Public Decency, Private Shame: Some Things Never Change

by Calico Rudasill,

By the time I reached adulthood, I was no stranger to the fact hypocrisy and shame could be found anywhere and everywhere one looked for it. Even so, there were some examples that still took me by surprise.

One such surprise came on a visit to an adult shop. I was with two female friends, shopping for a gag gift to bestow upon a third at her upcoming bridal shower. As we giggled and blushed our way through considering the relative merits of penis-shaped pasta versus an inflatable male sex doll with an attachable dildo, a small number of men shuffled around among the video shelves, trying not be noticed by our little gaggle of cackling coeds.

porn shame

Read on…

Right as we approached the counter, I saw an older gentleman who immediately blanched when we made eye contact. It was my then-landlord, Tom, who was friendly enough, but with whom I had long ago decided I should never talk politics or social issues – because Tom was a dyed-in-the-wool social conservative.

The reason Tom turned the color of pea soup with a splash of tomato when our eyes met in the porn shop became even more obvious when I spotted the item he clutched in his hand: A gay porn VHS tape (yes, I said a VHS tape; this was over 20 years ago, you know) with hard-bodied younger fellows all over the front cover – and, presumably, cum-covered ones all over the back.

“Hey Tom,” I cheerfully intoned. “Come here often?”

The Louder The Denial….

To be clear, if Tom hadn’t recently spent about an hour with me in the property’s shared courtyard deriding gay people as filthy, disgusting sinners, I wouldn’t have thought anything negative about seeing him in an adult shop holding a gay porn tape. If anything, it would have made me feel closer to him – especially if he agreed to let me borrow it sometime.

But Tom had recently just spent about an hour bad mouthing “the gays” in my presence, so I wasn’t about to let him watch his gay porn tape without making him feel at least a little uncomfortable first. He scurried out of the adult shop so quickly (leaving the tape behind, unpurchased) I had to settle for shooting him knowing glances when we passed each other in the courtyard later.

About a week later, Tom pulled me aside to explain he wasn’t gay, he just felt a “moment of weakness” in which he tragically, almost accidentally, found himself wandering into an adult shop – the kind of establishment he would never, ever, normally frequent, he assured me.

“Really?” I said, raising my eyebrows. “So, if I go back in there today and ask them if there’s a rental account under your name, they’d say they’ve never heard of you?”

Tom’s face dropped like it was the stock market and the date was October 24, 1929. I’m sure if he’d been a little faster on his feet, he’d have realized the clerks at the adult shop weren’t likely to share information on account holders, but in that moment, he felt caught.

“Don’t worry Tom,” I said. “Your secret is safe with me.”

He looked a little too relieved for my taste, so I quickly added “I can’t help you with God, though; from what I hear, He knows all.”

Meanwhile, In Australia….

What got me thinking about my encounter with Tom all those years ago was an article about Toowoomba, Australia, a town which recently encouraged its residents to take a pledge to do their part in creating “a city free from porn.”

On the other hand, according to online adult retailer Femplay, Toowoomba also is Australia’s per capita leader in sex toy purchases.

Although buying sex toys is very different from watching porn, and in my opinion the desire to do the former in no way implies a willingness to do the latter, it’s also true sex toys are a common target for strict regulation (or outright banning) by the same groups and individuals who want to purge porn from modern society. And while I’m also somewhat skeptical of Femplay’s claim, no part of me would be surprised to find out it’s accurate.

Just as guys like my old landlord rail publicly against the very same conduct in which they privately engage, groups of people are prone to the same sort of duplicity. Ultimately, it’s often true the only people they’re deceiving are themselves, of course, leading to the global media equivalent of an embarrassing conversation in a courtyard with your sarcastic bitch of a tenant.

Is Toowoomba really Australia’s “sexiest town to live in,” as Femplay interprets the sales data? I suppose that depends on your definition of “sexy.” Either way, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn the city is overrepresented in porn sites’ traffic stats, as well.

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