Friday, February 25, 2011

The birth of Amanda Payne

For this story, I think I'd like to go back to the very beginning. This story starts with a semi-blind "date." Derrick and I had faint ideas of what each other looked like, and I already knew (and expressed) that I was not interested in him romantically. All of this he ignored, and finally convinced me to go out for wine with him to get to know him better. I said I'd be more than happy to make a new friend, and he chuckled, said he'd wear me down, and told me he'd pick me up at 7:00.

I knew Derrick was short. He said he was 5'2." What appeared at my doorstep was not 5'2". I'm going to put him at about 5 feet tall in his dress shoes. He wore a goatee (of which I'm not a huge fan), a tight turtleneck sweater that accentuated his belly (for it was... rotund), and when he opened his mouth to speak, I heard a voice that brought me straight back to middle school. Like I said... we were going to be friends. I try to limit my vanity, but I can't date a man that makes me think of a cherub. Apologies. 

Anyway, Derrick and I are sitting down for some pretty fantastic wine, when he pops out with: "So, you know much about dating sites?"

"No," I reply, "I know of a couple, but don't know much."

"Well, have you ever heard of" His cheeks pinked a bit.

"Nope. What is it?"

"It's..." he hesitates a bit. "It's a website for people to meet other people with their same interests."

"Fetlife? So... fetishes?" I can see this is going somewhere interesting. 

"Right! Yes. It's really interesting. You said you studied gender and sexuality, so I thought it would be right up your alley." Obviously we've touched upon a subject that gets him going. 

"So, how did you find out about this?" See, here's an interesting moment. I pride myself on being one of the least judgmental people I know. I've interviewed empowered sex workers before and had a lovely time discussing their job without batting an eyelash. My policy is that as long as all participants are happy, I'm cool with it. So, when I hear that someone is checking out fetish dating sites, my first thought is that I'm the best person to share this with. 

"Well, I just have some things that I find really interesting, and I wanted to see who else out there might feel the same." JACKPOT. Derrick, please continue.

"So, what is it that you're interested in?" I'm thinking bondage, dom/sub, something that is fairly generic in the BDSM world. 

"Oh, no. It's too soon to tell you."

"What?!" I exclaim. "Why not? I mean, you won't be doing it with me, so there's no harm in sharing."

"Maybe you will do it with me sometime. I still think you'll warm up to me eventually." He gives me a coy glance across the table, just highlighting his infantile comportment. 

"Let's not go there, but seriously tell me! I won't judge. I mean, seriously, as long as it's not poop or something, we're golden." Here's Amanda, in all her objective glory!

"Oh..." Pause. "Funny you should say that."

"What?!" Those lines between my eyebrows have squeezed together so tightly in astonishment and disgust that you can see streaks of white where the blood supply has been cut off. "You like people pooping on you?!"

"Well, no. I like them pooping near me. I like to be in the room when they do. There's something about watching. Beyond that, it's really nothing. Just some face farting and such." The nonchalance is staggering.

"I. Wow. I. Interesting." I'm lost for words. My whole idea of myself has been shattered. I'm judging, and I'm judging hard. 

"Yeah. I mean. It may sound weird. I've had girlfriends in the past that ended up being okay with it. I'm sure you'll get comfortable with it, eventually." Cue me having to explain that we're... well, we're not made for each other and trying to get myself out of the bar and away from the little man as quickly as humanly possible. 


Derrick was, alarming to be sure, but he got my mental wheels turning. There were people out there connecting with each other through the internet in order to join together for activities. Sexual or platonic motivations aside for these people, this could be a research goldmine!

I immediately signed up for the website (since it was free). I started messaging around to see what was going on, and then something happened that generally happens with me. I wigged myself out. Observation just wasn't an option in this scenario. If I wanted to join, I'd have to really join. Seeing as caning, knife play, domination, and a few other things were on the menu, rather than playful biting and a set of handcuffs... I was in way over my head. (Not to mention that I got reprimanded by some of my fellow fetlifers for seeming like I was trying to scam for sex. Obviously I had not learned the proper etiquette and had stumbled upon quite the faux pas.)

So, I bowed out. My fetlife liason responded to my false reasons for cancelling my account by saying I could surely stay on and just put myself as "vanilla," but I had reached my limit of solicitation for a subordinate and needed to move on. That's when I decided to look into sex parties. If anyone watches a movie with a sex party, there's always masks, observers sipping champagne, etc. Although it was highly stylized and dramatized, there would surely be a way for me to go and see and talk without really having to have sex. There had to be something...

...And that's how I found City Sex Club. Weekly parties in the area around my city, with women gaining free admission. I sent in an email, and before I knew it I was receiving texts right and left asking if I wanted to attend this party here, that party there. Since I hadn't quite figured out how to situate myself in these parties in a comfortable manner, one excuse followed another, until about a month ago.

“There’s a party tonight in Bedford, if you’re down,” said the text message.

I had to lay my eyes on one of his events, but every time I received a message from him, my body froze with the realization of what a sex party really entails – people having sex around me and expecting me to participate. I would picture the raisin-like quality that I imagine old man testicles have. Perhaps a woman with a large, unkempt bush will attempt to solicit my services. The website says I could just play with myself, but given what I believe to be the general description of swingers – middle-aged crisis-driven couples with a few too many pounds and a whole lot of issues to work out – I was quite positive I would be lacking in inspiration. In other words, I was right back in the same situation as fetlife - up shit creek and desperately trying to not grab someone's paddle.

Given that my initial interest in this whole sexual circus was to get at the people who attend them and see what it’s like for them when all inhibitions are cast off, the aforementioned situation could be seen as nothing less than a pickle. So, I admitted defeat: “You know, Jason, I think I’ve wimped out of enough of these events to know that this just isn’t for me. Thanks for the invite, though!”

Five seconds pass as I’m staring at a necklace that is soon to be mine, despite having just cursed myself for my recent ebay shopping spree, my cell phone beeps. Expecting a text from my shopping buddy that happens to be running quite late, I’m surprised to see: “Keep your clothes on, and I’ll pay you to hostess.”

Can we say jackpot? JACK-FRICKIN-POT! Clothes on, observe all I want, chat up the participants, AND justify purchasing the sparkling necklace in the glass case in front of me. “I’ll take it!” comes out like the teens in episodes created to warn our youth about the dangers of credit cards. While the girl puts the necklace behind the counter, I take myself and my blackberry to the far corner of the store to hash out the details. First, the text back: “Where is it? How will I get there? What time? What do I wear?” and as I wait to hear back, I make a call.


“Hey, Alex. I’ve got a very strange question to ask you,” I let ooze out of my mouth, half expecting to cut myself off and half too excited to speak correctly.

“Uh… shoot.”

“What would you say if I told you that I’ve been offered money to be a hostess at a sex party tonight?”

“I’d say do it, and call me afterwards.”

You’d be amazed how many people gave me this exact response - as if on cue - and each time there was the same explanation. “I know I’d never be able to do it, but if you do it, then I can still hear all of the stories and live vicariously through you.” Given my... special fascination with all things aberrant, I’m sure none of you will be surprised that I often take on this role for my friends. I do so that others may enjoy and learn. Well, and let’s be honest. We all know that everyone gets a kick out of laughing at my expense. 

Five votes of approval later, I’m coordinating a ride with my fellow hostess, picking out my black cocktail dress, messing up my hair and applying a fortnight’s worth of eye shadow to my lids. The plan is to look the part, and hope that gives me enough cred to make some allies. I actually had the perfect dress for it, but seeing as I was going to be meeting my friend Erica’s new boyfriend for the first time in about 15 minutes, she helped me pick out something a little less scandalous. Apparently I was going to need to rely a little bit more on my charm than originally planned. 

Up next... Sex Party #1: Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wow... Okay, questions post #1

I just got hit with a lot of questions. Although I'm sure many of these will be answered once I start getting into stories, it would appear that some people are worried. So, here goes...

1. Are you having sex at the parties?

No. Absolutely not. I have been told that part of the benefits of my job could be participation on a slow night, since I won't be making as much money, but I will not be taking advantage of that.

2. Are the parties illegal?

Again, no. These parties are for consenting adults. The money that participants pay is to cover the venue as well as the time and effort it takes to put on and run theses parties. NO ONE IS PAID FOR SEX.

3. Are you hosting the parties at your house?

No on two counts. First, sex parties will in no way come near my personal life. They will not be held at my house, ever. Second, I am a hostess. The job is very similar to a hostess at restaurant on speed dating night. Think of it that way.

4. How'd you get into this?

You have to read the blog, silly! "The Birth of Amanda Payne" is all about it, and is already half written.

5. Okay, but you're going to have sex at these parties eventually, right?

NO. On top of many other valid reasons, doing that while being in the room of my boss would skeeve me out to no end.

6. Can I come?

YES. Girls, you can hostess with me if you'd like (assuming you know me), or participate in the party for free. Boys, you'd have to pay, and I guess you could play the nervous bachelor if you're not going to take part in the activities. I use fake names for everyone on my blog, but we might want to talk about how you'd like to preserve your anonymity when the time comes.

7. How often do you do this?

Good question! I don't have a regular schedule, and I do want to make sure I don't lose all of my Saturday nights. I'll keep you posted. I would say definitely don't expect multiple posts in a week (besides this week, apparently).

8. Are you into this stuff sexually? Like voyeurism?

I'm going to go with no. Given my experience thus far, and my general lackluster enthusiasm for porn and such, voyeurism isn't really my thing. Unlike when my boss says it, I mean it.

9. Are there any rules?

Yes. I am not allowed to date any party goers. I cannot take smoking breaks. I cannot take photos. I think that about covers it.

10. What do you wear?

Black cocktail dress and heels. Simple, sexy, not slutty.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A bit of context before we begin

 There's something about my curiosity and my willingness to interact with people without judgment that puts me in situations in which most people would never find themselves. EVER.

Let me explain. I am a cultural anthropologist in the truest sense of the word. I am most exhilarated, intrigued, and satisfied by the pursuit of knowledge about people. More specifically, I never tire of learning about how people experience their lives. When someone goes to church, I want to know what they are feeling, what they are thinking, how they understand the experience, why they go, who and what they believe. The religion itself is only of interest to me insomuch as it pertains to the person's individual existence and cognition of that experience.

This can apply to anything. Body modification is a great example of this, and was an interest that particularly scared my parents. Although I have ear piercings and 2 tattoos, I am hardly what would be considered a true body modification "insider." However, I've spent hours doing research online for the sheer fun of it - photos, anecdotes, glossaries of body modification terminology. My father, worried that I was about to show up with a forked tongue and some sort of amputation (yes, those do exist as a more extreme version of body modification), gingerly asked me one day why I was so enthralled. I simply said that I wanted to know why.

Why these people show such whole-hearted and enthusiastic devotion to something that can be seen as destructive to the body. I knew from my limited experience the rush that one can feel, and the strength of knowing what you can survive through, but there were sides of it that I couldn't even begin to understand. How does a person find themselves desperately feeling the need to rid themselves of a body part? What is the personal significance of scars left behind after scarification? What does a person tell themselves as their skin is burning from the red-hot brand?

I don't know how many of you in particular would just say, "Who cares? They're crazy!" I've gotten enough weird looks to realize that my sincere interest is quite out of the ordinary. Particularly since I tend to gravitate towards counter-culture, rather than understanding the ways in which cultural norms are understood and upheld in the general population. Finding ways in which people attempt to justify and normalize out-of-the-ordinary behavior is fascinating to me. The lengths that people will go to in order to make their "atypical" actions mimic the outside norms is extreme and seemingly superfluous, and yet is essential to their ability to comfortably express themselves.

Perhaps the point at which I truly separate myself from the normally curious population comes with my attempts to entrench myself in my studies. Anthropology's foundation is deeply rooted in participant-observation. So when I am fascinated by something, I find ways to observe, talk to the people involved, and and try to understand on a more personal level what is happening around me. Participation is generally my favorite part of anthropology. You can ask questions until your face turns blue, but it is only in putting ourselves in the same situation as those we are researching that we can hope to understand their words fully. Normally this proves no challenge for me. I jump in head-first to almost any situation. However, the work I'm doing now, you will quickly see, creates an intriguing issue when it comes to participation. 

Why? Because I have gotten myself started on research into sex parties.  Not sex toy parties. Sex parties. As one can imagine, participation in these events creates a certain threat to my personal and moral boundaries. Luckily, at least for the time being, I have found a way to participate as much as humanly possible without having to seriously rethink my own sense of self. This way... is Amanda Payne.

Up next: The Birth of Amanda Payne, Plain Jane

- Amanda