Openness and Serendipity
Over the last six months, I’ve distributed informal surveys on porn consumption, visited sex education groups, scrolled through numerous porn and camming sites, read academic papers, watched a lot of TED talks, ploughed through books on female pleasure, prostitution and seduction and recognize that all of this barely scratches the surface of what I need to know. In surveying my own network on porn consumption, I was entertained to find many of my wonderful male friends (at least the ones who responded to the survey) stated that although they would never think of exploiting female nudity, they would, almost without exception, consume free porn. So if you’re not paying for it, how do you know that the women are being paid fairly? I would ask — with some male friends responding that they’d never thought about it. Fears of payment included:
- The security of porn sites
- Rejecting any association with graphic content beyond cookie data
- Not wanting porn sites appearing on credit card bills and
- Concerns that paying for porn was worse than not paying for porn, regardless of a desire to consume it
Such insights are relatively anecdotal, but I daresay not entirely unrepresentative of the broader straight male population.
Once you’ve secured a reputation for creepy surveys, you find you yourself saying yes to everything. I took up any invite through friends, and friends of friends, to interview interesting people. I had two great Skype interviews, the first with a writer in Texas who’d covered a memoir for Tammi True (one of burlesque’s grand dames) and the second with a writer in Dublin, who had not only done some work in VR, but had some helpful insights into research on porn addiction. This led to some fascinating conversations on burlesque, relationships and intimate technologies. Each conversation brought stories that would pave the way to meet new people, who would then bring new stories. This meant that my world of knowledge would expand with each interaction, but has also created a universe to get lost in.
The S&M Party
Whilst living in Toronto, I had a friend staying with me who happened to be a sex and dating blogger. She would patiently answer my many questions on the fetishes she’d encountered and experiences at sex and swinger clubs. She invited me to an S&M party, to which I said yes and we arrived at a house in uptown Toronto.
We were greeted on the front steps by a topless guy vaguely resembling Iggy Pop, with coloured contact lenses, looking a little saturated with lust for life. He said that the party was mostly centred around the hot tub in the back garden. We wandered around the side of the house, sober in this crowd of chaotic people, who were for the most part, absolutely trashed. There was nothing wildly exciting happening in the garden, just couples canoodling, some chatting and people drinking beer; so we went inside the house to find a girl getting changed for the hot tub and a couple getting ready for a little S&M role play.
We took a tour of the house — including the host’s bedroom adorned with whips and various sex toys, before ending up in the basement, just in time for the spanking and two women making out on the sofa. Admittedly I haven’t been to many sex parties (actually this was my first), but still… this was distinctly awkward. Most people were so plastered they could barely function; indeed one of the women on the sofa kept falling asleep, much to the frustration of the woman she was kissing. The owner of the house, who was also plastered, started shouting at a guy walking naked across the garden. He was agitated that the neighbours might find out he was hosting a sex party if they spotted naked wobbly bits in the garden. I suspect even if the neighbours had missed the action so far, the subsequent shouting would have alerted them that something exciting was going on. As a fight broke out, my friend and I decided it was time to leave and took an Uber ride home.
I gather from reading up on sex parties and chatting with friends who’ve indulged in a few sensual soirées, I think that evening was probably not an accurate representation of the scene. In the name of science I should try a few more. The advantage of everyone being so drunk at this party is that I was practically invisible observing other people’s kinks. At functions where people aren’t so dependent on alcohol — would I be prepared to increase my visibility and participate on some level?