-type guy in an apartment hallway, screwing. With a screwdriver. In a door. Then an equally handsome, humpy, younger guy in a tank top comes up and asks the older guy to come into his apartment to help him. Seems there's something leaking: a faucet. From this contrived beginning, many a porn has begun (I hear. I only watch pornography occasionally, for research).
But this video isn't porn, it's the beginning of a web series produced by the dating app Daddyhunt. Daddyhunt: The Serial, which premiered in 2016, follows the budding relationship between the daddy and the boy in short, seductive episodes, as well as the obstacles that can sometimes get in the way of a true connection. These challenges in the series include ex-boyfriends, best friends, pride, fear and discussions of HIV.
"We developed the series just as a marketing vehicle for Daddyhunt," said Carl Sandler, CEO of Daddyhunt. "We wanted to basically show a window into what it's like to have a daddy romance. The initial series was amazingly successful, much more than what we had anticipated."
The first season of Daddyhunt: The Serial, written and produced by Carl and Ra-ey Saleh and directed by Ra-ey, had millions of views in the first few days, and thousands and thousands of shares and comments. Of course, people clamored for Daddyhunt: The Serial, Season 2.
I understand the appeal, because I was drawn in pretty quickly. Although the first episode had me initially rolling my eyes at the contrived situation that brought the daddy and boy together, by the fifth or sixth episode, I was totally rooting for the hot guys to get together. The actors are talented, charming and earnest. And they take their shirts off.
When I talked to Carl, he told me the whos and whys of the production. I was most curious about casting. I asked what the actors had to go through to get cast, and I was shocked to find out that stripping off shirts wasn't part of the audition process.
"No! I don't' think we made anyone take their shirts off," Carl giggled. "We were struggling to find the very best actors. We were open to guys of any race. We did our best to represent people from the community."
Blah blah blah. To me, if you're casting hot guys, you make them take their shirts off! The swoon-worthy cast features Jim Newman, BJ Gruber, David M. Farrington and Michael Snipe, Jr.
After the amazing popularity of season one, Daddyhunt wanted build on that success to add practical health issues into relationship conversations. Daddyhunt partnered with Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC) to include conversations in season two about HIV responsibilities including safe sex choices: pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), condoms and treatment as prevention (TasP).
"I've done a lot of work [in my career] trying to encourage public health to do partnerships around creating content," Carl said, "because frankly, you know, the public health departments just aren't very good at creating stories."
Carl had a conversation with Dan Wohlfeiler from the BHOC, and they agreed to partner to build the narrative. The second season, which was released this year, not only includes a safe sex conversation between the two main characters, but also features another sexy character who happens to be openly living with HIV.
"It's great, because these are conversations that people are having in the real world," Carl said, "whether it's older/younger or whatever. We wanted to reflect the reality of different experiences."
The production also took advantage of having these wonderful performers, and had them do PSAs with messaging coordinated with their characters. Sex and health messages from unbelievably attractive gay guys: What's not to love?
Dan said that one of the goals of the PSAs and the series is for people to be aware of the options available to them and to start conversations. Partnering with dating sites is a way to meet people where they are. "We want people to have access to all the information," he said. "Someone may have a definition of safe sex that's all about condoms, and somebody else may have an additional definition that's based on PrEP, or based on treatment as prevention. What's really important is to get back to this notion of helping people make informed choices. We want people to be communicating really, really clearly to each other."
The Daddyhunt series and PSAs are part of a growing trend in dating and hookup sites to include ways for users to discuss HIV and status. BHOC has also collaborated with Adam4Adam, BarebackRT, Black Gay Chat, Dudesnude, Gay.com, Grindr, Growler, Hornet, POZ Personals and Scruff. Many sites are including places for members to include their HIV statuses and safe sex preferences on their profiles.
Dan said, "We're really excited at how many sites are really taking it seriously and working hard to come up with the best language for their users." Hopefully, more sites will come up with content as compelling, responsible and sexy as the Daddyhunt productions.
"As Michael says in the first PSA, 'Sex is supposed to be about feeling good and having peace of mind. Make the choice that's right for you and for your partner,'" Dan said. "That's what we hope gay men will take away."
Daddyhunt: The Serial is sexy, fun and encourages conversations around HIV. I'm hoping that there will be a season three, since I've grown attached to all the characters. I'll confess; I'm most fond of one character in particular. I don't want to play favorites. Let's just say I've created a shirtless fantasy "research" video in my head.