On a recent Friday night a line of people were braving the rat-drowning downpour outside the Coolidge Corner Theatre to see the amateur porn medley You Oughta Be in Pictures. But they weren’t the sort of pervy, long-lost penny-arcade refugees you might expect to find at an XXX-on-celluloid series. No, the umbrella-toting throng were part of another demimonde, that of flask-concealing kids in mangy hoodies, college-hockey jackets, and T-shirts with video-game logos.
“Maybe I’ll know somebody up there,” a kid in a red sweatshirt said in a loud whisper to his rain-splotched buddy, spilling popcorn on the floor and smirking as he picked out seats. “That would be hot.”
Maybe so. But that’s not what’s here. As the lights went down, mysterious fluids began squirting on-screen. Middle-aged men cavorted in thongs, paid tribute to bulges, and danced to Aaron Copeland. With the exception of one gangsta-styled submission in which attractive, young naked women made out on a motorcycle, the median age of the people on the screen appeared to be 45. MILFs might be a guilty pleasure in pop-culture, but this wasn’t any 12-year-old’s wet dream. Near the end of the film, when a saggy-skinned, frizzy-gray-haired happy-go-lucky woman straddled a horse with her breasts exposed, someone cried out, “Noooooooh, Grandma!”
Why don’t younger people generally submit footage to the series? “The older you are, the more comfortable you are with your body?” guesses sex maven Kim Airs, who started the annual series You Oughta Be in Pictures seven years ago.
So what, exactly, is going on in the house/apartment/dorm room next door circa 2006? It’s probably no big shocker for a generation that came of age during Lewinskygate that oral sex is the new second base. “It used to be that you had to be in a serious relationship to get it — and you had to ask for it,” recalls one 28-year-old male living near Inman Square who recently emerged from the second of two consecutive long-term relationships wide-eyed and blinking. “Now you just get it. Sometimes, I’ve been fooling around with a girl and the situation has just gone there when I wasn’t expecting it.” He adds, “I’ve actually had to stop it.”
It’s also not surprising that given such cultural references as The L Word and a 2003 New York magazine–anointed term “hasbians” (“women who came out of the closet only to end up in heterosexual relationships”), sexual orientation among straight-leaning younger women has become increasingly fluid. Girls who sleep with boys don’t limit themselves to terms such as “straight,” “bi,” or “lesbians until graduation” anymore. There’s also the increasingly porous distinction of “mostly” (“mostly straight”), a modifier loaded with possibility.
Even a well-heeled female friend who has long been a good litmus test for gauging those moments when trends merge with the mainstream announced recently over beers, “Did I tell you? I finally made out with a girl!” This is someone in her late 20s who has had fewer than five male partners and now lives with a long-time boyfriend who’s a lawyer. She was talking about kissing a girl as if it were a rite of passage among the sort of people who use the word “edgy” to describe tattoos. And so how did it feel to swap spit with a lady? She frowned. “It was sort of gross.”
Girls making out with each other “is obviously a social phenomenon now,” says Mary (not her real name), a “mostly straight” 25-year-old who has on separate occasions invited a female friend and a gay-male acquaintance to mess around with her and her boyfriend of nearly five years. Mary’s boyfriend, Jonathan, “has less experience with dudes than I have with girls.” Even so, Mary says, “my whole hardcore sexual experience with girls is limited — like, really limited.” She acknowledges that Jonathan is among the minority of men willing to admit to messing around with another guy. “Girls are way more comfortable with it than guys,” she says.
The sexual orientation of straight-leaning males doesn’t seem to be quite as openly mutable as it is among younger women (no matter how many dudes saw Brokeback Mountain). Certainly a lot of people have witnessed super-drunk “straight” dudes sloppily kissing in the corner at parties, but those same guys don’t usually run around calling themselves “mostly straight”: they talk as though they’re loyal to one team or the other. Poke around Boston’s Craig’s List, and you’ll find plenty of men who are “st8” but “curious,” looking to meet other men discreetly. All of which increases the quiet mystery surrounding the “bro job,” a term defined in the Urban Dictionary as “oral sex between two allegedly heterosexual male friends, particular [sic] when said friends are wasted.” (Usage example conveniently provided by someone from Cambridge, using the pseudonym Freddie Cougar: “So are you, like, gay now that Ernie sucked your wang?” “No! It was totally just a bro job. I loves the ladies.”) Tales of the bro job have been whispered around these parts for months, although “straight” men willing to own up to giving or getting one have been elusive.