At Blue Door Video, literary discussions over coffee and crackers were replaced by carnal discourses over panties and poppers

Blue Door Video is like East Village’s own Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory—I’ve never seen anyone come in or out. Despite its name, its door isn’t even blue. I walk past it nearly every day, catching glimpses of the mannequins idling in the window displays, dressed in perforated outfits, designed to expose rather than conceal. The shop maintained its quiet elusivity until Sunday night, when a line of giddy downtowners stretched far down First Avenue in anticipation of the commencement of the Perverted Book Club, a series by Matt Starr and Zack Roif of Dream Baby Press.

Upon entering the venue, it became abundantly clear that it was not, in fact, a chocolate factory. (Food probably shouldn’t be consumed in a place like this). Above the crowd, glowing signs read things like “LATEX,” “LEATHER,” “BEVERLY HILLS NAUGHTY GIRL,” “EXOTIC OILS,” and—dirtiest of all—“SHOES.” Down below, plastic rhinestone jewelry and Ring Pops were scattered atop glass displays of high-end dildos and bongs, and a constellation of cock rings and costumes hung from a nearby wall.

The lighting was uncompromising and expository. I expected an event with such a name to be darker, perhaps candle lit. Instead, it was the opposite—white, hot fluorescent lights beamed down on everyone in attendance, shamelessly exposing our newfound affiliation.

What began as a cold night, quickly began to thaw as the small army of horny New Yorkers packed into the sex shop like sardines. The salacious readings to come brought the room to its boiling point. One man actually fainted.

The material ran the gamut. No kinks were shamed. Readings ranged from erotic Harry Potter and Beatles fan fiction, to underground medieval gay erotica, to Amazon sex toy reviews, to Wikipedia paraphilias, to Anaïs Nin excerpts. The crowd of contemplative adults sucked furiously on their Ring Pops when the Medicare-for-all bill was read aloud.

Throngs of us sat on the black and white vinyl checkerboard floor—which the hosts assured us had just been cleaned—as we listened to a story about Paul McCartney dressed as Elvis, luring an unwitting John Lennon to bed. I learned that “chremastistophilia” is the atypical sexual interest of being robbed, and a “looner” is a person who has sex with inflatable pool toys—the more you know! We were all participants in a sort of adult show-and-tell.

Despite the explicit content and ineffable graphic images, there was something naive and nostalgic about the essence of the occasion. If the erotic content had been omitted, what remained would be a group of strangers sitting on the floor of a fluorescently lit room, listening to stories and information that may be foreign to us—drenched in all sorts of exciting taboos and myths. It was just a space to experience what’s not experienced, to indulge in perverse unrealities. And though it was deemed as a “book club,” that classification couldn’t have been further from the nature of the event.

Fantasies and fetishes are usually a private indulgence. Not something to be shared, nor discussed in public. Perverted Book Club is co-opting the structure of what’s traditionally been a stuffy affair. What were once literary discussions over coffee and crackers, are now replaced by carnal discourse over a PA with poppers.