once got a complimentary subscription to Playboy magazine courtesy of an unknown prankster. I had just turned 16. My father throttled the subscription office with a phone call. He also dramatically discarded the copy in plain sight. He couldn’t have known I knew little about its contents. Precocious I was not.
So why, decades later, would I fall for a video porn girl called Robin? Call her an accident, though in an age bereft of barriers my explanation may not matter. In any case, she’s the outgrowth of a project demanding I translate the 200-page memoirs of an Italian hooker, a schoolteacher who decided she needed more cash and went outland. Robin fits into the picture (parental guidance advised) as an adjunct. My author made a reference to a practice called “rimming,” lost on me aside from drains, sinks, and kids (me especially) licking butterscotch sundae icing off a cup. But the real “rimming” is something else entirely, and figuring it out plunged me into a dizzying video world that left me with a headache.
She appeared in a video advertised as “Robin calendar’s audition,” botched apostrophe included. Video Robin looked to me like a junior high boy’s dream: a tomboyish redhead with short-cropped hair and hostile eyes, a hapless and beautifully imperfect. What she does in her 10-year-old, 15-minute appearance is walk into a room and announce she’s there to pose for a calendar, which despite my Boy Scout swearing by good intentions doesn’t turn out to be whole of it. The filmmaker will soon ask for more.
Porn videos have much in common with how Walter Cronkite once ended the news, “And that’s the way it is…” Most play to male fantasies in which skepticism — that’s the way it is — is overturned to willingly satisfy wantonness, fair game since men were once trained to assume they’d fall short (even the Rolling Stones struggled early; just read their song titles).
But video Robin talks back — in full sentences and with a seductive diction that outclasses her handler. She looks and behaves nonplussed, in synch with a hardcore understanding that resistance attracts. Of course it’s all an act. But until the act falls away, she smiles, not lewdly but nicely, the reluctance gradually toned down until the fantasy folds in a girl-next-door aspect. What follows is explicitly post-Playboy. Robin is rebellious until she’s not, after which the joker’s wild.
This returns me to the magazine I never opened. It took several more years before I knew what Playboy contained and that pornography existed at all. This was the 1970s, a time when most porn was under lock and key. Fantasy’s food hinged on the tales of others, with adolescence to a greater or lesser effect policed. Not such a bad thing.
No one had video. Few boys had wide berth to anything. My own emotional and sexual findings were based on what I discovered directly. Time and again, I fell for voices and their tomboy speakers.
In that sense, Robin is the perfect anti-Audrey Hepburn, her coyness quickly shifted to a redder meat that trifles with the awkwardness of boy-girl romance. Dispensed with is the idea that a young woman’s confused resistance to a young men’s hormonal desire might be endearing, establishing peculiar identity of both genders.
Sexual sculpting, manipulated in the extreme, is available earlier than ever, with pretend fantasies both set up and resolved. How much inexperienced boys between nine and 16 have altered their views and approach I don’t know, except to say my own 16-year-old naiveté would now be inconceivable.
Yet none of this lessens my crush on Robin, and for that I am thankful.
I’d still love to know all about her, not so much to rescue her from copiously lucrative oral sex but to see the smile, hear her voice, and maybe ask her out.
My feelings may help explain why online pornography plays on wishful thinking, to then reward one kind of wishing. But so much happens without even trying. And that’s the difference between my then and this now: Video “I wish” never lasts, resistance a ruse. Boys don’t need to woo girls because girls will surely fold, or so it seems on the infallible Internet.
But the romantic in a boy dies hard, and with it the belief that girls are so gullible, tomboys in particular, who for me still embody the sexiest of all male fantasies: the one that includes eventually treating them to a butterscotch sundae.