While they were very thorough, professional, and really a pleasure to be around, 20/20 never asked me a thing about my experience with video or surveillance, despite the fact that the show is about just that. The episode airs Friday, December 29 at 9pm ET (TONIGHT!) So I’m sharing my "caught" story here.
“Cellulite Cinema” would be the title of any sex tape ever created featuring this redheaded mama. I’d never agree to being filmed in the act, not only in fear of the tape resurfacing somewhere public, but because if I ever saw myself in the throes of it, bouncing, things folding and flapping, pasty white imperfect skin and bad lighting, I’d spend the rest of my life masturbating. Alone.
One of the many MIDs of my past, however, had something else in mind. One night at his place–long after our love affair ceased, and when we were safely behind the thinnest veil of “just friends”—we shared our porn. In general, it’s never really a good idea to view porn with anyone you don’t intend on ransacking on the spot, but behind the safety of “friends,” and all for an honorable dating cause, sharing, there was. Had shots of Patron been involved, the telling of this story might be drastically different, but I was dating someone at the time, someone who referred to me as his girlfriend when he introduced me to his friends, so I was on my best behavior. I’d come to my friend’s apartment because he’d done me a favor, for said boyfriend, in fact. He bought him some porn, from me.
“Please, can’t you just pick it up for me?” This translated to, “I’m not going into that seedy place so that swarthy man behind the counter can stare at me thinking lewd things.” Better he think these things of you. Please? So my friendboy took my money and bought a stash of smut worthy of more than a simple blush. These weren’t the type of magazines with articles, not even dirty little stories intended to titillate. They were picture books of porn: Archie for Adults, except these images weren’t drawn. They were vivid shots of shots, and my intention was to surprise my boyfriend by sending him something racy in the mail.
I guess I could have opted for a worn pair of sexy unmentionables, but sending dirty laundry seems foul not forward. Would he smell them? I wondered. It would have been an unrefined move. Much better to hand his doorman a sealed manila envelope, filled with salacious suggestions of how we’d spend our time together later in the week, when his work schedule freed him up, to get tied up. Or something like that.
Now some might have questioned this behavior, asking another man to buy my man smut, as mildly unfaithful. Mucking about in sexual tension with a former lover isn’t exactly 100% innocent. Had I learned my man were looming over porn pages with one of his previous paramours, I would have pouted and then some. But since I knew nothing would happen between my ex and me, I didn’t question it.
“Show me the goods,” I demanded of my friend with my hands fanned open in the waiting. He threw the bag o’ smut onto his bed, and I slid the magazines out with the excitement of a child. He watched me from the ladder of his bedroom loft. “See,” I said after what had to be full minutes of silence, “this does nothing for me.” I held open the magazine for him to see. I didn’t mean I wasn’t visual and that I understood that men are; I meant the airbrushed perfection of the glossy posed porn industry. Maybe I’d have been turned on if it were all less staged.
“Yuh,” he said while looking over my shoulder, “nothing for me, neither. I’ve got better stuff.” He then shut his bedroom door, assuring us privacy from his roommate, and pinched opened his laptop, where he clicked about, revealing secret files for me, hidden deep within nesting folders. This was his porn. Literally. The photos he shared with me weren’t Photoshop’d and taken by a professional; they were images of women he’d slept with, some posed, some unsuspecting, taken by him.
“Holy shit! I can’t believe these women let you take their photos like this.” I stared at his ex, the one he dated after me, her breasts peaking out from behind her opened bathrobe. There were others, a lot more.
“Wait, check out this one,” he said, particularly pleased with his work. He wasn’t gloating about his photography skills and use of aperture; he was swollen with pride to have landed all of these buxom women. I wondered, had he ever taken photos of me when we were together? “Not photos,” he replied to my question in a squeak, rolling his eyes in false modesty.
Now if I were smart, I would have played this next part differently. Upon hearing that he once secretly filmed us getting it on, I ought to have feigned excited. Said things, like, “That’s hot. You have to show me.” I could have slipped off my cardigan, if I actually were one to wear cardigans, touched his thigh, and encouraged him to play it for me, for us. Then once he shared it with me, I could have destroyed it. Instead, I snapped, “You’re fucking kidding me, right?” He wasn’t.
He’d hidden a small video camera up in his bedroom loft, where he mostly stored boxes. Among the boxes of winter clothes, he had an empty box designed to crate a cat, perhaps, to the veterinarian. It had holes for breathing. He admitted that before I’d arrived, he’d set it up to record, placing the camera in that very box, aimed down at us, at his bed down below. “No,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief.
“Oh relax. I erased it.”
“Why would you do that? What would make you think it was okay?”
“What, you’re all liberal, talk dirty in bed, but you’re all squeamish when it comes to—“
“Being filmed secretly? Uh, yeah!”
“I was planning on showing it to you, as a surprise, but when I watched it, there was nothing good on it, so I erased it.” Filmed over it, I thought. And what the hell did that mean, nothing good? It was his way of keeping things racy, he insisted. It wasn’t porn left with a doorman with a post-it reading, “Study up.” It was an invasion of my privacy, and I left his place feeling dirty, violated, and suspicious, wondering if the tape still existed.
On my walk over to my boyfriend’s apartment, I wondered how many other times I’d been so unsuspecting. It’s scary when you think about it, how trusting we can be, leaving ourselves open to invasions by simply living our lives. We trust that the person beside us won’t harm us in our sleep, that our neighbor won’t violate our privacy just because we’ve given them the emergency key. We trust strangers to become our lovers, our friends, and some of us marry them, learning more as we go, as we age and grow. And we maybe become more trusting or less, depending mostly on the choices we’ve made.
Maybe it’s why I reveal so much about myself: because I can. I have the power to do so, to slip out naked, for all to see, without apology, in my own words, on my own terms. It’s the ultimate defense mechanism when you’re that candid because no one will have the chance to out you. When I reveal my secrets, it’s empowering not embarrassing, because it’s a choice. And maybe that’s why some women feel powerful creating their own sex tapes or pornographic images… because they have the power to reveal what they want you to see, just as I do as a writer. I’m just a lot more secure in my words than I am in the backs of my thighs.