|Jan/Feb 2003 fiction|
I am watching, or rather, half-watching, Sodomy & Son for the very first time, yet it feels as if it were the thousandth. And then it occurs to me: S & S is so familiar not because I have actually seen hundreds of other porno films—though I have—where on-the-job fellatio transpires in such a way under a desk, or where threesomes concerning two men and one woman dictate the two gents plug at least two of the three God-given female sex holes at all times—though they do, with more than coincidental regularity. No, S & S is so particularly familiar because it is loosely based on an American show called Sanford & Son, which I have seen countless times on rerun on the telly.
For a period when I was young, feeling alienated and misunderstood by my family and fellow Aussies, I desperately convinced myself I was adopted after being born in Sidney to a foreign tourist couple passing through on vacation. When I had collected all of the relevant information supporting my theory, I confronted my supposed parents. They acted shockingly blasé, offering only a slippery, Anything's possible. Shortly after that non-denial, watching telly in these false parents' rumpus room, with those sliding glass doors and floor-to-ceiling blinds, I first saw Sanford & Son. Despite its farcical nature, no—somehow because of it—I perked up in my brown beanbag, my toes in the shag carpet. Even through the snorting laughter and unintelligible deaf person noises my brother was making at Fred Sanford's possible heart attack, I felt the Sanford's combative familial relationship resonate within me deeply. If my parents were anywhere, they were there, in America. Yet, even after I matured and mostly abandoned my adoption theory, I have still secretly wanted to live in America, in a junkyard if necessary, with an American man whose love for me is of such teeming intensity he relies on a facade of anger and discontent to keep from expressing his true feelings. In America, I learned from S & S and other bits of telly that followed, people may seem simple or even disinterested on the surface (as they almost always are in my homeland), but what lies beneath is a torrent of passion and raw humanity. I have long ago made a pact with myself to study Americana, to one day travel there, to become American.
Because you see, here in Sydney, surrounded by nothing but Aussie drones, and without anything resembling Fred Sanford's tough love, I have become a whore. Not in the traditional manner, which my dictionary right here describes as "A woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse for money," but, rather, as one engaging for money in the act of watching promiscuous sexual intercourse that is itself performed for money. The distressing but true condition for my being a porn harlot is my employment at Australia's infamous censorship board, the Office of Film and Literature Classification, in Sydney. Such a job can be thoroughly unpleasant, and it is with uncharacteristic regret that I must let the tape of S & S expire so that I may finish the tedious paperwork on its classification, and quickly. For I have a date tonight. It is a very special, American date, and there is an errand to run beforehand.
Generally, the Yanks I meet here in Australia express shock, in bars such as the Sydney Planet Hollywood or the Darlinghurst Hard Rock Cafe, or after I use their cameras to take photos of them striking a pose on the steps of the Opera House, that I work at the Office, classifying, among other things, but mostly, pornography. Once I divulge, in my practiced American English, my mediums: VHS, DVD, CD-ROM, 16MM, magazines, their faces seem to alight, imagining an amusement park of sex. But the truth is, when you see hundreds of bastards fuck or get fucked every week, all faking it, and all for money, there's nothing to it anymore. If this is an amusement park, it's one where the fun never starts.
Sadly, despite my desire to peel away these Americans' silly exteriors and expose their molten emotional cores, the conversations in Hard Rock or wherever have proved difficult to veer from the excitement generated by my workplace. Such conversations typically go as follows:
"What's it like watching so much sex?"
"It's a bloody bore, I say."
These dialogues become tedious, and I inevitably blame myself for my inexperience, my shortcomings in all things American. Sulking, I am soon piss drunk. From my inebriation or urgency to arrest the disappointments of our budding relationship, I sometimes, awkwardly, revert to overtures in strine (Australian for Australian).
"Listen mate, d'ya guess we'll go clear the cobwebs or noat?"
"I'm A-MER-I-CAN. Speak SLOW-ER."
"Of course," I say. "Yes, I'll do that. I thought you might like to go back to my apartment. It has Aussie cowboy hats?"
Later, if things do not fall completely apart:
"I had no idea Australian women were so amazing at sex!"
"D'ya guess I'll be fixin your dim sims for brekky again?"
"ENG-LISH. Speak ENG-LISH."
"Right," I say. "I'm sorry. I was thinking, you might want your, um, testicles, um, massaged, again."
I am not a tart for having sex with these men. Quite the contrary, I have wished they would stay, that we could explore each other's true selves, begin relationships. I'm not a fool. Through trial and error, I've come to realize all American men may not possess the molten emotional core my heart desires. There is no point in looking for it in Aussie men, where you may peel back a layer of crude, only to find infinitely cruder layers. I continue to believe that if the man I want exists anywhere, he exists in America. But those I have met have had their own reasons for leaving this former penal colony of the British Empire and returning to the exotic frontier of Texas or Georgia or Ohio. It is only when I am plagued with self-doubt that I have felt it may be near impossible, in places such as the Ramada Darling Harbor Hotel cafe, or the Holiday Inn Park Suites lobby, to meet the individual of my dreams, who also plans to stay long enough to nurture a cross-cultural love. However, now, a young, unusually erudite accountant/professional basketball hopeful from Illinois, who briefly visited and spent the night with me in Sydney just months ago during contract negotiations, has returned and will be here until the end of the Australian National Basketball League's season, three months from now. He is not extraordinarily tall, as well as not nearly good enough to play in the NBA, and if he fails even here in Australia, his accounting degree could indeed still pave the way for a longer stay in Sydney.
I am now done with the paperwork. Sodomy & Son, rated X in the States, has received a Category 2 rating from the Office, meaning it must be placed in a restricted area where it is sold or rented. It will exist beside other offensively-named, but lesser quality videos I have classified such as Land Ho' and Vacation In Uranus. Considering this, I must admit, it is difficult seeing so much disingenuous sex at the Office and still believing in love. The two, clearly, are often confused. But even those who find no such confusion might still fall prey to letting the objects of their affections seem less than virtuous in a world where thousands of hairy buggers every day perform such innumerable acts of a sexual nature and say such ridiculous things, all orchestrated to convey attraction, all for money or limited fame. As I told an American bloke whom I met at the Burger King in the Centrepoint Shopping Centre the other week, while we lay in bed:
"There is a point," I said, "where a self-contained system, such as a belief in a relationship, can experience deterioration as a result of a perceived lack of meaning in an external system, no matter how unrelated."
"Habla IN-GLÉS?" he pleaded, with a compelling puppy-dog face.
"Take physics," I said. "As a larger-sized system, physics has convinced many that the world was created not by a single God, but by an event known as The Big Bang."
"Now you're speaking my language," he joked, before he caught himself and screwed his expression into one of deep thought.
"Yes," I said, "well, how many times, in cartoons or, yes, American movies, or on the telly (outside of S & S, with its famous joie de vivre), have you heard people, or cartoon dingoes or such, scream There is no God, exactly before they jump off a bridge or shoot themselves in the head, as if the very existence of a system of physics suggests that another system—their body—is without worth?"
"I," he said, "have never seen a cartoon dingo."
Surely, he was not the most intrepid of the Yanks I have known. Myself, I have always been eager to learn more about the world, despite my observation, as I related to my BK companion, that the more one seems to learn, the more elements of the world can appear meaningless. At University, for instance, I began studying history, but its reliance on perspective proved too nagging a crutch for me, made it more like storytelling, an art, and what an artless art it is. My mathematics professors were incredibly supportive. I would often spend long evenings studying with two of them at a time. But ones, they might as well be twos; it really doesn't matter when you think about it. What's more, if Principia Mathematica couldn't stand up to the Incompleteness Theorem, how could I? Logic can be so uselessly academic, so illogical. The following sentence is false. The preceding sentence is true. See what I mean? I turned to studying Greek for a bit, out of pity, and then finally settled on a degree in cultural anthropology, which, although too similar in its faults to history, I have, in however unlikely a manner, managed to put to use in my work at the Office.
And finally, here at the Office, my patience has been rewarded, and it is time to knock off and run the errand before my date. I pull my coat around one of my pale, supple shoulders, which is poised to be revealed later beneath the thin straps of my blouse and bra, but my departure is interrupted by one of the male classifiers, requesting a Spot Check on a video, titled Anal-Facial-Interracial, that he is classifying. This is not an uncommon request of such contentious components that necessitate additional perspectives of classification, but I am wary.
"Damn-bugger-bitch-bum," he says when we reach the viewing room. "I've set it at the bad spoat. No worries, Victoria."
This classifier, who, like most Aussie men I know, couldn't pull a greasy stick out of a dead dog's arse, is notorious for viewing three porno films a day to the Office average of one. When he requests spot checks with me and the other sheilas, the videos are invariably cued at the wrong spots.
"Abso-bloody-lutely!" he says. "Here comes the spoat now."
It will be a few minutes more, I am sure, and we will sit here together and watch an engrossing fellatio with, as it turns out, minimal content of an extraordinarily contentious nature until the "spoat" in question. Waiting, I place myself somewhere else entirely—this time it's Utah—and tell myself, looking back at this woman doing this Spot Check in this Office in Australia, that this is but a meager price for an Australian woman to pay in life for loving a genuine American love, regardless of how quiet or insular he may have proved himself so far, and for being on one's way to a date with him at a popular, American-style restaurant. This classifier with his greasy eye glasses, he will sit here and have a wank in his mind, and there will be no love for me—just lust. Typical Aussie. The former chief censor was also this type of fuck-wit. He would attend with decorum the reviewing of 35MM films with the stuffed-shirt Board, but get near any of us younger sheilas and he'd be away with the pixies and the false thirst from our videos or magazines. The scandal he caused when he left to become a producer of porno films in his own right was no stretch to my knowledge of him. I remember a line from one of his films: "Aw gazza, ya came all in me hair!"
There is no soul in that.
The video has still not arrived at the right spot. A Brazilian man's donga is methodically, rapidly entering and exiting a Japanese woman's anus, while she makes high-pitched neighing noises. I ask this Aussie classifier, "What would you say the difference is between a video person and a non-video person?"
"Bloody-hell!" he screams, obviously aroused by the question. "It'd be in the marketing, it would."
Now he laughs, but I find this answer very telling.
When I was a full-time officer in the Australian Army, after UNI, the tuition for which and my living expenses the Army had paid for, and for which I was then re-paying them in woman-hours, I met numerous Aussie men who shared the Office classifier's perspectives. First at the Royal Military College in Duntroon, where I was a cadet, and then in the Corps, stationed in Townsville, Queensland, man soldiers were often advised of the importance of participating in simulations of war to prepare for the lucky skirmish that broke out in Timor or the splintered countries of Eastern Europe. I observed these simulations and determined that the men, given the opportunity, were likely to confuse the simulated enemies with living ones; indeed, that was the point. The Army is not a place for a real woman, a future American woman, and, fortunately, my full-time duty did not last long, and I am required only to fulfill part-time duty one weekend per month for several more years.
But enough of this reminiscing, I am off on my fabulous date! As I leave the Office by way of one of the heavy main doors and think of the number of times I daydreamed of a date like tonight's beneath these cold, unfeeling fluorescent lights, I am reminded that helping me cope with my situation is the fact that I masturbate quite often. The letters sent to and published in Juggs magazine, or in Black Confessions or Wet Set, which is a magazine depicting people wetting themselves, portray women as being very sexually desirous, even nymphets. This is mostly true. We women want sex often, and masturbate whenever the circumstances allow. Frequently, I find myself performing 'make-up' masturbation. This is the sort that is not associated with any pressing fantasies or arousals, but is deferential to past fantasies or arousals which occur when masturbation is not appropriate or cannot be immediately accommodated. Yet, when I fantasize, I fantasize about sex and love together. There is nothing more that I want.
I drive my car to the No Regrets boutique in Sydney Central Plaza. I look for a purple teddy resembling one I saw a woman wearing recently in a particularly colorful and sensuous advertisement on the telly. I find that shiny purple dream straight away and take it to the counter.
"Who's the lucky bloke?" asks the checkout girl, handing back my credit card.
"If you ask me," I say, "they are all lucky. But some are clearly more lucky than others."
She can see that I know of what I speak. "What's your secret?" she asks, admiringly.
"Wouldn't you like to know? Then you'd put a price tag on it and sell it in your store." The girl smiles, and I am happy we understand each other.
I change into my new teddy in the car and drive to the restaurant, where I will meet my date. When I park in the lot outside of the Pizza Hut, I realize I am early, but I joke to myself that I can already smell the aroma of love. I am suddenly feeling flip, and the veneration I have for my own true passion in this international, gastronomical tête-á-tête inspires me to form an imaginary, surrogate menu—a crude lineup of pornographic film styles, which nevertheless partly utilizes my studies in cultural anthropology, ordered alphabetically by country:
Australia: Cheap and tawdry. The men, often surfers in tacky Paradise Hotel locations, have little in the way of attractiveness, and their counterparts, sadly, are less than classic beauties themselves. I find it difficult to believe these sheilas could love dumb, crude surfers who talk dirty to them in strine.
Brazil: Big-bottomed women with dental floss tan marks and spunky, tanned blokes in condoms. Tropical, outdoor locations. The Brazilians are the most skilled deceivers; they look as if they aren't faking a thing. But, in the end, there is no love here; only credits rolling invented names like Tatiana E. Gostosa, and Buscha Saco, which I know for a fact translates as Pulling Your Balls.
Czech Republic: See France (which follows), but substitute forests for Versailles-like locations. And the men, outside of purely gay porn, are kind of ugly.
France: On the kinky side, with tempered S&M and a latex fetish. Both men and women are gorgeous, frequently set in Versailles-like locations. There are no fake breasts or collagen lips, and no condoms either. There are large penises. They have a weakness for gangbangs and women who appear to be amateurs rather than professionals. But an amateur whore is still a whore, whether or not one attaches seven fancy French letters.
Germany: There is a taste for swinger videos, including ugly men with small penises having sex with ugly, fat women with brassy hair, and sometimes their family pets. They appreciate latex. They also appreciate strong S&M, peeing on each other, and coprophilia. The Germans' greatest pleasure, however, is fisting. Coprophilia and fisting are not signs of love.
Holland: Schoolgirls abound. They also like peeing on each other. The storylines are particularly boring, usually revolving around a schoolgirl ringing her boyfriend or school friend and inviting him or her around for a shag. Often, their starlets appear in Martina Navratilova headbands. Martina was an athlete who had a love for the game.
Japan: Sexual violence, non-consent plots involving schoolgirls, women bound with ropes and left hanging mid-air, coprophilia. I once knew a Japanese businessman. He had shifty eyes.
USA: The land of the free, and the home of 44DDs and 10-inchers. Churning out more material than all the other countries could dream about, everything is also bigger in the States than anywhere else. Frequently, the plots feature co-eds and debutantes. The fetishes, though, stop at white cotton panties. And the action is incredibly, undeniably fake. No one could dispute this fact.
I truly am happy I am able to put my education to such clever use in my often deadening job. I am getting hungry, and I walk across the lot and inside the restaurant, but my date has not yet arrived. I decide to post myself outside the door, so I can march in on his arm. Waiting here much longer than I intended, I entertain a lamentable bit of honesty with myself. Besides hellos and economically stated career details when he previously visited, the accountant/basketball player hasn't offered much to differentiate him from the others. I hang my chin, stare at my long feet. I look out at the nearly empty parking lot. I could walk to my car, drive away. The restaurant's side kitchen door swings wide open, and a boy drags a waste bin out to the dumpster. After tossing the trash, he wheels back the plastic bin, flashes me a mouthful of snags and says, "G'day, sheila. If'n yer all Pat Malone, what say you an me go crack a tinnie and have a squiz at those norks?"
I pretend I don't hear him, he calls me a lemon, and, soon enough, the bloody Galah drags his arse back through the kitchen door.
My attention has been fixed all along on the big red Pizza Hut sign.
I've faced greater difficulties—in the Army, at the Office, growing up in the company of my loveless parents.
It will be a challenge for me. I'll pull and prod that emotional core from within my basketball player/accountant, from inside the other, unspoken, aspects of his self that I find myself attracted, even riveted, to. I think of splitting a garden salad with him inside the restaurant. Oh, but that's silly. He won't want my salad. He'll want whatever will make him feel at home: maybe a sausage and ham deep-dish pizza and buffalo wings, washed down with some Coors Dry. We will sink in our booth seats with expressions of satisfaction on our faces. The lads working inside, clutching their American menus, will ask each other, Is that an American basketball player and his wife eating here? They have wonderful, American lives ahead of them, including children, and vacationing in Florida. And look, they are still in love. Chances are, they'll tip well. And even though the lads will be fools, standing there in their Yank restaurant uniforms, saying these things with their strine words, they will be right. We will tip well.