I remember the first time I saw a dirty movie with my girlfriends, when we still burst into hysterical laughter at the word "penis."
My friend Maggie turned 18 before the rest of us, and she had a bubbly confidence that made her the leader of our high school group. A year earlier, when she had turned 17, Renee and Lizzie and I had put a copy of Playgirl in her school mail slot, where everyone could see it. (If anyone had done that to me, I’d have sunk to the floor in shame — but Maggie just laughed and stashed it in the glove compartment of her ratty little Honda.)
For Maggie’s 18th, then, we needed something even more adventurous than Playgirl. It was January 1985: a time for firsts. I would lose my virginity two nights later (if memory serves) and Lizzie had lost hers two days earlier. We were hot to trot, and there was safety in numbers. We decided to watch some porn.
In Maggie’s parents’ house, the basement rec room was totally separate from the rest of the building. Private. By the time high school was over, we had all puked, smooched boys and smoked pot down there at one point or another. On the night of her birthday, we convened in that basement — snickering and whispering — to hear the advice of our most experienced member, Renee.
Renee had already seen a porno, one whole film from beginning to end, and this is what she had to tell us: A funny-looking man with a huge wiener picked up a woman in a deserted laundromat. As they started to fuck, sudsy water spewed out of an overloaded washing machine, covering the linoleum. The couple, unfazed by this turn of events, skidded across the soapy floor, getting cleaner and cleaner the more they copulated. Renee had apparently replayed the scene several times on fast-forward.
Thus informed, we set off for the local video store. But as soon as we arrived — crisis. Scottie, a tall, supercute blond boy we knew vaguely from parties, was working the cash register! Suddenly our private escapade had the potential to turn massively public.
What to do, what to do? He’d think we were sluts! He’d tell everyone we knew! Outspoken Renee asked him coolly for a recommendation. “Talk Dirty to Me,” Scottie said, with an authoritative calm. It was the best.
Well, what did that mean, the best? It made him the horniest? It was the most hilarious? It was the one he thought would embarrass us the most? Or it was the one he thought would make him seem cool to a bunch of girls? Maybe it was the only one he’d ever watched. Whatever. We rented it.
“Talk Dirty to Me,” if I remember it right, is about a spectacularly unappealing drifter with a humongous cock. His even uglier (and less well-endowed) sidekick is a virgin. They’re hanging out on the beach, doing nothing much of anything, and the drifter tells the sidekick he’ll show him how it’s done. They enter a doctor’s office, the drifter exposes his limp pecker to the nurse, she thinks that’s really great and he gets lucky. The next day, after he tries the same move on a toothy blond real estate lady (she, too, responds favorably), the two men get permission to cohabitate in an enormous mansion, rent-free. And whaddya know? Babes come over and they all talk dirty.
While all this was going on, my girlfriends and I were squirming around in our seats on the basement couch. We weren’t exactly heated up; the drifter was too crass and homely to make any sort of dent in our preppy prom date fantasies (though I’m sure we all thought about Scottie, at least a little). It was more like we were getting an education in sexual possibilities.
We were preppy girls. Protected girls. We still burst into hysterical laughter at the word “penis.” Yes, some of us had touched one, some of us had even touched two, but that was about as far as our experience went. So “Talk Dirty to Me” provided some entirely fresh information: People might watch each other have sex. People might like looking in mirrors while they do it. Some people might screw doggy style while uttering — over and over in all seriousness — “I’m gonna come all over your big ass.” (We didn’t know anyone liked big asses. We didn’t know anyone talked like that during sex! We didn’t know anyone might like to watch himself come.)
Here’s some other stuff I learned that night: Some women comb their pubic hair. Some women trim it with scissors. You can use your hand while giving a blow job for added effect. Some men are turned on by giving head. Some people scream a lot during sex, and nobody thinks it’s weird.
I was still a virgin, of course. But as the VCR rewound, I was no longer an innocent — and to me, that felt good. Two hours with a not very good porn movie had hugely expanded my understanding of sex. No longer could I see it only through the misty lens of romance novels and the earnest, educational view of my sophomore sex-ed class; “Talk Dirty to Me” showed me what I most needed to know at that point in my life: Desire is raw, and silly, and awkward, and incomprehensible.
What did we do when Maggie turned 19? I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Emily Jenkins is the author of "Tongue First," "Five Creatures," and a forthcoming novel: "Mister Posterior and the Genius Child." More Emily Jenkins.
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