Nu Haven: the wild world of porn

Many people of various complex backgrounds, my complex self included, have unresolvable issues with pornography — but sex is funny, right? I can laugh. So for shits and giggles, I trekked to Nu Haven Book and Video with an entourage of girlfriends and a mission: to discover the wild world of porn, Nu Haven style. (We would have brought some guys, but they were all busy playing video games. And who wants to go to a porn store with someone who, as my Grandmom says, might “get ideas”? Girlfriends it was.) But was I prepared for the world of local porn? Had I done my porn/sex shop homework?

Though no connoisseur du porn, I’m no stranger to the glory of the porn/sex shop. I was among what must have been millions of 12- to 15-year-old kids on South Street in Philly who, trembling with stifled giggles, perused the infamous sex shops (in the world of middle school, anyway) while picking pizza out of my braces and trying to ditch my little brother. It looked like some sort of trendy home decor place, but once you stepped inside you realized those huge phallus-shaped objects actually were phalli. And sure, you can blame the locale for its bad taste, but sex is universal, right? Perhaps an even greater mystic truth: bad sex is universal, right? In my humble opinion, Pennsylvania knows its stuff, even if we do have bad taste. In part of the wonderland of suburbia overtaking Hickville, there stands an epithet to the glory of old-school porn, minus the sophistication of the city. That’s right: you’ve got Pappy’s Broasted Chicken, right next door to ye old Adult Video. Don’t mess with the best.

My collective sex/porn shop experience had taught me that there are toys for men, and there are toys for women. There are toys for both men and women, men and men, women and women, women and women and men. There are toys for people who don’t classify themselves as either men or women. There are toys for everyone. So I had no fear going to Nu Haven Book and Video. It was going to be a great afternoon with the girls. At the very worst, we wouldn’t find any good toys. I had been warned that the selection consisted mainly of videos. So I wouldn’t be beaten over the head with a huge sculpture of a penis, like in “A Clockwork Orange.” I could deal with that.

We walked through the glamorous door. The place is pretty seedy. Surprise. Although, I have to say, the music selection at Nu Haven was quite surprising. For anyone who has seen “She’s All That,” Nu Haven provides a reminiscent soundtrack for your shopping experience. It wasn’t even “Kiss Me” — it was that sappy song that’s playing while what’s-her-name walks around the lighted pool area moping while Freddie Prinze Jr. is frantically looking for her because she left the prom. Maybe none of you remember this scene or the poignant music, but, having moped during plenty of crappy proms, this scene was etched forever upon my weeping heart.

So I felt welcomed into Nu Haven by the teeny-bopper music. The gratuitous sight of lots of condoms, in lots of flavors, was also welcoming. How thoughtful. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather suck on something that tastes like strawberries. Anyway. And then, of course, naked women — everywhere. Calm down — obviously I’m talking two-dimensional. I felt a little like Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles” when she gives her underwear to Anthony Michael Hall and he charges a fee for the boys in the boys bathroom to get a good look at it. Granted, I hadn’t given my underwear to anyone, but all those women had. I felt like I had gone commando just through the general association of being female.

The clerks at Nu Haven milled about, aloof and restless. We were not exactly a troupe of hot sex fiends with an exhibitionist flair for feigned homoeroticism looking to brighten up their afternoon, but they found us minimally interesting for a few minutes, and then they left us alone. We were busy; we had spotted the huge “rooster.” Good God! Its veins were huge. Like seismic rifts caused by plate tectonics or maybe just an unfortunate genetic tendency towards the varicose, that thing looked like an earthquake I would not want to experience. Right next to it was a pink 12-inch dildo — because there’s definitely twelve inches of space for it, right next to all the other stuff that just happened to fall in. In case 12 inches isn’t enough to impale you, there are, of course, penis-enlarger pumps for the men who need a little help rising to the occasion. Then we saw the oral/anal/vaginal simulators, technology so good you won’t have to engage in social interaction ever again. Ever. And at the very far end, something called the Triple Butt Plug, which looks like a malformed rubber Cornish hen and is about the same size as one. How do they run pre-market trials on these products?

None of this was very stimulating. We turned around to peruse the videos. By the time I got to “Soft, sexy and warm, but they ain’t no ladies,” I had begun to miss the erotic blow-up talking sheep. The worst was the section devoted to pregnant women; apparently, this is a fetish. The highlight of the entire selection was, for me, “The Last Blonde.” Apparently its makers have never been to Quinnipiac.

I had lots of questions to ask the employees, seeing as I was on a mission for the Yale Daily News Magazine. So how many Yale students frequent your store? Are your customers mainly men, or women, or an equal mix of both? What got you interested in the pornography business? Was this a lifelong ambition or something you just fell into? Are you familiar with most of your merchandise? Can you make any recommendations? What do you do all day while you’re working here? Do you know any porn stars? Do you host book-signings? But I was too busy laughing at their bread and butter. I think the men were a little offended, at first anyway, because here were a bunch of laughing girls — they probably wouldn’t consider us young women, seeing as we didn’t have kids attached to our hips — who not only attend college, but a snotty one. It’s bad enough to have women laugh at something that you or someone you love jerks off to, even worse for them to refer to it as “Freudian.” It was when I heard the manager tell one of the employees, in a very strained tone of voice, “We’re open-minded here,” that I got a little scared. No time for questions, girls, let’s get the hell out of here before Mr. Open-Minded Manager kicks us out for laughing at what men pay women to do on videotape.

We left the shop a bit down. Our girls’ afternoon out had made us feel a little guilty for laughing so hard; those poor guys who work there! But wait a minute. They work in a porn shop by choice — surely there are other kinds of shops that pay just as well. Granted their year-end bonuses probably include some nice “benefits.” Who knows, maybe they get great deals on pink “roosters.” We didn’t feel that guilty any more, but I’m still afraid to go back there. Who knows, Mr. Open-Minded might not have his “She’s All That” soundtrack on to keep calm.

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