A Lesson on Bodies From a Sex Show in Amsterdam
In a dimly-lit basement under the streets of Amsterdam, I sat, surrounded by people I barely knew, watching a woman pull an impossibly long string out from her vagina. I clutched my vodka cranberry tightly in my hand, fighting the urge to look away. What seemed like an age later, all the string was out, and the woman bowed and strutted off the stage. I clapped along with the crowd and sighed a breath of relief. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.
I’ve always had a slightly awkward relationship with my body, with bodies in general. It’s not that I’m majorly unhappy with the way I look. I’m just not super comfortable exposing myself to people. Blame my conservative upbringing, my problem with intimacy or just the Western attitude towards public nudity (strip down in public as an adult and you’re doomed to forever wear the label of attention-seeker, hippie or slut).
The same extends to other people’s bodies: they’re great, I’m sure, but ask me to look at them and I’ll turn into a blushing, uncomfortable mess. So when a sex show, of all things, was suggested as a (non-officially sanctioned) group activity to mark the final nights of our tour through Europe, I was a little concerned.
There was a significant amount of umming and ahhing, but eventually, FOMO won out against the potential embarrassment. Cut to two nights later, and I sat in a room bathed in purple light, heart thumping in time with the royalty-free EDM track playing in the background, waiting for the show to start. I had been lucky enough to score a front-row seat, with my boyfriend on one side and a rich stockbroker in his mid-30s on the other. The room definitely wasn’t spacious enough to fit a group of 25 people, so we were jammed in, shoulder-to-shoulder.
Problems with intimacy and physical contact? Don’t worry about it.
Soon enough, the lights went out, the music was turned up and string-vagina lady, clad in purple leather, strutted onto stage, a wicker box of props under her arm like an erotic magician. And in a way, she was. The ability to write legibly on a man’s bare chest with a Sharpie held in their nether regions has to be some kind of witchcraft.
By the end of the first performance, my heart had stopped pounding, and I was actually having a decent time. The next half an hour was a blur of impressive pole tricks, impossibly high stilettos, and a surprising amount of banana consumption.
Finally, a couple was announced. Apparently, the sex part of the sex show was about to begin.
From the back of the room emerged a bald man in a white button-down, open to mid-chest, a pair of dad-style trainers and, despite the lack of good lighting of the room, a pair of sunglasses. Maybe it was the darkness, or the fact that the sunglasses stayed on for the duration of his performance, but he bore a striking resemblance to Pitbull. Accompanying him was a lady in very complicated-looking, leopard-print lingerie, who we were informed was his wife.
After a moment of bowing and waving to the crowd, Pitbull laid what looked like a dog bed onto the stage. Unlike the other performances, this time there was no box of props or fancy gimmicks. They just went up there, laid on the dog bed, and got straight down to business.
It was nothing like I expected. Maybe it’s my addiction to rom-coms, but I was surprised to see that there wasn’t really a lot of passion behind it, no real love. Maybe they saved all that for at home. It really looked like to them, this was just a job. Instead of looking at his wife, Pitbull kind of stared around into the audience, nodding his head politely at people. He was thrusting to the beat of the music, which was gradually getting faster and faster. I could practically see the sweat dripping down his forehead as he struggled to keep in time. At that point, I almost had to stifle a laugh.
And then, without ceremony, it was over. About two minutes of completely straight-faced, plain old sex.
I wouldn’t exactly call it a let-down, but it was definitely an eye-opener. The no-bullshit way they just got on with it got me thinking how in Western societies, Australia at least, we put so much pressure on people to keep these arbitrary body parts hidden, to save them for the eyes of those who you’re the most intimate with. But ultimately, bodies are just bodies, nothing more than vessels for the more important stuff. There doesn’t have to be any emotional or physical intimacy in revealing your body to someone. It doesn’t have to have some deeper meaning, like the romance movies suggest.
I’m not saying I’m going to join a nudist colony, or anything. But now, if the moment arises when I need to, I know I won’t feel so embarrassed about stripping down, or seeing other people do the same. And for this, I can only thank a Pitbull lookalike and his leopard-print wife.
Man, is it a crazy world.