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One summer I got a job at an antique store.

Well, it wasn’t called that at the time. It was a video rental place. A franchise called “West Coast Video.” My brother and I both worked there. We helped open the place, actually.

When we were hired, all they had was a big empty building, aisles of empty racks, and boxes and boxes of VHS videos that we had to barcode and set up.

My favorite part of the job, once we opened, was suggesting movies to people who were having trouble deciding on what to watch.

My least favorite part was checking the security cam periodically to make sure that nobody was doing anything creepy in the adult section.

You see, before the internet, people who wanted to watch pornography had to borrow video cassettes, in person, from local rental stores.

If you were very secure with your public sexuality, you could make a habit of renting from an adult book store. But what doctor, lawyer, or teacher wants to be a regular at place that has blow up sex dolls in the windows? It was much easier to saddle into West Coast Video, pick up a copy of Caddyshack, and then casually dip into the adult section to grab Boob Blanket Bingo for a couple nights.

Keep in mind, as much a hassle as that process seems now, this “porn at the local video store” was a masturbation revolution. Previous to VHS & Beta, porn movies were not available for in-home viewing. You had to go to a adult theatre or a peep show booth. Neither of which was a place you’d want to drop your keys on the floor.

Next time you spend a few minutes on RedTube, imagine there are strangers sitting next to you. That is what it was like. And that’s a big reason why magazines used to be more popular. At least you could take a magazine home and enjoy it in private. But if you’ve ever gone in search for a raunchy porno mag, you’ll discover that those, too, are only available from adult book stores. If you go to a liquor store or neighborhood establishment not known for semen on the carpet, the dirtiest they can sell is “softcore.” I.e. No visible penetration.

But back to West Coast Video.

Since they were a brand new franchise, they had to buy a huge number of movies all at once. Existing video stores would buy the 5 or so new movies that came out on video each week to keep the selection fresh. And if they carried adult, they needed to add a few new adult titles as well.

“Netflix and Chill” used to be “Walk the aisles of Blockbuster for an hour until we find something we both want to watch.” And without a constant flow of new movies, a couple could spend all night looking for a selection. Same goes with a single person looking for porn. (Although considering how hard it was to get porn back then?—?just to looking at adult boxcovers could be quite thrilling?—?thus the need for the security camera.)

I should mention that one of the awesome perks of this job was that we were aloud to bring home up to 3 movies a night. We were encouraged to be familiar with the inventory so we could make recommendations and sound knowledgeable. (This was before “Clerks” came out. They may have changed the policy once they realized the downside of smartass employees.)

This take home policy also applied to the adult section.

Let me be clear about this: I was allowed to rent 3 porn movies, for free, every night.

Again, I fear that the spoiled porn-on-demand generation of today will not grasp the magnitude of this gift. I was 18 years old and given a magic key to the porn kingdom. This would be akin to turning 21 and being given a brewery for your birthday.

But the dream quickly turned dark.

As we set up the store pre-opening, I noticed something odd about the adult cassettes. I was no connoisseur, but I had not heard of any of the films or the stars in them. No matter, I was 18 years old and 3 movies worth of naked ladies was a treasure by any measure.

Or so I thought.

Maybe my selections the first night were a fluke, I hoped. But after the second night?—?and then the third?—?my fears were confirmed. These movies were OLD.

In my bosses’ attempt to quickly fill up their adult section, they had bought a huge lot of used porn movies from some peep show booth that went out of business. And after spending several hours fast forwarding through movies(hey, I wasn’t gonna give up right away!) I could see why.

In the 80’s, porn became fashionable. You started to see actors and actresses who could pass as models. But 70’s porn stars looked more like Tupperware potluck hosts gone bad. Grooming standards were, um, different. And the whole look and feel of that era’s smut was gross. (Note: There were are some high budget exceptions in the 70’s. But West Coast Video did not stock them.)You could argue that vintage porn is a niche and lots of people love it. So are bukkake and feet videos. Those don’t do it for me, either.

I doubt I can adequately express my disappointment.

It wasn’t just that the movies were gross.

It was that the potential of the gift was so massive.

It was kinda like the scene in “Into The Wild” when he finally hunts an animal so he’ll have food to survive.
But then the meat gets infested with maggots and becomes inedible. And he dies.

It was like that.

So next time you have 6 browser tabs all streaming different porn scenes to tickle your fetishes, or you are walking around your apartment naked with your VR porn goggles on…think about us poor souls in the 80’s.

Think about the trials we pioneers had to endure, and keep the memories alive of a simpler, and much hairier time.

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