Okay, so maybe the story I am about to tell will shock some people. There are various possible reasons for this which will soon be apparent to anyone who continues. If discussions about less than perfect sex offend the reader, it might be best to stop reading. Last night, boyfriend and I decided to do something a little different. We tried to go to a movie. We remembered the movie and the time. Unfortunately, we did not remember the theater. We drove to two of them before the recollection of the movie’s location entered our brains and by then it was too late to attend. So we decided to go to dinner. The first place we visited at 8:58 pm informed us that they closed at 9:00 pm. What? You can’t seat us in these two minutes? Lots of other people don’t have their food. Apparently not. We left. We drove a bit and found another restaurant. This restaurant was near an adult theater. After dinner, we decided we would go and check out the adult theater. Why not? Could be fun.
Upon entrance into this fine establishment, a couple of buttoned-up, tucked-in men greeted us and asked whether we had patronized the theater before. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be) we had not. We were then given a verbal tour. There was a large theater area. Within the large theater area, there was a couple’s area. Only couples are allowed in the couple’s area. We could purchase a clean, laundered and bleached sheet for a dollar, should we so desire. We were free to roam and watch others engaging in whatever they happened to be engaging. We were free to partake of sexual activity between ourselves, should the whim overtake us. We could invite others to join us or we could join others. Alcohol and drugs were not allowed. Any questions? Um, no. Thanks. Oh, and I was free. Man had to pay seven dollars because he wasn’t “as pretty as I was.” We could leave and return if we so desired. Okay. Again, thanks.
Ushered past the welcoming committee, we were escorted into the darkened theater. It was the style and type of many older theaters in Portland, circa 20′s and 30′s. It had a domed cathedral ceiling. Seating filled the center. Along the outer walls on either side of the aisle, couches and chairs were arranged. In the dark, the man led us down the aisle to the front of the theater. To our side was a couch with a white plastic chain alongside blocking the couch from the aisle, but not by much since the “chain” was only about ten inches off the floor. This is the couple’s area, our escort informed us. We crossed the “chain” and sat stiffly on the couch.
Then things got weird. What? Things weren’t weird enough until this point? No. Comparatively, having the process described and walking through throngs of unattractive, variously clothed, mostly grossly overweight men was not weird in comparison to sitting there and having a small crowd of them gather ten feet away to stare at the side of my head. I turned to Man and whispered that there was a crowd of men staring at me. He grinned and said he knew. We kept giggling to ourselves. Later, Man informed me that the men had been jacking off while standing there. WTF? Really? I am so glad I did not notice this while were sitting there. Finally one of the theater managers asked them to move on. The relief I felt when they left belied the discomfort the staring had engendered. Later when another couple, a woman and a cross-dressed man, came and sat in the couple’s area on another couch, the crowd returned, but this time it didn’t bug me as much since there seemed to be another female to ogle at.
The movie was typical pitiful porn. Shots too close of the genitals. Nothing sexy. Nothing that would feel good in real life. Stuff that appeals to people who never get laid. Lots of slapping. Lots of deep throat blow jobs. Lots of too rapid tongue action on a clitoris. Nothing erotic. Nothing sensual. Just get in, get off, and get out. Boring.
At one point one of the managers of the place came and tried to sell us on all the possibilities of becoming regulars. He told us about another place where there was a better couple’s area and more opportunities for “swinging.” Lovely. We nodded in mute silence as he waxed poetic at the features of the other theater. After a time we both had to go the bathroom so we left. The group that had been staring at our neighbors continued to do so. As we left I heard a few men mention nasty little comments at me as I passed. Not unexpected, but still gross. We returned from the bathrooms and walked down to where we had been sitting. On the way we saw a hugely obese woman being taken from behind while giving another man a blow job. Apparently the couple in front of us had begun doing something because the crowd was thick. Through the bodies I could see movement. We decided to leave.
Once in the car we decided we would go and look at the other place. The first one had been pretty bad, but in his pitch for the second place, the manager/salesman made it sound a little less sleazy. Once we arrived, I thought maybe he had been right. There was more security at the entrance and the couple’s area was actually slightly separate from the rest of the theater This had been something that surprised both of us, that in the first place the couple’s area was really just a couch amongst the rest of the seating with a small, plastic “chain” across the side of it. The second place had a sort of raised platform in the back of the theater (the other had been in the very front). There were three couples sitting there. Two of them were obviously hanging out together. All of them were hugely fat. One of the men sat in his t-shirt, his trousers dropped around his ankles, his penis limp between his legs. One of the women was clearly intoxicated, laughing hyena-like every time the automatic paper towel dispenser above her head spit out a towel in response to her flailing arms. The other couple looked truck stop. The woman was much younger than the man, but still looked kind of old and used up. The man was not wearing a shirt and clearly trying to get the woman interested in messing around. Her body language said she seemed uncomfortable with the idea, arms and legs crossed, but by the time we left the man had his hand up in between her legs and things seemed to be progressing.
There were rows of benches, one in the back and one in the front. Because the back bench was full, we sat on the front bench. There was a wooden railing in front of us, and below that, rows of theater seating. The row in front of the railing was full of men, all older, many with white hair. All of them had seen better days. The place was pretty full. There were a few younger men as well, and most races were represented. There was even a midget.
We sat and watched the movie, one of us occasionally turning to giggle into the other’s ear. We commented on our observations between the differences between this place and the last. Neither of us were in the least bit aroused by the experience; how could you be? It was completely pathetic. Man turned to me at one point and asked whether I noticed the bearded man sitting directly in front of my knees was jacking off. I looked and he was! Eeewww.. He sat there staring back at me, pulling quietly at his half-limp genitals. Yuck. Man pointed out several others who were doing the same thing. One man stood along the wall, his pants open, his penis in hand. Then I realized most of the entire row was sitting there jacking off. Almost none of them were watching the movie. A crowd had formed at the corner of the couples area. All of them were staring at me.
I hated this. I hated having these men stand and stare at me, half of them pulling in desperation at their penises. Did they think this would turn me on? Did they care? Did they think? I doubt it. I must have mentioned to Man at least three times that he should be the object of their pitiful admiration because he’s the one who gets to have his way with me. Man giggled and said I did mention I am awesome, didn’t I? This made me laugh, but I was still thoroughly uncomfortable. The man with the beard Man had first pointed out was staring without pause. The couples behind us had noticed the attention we were receiving and offered to allow us room on the back bench, which we gratefully accepted. This made things easier, but it was still weird. The heavy couple right next to us introduced themselves and asked if we were first-timers. Uh, yes. Man spoke to them. I stared at the porn video, an activity infinitely preferable to noticing the gaggles of men jacking off around me. After a moment, Man asked me if I wanted to leave and I gratefully assented.
After, as we were walking away, I couldn’t shake the horribly dispiriting energy of the place and the people in it. They just felt so pathetic. I could not imagine that any of their lives were worth living. I could not imagine living an existence where sex existed in such a debased and tedious manner. I have little doubt all of them in some manner had been damaged beyond repair, cheerlessly masturbating among other pitiful souls in a darkened theater, engaging in spectacle lacking anything that makes it worthwhile. Sex offers so much, yet they have access to none of it. Shame subtly overlay all of it, erasing anything titillating or genuinely fun.
Upon our arrival back at my apartment we decided to take a bath. It was as if the two of us wanted to slake the energy of the experience from our bodies, if such a thing were possible. I could not remove the thoughts of the men standing in a group staring at me. Tall men, short men, old men, young men, fat men, thin men, black men, white men, brown men, yellow men, and even a dwarf. All of them were so divorced from life that a woman in their midst whose life was not as damaged as theirs became for a moment a circus act; tables turned, rolls reversed. No wonder I felt so uncomfortable.
The bath was marvelous. Candles burned, the lavender aroma of the bubble bath reminding us of beautiful things, the warmth of the water making us sleepy. By the time we headed for bed, the earlier experiences of the evening had faded and I slept well. When I woke up this morning, Man reminded me of the previous evening. The memory of that staring crowd of men pawing at themselves oozed into my brain. I had to physically shut it out. I think I’ll have to do that for some time to come. Ironically, the first theater we visited, the Oregon Theater, was profiled in today’s Sunday paper. Interestingly enough, the article’s author describes the patrons as frequenting the establishment in order to watch movies. I grinned wryly at this assessment. Either the author has not been or she chose not to observe that it seems the patrons watch few movies. Rather they watch others fuck, mindlessly grappling their own genitals in the process. The movies provide an appearance of some propriety. The irony is that watching porn movies is more decorous than going to a place and watching one another fuck. It might be okay to admit a porn theater exists in the neighborhood, it’s quite another to admit groups of bacchanallian vagabonds fuck in their midst.
I can’t say whether I’m glad I went or not. On the one hand, I have often wondered what such a place would be like, knowing on some level it would be as bad as it was. Going satisfied that curiousity. On the other, facing human debauchery is depressing. There are other human frailties I would rather face than this one. These people were like hopeless zombies; their bodies exist but anything further is completely missing. I could argue going was useful as a writer, but I don’t think that would be an honest justification. Before going, I could imagine it, now I’m forced to physically remove the images from my psyche every time I consider them. I don’t know. It’s done, so debating the merits in whether or not I should have seems moot. I suppose in some regard it makes me glad to know this is not my life, to know that I am capable of recognizing that at my worst moments, my life is still better than that which I observed. I am grateful I am not that damaged. I am thankful I can recognize my gratitude.