Way back in the '90s, I remember strolling the sickly lit aisles of a small town West Virginia porn shop with a tinge of trepidation in my gut. Sure, I'd seen it all before — some of my earliest flashbacks involve Bo Derek naked in my stepfather's Playboy next to his bottom-drawer cigarettes, and the fairly embarrassing (if not prescient) subsequent grounding I received for utilizing both — but this time was different. There, scattered among the torn plastic shields concealing 36D fat lady magazines and labia wallpaper were the unexpected senses of live-action sounds and wafting odors. A peep-show booth in the back of the room rattled in increasing rhythms while cries of "oh, unh, oh" crescendoed at a libido-on-fire pace; my chest tightened, my vision blurred and I fluttered out of the store with the sense that there are some visceral distances I never wanted to traverse again. At least not with girls involved.
"So do you want to go to Nude Nite?" Karen Leigh, a girl, Facebooks into my laptop.
Only now, in place of the Spanish stomach flies and pinkish lube stench that typically arise at the mention of public heterosexual voyeurism, there's just that slight frown at the corners of my mouth, the steely numbness of institutionalized sexual extroversion, a gray, placating "I guess so" tapping out of my sex-free fingers. Sex is now officially boring.
The thing with Nude Nite — and there are lots of things with Nude Nite, don't get me wrong — is that it just stands there like some kind of racy concept that once dripped hot-wax controversy onto a slightly-naughty-for-a-night going out set, but now feels like an obligation, one that still flashes its tits even though they're sort of sagging now. It's the old Matthew McConaughey "I get older, they stay the same" desperation prowl that, despite its constant repackaging as hip, then not hip, then for the poor, then for the rich, boils down to a dusty Patrick Nagel and a stripper with sushi on her vagina.
"Oh look!" I wander past the $20 ticket threshold with Karen Leigh in tow. "It's a naked girl and she's covered in sushi."
"I don't think I'm hungry," Karen Leigh smells the ships coming in.
This year's restatement of the obvious — you know, naked people — is, however, a marked improvement over last year's uncomfortable shoulder-wrestling-cruisey match to get a little too close to a naked old man in the crampy Cruises Only building. In taking over an "abandoned" warehouse space just off Virginia near the adjacent Antique Row, organizer Kelly Stevens has tipped her hat to the more manageable tradition of loft art shows with plenty of space to stand back and decide whether a penis is a person or a person is a penis. Missing, though, is the implied narrative of going deeper into a hellhole only to work your way out of it covered in unknown fluids. You're just there, meandering and ultimately limp.
"I cannot write a column about this," I fade in Karen Leigh. "The only bits of conflict that pop into my mind are those of why there are seminude people walking around and posing like they're in their own Warhol movie and/or the question of taste: like does a poorly painted watercolor of a woman swimming with just her left boob poking over the surface survive the tastefulness test, or does it get shipped swiftly to the flea market, or worse, Fairvilla?"
"I tend to think of it in terms of, ‘What if I accidentally went home with a guy when I was drunk and there was a giant picture of a hairy vagina on his wall?' I doubt I'd see him more as sexually liberated and less as a pervert. I'd be out the door."
Sure, there are bits of humor, most notably the less-than-appealing portrait of what appears to be Lou Pearlman lounging on a couch with his robe open, revealing once again (to me, anyway!) that a large belly does not supply flattering context to a fat-swallowed member. Also, in a case of performance art that isn't supposed to be, a fretting Kelly Stevens moves her collection of interactive body part building blocks to a place where light can shine on them.
"People don't realize that they're supposed to play with them," she clucks her tongue.
"Maybe they think it's a statue. You know, ‘Don't touch the art'?" I narrate her breakdown. "OK, I'll play with them. I'll play with anything. I swallow!" etc.
But the pièce de résistance — or installation that should be resisted — is the hooded topless woman crawling on the floor, reportedly with a strap-on dildo attached (I say apparently, because I resisted). Once every five or so minutes, a leg and an arm would move forward, while a brave Winter Park husband posed next to her for his wife to snap a photo, because, ladies and gentlemen, this is the new Disney World.
We stick around just long enough to watch the ubiquitous Baby Blue remove her nightie for a scheduled hourly burlesque with one hot girl and one gay guy, and shortly thereafter realize that none of this has even broken the surface of our collective sexual insecurities; nothing here has produced a drop of natural lubrication to our corresponding — and thankfully hidden — naughty parts. This is going through the motions. This is like a hate fuck. This is over.
Now, would somebody please make sex exciting firstname.lastname@example.org