I can be naïve, the voices in my head would argue “insufferably so”, but I make no attempt at denying it. In my head, I have this idea that the world is a utopia where men respect women, children sing in the streets, sexy anaemic looking vampires will bite you to make you sexy too, and neighbours greet one another merrily without judgment or sass.
This I understand is a little too idealistic, but at the very least I expect to live in a world where a sweet smile isn’t such a tall ask or offer. But the world isn’t at all like that, and therein lies my dilemma and the reason behind my latest adventure.
I was duped into walking into a darkroom. Before imaginations run wild, yes I was aware that I was in a sex shop, no, I didn’t participate in anything sexual, and yes, had I known that the big yellow door led to a very seedy darkroom, I would have clicked my heels three times and made a run for it (there are things that should remain mysteries to me).
I feel like a disclaimer is in order: I’m a damn good friend, judge me not for the decisions I make, but for the fears I entertained. Beside my better judgement, I accompanied a seemingly nervous friend into a sex toy and video shop, because he was in desperate need of lube. He was planning on having a special night with his lady friend, I was there for moral support (great friend).
So we walk into the store and if you’ve ever been in one of those, you’ll understand when I say the penis to vagina ratio is way off. I will admit to being impressed by the variety and lifelike-ness of the toys, but wow, so many penises (and some were even moving on their own, what a trick). I was uncomfortable; I’m no prude, I’ve seen porn, but I don’t actively look for it (I have a very awkward relationship with sexy things, this will need to be unpacked at a later date).
So we walk in, he buys the lube and I’m basically caving in on myself because I’m terrified someone will recognise me or there are cameras somewhere capturing my foray into the dark side. He then turns to me (I should have known something was amiss, he had that look in his eyes) and suggested we look for the “industrial stuff”. I had no idea what on earth he meant (I’m no lube connoisseur), so I shrugged and followed him past the big yellow door.
What hit me first was the smell (it smelt like a teenage boy’s bedroom), made worse by the fact that I was basically blind (it was that dark). With my sight temporarily gone, my other senses overcompensated for the shortfall (I heard the lord’s name being called, and I don’t think many were praying…but they sure were on their knees). So I’m being led further into this labyrinth, in the dark, and all I can think of is ‘what kind of lube needs to be stored in the dark?’, like I said, naïve. He finally lets go and just stands there with this look and this grin like he’s just done something amazing and he can’t wait to share it with me.
My vision comes to and the world around us focuses into a sordid nightmare of flesh and black bricked walls. I will admit to panicking a little (I thought I was in a sex dungeon and a dominatrix was going to whip me into submission, I wasn’t mentally prepared for that). His only words were “I need you to loosen up, if that means throwing you in the deep end, then start swimming, buddy” and then he disappeared. He actually vanished, like Houdini (I’m being a little dramatic here, but can you blame me?).
I stood motionless for a few minutes, afraid that any sudden movements would give away my presence and draw out the things I was sure weren’t slow-dancing in the shadows. Minutes went by and I finally did what I always do when thrust into situations that could either make or break me; I put on my “teach me” hat (the one that turns new adventures into lessons into the lives of others) and I began rolling with the punches.
I don’t want to bore you with the sordid details (of which there are many), but I will tell you that I spoke to men and women who opened new avenues of understanding for me. There were widows and widowers who honestly just wanted to forget that outside these walls, they had nobody and there were men in there who sought comfort and connection behind these walls, away from the prying and judgemental eyes of a very crucifying society. We take for granted the power of human contact and touch. Our bodies do a great deal of communicating and the men in there were searching for a way to share their most honest selves with those who would listen.
This was a world below a world.
A space where a woman won’t be held captive by the suffocating ideals society’s placed over her life and body.
Was this my thing? No, not at all, but I understood its purpose. Every single one of those people in there was tired of living a lie. They needed a space for themselves where they didn’t have to pretend. I got it (it would have been great to have not been flashed with a few boobs, butts and penises in the process, but I got it).
After what must have been an hour, my friend returns (he was apparently waiting for me by the reception area and worried I might have been swallowed whole by the scene – there are countless jokes in there, my gift to you). I was mad, rightfully so; but my inner creative revelled in the new information, the opening up of my world and the stories I got to hear.
All in all, it wasn’t as bad as I may have originally led you to believe, but it was pretty wild.
Also, I still don’t know if industrial lube is a thing, but I would understand if it was (the things I saw, may never be unseen and kinda looked like torture a little, I don’t know; you guys do sex in a different way).