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Porn Cliches, Or, On Not Seducing The Plumber

Please note: This piece discusses my personal sex life and sexual practices — not in a huge amount of detail, but it might be too much information than family members and others who don't want to read about my sex life. If you don't want to read that stuff, please don't read this piece. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Pipe dreams
This is a story about a porn cliche.

And it's about the difference between what you want… and what you think you want.

A few years ago, when I was in my old apartment, our building had a plumber who used to come out pretty regularly. (Old building; lousy plumbing; frequent visits from the plumber.) He was kind of a dish: young, friendly, skinny but muscular, bright red hair, a sweet Irish accent like whisky in butter. I used to joke about what a babe he was, and how one of these days I might succumb to the porn cliche and seduce the plumber.

So this one time he came out to the apartment to fix the crappy plumbing… and he stayed to chat.

For no reason that I could figure out right away.

Sex the annabel chong story
And the conversation kept taking these odd, non-sequitur turns. He brought up the art house movie schedule hanging on my door… and made a point of mentioning the porn star documentary that was coming up. He mentioned the science fiction books on my bookshelf… and kept talking about how he liked science fiction cover art, it was so sexy, with all those half-naked girls and guys. (Little did he know that the cover art is probably my least favorite thing about science fiction…)

It was a little odd. Flattering, but odd. After all, he'd never paid me anything but friendly professional interest before. I never did figure out why this visit was different. But my best guess is that he'd seen the stack of porno videos in the office next to the bathroom — I was working as a porn critic then, as I still am today — and I think he figured that, with a stack of pornos just sitting out in the open like that, I might be easy and horny and hot to trot. And maybe the porn cliche/ "visit from the plumber" connection had crossed his mind as well as mine.

But back to the story.

Like I was saying, this was an odd conversation, and it took me a while to catch on. (I can be kind of thick about it when people are hitting on me.) But it didn’t take that long. When you’re alone in the house with the plumber, and he keeps bringing up sex for no good reason, it doesn't take a nuclear genius to figure it out. He was offering me the porn cliche, the impromptu fling with the hot young plumber.

And I was tempted to take him up on it.

For about ten seconds.

But here's the thing. When presented with the real possibility of it, the fantasy almost immediately lost its appeal.

Plumber's helper
For one thing, I don't actually choose my sex partners based on whether they seem like they stepped out of a porn video. I choose my sex partners based on, you know, sexual compatibility. I have somewhat particular tastes in sex — not wildly out of the ordinary tastes, but particular ones — and while it's certainly possible that he would have loved to spank me silly or let me fuck him up the ass, the odds didn't seem in my favor. And I didn't feel like doing the whole sex-positive "conscientious negotiation of overlapping sexual interests" thing. It would have totally killed the spontaneous buzz of the "shtupping the plumber" fantasy. No matter how cute that plumber might be.

It's not like cuteness is a non-issue for me. Obviously there needs to be some physical chemistry for me to have fun with someone, and it's certainly a plus if they make my head swivel when I pass them on the street. But I'd rather play with someone who knows their way around a riding crop than with someone who looks like the Irish Brad Pitt. No contest.

Maybe more importantly, though, I didn’t actually know this guy — and I didn't have any reason to trust him. I didn't have any reason not to trust him… but I didn't know anything about him, I didn't know anyone who knew him, and I certainly didn't know anyone who’d had sex with him. So I didn't know if he respected limits, or if he cared about women’s pleasure, or even if he played safe.

Which pretty much dovetails with the "sexual compatibility" thing.

Door
Now remember, this was a guy I'd lusted after for some time. It's not like he took up a lot of space in my sexual imagination; but whenever he appeared on the scene, there was always a twinge of wistful lust, followed by "what might have been" fantasies that often lasted for several days. But the reality wasn't nearly as enticing as I’d imagined it would be. I wound up the conversation, said that I had to get back to work, and politely ushered him out the door, with just a twinge of regret — not for the sex that might have been, but for how much fun I would have had telling the story.

So I think the moral of the story is this:

We don't always want what we think we want.

I really thought I wanted to have sex with this guy. At any point before this encounter, if you had asked me, "Do you want to have sex with the dishy red-headed plumber?", I would have answered, "Sure!" Until I was actually presented with the opportunity to do so, that is.

On a core physical level, I suppose I did want it. I thought he was cute, I lusted after him when he was around, I had occasional sex fantasies about him. If that's what you mean by "want," then yeah, I guess I wanted it. But in the important, actually useful sense of the word "want" — in the "Would you accept this if it were easily available?" sense — it turned out that I didn't.

I just thought I did.

Fence grass
And I think this is something monogamous people need to remember. When you're monogamous, it's easy to get wound up over every cute person who passes your line of vision and seems like they might be available. It’s important to remember that not everyone who momentarily stirs your loins is someone you would actually have sex with if you were free and they were offering. Some cute people are crazy; some cute people are on a different sexual wavelength; some cute people just aren't very interesting. So it's important to remember that you don't always want what you think you want. It's important to remember that the green, green grass on the other side of the fence doesn't always look so green when it shows up at your door, makes awkward sexual small talk, and offers you a chance at a silly porn cliche.

Comments

  1. says

    Greta,
    I agree with your premise entirely. :-) I secretly lusted after a guy on my co-ed volleyball team (tall, dark, and handsome). But when the opportunity presented itself, and he needed to stay at my place after a conveniently drunken night out in my neighborhood, I merely offered him the couch while I slept in my bed. Once I knew that it could actually happen, I wasn’t interested in dealing with the emotional drama that may have surrounded actually sleeping with him (on his end, because I think he was really in to me).
    I know this doesn’t sound risque at all, but considering how typically unattracted to men I am, and that my experiences (as a lesbian) with men consist of drunken college make-outs 10 years ago, it was a true risque fantasy to me. ;-)

  2. says

    Love the post Greta, I can completely relate. Though I um won’t elaborate. Forbidden fruit is always sweeter. though it leads me to wonder what sexy plumber man is doing now….

  3. David Harmon says

    As I noted at Blowfish, Erica Jong also covered this in “Fear Of Flying”.

  4. says

    I actually had a similar experience myself. Afterward, I found myself wondering if I had passed up on a “magical chocolate-covered gold bullion” of sexual experiences.
    But I eventually considered how it may have turned out if he wasn’t as skilled as I assumed he was. I may have saved myself from an hour or so of uncomfortable positions and awkward pauses. Plus, “are you on the pill?” usually translates to “can I pass on the safe sex?” Definitely a sign to turn tail and run!
    I sometimes have wistful fantasies, but I’m sure my fantasies would be much better than the reality would have been.

  5. says

    “As I noted at Blowfish, Erica Jong also covered this in ‘Fear Of Flying’.”
    Interesting. From the comments here, it sounds like it’s a common experience, more so than I might have thought. What did Erica Jong say about it?

  6. dryad says

    Yeah, I don’t even like to fantasize about someone unless I think I’m compatible with him, which severely limits my fantasy fodder.
    On the flip side, I spent ten years fantasizing about someone I was compatible with, telling myself that we probably weren’t that compatible in order to decrease my longing.
    When our compatibility finally became undeniable, I went from being married to the only boy (or girl) I’d ever kissed to still married but polyamorous.
    And what’s interesting about that new relationship, regarding the fantasy vs. reality discussion, is that it made me actually want to enact some of those fantasies that I’d previously just wanted to leave in my head. I mean, I’d known that the thought of being tied up turned me on, but I had no desire for my husband to tie me up. That would’ve been totally out of character for him, so it didn’t even occur to me to want him to do it.
    But my boyfriend is a totally different animal. He’s definitely a top, and now, when I’m with him, I’m often a bottom instead of just fantasizing about being one.
    I still don’t want to enact that fantasy with my husband, though. The reality of my relationship with him is different than the reality of my relationship with my boyfriend, and I get to explore different aspects of myself with each of them.

  7. David Harmon says

    I only read part of the book, and that many years ago (I must have been something like 14, Mom had left it in the bathroom), but what I remember is this:
    She’d previously discussed her fantasies of a “zipless fuck” — not “without zip”, but a metaphor for completely uncomplicated sex, no literal or figurative zippers tangling and jamming, but people just “coming together” without awkwardness.
    But then one day her protagonist/ avatar was taking a long train ride, settling into her bed in a private “sleeper room”. The porter was bustling around tidying things up, plumping pillows and such… she was just musing on how nice he was being, and pretty cute too, when he put his hand someplace intimate, by way of a pass — and she reacted with shock and revulsion instead of interest, upon which the porter shrugged and departed. Then for the next few paragraphs she wondered about her reaction, how she’d always fantasized about that “ultimate quickie”, but when it actually presented itself, she was revulsed.
    While I don’t remember the exact details of the pass, I remember thinking even then, that her actual reaction was much more plausible than the fantasy! In fact, hat’s probably why I (uncharacteristically) didn’t read the whole book: the scene I’d happened across broke my suspension of disbelief.

  8. says

    Hey Greta!
    I had a similar moment a few months ago with the cable guy. He was at my place for hours, trying to get the cable set up, and when he saw my porn collection he made some comment that made it fairly clear what my next line could be if I wanted a quickie. I remember thinking to myself that I would’ve been all *over* the possibilities ten years ago (although I probably would’ve second-guessed whether he was really hitting on me or not long enough for the moment to pass, being in my twenties and much less sure of myself). But aside from having a husband, baby and cats (ok, the cats don’t really figure into it, but things read better in threes), I just don’t have the energy/ sex drive these days to put into a one-time encounter. And I didn’t want my sheets to smell like random cable guy. And all the reasons you list above (though I’m usually more surprised when folks *aren’t* into spanking, but perhaps I’ve been off the market too long to remember).
    We ended up surfing the internet to look up Savannah cats (he really liked cats, so I suppose they factored into this comment more than I originally realized). Much more my speed these days.

  9. says

    I know exactly what you mean! I’ve had a couple of experiences in college when the fantasy was MUCH better than the reality when it presented itself. Things like his stomach growling loudly and incessantly (very annoying), not being able to hold an erection, not being able to hold a coherent conversation, and other disappointments kept the Reality from being anywhere near as exciting as the Fantasy. Plus in a couple of cases when I didn’t do it, it was because I ended up simply not liking the guy much when I finally got to know him a bit better. What I really wanted was the Fantasy because I controlled it, and I could make it whatever I wanted at the time. I guess sometimes it’s good to know the difference between Fantasy and Reality, and to know which you really want.

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