Tuesday 23 January 2001

Whsmith in Victoria is horrible. It's 1pm and the aisles are crowded. I keep accidentally banging people with my bag as I try to squeeze through. A man crouches down on the floor looking at 'Stuff for Men', and his trenchcoat pools round his feet like a muddy puddle.

I look up above his head and see Parade, Men Only, Playboy, and Whitehouse. On the cover of Men Only a tanned, yellowhaired girl leans forward, dressed in red shorts and a white vest. I start to read the straplines. 'Tracey Lee - addicted to sextoys'... 'Stripper gang-banged by her fans'....

I feel someone staring at me looking at the magazines. Trenchcoat guy has stood up and is glaring at me. Glaring, or, leering, or --

Whatever. I quickly look down at Mixmag then walk off; not looking at him. I feel like I've been caught with my hands in the till; seen dumping an old chair beneath a 'no tipping' sign; or picking still-edible fruit up off the pavement after Berwick Street market.

Somehow porn in Whsmith is far more bothersome than porn in Pages of Fun over the road, with its array of Euro hardcore cumshot mags, its SM novels, its TV spanking magazines. In Pages of Fun you must step through a curtain made of yellow hanging plastic strips. It's like a curtain between the nomal world of Ann Rice paperbacks and books on old British motorcars, and pornoland, with its orgasmic pots of gold at the end of long, fleshcoloured rainbows.

It seems too simple to pick up your porn at Whsmiths, to purchase your easy orgasm along with the Evening Standard and a packet of Polos. It almost feels like cheating. Like you should have to walk through the golden curtain at Pages of Fun and be forced to confront the reality of what you're doing, rather than brushing it under the carpet of respectability. Maybe I feel orgasms are special enough that you have to earn them.

Or, maybe I'm just jealous.

There's an Annie Lawson postcard that has a stick-figure man saying to a stickfigure woman: 'Oh, if I was a woman, I'd wear mini-skirts and stockings and suspenders and everything!' and the stick-woman goes 'grrrr!' But I'm just as bad as the stickfigure man. Because if I was a man, I'd buy porno every day, I think.

Every time you buy or look at porn, if you're female, you're making a 'statement'. Every time you cross a porn shop threshold and look shyly around with your boyfriend, getting tutted at by the man behind the counter if you stray from his side; every time you 'casually' discuss vibrators with the nice lady in the woman-friendly sex shop, you're being transgressive, breaking some rule laid down years back. In fact, you can't even say you enjoy porn without first reeling off some huge feminist justification.

Sometimes life's too short for that. I don't want always to make a statement. When I went to the peep show, was I making a statement, or just peeping at pussy? The boyfriend had never been to a peep show either, so why was it transgressive for me but re-gressive for him?

I'd love to be a man, to browse the shelves, avoiding eyecontact with my fellow man just like I'd learnt at the urinal. Choosing my kink, selecting my material; furtive, but compelled. It'd be understood that this was a 'man thing', an itch I have to scratch.

If I go to a sex shop, it has to be a big thing. I'm perceived to be performing, showing off, demanding attention, doing something unnecessary. People look. At the peep show I was performing in a way, nearly as much as the girls, grinning at them, consious that I was, as the dancer said to us through the glass, part of a 'cute couple', not just one of the 'creepy guys'.
I want to be a creepy guy!

I want to be a man, to embrace porn and depravity. I wouldn't take the cowards way, perusing Men Only behind the Financial Times before returning to my chintz wife in Chislehurst, prying open frigid thighs while dreaming of Lusty Lavinia who loves to be watched... I'd go to Pages of Fun and spend 80 quid on magazines with little stickers (which I'd peel off) over the best bits, and on magazines that are so naughty they're not even illegal, a plump clothed behind and a hairbrush poised just so, and magazines on stuff I wasn't even into, golden showers and bestiality and incest, just because I could. And I'd go to Amsterdam and - why not? - I'd just have a whore, and it'd make me feel guilty and compassionate and human, and I'd leave extra guilders because it'd make me feel better about myself, and then I'd see her wave to her mates outside the window as I passed by later and I'd realise she didn't even feel bad, and that'd make me feel worse.

My boyfriend squanders his maleness. He has no porn stack. He'll only go to sexshops if I'm there, then we'll pore over the mags together. But I don't want to be a girl, a naughty girl, a kinky girlfriend, a transgressive laddess. I just want to be a man. I want to be invisible.

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