Paul the Pornographer
At one of the staging rehearsals for Lohengrin, Marty drags me over to a young blond woman sitting by herself. "This is Lulu," he says. "You two need to talk."
I normally bristle when someone is being so bossy, but this time I go along with it. Maybe because Marty is so good at giving orders, or maybe because in my heartbroken state I really could use some distraction. Anyway, as it turns out, Marty is right--Lulu and I do have a lot in common. Like mine, her parents are New York Jews. We hit it off right away. She's pretty and funny, with a bubbly personality and a dazzling wide smile. It's a welcome change from Sarah, my closest friend from grad school, who is becoming increasingly dour and reclusive after being kicked out of our program. I start spending more time with Lulu, which makes Sarah even more cranky. But it's hard to want to sit on the couch with Sarah watching Star Trek: Voyager reruns when Lulu is eager to go out to BDSM clubs with me.
I soon discover the real reason Marty said I "need" to become friends with Lulu: he is seeing her. As in, they are having sex and also he's introducing her to BDSM with him as the dom and her as the sub. She's an enthusiastic student but he's a little uneasy because he's in his forties and she's only twenty-two. I guess he's hoping I can be a kind of mentor to her or something so she has someone to talk to about the scene besides just him.
I doubt I have much wisdom to impart to Lulu, but I pour out my heart to her about Skip, about being a devotee, everything. She listens to it all without judging. In return she tells me about how Marty tied her up on the balcony of his house one night, and how thrilling it was not knowing if the neighbors could see her or not.
Rehearsals for Lohengrin start to become more frequent as we get closer to opening night. One evening, as we're sitting around in our sections, I notice a striking, dark-haired man come in late and start chatting with the conductor. I'm sure I've never seen him before. Someone that charismatic is hard to miss. He's tall and athletic, with a craggy, handsome, patrician kind of face, and a thick shock of black hair. He could almost be on the cover of a bodice-ripper.
I lean over and elbow Lulu. "Who's that?"
"That's William. He's playing Heinrich der Vogler."
"Yeah, I know. All the women in the chorus are swooning over him. You should go say hi to him."
"Me? No way."
"No, really! I'm telling you, he's single and he would really be into you."
"How do you know?"
"I was in the chorus of Carmen last year at the Southside Opera and he was Escamillo. I have to say, he was super hot in the toreador costume. And he's a smarty-pants like you too."
I roll my eyes. "What does that mean?"
Lulu explains that William works for a very famous local IT company. Marty also works in IT and has made quite a lot of money, but William is like next level in terms of prestige. Also apparently before he was recruited for his current position, William was a tenured professor of computer science at MIT. In addition to this very demanding career, he's also an accomplished baritone who regularly gets leading roles with local opera companies and still finds time to run marathons and triathlons.
I'm impressed. In fact, I'm so over-awed that there's no way I can just go up and start flirting with him. I mentally file him away as out of my league.
The opening night of Lohengrin is not as exciting as Figaro was. Now that I'm in my second show, it's all a bit more routine. Also I don't really like this opera--I find the music boring and the costumes tacky. We're all in very fake medieval garb. I have a pointy wimple with two round fake hairnets attached on either side, like a Styrofoam version of the Princess Leia buns. The one standout in the company is William as Heinrich der Vogler. He's a magnetic presence on stage, with those flashing black eyes and that booming voice.
Rather than watching the performance on the monitor, I spend most of my time offstage hanging out with Lulu and the other women of the chorus. One night Lulu brings blue cotton candy which we all share during intermission. After the show, Sarah asks me why all the women had blue tongues in Act II.
On a Saturday afternoon before the evening show, I attend my first Sub Rosa Society munch. This is a monthly casual meeting in an upscale brewpub just down the street from the theater. It's supposed to be a low pressure way to meet compatible people in the BDSM scene. Lulu doesn't go, but Marty is there, and introduces me to everyone as a new domme. He was right, I do get a lot of attention, but I can't say there is a single person there who I find even remotely attractive.
Most vanilla people imagine the BDSM scene to be like in a high-end club in a movie, all models in gorgeous, sinister costumes. I realized as soon as I started going to events with Skip that most people who are seriously into the scene are just Star Trek nerds but in different costumes. Sometimes not even different costumes. Some are better than others at dressing up, but here at the munch the social awkwardness is on full display. Not that I am any different--I am just as nerdy and awkward as any of them. I don't enjoy making small talk under any circumstances, and I really feel weird giving strangers a rundown of my sexual interests. When anyone asks, I stick to the more common BDSM stuff and do not mention being a devotee. Thankfully, Marty doesn't blurt it out either.
Marty introduces me to a local celebrity, the author of a best-selling book on BDSM that I have read. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this man is not it. He's in his sixties, stooped and paunchy, with a scraggly beard and long thinning hair. He looks like an aged, unreconstructed hippie. When Marty mentions that I'm a top, Mr. Famous Author's eyes light up and he gives me a lascivious grin, revealing a row of crooked, nicotine stained teeth. He spends the rest of the munch seated at my side, trying to entice me into "playing" with him at some future date. Low pressure my ass. I decline his offer in no uncertain terms.
"Well that was a letdown," I tell Marty that night as we are hanging out in the green room before the show.
"He's a nice guy--you should give him a chance," Marty suggests.
"Ew, no! Yuck!" I know that for a lot of people in the scene, finding a partner who is experienced and compatible in terms of dom, sub or switch, and who wants to play in the same way you do, can trump other factors like age, gender or even basic sexual attraction. But that's really not my style. I want a boyfriend, not a meticulously curated dungeon scene.
"Is it always like that? Everyone at the munch was like twenty years older than I am," I complain.
Marty snaps his fingers, his face lighting up with a sudden revelation. "I just thought of the perfect guy for you! His name is Paul and he runs a studio that makes adult films. He's in his thirties, and he's a sub."
"Oh yeah? You're sure he's single? I don't want to be dragged into some poly thing again."
"Yes, definitely single. Oh and he's loaded." He gives me a suggestive wink, like he believes that's all girls really care about.
I roll my eyes at that, but I let Marty set me up on a date with Paul the Pornographer.
We meet at a restaurant downtown, not far from the warehouse where his porn studio is located, and also only a few miles from the theater. Paul kindly agrees to a very early dinner, since my call time at the theater is seven o'clock.
Paul is British. Actually he's just about the most British guy I have ever met--extremely pale, light brown hair, quite cute in a nerdy, bumbling kind of way. He's like Hugh Grant minus most of the charisma and a lot more socially awkward. I would never have guessed that he's in the porn industry, let alone that he is the head of a major studio with dozens of employees. From what I gather, his main innovation was creating a website to stream his movies and live video, rather than trying to sell DVDs, and he has been raking in the dough.
Despite his wholesome looks, Paul's dinner conversation is one hundred percent about sex. He has this oddly matter-of-fact way of talking about his work that makes it seem less sleazy. As he describes auditioning cam girls and trying to come up with ever more inventive SM scenes, I flirt back by regaling him with some stories of my own.
As I launch into the story of the girl I picked up in a nightclub in Seoul, I notice that even though the restaurant is deserted because of the early hour, the waiters seem to be hanging around our table a lot. Like, standing really close. It occurs to me that Paul is something of a local celebrity, and they probably know there will be a lot of sex talk at his table.
Undeterred, I launch into the climax of my story. "So she starts making out with me in the back of the cab, and the driver is staring at us in the rearview mirror, driving in circles." I stare at the waiter refilling my already mostly full water glass. "Then he says, 'Are you lesbians?' What can I say? I just say yes." Fuck it, I don't care if they are listening. I hope they enjoy it. "So I took her home and popped her cherry with a big purple dildo."
Paul smiles wanly. "Sounds hot."
I don't mention being a devotee though, not with all these eavesdroppers, and anyway he doesn't need to know on the first date, at least not unless things get serious.
After dinner, Paul takes me on a tour of the studio. There are a lot of people there but no actual scenes being filmed at the moment, so they all have their clothes on. He shows me a bunch of different setups with beds, benches, all kinds of bondage gear, even some faceless cloth dummies for blocking scenes and practicing rope tying. My rope tying skills are seriously lacking, so he teaches me a basic hog tie. Then he drives me over to the theater and I get into my fake medieval costume for another performance of Lohengrin. My life is so weird.
The next weekend I go on another date with Paul the Pornographer. After dinner, he takes me back to his place. He lives in a semi-detached house in a swanky neighborhood. It's nice--not stunning, but with property values so high, it probably cost a fair bit. The interior is all dark wood, barely lit with a few table lamps. The furniture is new but I'm struck by how bare it all is. There are only two things on the wall in the whole house: (1) in the hall, a framed photo of his primary school class in their little round caps and short pants, and (2) a seismic map of Raser City taped to a cabinet in the kitchen. I look at the map and see that his house sits right on a major fault line. It's unsettling.
"Wow, you don't go in for decorating, huh?" I comment.
He just shrugs. Talking to him feels a bit like shouting into a void. I'm trying to find out if he has any interests beyond his porn business but he's giving me nothing.
"So why do you have that earthquake map?" I ask.
"Seems like important information," is his only reply.
He hands me a glass of water and we go sit on the leather couch in the living room.
"Soooo... the last performances of Lohengrin are next weekend. I gave my comp tickets to my friend Sarah and her boyfriend, but I can get you a discount if you want to come see it."
"Nah, I don't really care for opera."
I don't say anything, because I know a lot of people feel that way, and I don't care for this particular opera either. But I'm a bit annoyed he can't even be polite about it.
He quickly brings the conversation back around to sex: things he's done (being pegged, being tied up, sub/domme roleplay), things he'd like to do with me (all of the above). He talks about wanting to be wrapped in plastic, the kind used to secure packages, completely encased from head to toe like a mummy. The image of him immobilized and naked perks me right up. Maybe I can make this work.
"I want to go out to Lollygag with you," he says.
"Wow, I haven't been there in forever." I used to go to the local goth club all the time with Patrick the Fireman but I stopped after he dumped me and moved away.
"Let's go next weekend."
"Uh, I still have the show, remember? Besides I don't have anything to wear. My black vinyl pants are all worn out and peeling."
"I'll buy you a new outfit," he offers.
"Really? You know, I always wanted leather pants but I could never afford it."
He gives me that toothy Hugh Grant grin. "Yes, I'll buy you whatever you want."
I've never dated a guy with money before. All my boyfriends have tended to be as broke as I am. I told Skip I don't care about money but for a second I start to see the appeal. It would be nice to get a cool pair of leather pants, like my fictional avatar, Betty DeLuxe.
"Ok, you can buy me some pants," I say, straddling him on the couch. We kiss and make out for a while, then move to the bedroom.
He has a nice bed, with a big oak frame and a white fluffy down quilt. It feels very inviting, and here is a cute guy who wants me to tie him up and have my way with him. So far, so good.
Paul takes off his shirt, revealing a pasty, clammy white chest. He is literally the whitest guy I have ever seen. I try to distract myself by focusing on the sub/domme dynamic. He has one of those practice dummies in his bedroom, and he shows me how he wants to be hogtied, with his arms and legs behind him. I agree to do it, and he takes off his pants.
He rolls onto his stomach, and the most horrible stench emanates from his ass crack. What the fuck? I can't believe it. Does he never wipe? Why does he literally smell like shit?
I really should tell him to take a shower or something, but he just seems so pathetic squirming awkwardly in his big bed, and I don't want to hurt his feelings. Also it feels too mean to just stop at this point. So I tie him inexpertly then give him a handjob to get him off as fast as I can. It's not sexy.
When he finishes, he offers to do the same for me, but I tell him it's late and I'm tired. I get dressed as fast as I can and leave.
On the long drive home from his swanky central neighborhood to my basement apartment in the Iron Triangle, I contemplate what just happened. Was he really asking to be my sugar daddy? Was I seriously contemplating prostituting myself for a pair of leather pants? The whole thing is so ridiculous. Morality aside, there's no way I can pretend to be interested in someone when I'm not. I never see him again.