An excerpt from Ali Davis’s “True Porn Clerk Stories”

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In 2009, our writer Ali Davis released a memoir about her experiences working at a video store which featured a large porn collection. In addition to learning way too much about her fellow human beings, she was forced to test her convictions about sex, feminism, and sexual orientation. This intriguing read has been turned into a new audio book, which is now available from Susie Bright‘s Audible channel.

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Ali is giving away one free audiobook download to the first person who can make the best parody porn title of an existing lesbian film in the comments below. You have until Friday at noon PST!

Women Who Aren’t on the Boxes
Today was a banner day, of sorts. Four women went into the porn section. They went down in pairs, a couple of hours apart.

Two were straight girls out shopping who went down to browse. They had shopping with them, and looked like they pretty much just wanted to see what it looked like. They just sort of wandered around a bit, keeping their distance from the shelves except for the occasional swoop in to look, and then left without getting anything. (The store is a bit notorious in the neighborhood and people do sometimes just wander in to see that, yup, there’s porn, and then leave.)

The other two were a lesbian couple. They were there with more purpose. One came up to the counter and asked if we had lesbian porn, then they both went downstairs to look. They scoped the place out pretty thoroughly, made a couple of selections, then came up and set up a membership. I was glad they found something they liked. While we do have lesbian porn, we don’t really have porn that’s aimed at lesbians. I’m not sure how to back up that statement. Arguably, hot chicks having sex with each other is aimed at much at lesbians as at straight men… only it isn’t. It’s just the feel of the thing – a general “Hey, fellas! Getta load of this!” vibe.

Maybe I’m imagining it, but I don’t think so. We don’t get much repeat lesbian business. In fact, there’s only one that I’ve seen that has ever come back, and her visits are months apart. I just don’t think there’s much for her.

Anyway, I was surprised at the sudden surge of female traffic. I can go for weeks on end without seeing a woman down there at all.

I know there is porn aimed at women in the world, but we don’t really carry it. I try my best to help steer the women who do come in towards something they’ll like, which is difficult. For one thing, porn is a pretty personal choice, and for another, I don’t actually know that much about it. The last thing I want to do at the end of my shift is check out a little porn. (This is true of the guys too, actually, and sometimes it freaks them out. To be a 20-year-old male and numbed out to porn is, apparently, a scary thing.)

In the interest of good clerking, I did finally ask my manager and learn to steer my straight female customers towards Wicked Video stuff, which have budgets and stories and nobody gets called a dumb cunt on the box copy.

I think I’m a pretty good guide. The women that do come in solo – and they are very, very rare – are usually pretty uncomfortable about it. It doesn’t help that our porn section is a completely white room with a white linoleum floor lit by bright white fluorescent lights broken up by security cameras and wall-to-wall orifices. It hits somewhere between futuristic alien clinic and porn carnival. If our decor makes a statement, it’s “Hey, fucko! Don’t masturbate!” It’s just not a cosy or welcoming place. So I try to be both as businesslike and as gentle as possible. I want them to know that it’s fine and normal to rent porn, and that they’re safe. Sometimes I’ll ask another clerk or a manager to cover my register and go down with them. It seems to help get them acclimated.

Usually the women that come in are half of a straight couple. They cover the full range of comfort and discomfort. My favorite was a pretty girl with a peaches-and-cream complexion and a Laura Ashley flowered dress. When I went down to ask if she and her boyfriend needed help she belted out “Yes! We want to BUY!” while he stood blushing in the corner.

Most are pretty quiet, though, and usually let the guy take the lead.

I don’t think it’s that women are less sexual than men. I think they could or would like porn if the situation were different. There are still fairly big taboos about women admitting to being interested in porn – even for the ones who rent pretty racy stuff from upstairs. And the movies would have to be different. There’d have to be more about why these people are having sex. A better reason than Tab A fitting into Slot B, at least.

And, from what I do know about porn, the sex would have to be different. It doesn’t look like the women on porn boxes are having that much fun. They’re always being bent or twisted into uncomfortable positions, or trying to avoid sperm being shot directly into their eyes. The fact that the men watching want to see as much as possible means that the women don’t seem to be getting touched much. They’re just getting poled by some guy who’s apparently deliberately avoiding their erogenous zones. Whee.

So we don’t get many women downstairs.

I hope the few brave feminine souls who do go down there find what they’re looking for.

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