The first thing I did at Sex World was pick my name. Amidst the sprawl of hundreds of square feet of dildos, butt plugs, and seven-inch heels, I flipped through laminated rectangles with names like Icy, Mama, and Sierra. I settled on “Lola;” it was playful, fun to say, and a lot better than my other options. The card was slipped into the slot at the front of the the box I’d be spending the next six hours in, and Sex World’s manager, a man with a beard longer than most of the dicks I’d face that night, gave me a run-down on the rules of working a peep show booth.
He took me back into “the Doll House” through a subtle entrance in the women’s bathroom. He explained the rules to me (“Don’t give free shows, don’t yell at customers unless they want you to, and no touching”), and told me that while I could use the radio, order food, and smoke as I pleased, once I was back in the Doll House, I wasn’t to approach the main floor until after my shift. As he finished, a man approached my booth. I looked at my manager with an inquisitive glance, and he told me to go ahead. I hiked up my knee socks, straddled the chair in my booth and asked, “What can I do for you tonight, baby?”
Going into this job, I imagined scenarios of fetishes only alluded to in polite conversation, the ones people tip-toed around. I imagined businessmen with secret food fetishes sending cakes my way and married fathers with step-daughter fetishes. I had mentally prepared myself to be whatever they wanted me to be.
That illusion wore off quickly. This first guy didn’t want anything specific and was more interested in getting in, getting off, and getting out. Four minutes and a pile of my clothing later, he came and then left. I had to scramble to get my clothes in order as he opened the booth door so as not to expose myself to the store. Despite my naive and ultimately unfulfilled expectations, I felt a genuine sense of pride as I heard my first ticket print.
I was glad to be working alone that first night. There wasn’t much privacy in the Doll House; we each get our own booth, but each booth opens to the same common space behind the main floor, and there isn’t much to block the noise among the booths. That night, at least, I wasn’t ready to have a more experienced girl judging my clumsy dirty talk.
Still enthused and energetic from my first show, I danced around in my tiny box, trying to catch the eye of passerby I could lure into my booth. The next man to approach me was older, with graying hair, wearing a North Face jacket. He asked me questions as if we were in a bar, seemingly oblivious to my exposed flesh and the glass wall between us. He was fascinated with the fact that I was only eighteen, and asked if this was “all that I was doing” with something like pity in his eyes. Finally, I cut to the chase and asked him if I could interest him in a show, at which point I think he told me he would be right back after browsing around the store.
He returned to tell me, “This isn’t really my sort of thing,” but that if I wanted somebody to show me around the city and take me out to dinner, I could give him a call. I told him that this didn’t really work that way, but that should he change his mind, I had an amazing rack he could see for a mere $20.
It didn’t take long to realize that the guys worth my energy weren’t the attractive twentysomethings but the ones in the puffy Vikings jackets and glasses from 1976. Those were the ones who would approach me, who would pick up the prison visiting-room-style phone and ask, “How much, baby? Damn, you look fine tonight.”
Friday nights, I eventually learned, promised drunken frat boys, groups of uncomfortable-looking women whose sexual curiosity went as far as reading Fifty Shades of Grey in book club, and teenagers with nowhere else to go. Monday mornings were the coveted shift; they promised committed patrons actually willing to put up cash. That first Friday, I spent about five hours of my six-hour shift doing whatever I could to entice any moving body in Sex World, but the one hour my shows took up that night made the other five worth it. I made about $340 dollars, sixty percent of which I would eventually pocket (less taxes). I sauntered out the door at the end of the night with a purse full of dildos and a huge grin.
I started my second shift that Saturday catering to a Sex World regular. One of the other girls briefed me as soon as he came in, and he came into my booth the same way he always came into hers; his balls deep purple, wrapped tightly in a ratty shoelace. The script that night set the template for every one of his visits.
“Are you going to cut off my balls tonight, Mistress Lola?” he asked. Sometimes I’d let him off, telling him that this was his last chance, and only obedience would spare him the life of a eunuch. Other nights, I’d tell him that this was it; this was his last night with his balls, but that I’d allow him to please himself one last time. I’d tell him to to pinch his nipples and slap his balls, and eventually, I’d allow him to come. He’d thank me repeatedly and come all over the glass. Then he’d unwrap his balls, grin, and tell me to take care and have a great day.
Late that Saturday, a very large, very old man approached my booth and closed the doors behind him. He introduced himself, and asked me a lot of questions about where I was from, what brought me to the Cities, and whether or not I had a lot of boyfriends. I told him that I had a few boyfriends, that I didn’t like to be tied down.
The sincerity and weariness of his response gave me pause: “A pretty girl like you must. I don’t have anyone. I just have you right now.” He told he lived alone, that he was bipolar, and that he’d recently had prostate surgery, showing me the diaper he had to wear as a result. He called me “sweet” and “beautiful,” instead of the usual “fine,” “hot,” or “dirty.” His loneliness and transparent need helped me realize that the men who came into my booth weren’t always looking to get off. Many times, they were just looking for someone to distract them. They didn’t need a quick orgasm, they needed a break from their life; from women crossing the street to avoid them, from one-bedroom apartments and dinners alone.
My booth was a place of fantasy, of escape. Men didn’t have to be loners to come to me — no one type of man came into the Doll House. I got married men, wedding band glinting as they begged me to let them come. Closing in on the end that first weekend at Sex World, I learned that the booth is about creating a reality better than the one either of us is going home to. In there, I’m Lola, and Lola is in control of everything. She doesn’t worry about homework, or relationships, or bills, or how fucking cold Minneapolis is this time of year. I ask them, “What can I do for you tonight, baby?” but they never know what Lola does for me.
This first appeared in 2013