Discomfort Zone

By | January 2, 2007

I went into a shop today and immediately felt that something wasn’t quite right. The problem? I was on my own. I’ve spent the last week and a half in the company of Suze, 24 hours-a-day. Not having her there is now unusual, uncomfortable even. We can’t afford to take long holidays normally so this 10 day break must have been the longest we’ve spent together in one go for a couple of years.

Getting up to a dark, damp, windy morning was bad enough, but I had my mind on work, I had a purpose. Even if I didn’t want to be at work my mind was occupied.

But I popped out at lunch to exchange that bloody awful DVD I wrote about yesterday. It was walking into the sex shop that I felt the disconcerting feeling that all was not right with the world. Strange isn’t it. For many (predominantly men I would suggest) visiting a sex shop is a solitary, often furtive activity. Even in what we like to think of as these enlightened times it’s not something that most people advertise.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s legal and fun to buy from such an establishment. So why did all the other customers seem quieter than me, heads down, not wanting to catch my eye? I don’t think I’m any different from them.

Anyway, the point is that Suze wasn’t there. It would have been the same in any shop. Curiously, if I had been in a supermarket I would have felt liberated by the solo shopping experience. I am a believer that shopping is a necessary evil and not a hobby, as some of the opposite sex would have you believe. Suze is not “one of those” women, she’s reasonably efficient when it comes to shopping, but I still find myself becoming tired of staring at row after row of very, very similar items, comparing prices in shop after shop before returning to the outlet in which we first saw the item to buy it. So shopping without Suze is usually rather liberating.

A quick sprint in, brisk walk around the floor for swift product selection, then off to the cash desk.

Conversely I suspect that many of the customers of the sex shop would be at best inhibited and at worst prevented from shopping if their spouse were there.

So how did I feel. Well lost actually. We always choose our DVD purchases together, so without Suze there I really struggled to pick something. What I decided on was a DVD from an outfit I’d never seen before with porn stars whose names were unfamiliar to me. At least that way I was sure of a surprise. Good I hope, and I’ll let you know when we’ve watched it.

Considering it afterwards I must say I am berating myself for not making the most of the situation. I should have felt like a single guy indulging his secret, guilty thirst for sexual gratification via DVD. The next time I’m there alone I shall endeavour to do so.

I suppose you could extrapolate from this that because sex is something that we enjoy almost exclusively as a couple these days my feelings of discomfort are simply an extension of that. And you could be right.

In being so comfortable I have perhaps lost the ability to feel dirty and sordid about frequenting sex shops. That’s a pity because feeling slightly naughty about it, or at least ensuring that your patronage is a secret between you and the proprietor/counter staff used to be part of the thrill.

Packaging is a good example. The shop puts your purchase in an anonymous wrapper. Not quite a plain brown envelope, but a generic, unbranded paper bag available from any retail supplies merchant. I almost want a bag with the shop’s name on the side.

OK, so I have to concede that that might offend some people, so I bagged the DVD for return. As I was walking across the carpark I put the DVD in my inside overcoat pocket for practicality, so I could have two hands free while selecting the alternative title. As I was doing this I thought to myself “I hope anyone watching doesn’t think I’m trying to hide what I’m doing!”.

I’m not a fan of the throw-away sexuality that some people practice. I’m not talking about swinging, because successful swinging is not sleeping around. The same goes for polyamory where complex relationships can set it totally apart from most people’s experience of relationships, love and sex. No, I’m talking about sex that’s meaningless to the point where it has no more significance in the participants’ lives than bumming a cigarette from a friend.

I mention this because I see that in my working life and occasionally in the sex shop too. People who’s defence against having real and meaningful sex and sexual relationships is to act as boorishly as possible, seek out the most nauseating innuendo, jokes, porn (delete as applicable) and talk about that aspect of sexuality as if it liberates them and shows how open they are. Thankfully only a tiny minority of people actually take genuine pleasure in this sort of behaviour.

So why do so many act like this? To be accepted? To be popular? To show people they are sure about their orientation? To underline their virility? Maybe all of the aforementioned. But as a very good friend of ours pointed out recently, people tend to bang on about sex in inverse proportion to the amount they get. And that applies to specific sexual acts too. Oral sex, anal sex you name it I often think there’s a fashionable sex act that everyone within a certain peer group has to get lots of/be great at/have a partner who’s great at doing it to them.

By the way, none of the gentlemen in the shop today, and there were about eight of them, were like this. They were just the kind of patron who didn’t want to be noticed.
I’m sure many would disagree, but I feel that buying porn as we do does not exploit those people who produce it. It’s not like buying downloads from sinister sites on the Internet where no regulation is applied to who appears in the video stream or what they do to each other. It’s a product created because a demand exists. Consenting adults should be able to produce and consume porn in whatever form they like. If the participants are old enough to consent who has the right to stop them?

Legal porn is a legitimate product and serves a purpose. The devaluing of sex, human beings (men and women) and relationships is another matter and one that is a product of society, not the majority of legitimate porn producers.

Well, that started out as a quick post and ended up as a long one. Always the best way I find :).