‘Maths is for tough peo­ple’: Rug­gero Freddi, the porn star turned pro­fes­sor, shares lessons from his for­mer life

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - David Matthews

Rug­gero Freddi is a doc­toral can­di­date in math­e­mat­ics at the Sapienza Uni­ver­sity of Rome. But he is better known for his gay porn ca­reer in the US, where he starred in mul­ti­ple films un­der the name Carlo Masi. After re­turn­ing to Italy in 2013, he went back to uni­ver­sity to pur­sue an aca­demic path, but late last year, some of his stu­dents and then the Ital­ian press un­cov­ered his past, spark­ing a de­bate in Italy about the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of his for­mer ca­reer and lead­ing the scholar into the pub­lic spot­light to speak out about gay rights in Italy

Where and when were you born?

Rome in 1976. I come from a sim­ple fam­ily. That re­ally means “poor” in my case. My par­ents got di­vorced when I was three years old, and I was al­ways the weird kid at school.

How has this shaped who you are?

My cir­cum­stances have al­ways made me want to prove my­self. I grew up try­ing hard to be the best. Any­thing I did, I al­ways wanted to be the best. To­day, I am glad that I was a weirdo; l like to be different. I am a freak and I am proud of it.

How did you get into the porn busi­ness?

By chance. The com­pany that I worked for, Colt Stu­dio, is one of the big­gest gay porn com­pa­nies in the world. Colt men are mus­cu­lar, good-look­ing and charis­matic and at that time I couldn’t see any of th­ese qual­i­ties in my­self. So at the be­gin­ning, when I was con­tacted through a so­cial net­work for gay men that I had a pro­file on, I thought that it was a joke.

What were the best and worst things about it?

I liked al­most ev­ery­thing about it: money, at­ten­tion, trav­el­ling and meet­ing amaz­ing peo­ple. Some­times trav­el­ling was ex­haust­ing – I live in Rome and the com­pany is based in San Fran­cisco, plus

I of­ten trav­elled around the world for live ap­pear­ances at big gay par­ties, so I had to fly more than I ac­tu­ally wanted to.

Why did you de­cide to move back into academia?

The truth is that I be­came too rich and fa­mous to stay in­ter­ested in that job [porn]. I wanted to grow, and since I couldn’t grow any more in the porn in­dus­try I had de­cided that it was time for me to do some­thing com­pletely new.

It’s an un­usual ca­reer path. Have you faced any tough ques­tions from aca­demics or stu­dents?

Every­body around me looks pretty amused and happy to know an eclec­tic per­son like me. Stu­dents like me and my col­leagues sup­port me. Un­for­tu­nately, the Ital­ian aca­demic world re­cently showed me a face that I didn’t know – they can­celled an im­por­tant event that I or­gan­ised to in­form the stu­dents about Aids, and they didn’t give me a teach­ing po­si­tion for this semester [the Sapienza Uni­ver­sity of Rome did not re­spond to a re­quest from Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion for com­ment]. I know that next year they will give me some teach­ing as my ré­sumé is [get­ting] better and better, but I can see that they re­ally dis­like all the me­dia at­ten­tion that I re­ceived.

What did you learn in the porn busi­ness that is good ad­vice for academia?

From the porn in­dus­try, I have learned the im­por­tance of self­pro­mo­tion – this is some­thing that every­body should learn. You have to let the world know what an amaz­ing per­son you are be­cause no­body will come look­ing to find out for them­selves.

How would you de­scribe the sit­u­a­tion for younger schol­ars in Italy at the mo­ment?

My uni­ver­sity is a to­tal mess. The bath­rooms don’t work, the in­fra­struc­ture is ob­so­lete and stu­dents know that they will be un­em­ployed for years after they grad­u­ate. But I re­ally try to lis­ten to my stu­dents and to sup­port them. I see young peo­ple with high ex­pec­ta­tions and big hopes.

What do you love most about maths?

There are three types of maths: the

maths I never stud­ied, the maths I didn’t un­der­stand and the maths that I for­got. I can tell you what I don’t like about maths: it makes me feel stupid. I don’t un­der­stand the pa­pers that I need to read for my re­search, I don’t un­der­stand the cal­cu­lus that I should do for my re­search, and I don’t un­der­stand how to carry on with my re­search – but this is the best part: maths is a chal­lenge. Maths is for tough peo­ple and I love it.

What one thing would im­prove your work­ing week?

There are a few things that re­ally make my day – a stu­dent who shows real in­ter­est or un­der­stands how to prove some­thing that I need to prove for my re­search.

What keeps you awake at night?

What has the porn in­dus­try taught me? You have to let the world know what an amaz­ing per­son you are be­cause no­body will come look­ing to find out for them­selves

The strug­gle to prove my­self keeps me awake. I have a fear that one day I will look back and see that my life wasn’t any­thing spe­cial after all. And the wrin­kles that I am get­ting from age­ing, of course.

What ad­vice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to be you. You are an amaz­ing per­son and one day you will be very proud of ev­ery­thing that you have done, be­cause you will be the liv­ing proof that be­ing different is not a bad thing.

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