The Accidental Voyeur: Elevator Kegels Please, Enthusiasm Optional

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I’ve never been particularly drawn to literary erotica but I do admire those who can write memoirs detailing their sexual shenanigans, especially when they know that brevity is indeed the soul of wit. Here’s one section of prose I liked a great deal for its sheer directness and choice wordplay:

“I put on the rubber and positioned myself between her legs. She held my penis and, gently squeezing, guided it into place. With the first stroke, I knew she had rolled off the condom and I supposed I could have stopped but didn’t. She worked out a rhythm and did elevator kegels up and down my shaft. My brain melted.”

That’s one real-life encounter among many in the most enjoyable book I’ve read this year, Curb Service by Scot Sothern (from Soft Skull Press in Berkeley, California). Scot is an old friend of mine from my mainstream movie days — we had once been screenwriting partners after first meeting at an American Film Institute screenwriting workshop in Los Angeles in the early 90’s – but he’s since moved on to a new career, exhibiting his photographs and publishing his prose. Curb Service is his memoir of his remarkable career as a photographer of street prostitutes, like the winsome twosome in the photograph above, captured in Los Angeles at 4 am three blocks south of Santa Monica Boulevard on Western Avenue (from a series called “Ruff & Ready” which he has not exhibited or published, you’re seeing it here first).

“I photographed them together for around ten bucks each,” he told me. “They wanted more money for more pictures and also told me that for a hundred dollars, we could get a room and they would show me the best time I ever had. I told them, ‘Thanks, I’m sure that’s true but maybe some other time.’ A couple of cops showed up as we were finishing the pictures and we all three smiled at them until they finally went away. I told them I hoped to be seeing them around, but I never saw them again.”

Such were the fleeting moments he found, many funny and some tawdry, yet always poignantly humanized. Street whores were always his thing — he would cruise them in his car and pick them up if he found them interesting enough as subjects, with the occasional peccadillo that came with the territory. Porn stars and upscale escorts, he noted in the book, were “for other people” – meaning, people like myself, so drawn to the veneer of glamour these women convey in their illusory guises. He preferred the spontaneous grit of the mean streets, not the gloss of neatly scripted scenes or plush hotel bedrooms that have long been my own bailiwick.

I told him I certainly understood that, because we represented two sides of the same coin. That said, I’ve never much cared for street sex work, and those girls probably lost my vote due to one particular episode that ended badly, an encounter in 1993 in Honolulu, Hawaii. I’ve long forgotten her name (or rather what she called herself) but she accosted me on a busy sidewalk and I gave in to her persuasion, mainly because she was young and vivacious with a wild mane of red hair. (Well, I thought, my first redhead, why the heck not?) We verbally agreed on price and she walked me to her room in an apartment building nearby, one clearly kept for such transactions given the spartan furnishings and large queen bed that left no room for guesswork as to its sole purpose.

Her sassy veneer that won me over on the street, however, vanished once she accepted cash upfront. The next ten minutes or so were memorable for all the wrong reasons, not least of which pertained to her vocal abilities which were, politely put, limited (“Uh, uh, yeah, fuck the pussy, fuck the pussy!” on high rotation like a needle stuck in a vinyl groove, annoyingly repetitive and very much rehearsed) and she looked bored throughout it all and could have been reading a newspaper for all anyone cared. I was so disappointed by her defiant refusal to at least fake enthusiasm. Needless to say, we never completed the appointed task and I told her to take the money and leave. I’ve always been a staunch defender of sex workers’ rights and still believe their much-maligned line of work should be decriminalized, but I can’t be anything but chagrined and crestfallen when a pretty girl uses her charm to play bait-and-switch.

Surely she should have learned to suspend disbelief for the client, by actually being professional about her work. In contrast, porn stars and upscale escorts usually do, because they know the simulation of sexual fantasy is the very sizzle that makes you salivate for the steak. You might be just a piece of meat but that’s the job description, honey bunny. My buddy Scot Sothern, in such a situation, has one singular advantage over me — he has a camera. If I’d had one that night, I might have found a better use for that two hundred dollars. It sure wasn’t curb service of the kind he usually ran into — where were those elevator kegels massaging my shaft when I needed them?

Truth be told, that was the last time I actually paid for a sexual service and I’ll stay with the artifice of the porn set, thank you. A fool and his money are easily parted, for sure, but I dislike being left with just the lonely wisdom of my hindsight.

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Drew McKenzie was previously the "Cinema Blue" columnist for Penthouse Variations and also wrote for AVN Online, Fox (from Montcalm Publishing, New York) and Guld Rapport (from Stockholm, Sweden). He is also the author of seven books -- three on porn stars, all done under his real name.