Chapter 3: I Was a Porn Virgin
Aside from mouse clicks or pro-porn boyfriends, the context for your first foray into porn may not intentionally be a sexual one, solo or otherwise. You might watch your first porn film when your best friend drags you to a bachelorette party, or when a pal suggests something wild, like renting a dirty movie. If you decide you're okay with going along for the ride, know that you're doing just that—it's likely that your friend or friends were too nervous to watch porn on their own, and wanted to have you there to make it feel safer. It can be a lot of fun to watch porn with friends, and with the right crowd you might wind up laughing your head off. Prepare yourself by knowing that there's a chance you might see something that will arouse you or offend you, and realizing that, you'll be better able to disengage from seeing explicitly sexual material with people you don't feel sexual about. However, if you'd like to consider adding porn to your erotic repertoire, I recommend that you watch your first porn by yourself.
Women who watch porn alone and solely for themselves know what they like, enjoy trying new things, feel confident in making their own sexual choices, and like to treat themselves to masturbation on their own time and on their own terms. This reality is light years away from the decades-old, false stereotype of porn viewers as male, raincoat-clad, drooling, compulsive masturbators. Whether done by a gal enjoying time with her roommates gone, the mom with a quiet evening to spare, a girl whose boyfriend is out of town for the weekend, or just as part of a healthy masturbation session, watching porn ignites routine masturbation with a visceral erotic spark.
When you explore porn, you should do so without anyone else around to make you feel self- conscious, nervous, or worried about how you're feeling or reacting to what you see. That includes your lover, your best pal, the hottie you want to seduce, and anyone who might interrupt you with an uncomfortable surprise. Make sure your housemates are really not coming home, the kids are away, your sweetie is at work—check off all important items on your mental list so that you'll have total solitude and privacy.
When you're ready, make sure you have everything you need and will be undisturbed. If you can, eliminate possible distractions. Nothing is worse than taking your erotic temperature by watching a little porn, getting turned on, and experimenting—and then having the phone ring, bringing your arousal crashing down to earth. Unplug or turn off your phone, and don't try to multitask with any chores. Focus on the imagery. You may or may not like it or even get turned on, but you'll want to be able to assess for yourself how you feel. If you're worried about privacy and sound, make a mental list of what will make you feel safe; close your doors and windows, and keep the volume at a comfortably low level (or use your iPod).
Now set the scene for your porn adventure. You can look at porn on the sly, when no one's around, or you can make it a hot date with yourself. You can even get yourself in the mood by masturbating a little before the video starts. Two Viewing Requirements: Your Libido and Your Remote
Since porn is more of a sex toy than a "sex aid," it will add to (not fix) the current state of your libido. So, just as with any other sex toy, it helps if you're aroused before you begin watching porn. When you're ready to put the tape in and press "play," be sure to have the following items ready: lube, dildo, vibrator, towel, or all of the above, plus the remote control. Having a sex toy ready if you need it is handy; if the video turns you on and you want to get off, you won't have to interrupt your pleasure to search around for your toys.
But why the remote control? It's the only really required item for porn viewing: you'll need to fast forward through anything you don't like, or whatever distracts you from your arousal—be it lame dialogue, a sex act you don't care for, or a performer who leaves you cold. For some people this may seem like a hassle at first—why, you ask, can't the industry just make good porn?
The makers of porn try to appeal to as many tastes as possible in a relatively short amount of production time; they're also controlled by distributors who have fairly antiquated ideas about sex and sexuality—and especially about what people really want to see. Also, porn has to get to the point pretty quickly to retain horny viewers who usually want instant gratification, and so, as in Hollywood, the folks who make porn have boiled down their scenarios into formulas based on what they think viewers want. Your First Shopping Trip
Before you make your first purchase or rental, make a fact-finding mission to the store or online retailer, so that you don't become overwhelmed by all the assaulting DVD covers with their explicit photos, attention-grabbing titles, and utter lack of order. Check it out, and plan to make a purchase on your second time around. On your maiden voyage, have a checklist in your mind of what you want—specific movie titles, actors, directors, series, or sex acts. Making an actual list is very helpful. Don't get your heart (or other parts) set on one video only, in case they don't have it or it's checked out—be prepared to be versatile.
When visiting stores in person, it takes a conscious effort to enter the porn section for the first time, and as a woman be prepared that most men who were browsing before you came in will flee. I kind of like it—I get the section to myself. But just ignore everyone else, and help yourself to what's rightfully yours as an adult. If you decide to go to an adults-only store where you'll have a better selection, men may not flee, but you might be the only woman in sight, and it can feel…conspicuous. Then again, you could be surprised to see other women and couples shopping for porn and sex toys: it's happening more and more every year.
If your town has one of the nation's many warm, welcoming, women-friendly sex toy stores, don't hesitate to shop there for your porn with the aid of the knowledgeable staff that run the registers. The workers in these stores typically know a bit about the porn they carry and can point you in the right direction. Your first experience in one of these "clean, well-lighted" places to shop for sex toys will be a shock—no sleaze! Many of these stores are designed and run like upscale boutiques, but without the cheesy element of "novelty" adult stores. As a customer, you'll be joining the (literally) millions of other women and men shopping in these stores—people of every stripe and persuasion, having fun renting and buying porn, and also purchasing vibrators, cock rings, and other sex toys. Unfortunately, these terrific shops are found only in a few major cities.
Most major cities have a selection of adult toy, book, and video shops that are somewhat (or even very) sleazy and uncomfortable to shop in, generally because they aren't clean or kept up in any visible way, and the clerks and even the customers don't seem to want to be there. However, not all adult shops are like this, and some will have female staff, witty gay clerks, or an owner who works behind the counter and has a wealth of knowledge to share—even if it's just knowing on which shelf to find a particular title. Many adult shops have an arcade in the back, where men pay to test drive the videos. This is a little unsettling for those who aren't familiar with this culture, and many women might feel worried about going into a store with an arcade; keep in mind that arcades have been around since the invention of moving pictures, reaching a heyday in the 1950s. Unsettled to know that men are masturbating in the back while you shop? It happens every day and night, even holidays. Smart girls call 'em "jack shacks." See—now they're just funny.
The best way to handle nervousness is to march right in during daylight hours, bringing a friend or two and ignoring everyone else. But believe me, after years of going into every kind of porn store imaginable to do research, I'll bet cash money that if you're a woman and you go into one of the seedier shops, you'll be the only one in the store within two minutes. Our culture is so packed with sexual shame that whenever I walk into a jack shack to find a DVD, the men run for cover, leaving me free to take my sweet time shopping for my next rental.
Your local mom-and-pop video stores will have a closed back room where they keep the adult DVDs, away from the tender eyes of those under eighteen. Some stores opt to save on space and will have their video selection in large books that are kept behind the counter, containing box covers in a sort of big flipbook. If you don't see an annex for the porn, or a room with western-style swinging doors, ask to see the porn books. Expect that the adult titles will be more expensive than what you usually pay for a rental???they are much less likely to be returned than other videos, and retailers like to have insurance against losing their stock (hence the higher prices).
You might wind up going to more than one store to find what you want or a place where you feel comfortable shopping. You don't have to settle for the first place, or the nearest store, if you don't like it—remember, you're the customer. If you look around, you'll find what you're looking for, and if you have a particular title in mind you can always call ahead to see if they have it; some stores will set titles aside for regular customers.
Privacy and discretion are two main concerns for in-person (offline) porn shoppers. You can choose to peruse stores away from your home and work. Or go rent your videos when the store isn't busy, like on a weekday. You can have your lover rent for you—make it an erotic command if you like. Or you can just not give a damn what anyone thinks about your private sex life. And don't concern yourself with what the person behind the counter thinks about you, unless they're being inappropriate, of course. They've seen it all before, and they're probably worrying about theft, getting their Friday night shift covered, register balances, or the various problems porn store clerks contend with.
Renting or purchasing online is an easy, private, and simple way to find and obtain the porn you're looking for. Some people find it a big pain to deal with the organizational chaos of finding stores and wasting travel time (including parking, in big cities) merely to rent porn in person, and are overjoyed to find that online transactions have quieted these complaints. Purchasing online is as simple as buying a book, and renting is just as painless, though each online store has its own policies and rules about rentals.
Rental sites are usually the best resources for finding and selecting what you want. They typically have excellent search engines, allowing you to search by title, director, actor, or genre (such as lesbian, heterosexual, or bisexual), and sometimes by studio, such as VCA or Evil Angel. They cater to a smorgasbord of tastes and sexual orientations, and might have suggestions that help turn up tasty selections for you. Then, you make your choice by clicking the "rent" button, at which time the site will drop that item into your virtual shopping cart and allow you to shop for another video. Online renters usually limit how many DVDs you can select—up to three is standard, but some go up to eight—plus a time limit for how long you can hold onto them. Most sites will let you hold your selection video while you shop for up to an hour, but then return the video to the "shelves" so others can shop for it, too. When ready to check out, you set up an account with a required credit card, and pay for your rentals. Each company has a different rental pricing structure; some are per rental, while others have a flat monthly fee. The rentals are shipped to you in discreetly marked packages—these businesses want your return patronage!—and you keep the videos for a set number of days, usually a full week. The rentals arrive typically within a few business days, and include a return envelope with postage. You watch the DVDs as many times as you like, then drop them in the mail when you're done. Keep Your Expectations in Check
In mainstream low-budget porn, which comprises the majority of what's available through local retailers, online streaming video/clip websites, and DVD rental sites, the quality you're going to see is roughly that of regular (nonerotic) independent films, daytime soap operas, or daytime made-for-TV movies. These films feature simple sets, usually indoor filming in one location, standard harsh lighting, digital cameras (which are what contribute to their daytime TV look and feel), and barely present acting. Big studio films, by contrast, can be surprisingly complex in script, have terrific cinematography, and show sexy, believable actors, though the movies (and actors) have a purposely packaged and polished finish. Not surprisingly, the biggest studios have bigger budgets, access to better sets, actors who might have gone to acting school, writers with writing experience, and directors who are more likely to take their craft seriously. Some even use real film stock in their movies, which is costly but produces a higher-quality film, in look and feel. Sound quality, however, is generally poor, even in the big-budget feature films. The independents can have the same quality range, but they're less likely to be found in a neighborhood video rental shop; they can be found more easily online or in a sex toy or lingerie boutique.
Not all porn has a plot, and in all-sex DVDs you'll find that same variation in quality, from high-budget polish to low-budget rough edges. Many of these look like home movies, because that's what they are. The digital camera has made it possible for anyone with a little money and the right access to make and distribute a film. The medium- to low-budget DVDs will often contain extremely explicit ads for phone sex that are cheaply recycled footage from really old videos, with one come shot after another. Sometimes these ads are pretty aggressive, and contain scenes that might offend some people, such as gaping anal shots. Sometimes the immediacy of the ads' sexuality will make the films themselves seem anticlimactic; I know of several women who get so hot so fast by the shocking ads at the beginning that they claim they don't make it through the ads, masturbating to orgasm before the ads are finished!
So, with rare exceptions, the video you watch isn't going to be anything like the films you're used to viewing at the local cineplex. In terms of budget and therefore overall appearance it'll be a close, though genetically inbred, cousin of B-movies. It's also important to keep in mind that you're going to be watching a video made to feature one thing: sex. Porn makers know that the reason anyone (outside of their peers) is watching their film in the first place is to see explicit sex. So the focus in each and every film will be the sex scenes, with everything else taking a back seat.
The need to focus on sex, combined with a small budget and minimal resources, often compromises vital aspects of the video's quality. Poor sound quality and looped scenes are an unfortunate result. Sound issues can mean hearing the sounds of the production crew, muffled or inaudible dialogue, or annoying background music—sometimes, lamely enough, just music playing in the room where the actors are having sex. A huge complaint from viewers is having to sit through scenes that have been cut (often poorly) with looped film, meaning the action (such as a close-up of a blow job) is edited in repetition to make the scene seem longer. Another annoying corner-cutter found on all-sex videos is the technique of intermingling higher-quality scenes with badly filmed, lackluster scenes, for filler. As if we wouldn't notice. NC-17 and Softcore Porn
If you're not quite ready to take the plunge, there are plenty of options that will still titillate you. You can pick a Hollywood or foreign film that has an NC-17 rating, which is essentially a soft X-rating and is either sought out by filmmakers for publicity or considered the "kiss of death" to features that hope to pull in the mainstream megabucks. Or you can choose from among European and Japanese films that enjoy fewer restrictions on sex and have a more mature, savvy viewership (not to mention legislators), so you'll find, say, French films with sex that doesn't hide—or exaggerate—real interactions between two bodies. Or you can rent a softcore feature, either a B-grade film with male and female nudity (no erections) or one with simulated sex. Or you can watch cable TV or pay-per-view porn. Cable porn is softer than "hard core"—the stuff that shows penetration—though it's very similar because these films are the edited or softened version of a fully explicit porn feature. They show no penetration or genital close-ups—but it's definitely not simulated sex!
If you want to try out some steamy Hollywood or foreign movies, try these Hollywood films:
Basic Instinct (director's cut), Better Than Chocolate, Body of Evidence, Boogie Nights, Bound, Caligula, Crash (director's cut), The Fluffer, Henry and June, A History of Violence, Holy Smoke, The Hunger, Jade, Kama Sutra, Last Tango in Paris, 9 1/2 Weeks, Secretary (highly recommended)
Belle du Jour, Betty Blue, Emmanuelle, Fanny Hill, Hammer horror vampire films circa 1970, In the Realm of Passion, In the Realm of the Senses, Lesbian vampire films by Jess Franco or Jean Rollin, The Pillow Book, Romance, Sex and Lucia, Tokyo Decadence, The UnbearableLightness of Being, Y tu mamá también