We’ve reached that point in the year where, if you’re not in a relationship (or some other type of arrangement), you’re probably not having sex. And if you’re not in a relationship (or some other type of arrangement) and you are having sex, you’re probably behind on readings, papers, laundry, etc. I am in the category, and am unequivocally bitter about it.
So, my friend Costanza* and I got shitfaced drunk and went to a sex club.
From creeping the Facebook group of the club my friend and I chose to visit, I imagined some sort of sweaty orgy of 30 to 40-year-olds. Instead, we found three single men and one couple (30 to 40 still an accurate age range), all standing around, looking tense, in different parts of the long warehouse-like room. There were four-poster beds along one side, and a bar along the other, with barstools and a bored-looking woman behind the counter. The ceiling was low, and the space illuminated only by garish pink and purple strobe lights, pulsing slightly, and some lewd lamps. In the back was a co-ed bathroom. And a door covered by a black curtain. The website had boasted a Jacuzzi, but I didn’t see it. The whole thing was incredibly anti-climactic.
After all that we’d been through (bottle of rum, metro ride, et cetera), I refused to let something as silly as low participation get in the way of my good time, and decided to get naked. But Costanza wasn’t into it, and grabbed my hand and pulled me into the bathroom (complete with a shower, by the way) to discuss our situation. Then, someone started knocking on the door. At this point, we figured we were probably in for a bad time.
But, truthfully, we weren’t. Yeah, it was remarkably boring, but we encountered more respect than I’ve seen during a more traditional club outing. After we approached two men, we actually had decent, civil discussion. We talked for a while, but there was never any explicit mention of sex. They only mentioned intimacy.
Perplexed by the seeming incogruity of these men’s intentions, we eventually left, and the couple followed Costanza and me out. They recommended another venue to us, but we made excuses and hailed a cab. We whispered in the back seat, hushed and high-pitched, hoping the cabbie wasn’t listening or couldn’t understand our slurring.
At this point, we didn’t know what we thought. The sex club had been exceptionally dull, and even the neon mood lighting couldn’t mask the wan nature of the people there. It would be inappropriate to judge the other patrons’ experiences, but the bar and the beds and the naked lady lamps seemed out of place based on what the men had said to us.
Conceptually, the notion of a club devoted purely to sex is ironic. If one’s looking only for a pleasurable experience, there’s always masturbation. So what is it about a sexual encounter with a partner that makes it more desirable than simply staying at home and getting the job done yourself? Is it the thrill? Is it some form of validation? Is it about having a connection, however fleeting, with another person?
We were too drunk to come to any conclusions about this sex/intimacy paradigm, so I asked the cab driver, a middle-aged man called George for some of his thoughts.
Unfortunatley, George didn’t speak any English, so I had a bungled conversation in French/Arabic/English with him
We dropped her off, and that’s when we found some common ground. George and I agreed that love was “la fin,” and the “end-all-be-all” goal of a lifetime.
I asked him if he had love. He said yes.
I asked him if it was here in Montreal. He said yes.
I asked him how it felt to him having accomplished the one thing he thought worthwhile in his lifetime, how he felt about achieving his “fin” but not being at the “fin” yet.
He said he didn’t know. He asked me if I had love; I said yes. He asked me if it was here in Montreal; I said no. He asked me how young I’d been when I’d first loved, and if people had respected it. He asked me if I thought I felt love like he felt love.
I told him I’d never thought that anyone had taken my love seriously; I couldn’t possibly have the capacity for it yet, they’d said? And that each time I’d been in love it had been completely different, so it was misplaced to attempt to equate it to someone else’s. We’re not all experiencing the same thing.
The ride ended, and suddenly I was home, stumbling around the living room, eating quinoa and tapping on my computer, drunkenly emphatic that these new and profound insights would push the frontiers of love into never-before-felt territory.
It seems dramatic to say that my sex club experience plunged me into a deep pit of despair, but in an odd way it brought some unexpected clarity. Sex without intimacy is a lonely thing, but I didn’t realize that until I started having it.
The last thing George asked me was how it felt being so young and having found my “fin.”
I said I didn’t know, but it didn’t seem fair that there were people in an empty club looking for something, while I had stumbled upon my potential “end-all-be-all” in the hallway my sophomore year of high school.
Later that night I lay in bed postulating which roommate would be less freaked out if I climbed into bed with them and initiated spooning. Knowing neither would be receptive, I fell asleep alone, thinking that there really should be cuddle clubs, not sex clubs, because it was a whole lot easier to solicit sex than cuddling.
*Names have not been changed. Costanza’s amazing.