In a California living room, a sleazy middle-aged man is molesting a pneumatic teenager on a L-shaped leather sofa. She wears a dress of pink velour with puffy sleeves, a child’s dress — just the thing for a secret assignation with one’s boyfriend’s father. The cloying pink of the dress clashes with the demure pallor of her enormous nipples, which Sleazy Daddy is tongue-bathing with aplomb. He moves his hand down her body, parts her legs, and quelle surprise! Somebody forgot her panties! He wastes no time, stuffing one, two, three, four sausage-like digits inside, leaving his ringed pinky to dangle awkwardly against her garter. The lonely silhouette of a single palm tree is visible through the half-shut blinds.
“Does Johnny ever do that to you, Jill? Does he?”
“Oh no, Mr. Johnson,” she whispers breathily. “Nobody’s ever done that to me before,”
Bathed in the romantic glow of the television, I get wet but murmur scornfully to my companion: “He named his kid Johnny Johnson? What an asshole!”
Peter ignores me, staring straight ahead at the screen. The aptly named Mr. Johnson is about to instruct little Jill in the ancient art of butt sex. I gaze at the crotch of Peter’s sweatpants and see his penis stiffen. It’s a small but marvelous thing, the moment of erection, like seeing a sunrise or a porpoise leap from the water. For a moment, I’m tempted to tug the elastic waistband from his taut hips. But I can’t. We are porn buddies, not fuck buddies. We don’t do things like that.
What is a porn buddy?
Simply put, a porn buddy is someone you meet, late at night, for the exclusive purpose of viewing pornography. “Exclusive” is the key word here. If you have sexual contact with your porn buddy at any time, he or she immediately forfeits special status and becomes a fuck buddy.
Why shouldn’t my porn buddy be a fuck buddy? What’s wrong with a fuck buddy?
Nothing, but fuck buddies can be dangerous. A few extra beers one night and before you know it, your fuck buddy has turned into your chlamydia buddy. Or worse, your Planned Parenthood buddy. And need I mention that the road from fuck buddy to Terrified-Person-With-Whom-I-am-Psychotically-Obsessed is woefully short? (Ladies, you know who you are.)
Parking the Cadillac, casing the salami, coaching the bald-headed champion — whatever you call it, it’s off-limits with your porn buddy, for reasons greater than yourself. Ideally he is, as Peter was for me, a very, very close friend to whom you’ve always been attracted but fear jeopardizing your friendship if you touch his penis. Sure, Fuck Buddy may be there for you at three a.m. when you’re drunk and horny, but will he listen when you get fired from your temp agency for playing the online version of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” while on assignment? No matter how many times you politely listen to him play the guitar after you’ve finished riding his cock, the fuck buddy is never really your friend.
And an added bonus — you don’t have to stop calling your Porn Buddy when you start a relationship. Watching porn together isn’t exactly cheating. Unlike phone sex (which can be misconstrued by Puritanical partners for the real thing), watching porn requires no creative participation. You’re not putting anything of your own into it, so how can they get upset?
Sounds great! How do I get a porn buddy?
Don’t be afraid to initiate. When Peter and I entered into our pornographic symbiosis, it was basically my idea. His girlfriend had just broken his heart, and my boyfriend had just turned out to be a lying, pus-filled ass-wart, so we were spending a lot of time in his apartment, drinking scotch and feeling sorry for ourselves.
“I’ve been watching a lot of porn lately,” he said, gulping the last of his drink. “It helps pass the time. God, I’m lonely.”
I snuck a peek at Peter’s well-muscled forearms, and sure enough, the right one was noticeably bigger than the left. I suddenly remembered sitting in Hebrew school, watching Exodus next to Zachary Feldstein, the goateed son of the rabbi. Paul Newman appeared, his bare chest the golden brown of the Negev, and Zachary’s knee suddenly touched my thigh…
“Do you want to watch some now?” I asked.
A couple of minutes later, we were on the sofa, deep penetration flickering before us. It felt hot. And weird. But it was a shaky bridge back to normalcy. We had been through trauma; we felt like ugly losers who might never get laid again. Then, suddenly, we felt desirable. There was no funny business, though. Our friendship carried with it an unspoken pact — LAST RESORT. Besides, Peter’s ex would be returning to pick up the couch, and it seemed ominously absorbent.
Later that week, my ex called, and I threw the telephone across the room, shattering the receiver. Peter was very understanding when I arrived at his apartment, coatless and tearstained at three in the morning. He listened sympathetically as he heated up some leftover Lo Mein and poured me a Dewar’s.
“Let’s watch some TV,” he said.
And so they continued, these late-night blue films, waiting motionless for the money shot, always at Peter’s. I mentioned what we were doing to the least prudish of my friends, a friend who kept a riding crop under her bed. She was incredulous.
“That’s weird,” she pronounced, toying idly with a travel-size tube of K-Y jelly. “Do you guys masturbate?”
“No,” I replied. “We’ve never even talked about it.”
“That’s very, very, weird.”
“Well, not that you watch porn,” she amended. “That’s kind of hot that you like porn. I wish I did. What’s weird is that you don’t fool around. I’ve only ever watched porn with a guy if I was blowing him at the same time.”
I’m an erotic homesteader. A sexy pioneer.
Do women like porn?
I think so. But not the way men do.
My personal porn collection consists of a single graphic publication, purchased in Rotterdam, called Oma. It is a truly horrifying paean to nasty grannies and the Germans who love them. The spreads feature ancient Russian women, their unfettered teats hanging from their wrinkled shoulders like tired balloons still tied to the mailbox four days after Amanda’s Seventh Birthday Party!, spread-eagled on shabby lawn chairs as they are pleasured by nude youths in hiking boots. It was a kitschy joke, no more intended to excite me than the stuffed walrus on my bed or the Jason Priestley poster in my closet. I never considered buying more. Peter had plenty.
I like porn, but I love watching it with Peter. I love seeing him get aroused, seeing what turns him on, getting excited with him. I feel like the actors are to us what I once heard someone say about men and professional athletes — that most men don’t actually want to be pro-athletes, but the athletes serve as their chosen representatives, performing tasks they had neither the drive or the discipline to accomplish. I don’t want to have sex with Peter, so I let them have sex for us. The vicarious intimacy is enervating, cleansing, and seems to bring us closer. I imagine that my skin glows when I trip home in the middle of the night to my own bed, where I am free to masturbate as I please before I go to sleep alone. The euphoria of sex, without the actual sex.
Maybe I should become an abstinence educator.
Maybe I should call that guy from the L train.
Peter turns to smile at me. He knows that I saw him get hard, and he is happy, relaxed. I smile back, so he’ll know I’m excited too. We do not touch at all. We just sit quietly, looking at each other, our eyes moist and lambent with understood desire, until Jill’s moaning directs us back to the screen, where Mr. Johnson has just shot a fat load all over her face.
Peter stands, smoothing down his erection with his hand, and turns on PBS. We always watch Antiques Roadshow afterward. It’s a great cool-down.
Rachel Shukert is the author of Have You No Shame?. Her work has also been featured in Best Sex Writing 2008, Best American Erotic Poems, and 2033: The Future of Misbehavior. She lives in New York City with her husband and her cat. Her website is rachelshukert.com.
This article originally appeared in Nerve’s True Stories.