Russian porn star in Berlin: Mum doesn't know

31 October 2018

Russian porn star Vadim Romanov talks about how the German industry of films for "certain people" works, love, sex and HIV in the most liberal city of the world.

— Tell me, where are you from? And when did you move here?

I am from the Moscow region. Most of my life after school I spent in Moscow. I moved to Berlin almost 4 years ago. Probably mostly because of what was happening in Russia – I didn't want to see all that. Now I'm 40, I've been working in porn since age 38, so only 2 years.

— That wasn't it too late to start?

No. It has its own advantages. Often guys around 18-20 start working in the porn industry as twinkies. Then they get older, they don't suit this role anymore, and porn studios lose interest in them. Some of them might move into the role of daddy, older men, they could be lucky and stay in the industry. It's all individual.

— So you don't worry about your age?

Of course I do. Still, I'm 40. The 20 years since my first love have flown by so quickly, the next 20 years will go just as quickly, and soon enough I'll be 60. And certainly, at 60 there is no interest. I'd like to slow the time. On the other hand, thanks to genetics my appearance isn't deteriorating drastically with age, and this calms me down.

Photo: Ivan Polezhayev

— Had you had any experience in porn before?

I had never even come close to the porn industry. But here in Berlin I met Tim Kruger from Tim Tales. It was his suggestion.

— Did you agree immediately?

I thought about it for 2 weeks: how will my friends react, my relatives? But in Berlin probably half the people I know have had a go in porn films, here it's so simple and easy.

— Because of money?

"But in Berlin probably half the people I know have had a go in porn films, here it's so simple and easy."

What porn actors get in terms of money is just minuscule now. Because, whereas before it was easy to sell films in the porn industry, now it's pretty difficult – everybody watches for free. Plus it's easy to make your own footage: cameras are cheap, you could even just film on your phone really – the quality is good enough to get a decent picture.

I don't know what it's like with porn in Russia now. I know a couple of guys from Russia who work in the porn industry but on the Western market. When I was living in Russia I watched videos on the Internet with our guys. But I don't know if there's any of that left. It seems to me that due to homophobic policies of the [Russian] legislation it's a lot harder now, and more risky. And where do you get money for business development, how will you sell videos. I think it's just unrealisic in Russia.

My assumption is that there's nothing left of the attempts to start a gay porn industry from the 90s or early-00s, when they had full freedom of entrepreneurship. There's probably something for straight audience, but I'm not up to date.

— Have you acted in straight porn?

No. And I won't. Even when I worked as an escort I had clients who wrote to me, straight couples. The wanted me to be the third one, to be with both the boy and girl. I always declined that kind of thing – absolutely not my cup of tea in a physical sense. I often see beautiful girls and I understand that if I was straight I would probably be interested in them in terms of a relationship, physical intimacy, sex, but I am not interested in them at all.

— What kinds of relationships do porn actors have with each other?

Sometimes it works out with someone and the relationship continues. Sometimes you just work with someone and that's all.

— Have you ever fallen in love with actors at work?

Yes. I had several partners. But I understand perfectly that I can give free reign to my feelings, I can fall in love, bury myself in it, but after that it's all unrealistic.

— Why?

I told one of my partners as a joke that just a little bit more and I'd fall in love with him. He replied: 'Don't.' Though he still relates to me really well, we get along. I don't know if he has relationships or it's just a some kind of internal pragmatism. Maybe I'm not exactly his type, not someone he wants to start a relationship with.

— You also work as an escort, so you have sex for money...

It's not the same thing as prostitution, but there wasn't a moment where I had no sex at all. When people see you in porn it's natural that they start to show more interest regarding that. Although there are clients where sex is only one part of it, and in addition to that we just communicate: go to a cafe or something. But it's more of a rare thing.

People watch porn, and lots of them start to want to meet you in real life – as an escort. That is the second part of my income. I absolutely don't understand how all this is organized in Russia, but I can talk about Berlin. Here, people either find my contact details, message me on social networks or find my profiles on various websites for escort services.

Ivan Polezhayev

— When did you start doing it?

Actually at the same time as I started acting.

— And what sensations do you get from sex and intimacy; what do you feel?

I was brought up very strictly. My parents, especially my mother, gave me a lots of things that are useful and necessary in life, but lots of complexes as well. Now I've become much more liberated in relation to sex, and with every person I'm able to find something that arouses interest and gives pleasure. For me it's not just work – each time, apart from money, I get energy in return, pleasure, and that's why, for the most part, I like it.

I've probably gained a lot more experience, and I feel much freer in sex now. On the other hand, when you're working too much as an escort, a certain kind of dulling of sexual desire takes place. However, I've noticed that when I haven't had sex for a long time I get wildly excited, I like every second guy that passes by.

— As an escort, do you meet clients you don't find sexually attractive?

I understand that this is work, so the thing with of 'like/don't like' switches off automatically. And that helps a lot. Even if I know that I'm not going to meet this person outside of work, I still manage to find something interesting in a client while at work... I still get on a high from the meeting.

— And have clients ever fallen in love with you?

"I earn money this way, but I don't let myself get ordered about because of money. I have a sense of dignity"

Yes, many of them, unfortunately. When people fall in love, it makes them seek out meetings with me, but, being clients, they have to pay for that. It burdens me. It is easier when a client simply wants to receive physical pleasure and then part ways, without being attached. This is quite hard.

— Have you ever not taken money from a client, and instead just started dating him and having sex?

No, never.

Photo: Ivan Polezhayev

— Have you ever faced violence?

No. But I've faced scorn. Scorn towards escort-prostitution, towards people [working in the field]. Who are they? For some people we are a rank below. Though my education and some of my human qualities might be higher than theirs, but still they treat me like a servant or something. It has happened only a couple of times. And now probably due to my reputation as a porn actor and fame I'm facing it much less – people see me a bit differently now.

I earn money this way, but I don't let myself get ordered about because of money. I have a sense of dignity.

— Who are your clients? What kind of people are they?

They're all pretty different: 50-year-olds, 18-year-olds. Earlier I couldn't have imagined that I'd be doing this, that I would be able to. But now I have probably matured enough for it. I love sex.

— Do you have a partner?

Well, let's say I have a husband. One is official, one is unofficial. They're a couple. And I'm the third one in the relationship. With one of them I have a registered marriage, the three of us live together. That means an open relationship.

— What do they think about your work?

"I have a husband. One is official, one is unofficial. They're a couple. And I'm the third one in the relationship."

They're fine with it. What's more they're young – five years younger than me. They have more liberal views than the older generation. Though here in Berlin you don't feel it at all – you know, the difference between generations in terms of their liberal attitude.

— Can you talk about your home life? Are you satisfied in this relationship?

Yes. I am very lucky to have these guys. Really cool boys. I've come across many people here in Germany, in Berlin. There were very few people with whom I felt that I could have a relationship, that it would last.

— Are you in love?

You know, the idea of 'love' changes with age. Yes, I am in love, but not the type of love I had in my first relationships when I was 20. Of course, I had also fallen in love before I was 20, and it was possible a more vivid thing [feeling], probably a hormonal one. When I was 20, I fell deeply in love, and the relationship lasted for 12 years. Even back then I knew that I'd never have anything like that in my life again. Perhaps it's wrong of me to sometimes measure things by those impressions and feelings. Just now you asked me a question, and again I'm comparing it with that love, and I understand that perhaps this is a kind of unlove. It's all different, it's all wrong.

Ivan Polezhayev

— How long have you been together?

I've known the guys for 2 years. They've known each other for 6 years now. We registered our marriage just over a year ago.

— Do you have protected sex with your clients?

Now I have unprotected sex more often. As clients or partners wish – I don't have a thing about protected-only.

— What is your HIV status?

I am HIV-positive with an undetectable viral load. It's been 8 years now. Back in Russia, I registered at the Moscow clinic at Sokolinaya Gora. I had an amazing doctor, Tatiana Georgievna Serebryakova. I think of her warmly from time to time.

— Can you talk about how you learnt about your status and what you felt at that moment?

When I learnt about it, I was in my second relationship. I did a medical examination at one clinic, the tests results came back – I had HIV. Immediately the attitude towards me was that I was second-rate, that I should leave the clinic. I was simply asked [to leave]: people with HIV couldn't be there. It was unpleasant. I told my partner about my status, and he went into hysterics. To some extent he was worried about me, but he was probably more worried that he had HIV too.

"The idea of 'love' changes with age. Yes, I am in love, but not the type of love I had in my first relationships when I was 20."

Then he drank a lot, and in that state he gets very expressive. I had to calm him down. All my attention was turned to him, and naturally my problem kind of disappeared for a bit. I didn't know much about HIV at the time, but I understood that life was not over yet. And my partner went into a panic that we only had 3-7 years left. I told him it wasn't like that. It was hard. My partner was also diagnosed with HIV.

— Do you know the person that infected you with HIV?

It was probably my partner, but he didn't know himself. I understand how the infection is contracted, at that moment there had probably been a sudden burst... I don't know how that's called. And he got infected before meeting me or something like that. At that time we had only just met, I was at his place in St. Petersburg, and some time after that he got sick. We met, then he got sick. When he was more or less okay again, I went back to St. Petersburg to his place, and we decided that he would move to where I lived. And we had sex again. I checked before our meeting, and he had checked as well, both of us were negative. And then, a little over 6 months later, we were both already...

Photo: Ivan Polezhayev

— Are you in therapy now?

Yes, certainly.

— How many pills a day?

The doctor offered me a new therapy – combined – one pill. But I'm always flying somewhere, and we decided to postpone the new therapy, so that we could keep track of possible reactions I might have to it, so for me to be here for the first month. So, now I take two pills once a day.

— Does the fact that you are HIV-positive interfere with your work as a porn actor? When you came into the industry, did you notify people of that?

Yes, of course, I told about it. Here in Europe, everybody reacts to HIV differently, and it doesn't cause any problems. Well, you have it and that's that. If in Russia you said that you have HIV, half of the people would probably turn away from you. A lot of doctors in an ordinary clinic would even be afraid to talk to you and work with you. There is such stigmatization. And I've never felt like that here.

— How do you feel about being a migrant in Germany? Have you encountered fear of migrants, xenophobia?

I moved to Berlin, and I think that Berlin is the most liberal place in Europe. German people call Berlin Multikulti, because indeed there is a huge mixture of different cultures, languages, traditions. The Germans themselves in this atmosphere are more open, more liberal.

— What is your attitude towards so many refuges arriving from Syria recently?

I haven't faced that, haven't come across it.

— And is there any competition in the porn industry?

Well, it's not serious at all. (laughs) This was a noticeable problem in Germany. There was a big influx and they simply couldn't handle it – couldn't take them all in, register them, accommodate them somewhere, process the data. Plus moments of corruption appeared, scandals. Everything happened.

But I think that the problem wasn't perceived here the same way as it was in Russia, where the media went on about migrants.

— What are your general plans for the future in Germany?

I don't like making predictions or forming expectations. You think about something specific, build up the potential in your mind, and then it all goes differently in life. I don't want to get upset. What will be, will be.

My education is in engineering, a systems integrator, I've been programming for 20 years. And basically, when I moved to Germany, I intended to keep working in that field here.

If earlier, as a programmer, I was in some way building my future, now I might say that I'm working for this future. But I've got absolutely no idea what course it will all take. [It] doesn't depend on me, I don't have exclusive contracts with any particular studio. I was offered exclusive filming from the very start, but I didn't want to lose any kind of freedom.

"Here in Europe, everybody reacts to HIV differently, and it doesn't cause any problems. Well, you have it and that's that."

I wanted to try different studios, because they all have their own particularities. Which are defined by both physical qualities and something else. Let's say that at Men At Play (the last studio I filmed for) they use costumes. Bel Ami take on young boys and guys. At TimTales, the active one has to be well-equipped. They just won't accept others for their films. So each studio is looking for its own kind of format, and if you fit into it, you have the ability to work with the studio.

I understand that [in programming] I will lose a lot in terms of my skills, because the technologies are changing rapidly, plus experience is easy to forget, but it's always possible to catch up and find something somewhere if you have a good head on your shoulders. So there is something to come back to.

— What sort of relationship do you have with your parents now, with your mother?

My parents have never known about my orientation, or, all the more, about my current activities. The distance allows me to hide it all. Though we've never talked about it, I suspect they know about my orientation, and they've probably accepted it to a certain degree. I had my first relationship at 19. We didn't live together then, but we were always together, went on vacations, and he came to my parents to celebrate New Year's together. My parents somehow just stopped asking if I had a girlfriend, when I would get married. I was in my second relationship for 3 years. We lived together at my place, and my parents saw all that. Though I kept saying that he was my friend, that he had moved from St. Petersburg and was looking for job here until he'd settled in – but I think my parents understood it all.

Ivan Polezhayev

— Would you want to tell them?

I don't like hiding anything. I like being the way I am, especially with the people close to me. I would really like my parents to know about this too, and to talk to them openly about it. But I really love my parents and, honestly, I'm afraid there would be a misunderstanding. I'm really afraid that this would cause them a lot of anxiety, and they're older now... I'm afraid that it would affect their health, this issue really worries me. So I don't press the situation, what will be, will be.

— Are you satisfied with your life overall, not counting your profession?

You know, I've always been satisfied with what I have. I probably don't expect anything special from life and I try to value the things that are given to me.

— If you had the chance, would you change anything in your life?

Nothing. At times I have asked myself if I would change anything in my life, go back in time and do certain things differently. Absolutely not. I'm afraid it would turn out worse (laughs). You don't want to let go of the good.

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