Editor's Note: This is the final part of a 3 part essay. Please click on the links to read Part I and Part II.
The polarizing point was not the marketing and selling of a monthly sex toy service, but the act of talking about it…out loud. More volatile, I found, than politics, or religion, the topic of sex had no middle ground. An invisible line was drawn between two factions: those who talk about it and those who do not.
Just as Hester Prynne was ostracized for her sexual indiscretions, I was starting to believe I was wearing a large scarlet “pocket rocket” across my breast. The reactions were always the same: disappointment, repulsion, and more often than not, intrigue. A wink and a knowing nod seemed to confer that I was in the club, a fellow user, too. I felt oddly cool.
Then, there were others who were a little too eager, too over zealous. “I guess you have to try those, huh?” Some even offered too much information. For example, I quickly found out that my quiet, mild mannered, brother-in-law was not only a budding wine enthusiast, but a walking encyclopedia regarding the adult entertainment business. On demand, he could quote Playboy articles, bios of Stern Show regulars and upcoming dates of porn conventions.
Yet, like a dumb-struck fifth grader, I could not tell my parents about my new area of expertise. For over a month, my mother would continually ask me about my work. I’d always hide the truth in generalizations. Finally, one morning over coffee, I couldn’t self-edit anymore. “Mom, haven’t you and dad wondered why I haven’t told you what I’m doing and who I work for?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “but we were sure you had your reasons.” I looked at her and thought, well, here goes and began my pitch. She sucked in air and covered her mouth. I couldn’t tell if she was going to hyperventilate and was pretty sure that the only words she had heard were “intimate,” and “fruit-of-the- month.” She leaned in and whispered, “You mean they sell…vibrators?” Her tone was low and nervous, as someone of her generation would whisper “cancer” when talking of a friend’s illness. Saying it, but not really saying it, because of an invisible, unsavory element. “Oh, my! I just don’t understand why someone would get into that business.”
She quickly recovered and I was surprised she knew what I was talking about. “There’s a lot of money to be made, mom. Sex still sells, even when the economy doesn’t.” In the end, I had gotten too familiar with the words, terminology and discussion points. It no longer shocked me and I no longer cared if I shocked others. I could tell she didn’t buy my rationalization, even if it was the truth. Now it was my mother's turn to blush magenta. I had broken her extraneous commandment and realized I could not compartmentalize and closet something I had jumped into whole heartedly.
Sex is a unique common denominator. It is a basic function of human nature from which all genders, religions, ages, ethnicities and sexual persuasions can not escape. You are either doing it or you're not. There are no gray areas; no places to hide.