Intimacy and the Sex Industry
“Are you watching this right now? That’s them! As in them that we just saw having sex!” Alice hissed in my ear. I kicked her under the table so she would shut up. I didn’t want them to notice us staring; it was way too interesting to watch them like this, in a natural habitat.
We’d just watched a live sex show in Amsterdam’s red light district and now, at a restaurant around the corner from the theatre, the man spoon-fed twirls of pasta into his partner’s mouth. He fed her with the same tenderness with which he pushed his love organ into her mouth an hour earlier under a spotlight surrounded by 100 people.
It was clear that the intimacy between them remained intact. Her legs rubbed up against his, playing footsies under the restaurant table. The candlestick separating them accentuated the atmosphere, the light flickering across her face and highlighting freckles speckled over her nose. Her makeup had been scrubbed off, and here she appeared clean, innocent, shy and almost virginal in her white linen shirt. She touched his hand girlishly across the table.
My friends could not stop laughing. We’d eaten some weed brownies and we were really high. I couldn’t look away from the bizarre scenario, not even the munchies dissuading my gaze from the couple to the menu.
They appeared to be in a honeymoon period. Perhaps the rush had continued from the show. But wouldn’t ‘the act’ hinder the intimacy? After pounding each other night after night in front of a crowd of randoms who either got themselves off or got creeped out, wouldn’t they be running on empty?
Earlier in the day, we’d come to a consensus over coffee and a joint that we wanted to see a live sex show. We had laughed naughtily together, revelling in the somewhat guilty admission that we were willing to pay €30 to watch total strangers fuck on stage in front of us.
“Ahhhyeahhh, ahhhhhhhh… yeahhhh, ahyeah,” were the first noises we heard through the grimy theatre backdoor. A woman’s voice gasped for air over a shitty sound system intermittently interrupting the soft crackly piano score. Random waves of strong bass came through, entirely out of time. Each beat knocked the breath out of me and shook my sternum. Dusty frames adorned the walls, each containing pink and oiled bodies connected via tongues and genitals. They were spaced between broken neon lights. A smoke machine choked in the corner.
I felt swaddled under a thick blanket of sleaze.
Desensitised already, I attempted to find my way around the pitch-black room. The only lights were on the fluffy carpet and lined the exit and entry like on a plane. As we were ushered single file down the wooden pews that shrouded the stage, I was reminded of the last church service I had attended. Here I was again with a glass of shitty red wine clutched in my hand, equally dazed and confused.
The shoddy porn soundtrack continued, growing louder as the heavy curtain covering the stage began to draw. Spotlights shone, blinding us for a moment before shining directly onto the couple lying next to each other on a hot pink mattress.
“I can’t believe we are watching this…” I whispered to Alice. She grabbed my arm and stared at me, attempting to widen her bloodshot, glazed-over eyes to express the bewilderment we both felt. I laughed nervously as the couple began to stroke each other tenderly. The audience fell silent.
Essentially they were performers. Dancers even, as they moved swiftly through the choreographed piece in time to a sultry minimal house track. Bam, bam, bam and switch. Bam bam bam some more and flip. We got to see every angle. They appeared to be enjoying themselves.
Watching the show, I never could have imagined that the performers were actually a couple, but here they were, in an Italian retaurant, tenderly caressing each other. Before was more of a spectacle, a performance, but here I was in the restaurant being a voyeur. Having witnessed their fucking and now their dining, I wasn’t sure which was more intimate.
“Is anyone else as intrigued as me?” I turned back to my friends, realising I had been lost in a stoned state of thought.
“I’m just thinking it’s kind of hilarious that I met all three of my ex-boyfriends through one night stands,” Alice admitted.
“Go on…” the weed had me feeling philosophical. Alice put down her fork.
“It’s funny how it’s normal to fuck first and only after that do you actually eat a meal together. And by that I don’t mean the sticky scrambled eggs rummaged last minute the morning after. You do arguably the most intimate act of all, yet it’s not until afterwards that you get to know who they really are, what they’re like.”
“So then Alice, what defines ‘real’ intimacy for you?” She looked at me almost incredulously.
“That, right there.” She pointed her fork at the couple. I looked over at them again. “I almost… envy that?” We laughed in unison.
I guess though no particular rules exist anymore, it’s ironic that the couple who glamourise the standards of hot sex, who flaunt one facet of intimacy to an audience, have nothing to prove after all.
Cover by Benjamin Gustafsson