Credit: Indiana Joel/Xtra
Hard Labour
7 min

How a client helped me overcome my fear of renting porn

Just the thought of renting a DVD caused me a surprising amount of anxiety

I’ve been seeing Mike for more than a year. Our sessions are pretty vanilla — a massage followed by me sucking him off. But when he calls to book our next appointment he has a special request. He wants me to bring porn. I ask what kind.

“Oh, just something with boys like you,” he says, followed by his trademark awkward laugh.

I’m sure this will be hard to believe, but up until this point in my life, I’ve never paid for porn. Like most children of the ’80s, by the time I began acquiring wank material, everything my dick desired was available online; the only price was the glacial download speed of late ’90s dial-up internet. But beyond the lack of need, my aversion to acquiring porn in person was also tinged by an odd level of shame.

Despite being a self-described slut with membership cards to two different bathhouses, a setup of homemade bondage gear under my bed, and two years as a phone sex operator, the thought of renting a DVD or buying a magazine produced a level of anxiety equivalent to what most people would feel smuggling a pound of cocaine across an international border.

My regular video place has a substantial adult section, but I’ve never even stepped inside. Why does the thought of going in there make me so nervous? I fuck strangers for a living and write about it online. Fearing judgement by a video store clerk for renting porn seems nonsensical on myriad levels.

After locking up my bike, I stroll nonchalantly in, avoiding eye contact with the guy at the counter. I only have one reason for being here. But instead of going to the adult section, I make a beeline for the documentaries. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it feels like if I mix a few regular flicks in with the porn, counter guy is less likely to judge me.

After riffling through the bins for about 30 minutes, I eventually settle on one doc about shark hunting and another about the Vietnam War. DVD cases in hand, I take a deep breath, glance around, and head through the door with the red neon 18+ sign flickering above it.

There are only two other guys in here, one looking at the straight section and the other in the gay area. Neither of them looks up as I enter. I cross to the gay wall, surveying the titles. Unlike the rest of the store, which is meticulously organized, there’s no apparent logic to the ordering of the porn.

I had imagined it would be organized according to genres — a twink section, a leather section, something military-themed. But it’s all just mixed together, meaning I have to walk up and down the aisle to see what’s on offer.

Okay, so what does he want? I’m assuming nothing too hardcore. He said something with boys like me, but I don’t know how that translates in porn terms.

I’m not a twink. But I’m also not a muscle dude. Is there something in between? Maybe I’m overthinking this. He wasn’t specific about his tastes, so I can probably just pick up whatever.

My phone buzzes in my pocket and I pull it out. It’s Mike. I wonder for a moment if he’s calling to cancel.

“Hello?”

“Hi,” he says. “Are you at the store?”

“Yeah, I’m just trying to figure out what to get,” I say.

“So what do they have?” he asks.

“Um . . . ”

I glance over my shoulder. The population of people in the porn section has grown by three since I arrived. Is it weird to be talking on the phone in here? I don’t know the etiquette.

“Well . . . what do you want me to get?” I say.

“I want you to tell me what they have,” he says.

I look up and notice a mid-60s gentleman in a three-piece suit is looking at me. We briefly make eye contact and then both look away.

“They have a bunch of twink stuff,” I say, dropping my voice to a near whisper.

“Like what?”

I rhyme off a few titles. Twink Heat. Sperm Busters. Boy Fucker parts one through nine. Fuck Me Like The Slut I Am.

“Hmm,” he says. “What else is there?”

“Well, there’s some with muscle guys.”

“Can you tell me the names?”

I glance over my shoulder again and catch one of the other guys looking at me, a 30-something dude in a hoodie and a baseball hat. He offers a slight smile before turning back to the wall.

I list more titles. Farm Fresh. Up and Coming. This Is Gonna Hurt.

“The last one sounds interesting,” he says. “Can you turn it over and read me the description on the back?”

There’s a slight change in the tone of his voice and it dawns on me that something more is going on than I’d thought. He isn’t just calling me to go over the details of my porn selection. He’s getting off on this.

I flip over the case and read the back. “Watch this hot stud destroy hole after hole with his massive tool. He leaves every bottom begging for more after he begs him to stop. Two hours of ass-pounding action.”

“Do you want me to get this one?” I say.

“Do you like it?”

“Yeah. It looks good.”

“Maybe get one of the twink ones too.”

I grab a box with a trio of barely legal blonde boys on the front.

“These boys just can’t get enough cock. Watch them as they suck and fuck for hours until everyone is covered in cum and still wanting more.” I pause. “So, do you want me to get this one?”

“Yeah,” he says. “That sound good.”

At this point, I glance around and realize that most of the guys in the room are looking at me. As I look up, they all turn back to what they’re doing. But they’re clearly curious about what’s up.

I’m not sure if there are official rules of porn renting etiquette. But audibly reading the blurbs off boxes to someone on the phone is clearly challenging the decorum of the space. I almost blurt something out about renting for a friend, but I don’t bother. It’s not going to make the situation any less strange.

It dawns on me that perhaps my fellow porn renters saw through my trick’s plan before I did. Maybe they get that I’m having a form of exhibitionist phone sex in their midst.

I take my selections along with the documentaries to the counter and give the guy my number to pull up my account. He goes to the back and returns with the DVDs. This moment of collecting the porn is less awkward than I thought it would be and it occurs to me that my read of this situation is skewed by my own insecurity and shame.

Even though they rent all kinds of movies, since they’re located in the gay area of the city, porn is probably this place’s bread and butter. Counter guy likely spends the majority of his working hours handing off wank material to horny clientele. It’s highly unlikely he remembers or even thinks about any of the flicks that cross his palms or the guys renting them.

I arrive at Mike’s building and he buzzes me upstairs. When I get to his apartment, the door is slightly ajar and I step in, kicking off my shoes and dropping my bag after taking out the DVDs. I walk through to the living room and he’s sitting on the couch, his bathrobe open, cock in hand.

“You got started without me?” I ask, playfully.

“Yes,” he says. “I liked our conversation. Why don’t you join me?”

“Sure,” I say. “Shall we start with some twinks?”

He nods and I cross to the TV which is already on, pop the case open and slide the DVD into the player. As it begins to play behind me, I unbuckle my jeans, letting them drop to my ankles and doff my shirt. I cross to the couch and sit next to him, with our thighs touching. He’s in his late 40s, short and little chubby with close-cropped blonde hair and thick glasses. Our sessions until now have always been pretty chill. But today, the energy in the room is different.

He puts his arm around my shoulders and guides my head down to his dick. I start sucking him as the movie begins to play. Right now, three blonde boys are making out on a pool deck.

“Did you like being in the store?” he says, abruptly.

I pause to remove his cock from my mouth.

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”

“Were there a lot of other guys there?”

Okay, now I’m starting to see what’s going on.

“Yeah,” I say. “Lots of guys. And they were all looking at me.”

“Did you feel ashamed?”

“Yes,” I say. “So ashamed.”

He continues to mumble about me being at the porn store, how everyone was staring at me, how awkward and shameful it was. I keep sucking his cock, withdrawing it occasionally so I can add an, “oh yeah” or “it was so bad” occasionally. The three twinks have just started sucking each other off in a triangle when he shoots in my mouth.

I look up and he’s lying back on the couch, staring at the ceiling like he’s in a trance.

“Feeling good?” I saying, squeezing his shoulder.

“Yes. Great,” he says, still gazing upward.

I leave him on the couch and head to the bathroom to rinse my mouth out. When I come back, he’s in the same spot, but his bathrobe is closed and the TV is off.

“Thanks very much,” he says, with an awkward laugh.

Even though we’ve seen each other many times, this is always how the sessions end — a little awkward in a way that I can’t really tell whether he’s enjoyed himself or not. But since he keeps calling me, it’s safe to assume he’s getting what he wants.

I collect my cash from the coffee table where it’s sitting and put my clothes back on. I’m almost ready to leave when he reminds me I still need to collect the twinks from the DVD player.

Since the session only lasted 15 minutes, I’m back at the store to return my rentals less than an hour after picking them up. Counter guy doesn’t blink when he sees me, but as he scans them back into the computer, he cocks his head to the side.

“You just took these out, like, an hour ago,” he says.

“Oh . . . yeah,” I say, my porn store nerves returning. “I’m done with them.”

“I guess you really liked them,” he says.

“Uh, yeah,” I say, not immediately getting the joke.

“I see you also took out Sharkwater and The Fog of War,” he says. “Are you returning those too?”

“Oh, no,” I say. “Those I’m actually going to watch.”

He looks at me a little strangely, but smiles as I turn and walk out.

I continue to see Mike occasionally and we play out his porn-rental fantasy a few more times. But three years later, I’ve still yet to rent any films for my personal consumption.

With so many years of build-up, I’d assumed losing my porn-renting virginity would be a monumental day, tantamount to parting with my other v-card 15 years earlier.

But as I’m biking home after our session, I realize the weight I’ve given this moment within the arc of my sexual development was based entirely on fear of judgement — by the other clientele and the guy behind the counter. And like many fears, this one was entirely in my head.

It may have been a terrifying boundary for me to cross, but counter guy probably forgot about me five minutes after I left.

I was invited by a monogamous couple to spice up their sex life — and it went all wrong