In our last episode I confessed my addiction to having theories about things — all sorts of things — almost anything. I particularly enjoy all things counterintuitive, which can often first appear to make no sense whatsoever. I find that when you think carefully about things that don’t make any sense, they gradually do start making sense, and your whole notion of “sense” expands. That’s my theory, anyway.
I’d been having dinner with some folks at my condo complex in Henderson, and it got late, so I offered to walk one of the women back to her place as a neighborly gesture. This inclination was somewhat complicated by the fact that she’s attractive and single — but more by my recent investigations into the changing nature of pornography, which I’ve been commissioned by a national magazine to write about.
Back when I got out of college, the first quasi-legitimate job I could get was as the circulation manager for the X-rated newspaper The Spectator in the Bay Area. This proved to be eye-opening on several levels and led me down the peculiar path of studying fetishes, which I’ve written about for Playboy and Nerve.com. One thing leads to another, as they say.
As we strolled beneath the palm trees, my mind was filled with thoughts about the technological phenomenon of webcams, those voyeuristic windows that take up so much Internet space now. Synchronistically, my neighbor began making suggestive remarks about how she earns her living. Always one to put two and two together to make five, I formed the inexplicable but instinctive view that she ran a webcam service.
Back when I was writing my second novel, Private Midnight, I got a glimpse into a dark and secret world. On the surface the story is a noir tale, but it has layers that relate to the psychological realm of S&M role-playing games. As part of my research, I made the acquaintance of a dominatrix who had worked at the high end of the market before she retired to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology (but she still had a lot of contacts and maintained a couple of private clients). I dedicated the book to her because she was very generous with her insights and knowledge. She introduced me to things I’d never have seen otherwise, while never pressuring me to participate or cross the line of professional inquiry.
So, when my neighbor made her elliptical comments about how she made her living, and that she did it from home, and that it was a little “odd,” my mind moved instantly to webcams and the providing of strange services (which may say something about me that needs further consideration).
Having investigated the world of BDSM and bizarre fetishes as I’ve described, I felt I was prepared for just about anything when we got to her door and she asked, “Do you want to see?”
My native curiosity is so intense there was virtually no way I could resist. She could’ve had bodies piled up on the other side of her door and I still would’ve gone in. But here’s the thing …
She did have bodies piled up! Hundreds of them. Clothes and accessories, too. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve spent time with headhunters in Papua New Guinea.
I feel it’s safe to say (and I have her permission to write this, providing her name isn’t mentioned) that I’ve never seen so many dolls outside a store, ever. Dolls, I said. Barbie Dolls, American Girl dolls, you name it.
And what does she do with these dolls? She plays with them on camera, for money. She plays dolls with men from around the world. They have their dolls and they play with her. In secrecy and in private, there are men who want to play with dolls with her. They could be in Tokyo or Toronto, but they tune into her little doll channel here in Vegas for dress-ups and parties.
She has some female patrons, but almost all are men, and there are quite a lot of them. She believes very few are gay.
Like a lot of fetish behavior, there’s nothing overtly sexual about the practice. She explained that it’s entirely as it seems. Men who imaginatively want to play like little girls. Some of them refer to her as “Big Sister.”
She’d started out with more of a sexual angle, but that wasn’t where the interest lay, so just played along with what the customers called for. I frankly don’t know what to think. I can’t decide if that’s tragic, hilarious or in the cool-if-that’s-what-you-want category. It’s definitely further substantiation of the theory that anything you can think of (and a lot of things you haven’t) there’s a market for, an audience, a far-flung and fragmented tribe of people waiting to find the window that speaks to them — and that they can speak back to, undressing the secret dolls of desires they can’t normally express.
Remarkably, the flow of her business is such that she’s thinking of taking on an apprentice. She says she feels guilty when she’s not online, so great is the demand for her service. It’s sort of poignant to think that even as you read this, there’s a man in Denver, or maybe, I don’t know, Brighton, England, who’s waiting for her to be in session.
Kris Saknussemm is the author of 10 books translated into 22 languages. He’s on Facebook and at krissaknussemm.com.