Every time I write one of these Hinky Chicago books, I wonder if I have anything new to say about sex. Jewel is a busy girl, and Randy has a lot of imagination, and Clay is always standing by in case Randy drops the ball.
The Hinky Bearskin Rug is one of those books that sells itself to the publisher if you focus on the adult entertainment aspects. In fact a good chunk of the story is set in an adult printing company building, including a sex-fantasy film shoot (in Randy’s demonspace) and plenty of random still shots. And I was fortunate to get a phone interview with an eighties adult film star, now producer Candida Royalle (NSFW) as part of my research.
What I learned from her helped inform much of the serious subtext of the book—a long way from thongs and high heels.
I wanted to draw comparisons between workers in the adult film industry and pink collar workers—iffy working conditions, low pay rates, and double standards everywhere: Act virginal but appear available, torque yourself into a pretzel until you appear weak and submissive, work hard but never appear flustered. And remember, if a man whangs up a boner, shame on you, because it’s all your fault. In the 80s and 90s when I worked in major corporate offices, the world of Mad Men wasn’t far away. Blaming the woman was rule number one.
Shame isn’t exclusive to women. David Henry Sterry in Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, a memoir of his work as a male prostitute, speaks movingly about how shame operated in his sense of self, his social group, and the industry at large. I found material there to help with Randy’s journey through this story.
In a few lines of The Hinky Bearskin Rug, Randy, who was forced into sex demon service for two centuries, explains his philosophy about shame:
“If she only knew that she is whole! She’s always been whole. She was involuntarily despoiled in some way. But the despoiler can take from her only what she believes he can take. She is still whole.”
“But she isn’t a virgin,” Lena said.
“No. She is. She thinks she is no longer a virgin Everyone is still a virgin. What is a virgin? Clean, whole, honest, pure. When is a virgin despoiled? When she feels dirty, broken, dishonest, as if evil has been stirred into her insides.”
Randy says that shame is a garment society forces us to wear. We’re told, “Your virginity is a thing.” We’re told that you can give it away, lose it, sell it, be robbed of it—it can be stolen, sold, damaged, broken, spoiled.
This is a lie. But once we are ashamed, we feel naked. And society says, “Here, wear this, and never take it off, because you are broken, and no one must know that.”
Ironically, shame is visible. The heavier the garment, the more obvious it is that you believe you are no longer a virgin.
But you are a virgin.
Under all those words, you’re still a virgin.
This book gave me a chance to work with that. And it surprised me, because I found more to say about sex.
Give it a look here.