Sex After Sexuality: An Interview With Tyler the Bad Wolf

A gay male escort comments on quarantine self-care and shifting cultural norms

by Tom Blunt

There’s hired companionship, and then there’s “The Boyfriend Experience.”

Tyler Dårlig Ulv (aka “Tyler the Bad Wolf”) is, himself, a terrific advertisement for the latter, a term that sums up the more-than-purely-sexual time that he offers as a gay male escort. His online presence is warm, accepting, and available, but with firm boundaries in place to help control the quality and quantity of requests from would-be clients. (For example, don’t waste your time DM-ing him on any platform.)

His physical attributes are enough to make him an insta-follow for those who like their timeline spiced up with queer NSFW content — Tyler in a thong; Tyler in less than a thong; Tyler with his long hair swept back in a plait that would be the envy of Rivendell; Tyler dwelling on his latest erotic obsessions — but everyone knows that those qualities alone do not a boyfriend make. Anticipating the longing for a caring and adventurous partner, Tyler works in a niche that reaches many men who might otherwise have difficulty accessing this kind of intimacy.

As he wrote last year in a QUEERTY post explaining his ethos:

“You can’t pay somebody to care… But you can pay somebody for their care. Emotional labor (the kind at the core of almost any kind of intimate work like nursing, therapy, or escorting) is largely undervalued in our culture and hugely misunderstood in American society in particular…

One of the reasons I always insist that compensation is solely for my time is because what I do in that time at its deepest most core level is care for that person. It’s work. I work to treat them with respect and dignity and to create an environment where they feel safe to share intimate aspects of their lives (sexual or otherwise), that they might like to explore more deeply.”

As a blogger and activist he has tackled issues that are directly related to sex work and sexuality, such as body image, web privacy (unsurprisingly, Tyler favors end-to-end encryption for most communications), or problems in 2018’s SESTA/FOSTA bill, which was presented as a way to thwart sex-trafficking but unfairly harms and penalizes sex workers.

But there’s a lighter side to the art of boyfriending the masses, and following Tyler’s work is like discovering a secret world where even the scary parts are fun, and the fun parts are much hotter with someone this affable and imaginative at the helm. Whether advertising his occasional cam shows as “a friendly group penising” or compiling essential online content like “The Summertime Magic of Naked Dads on Boats,” you’ll see in the following interview that Tyler still seems imminently boyfriendable, even though global concerns related to COVID-19 have completely changed the sex trade for the foreseeable future.

TOM: A very obvious first question: how were your occupation and 2020 plans affected by the pandemic outbreak? What were these first few months like for you?

TYLER: How were they affected? Can I just say "entirely," and be done with it? I mean... entirely.

The work project I had dedicated two years to basically imploded to coincide with the pandemic outbreak; not entirely because of it, but it was certainly impactful to their bottom line and operations. We parted ways with a lot of unkept promises and a lot of sadness. 

As a sex worker, I have been strongly disinclined to accept any in-person work for the duration of this. Certainly right at the start it was off the table for me, but even as time has progressed and Ontario (where I currently live) has managed to keep their numbers low. It just doesn't feel right for me yet. I'm not having any two person sex of any kind at the moment.

I was also meant to be moving to Berlin right at the top of April. When the EU closed its borders, that became impossible, and the general unknowableness of all of this has made rescheduling that quite difficult. International moves are one thing, but timing one against waves of infection and potential border openings and closings is... trying, to say the least. 

TOM: The personality you project online tends to be calm, honest, playful, encouraging, and sexy. But sometimes being honest about what's going on in the world, or in your personal life, preempts the need to appear calm or be sexy. How do you decide what's worth sharing?

TYLER: Oh wow. Those are all great words. I like that. Thank you. 

That's not something I have a tidy answer to, truthfully. In general, I like Craig Ferguson's method for what gets shared quite a lot (you can read more about Craig's exact words here), and while I don't always follow it as well as I could, running stuff through that sieve keeps me out of trouble online a lot of times. 

But as far as sharing things that are more personal, but maybe not great for business promotion? Most often that comes from a sense of duty I have to people who have been good or kind to me in the past. When I experience hard times or deal with depression, one of the first things to hit the floor is my ability to communicate well or in a timely manner. If you see me sharing my own stories about mental health difficulties or rough seas, it's often a way for me to signal to those people and let them know I'm not doing great, and that it's not them. I'm not ignoring their email or message. I'm just not in a place where I can do it well right now. 

As a secondary note to that though, I'm a person, right? Like underneath all of this, people who are Sexy Online™ are just people! And sometimes admitting failures or struggles gives other people permission to admit those things too. Even if it's just to themselves.

You don't always have to appear fully assembled. It won't ruin your brand for folks to know you're having a bad day or week. If it's ALL one ever talks about, then it becomes your brand – that's a different thing. But I'm all for humanizing elements, man. One of my favorite smutty photographers (who is just generally an upstanding human being) used to say "let me see you're whole." Which he thought was very clever when he was photographing dudes who showed their holes for a living.  

TOM: On your site, you stress that the best way to get to know you is in person. How does "The Boyfriend Experience" [I'll explain this concept in the introduction] translate to conditions where that isn't really possible?

TYLER: I don't know.

*Laughs*

I wish I did. I haven't found online work to be much of a pull for me. It amplifies the administrative and rule-keeping elements I'm already not fond of, and it reduces all the stuff that truly feeds me – all the intangible emotional stuff, and the smells and tastes and touches and whatever. I know people who are making a killing right now on Skype calls and Just For Fans. But – and excuse my extreme privilege right now of luxuriously being able to say this – I just hate it for me. And I don't want to do it. It doesn't feel like a substitute for what I do want, it feels like an entirely separate thing, full of sharp edges and boundaries that can't be violated.

I was texting with my best friend last night and trying to decide whether I wanted a late night pizza after a cam show I had just finished. Ultimately I decided against the pizza and told my friend it was because it wasn't going to give me what I really wanted anyway. 

"What is it that you really want?" he'd asked. 

"A big sloppy uncircumcised penis to slap me in the face until I say to stop."

And I meant it. Pizza is great, but it's not that. And similarly, virtual stuff is fine, but it isn't what does it for me, really. 

TOM: One thing I admire about you is that you actually do step away from social media at times, speak openly about seeing a therapist, and have created ways to engage with select audiences strictly on your own terms. How did you learn to tend those boundaries? Do you feel like a different person when you're "out of office"? 

TYLER: Yeah man. Doctor's orders on a lot of that.

*Laughs*

I've spent some money on talking about the ways I've been personally victimized by Twitter and Instagram. Those sessions feel extra expensive somehow; maybe because it almost feels like an avoidable kind of self harm? And the ideas we come to are always the same: it's my responsibility to exercise control over those platforms, not to cope with the perceived control they have over me. Sometimes that means leaving the room entirely for a bit. I took a couple months away from Twitter during COVID and the BLM protests. I just didn't feel as though I had anything great to contribute to discussion, and was being wounded by the torrent of anger and hurt and fear that I saw on my TL. I still haven't opened up Instagram. I don't want to have to block or unfollow people because they think they're being profound in declaring they think "masks are dumb."

I actually just bought a plexiglass phone jail that I'm supposed to be testing this week, to build up my comfort with being (forcibly) away from that flame while I focus on other stuff. My therapist has greater confidence in this particular experiment than I do. But he's been right in the past so...

Am I a different person out of office? In some ways, sure. 80% of the time if somebody recognizes me somewhere and asks if I'm so-and-so, my knee-jerk retort is "only on the weekends." 

In a lot of ways though, what you see is pretty well tethered to who I am. I take the work I do seriously, even when it's just writing about penises or jacking off. But that's because I love penises. I love sex. More than anything I love being able to share and explore sex with other people. Not necessarily as a guide or teacher, but as a no-stakes peer. I don't think I could do that successfully if all I was waiting for was to be 'out of office' so that I could behave, think, or speak like somebody else. 

I'm wearing scrotal weights right now while I write this. Who is that for? Certainly not to bolster the character of @tylerthebadwolf if nobody's even looking. It's just kinda who I am.

TOM: You've shared a lot of art and literature (erotic and otherwise) that inspires you, which is a fun way for followers to get to know you better as a person. Where do you turn for new sources of inspiration? How do you decide what to share and what to keep private?

TYLER: Most often, if I love something, it'll probably end up in the blog or in my private Telegram group or something. I don't have a great filter for that kind of thing. If it's great, it goes in, even if it's donkey transformation porn. Plus it's amazing how people respond to stuff. I interviewed the publishers of Handjobs Magazine earlier this year, and on posting that, two former illustrators for that publication reached out and told me about their experiences drawing and creating that stuff. Is that gonna turn into a paying work gig for me? Probably no. But does it do something for me spiritually to feel connected to people who make things that inspire so much love? Yeah. Definitely. 

Without Tumblr the “finding” is arguably more difficult. That was an endless fountain of erotic magic that brought an unknowable quantity of stuff right to my door. But that loss means mostly that I have to be more intentional about it – looking for particular artists and researching their work and catalogs, and connecting with people making videos or content that I'm drawn toward. 

I'm fortunate that my sharing inspires others to share stuff they love, and that's often a great jump-off for exploring. 

TOM: It appears gay sexuality and culture are at a major crossroads, because we're discovering how many of our fantasies and our sexual realities no longer have to coincide with anatomy or concrete roles. Many men find this freeing, but in the pocket universes of hookup culture and sex work, there's still a tradition of pursuing experiences that fulfill one's most specific desires, down to the smallest detail, in a way that's often explicitly based in anatomy. And I've also seen how much resistance there can be to evolving, especially since many men came of age sexually in an entirely different era, in which these individualistic pursuits were considered the ultimate expression of freedom.

I guess my question here is, what do you think the future of male sexuality looks like? And what guidance would you offer to men as they navigate these new frontiers and find their way toward that future? 

TYLER: I would push back and say that many men do NOT find this freeing, particularly within the age group you're referring to, but also further down the line, too. I think app culture and mainstream pornography are great example of that in practical action. We are still, in 2020, living with these rote scripted outlines of physical engagement (kiss, suck, rim, fuck, then cum) that are tethered unmistakably to heteronormative male/female roles, and we are still fetishizing white supremacy and race and physical appearance in the most mind boggling ways. When you talk with producers, directors, or distributors, they have the same tired argument that "that's what sells." And that's what gets you laid on apps. 

Because it does. That's true. Being white and having abs and following the sex formula is what sells memberships and gets messages. 

People feel safe within boxes. In a moment where even what it means to be gay is commercialized and commodified, these boxes become so familiar as to sort of fade into the very landscape and escape good scrutiny. If one declares themself a top and a bear, those very narrowly defined, preprogrammed roles just sort of settle into a kind of personal identity performance. There is no additional or regular examination of them, one just knows they can now buy "merch" that coincides with these "identities." Identities which they've essentially just been sold, whole cloth; the natural outcome of a lifetime of being forced to declare them on apps and forms, and seeing them endlessly modelled in pornography. It's conditioning. We are conditioned to glom onto these ideas and treat them as though they are meaningful, and get angry when people tell us they aren't, or refuse to do it themselves. It makes perfect sense too, to be angry if you imagine someone is attacking what you (mistakenly) believe to be a crucial part of your being, rather than a prepacked personality sold to you by TV and social media. 

I'd love to have hope in younger dudes who are comfortable doing just whatever, and freeing themselves from these roles and boxes. But the truth is that I see younger dudes embracing these roles even more tightly, and with even less examination. The personal noun-ing of Top and Bottom ("I am a" vs. "I like to") isn't going anywhere any time soon. 

As far as guidance, you know: live your best life. If you feel safe in your box and you're getting your needs met and not harming anyone – cool. Rabble-rousing isn't for everybody. 

But if you want more, I think it's important to peel away at what we know and what we're doing as much as is reasonably possible. None of this is real. It's all just constructs. It's all drag. Even the idea of gayness itself and what it means is relatively new. Men have been having sex with other men for basically always. But that it should be part and parcel with a culture and a lifestyle is a way shorter portion of the overall timeline of dudes rubbing their dicks on each other. Sex Before Sexuality is a great primer on these ideas, and a great way to begin to chip at what we think we "know" about how things are.

I think more important than anything is to remember that you set the rules. If you don't care about being a top, or even about buttsex in general, that's fine. If you don't want to experience or embrace things that fit into stereotypical boxes, that's fine too. If you don't feel comfortable calling yourself bi or gay or pan, equally fine. You can literally just do whatever, and that's fine. Because you are the one who has to have these experiences, right? It's your life! 

I deal with guys who have a lot of anxiety or worry about "being" gay. They may have been married to women previously, or avoided sex entirely their whole life, or had a terrible toxic upbringing. And the end result is that they're terrified of being perceived as gay, but believe it's something they inevitably have to confront. And the thought I wish I could Inception them with in every case is "bro, it does not fudging matter." You can be straight, if that's how you identify. And just have sex with men sometimes. Or all the time. You can tell people about it. Or not! You make all the rules. 

"I'm not gay."

Ok. You still gonna suck my dick?

"Yeah." 

Cool.

Release the shit that doesn't serve you. Stop wasting energy and time worrying about "being" a particular thing or way. That's not real and you're missing it. 

TOM: You're very open about who and what turns you on, sharing different fantasies here and there. As a sexually curious creature, how much time do you spend exploring new fantasies, versus tending the established ones that really do it for you?

TYLER: I don't mine the same ground very often. I have a handful of stuff I love and remember fondly, but almost every time my dick comes out of my pants, it's about something new. Or about something I'm experiencing in a new way. I think you could argue that I'm drawn to some archetypes or tropes that might be repetitive – I like older guys, I like confidence, I like sexualized bodies of larger proportions – but the ways those things play in or out within the fantasy is often very different. I think Animan does a brilliant job of illustrating that premise. He's very clever in his stories and the ways his characters engage, sexually, but they share a lot of visual physical similarities and 'types.'

I'm not really one to obsess about a particular experience or person repetitively. I'm not stuck lusting after the jock who was mean to me in high school and fetishizing a relationship that could never have existed. 

TOM: You've been Tyler the Bad Wolf for a while now. In what ways do you feel you're still breaking ground, discovering the potential of what you've created? Have you observed your role in all this changing over time? Do you have a vision of a different life that you're working toward, or a new phase in this project? (Is that something ANYONE has, post-covid?)

TYLER: You know, sure. I've grown up a lot over the last decade and have been introduced to elements of sex work that I would never have known from the outside. And all of that has impacted the way I work tremendously. I hope I'm less arrogant now than I was in my 20s. And I hope I don't work as hard to talk over or erase the experience of others, in the way that my blond white male upbringing taught me was the unquestioned path to success. I hope I'm more aware. And I hope that's of more use to the people who make time to spend with me. I hope that presence is... felt. 

Probably the best thing I can contribute as a sex worker with a voice, is to attempt to normalize sex work and the conversation around it wherever I can, but especially in one-on-one situations. It's sweet to imagine there is less stigma for gay men in this industry, but the truth is that gay men can be just as horrified and put off by the very idea of sex work as anyone else. If I am allowed into certain spaces by virtue of my appearance and identity, the best way I can use that is to provide real information and gently try to dismantle myths about abuse, and trafficking, and the inefficacy/harm of carceral punishment and criminalization. Lots of people simply think wrong things, and when shown a set of better information, can start to understand that sex work doesn't have any inherent shame or degradation or dehumanizing qualities. That stuff comes from outside. That's put upon sex workers, not something that the work naturally brings. And that consensual work is not even on the other side of the scale with forced labor – those ideas are not related or comparable. 

Shame does so much more harm than I think anybody really admits. It informs so many decisions and actions – from what we wear to the jobs we have to the things we teach our children. If I can help somebody to not be ashamed of sexuality or of their genitals, or to examine where those things originate and whether they're useful, then that's pretty cool. That ripples out in ways I might have no opportunity to ripple on my own. 

Thanks for reading, thou supporter of the independent press! Don’t forget to check out Eric Shorey’s contribution to the August installment of JUDGEMENT: an interview with queer pro-wrestler Billy Dixon.