I’ve already written about how the men who patronized Club Paradox tended towards exhibitionism, but none wanted to be watched more than the man we called ‘The Masturbator.” Almost all the men jerked off as they watched us–that was, as I understand it, the main appeal of the private booth setup of the club–but none did so with such a bizarre mixture of shame and enthusiasm as the Masturbator.

The Masturbator was a very large very well-dressed man of late middle years who bore a distinct resemblance to Fatty Arbuckle and made an appearance at the peep show every one to two weeks. He almost always visited on Wednesdays and usually showed up between the hours of ten and eleven at night. Part of the regularity of his routine seemed to stem from his infatuation with Patty, our beloved front desk worker, house mom, and manager. There were other front desk workers, such as the woman who hired me, but they changed regularly, and none of them were as dear to our hearts as Patty. But we weren’t the only ones who loved her.

Despite the fact that she was much older and much more clothed than any of us, customers were constantly trying to wheedle her into getting into one of the booths and giving them a show, but none were as persistent as the Masturbator. Every time he visited, he would spend at least half an hour trying to talk Patty into a show, waving money in her face, telling her all about his jerk-off routine, and asking her lots of presumptuous questions about her self-love habits. Every time the Masturbator visited, Patty would tell him that she didn’t dance, that no amount of money could convince her to dance, and that what she did when she was alone was none of anyone’s business. When he finally gave up he would select one of the girls from the slideshow picture frames that were displayed in the lobby, purchase time in the ‘windowless’ room, and the fun would start.

The windowless room wasn’t really windowless. From what I heard from old-timers like Crystal, it was once a shower room where men could pay to watch girls shower both by themselves and with each other. Some time before I came to Paradox, however, the police department had shut the club down when it was discovered that a whole lot more was going on in the shower room than just mutual exhibitionism. When the club reopened, the owner had removed the shower head and installed a pane of Plexiglas about two-thirds of the way up the front of the booth, adding a thick metal bar that bisected the open space and prevented girls from climbing over the glass to service customers. The nice thing about the windowless room was that it was possible for us to talk to clients without wearing out our vocal chords by screaming, but the not-nice thing about the windowless room was that it was possible for clients to talk to us.

The Masturbator loved the windowless room, partly because he could talk to us and we could talk to him, partly because the open space above the glass made it possible for him to squirt baby oil on the girl of his choosing. Boy, did he love baby oil. Perhaps what attracted him to the windowless room in the first place was it being sold as a “hot oil show.” There was no hot oil, but there was a small shelf full of room-temperature baby oil and various other lubricants we could offer to customers or rub on ourselves.

The Masturbator was too good for the lubricants provided by the club, however. He brought his own baby oil. It was, he said, “Very expensive.” It came in a bottle that looked like an alien’s dildo, but it smelled and felt exactly like regular old Johnson & Johnson’s baby oil. It was, he told me, “the best oil to masturbate with.” And he loved that word, masturbate. He never used euphemisms or slang; he never even stooped to the phrase ‘jerk off.’ No, it was always masturbate. None of us were quite sure why he insisted on such a clinical, cold, unsexy term, but I suppose sexiness is very relative, and the word was sexy to him.

The routine was always the same” the music would start, I’d go into the booth, Patty would turn on the lights and the Masturbator would hand me $200, take off his suit jacket, pants (often his shirt, too) and pull out his cock. I’d start swaying and he’d start squirting baby oil. The first time, the sudden baby oil deluge took me by surprise. The other girls had told me he emptied a whole bottle every time he came and I’d helped to spray my co-workers with Windex in an effort to remove the worst of the grease, but I assumed he would ask before he started squirting. I learned right away why all the other girls stripped before they even got into the booth, leaving their clothes in a neat, lacy pile in front of the curtain separating the dancer box of the windowless room from the office.

“Do you like to masturbate?” the Masturbator would ask. When you gave the expected, “Yes” he would then ask how often you did so. The first time I told him “Once a day,” expecting this exaggeration would be sufficient.

“Just once a day?!” he asked with genuine incredulity, “Don’t be shy, you can tell me. I love to masturbate! I can tell you do, too!”

“Okay,” I said, “it’s true, I usually masturbate at least twice a day. More if I have time and privacy enough.”

“Privacy?” he asked, “I bet you’d masturbate in public! I’d masturbate in public, but I’d get arrested. I’m a masturbator! I love to masturbate so much!”

“Um, sure,” I said, beginning to get the hang of this, “I’d totally masturbate in public. You know what? You can’t tell anyone, but I totally DO masturbate in public! Pelvic floor muscles and stuff! I masturbate in public ALL THE TIME!”

“I bet you do! You’re a dirty masturbator just like me! Aren’t you a dirty masturbator?”

“Absolutely,” I answered, “I’m like, the dirtiest masturbator this world has ever seen!”

The conversation was getting ridiculous at this point, and I could hear Patty stifling laughter in the office behind the curtain. Here I was, totally naked, covered in enough grease for a basting chicken, in a little glass-fronted box, watching a nearly naked stranger jerk off.

There are moments in all the jobs I’ve held in the sex industry when I can hardly believe that whatever I’m doing is something that is happening to me, that not only is it really occurring, but that it is indeed my professional occupation. It’s hard not to laugh at these moments, but no matter how natural laughter feels it’s almost never an appropriate reaction. Whenever I saw the Masturbator I found myself actively fighting the impulse to collapse to the ground and laugh my head off throughout the entire twenty minutes of the show. Luckily, after about the first five minutes, my laughter was easy to disguise.

“Let me see you masturbate!” the Masturbator would exclaim, “We’ll masturbate together! We’re both dirty masturbators!”

This was a common request in both the VIP and windowless booths. I rarely ever indulged it–unless there was a lot of money involved–but $200 is a lot of money for twenty minutes of work. I pulled the barstool that sat in the corner of the windowless box into the middle of the floor, sat down, and hooked my heels into the bar that bisected the open space between the glass and the ceiling. Then I folded two fingers in half and proceeded to pretend to finger myself… and try my best to keep the baby oil away from my ladyparts.

“Are you masturbating?” The Masturbator asked

“Yes!” I fake-moaned, “I’m masturbating! We’re masturbating together! We are dirty masturbators!”

I went on and on, trying to use the word ‘masturbate’ or ‘masturbators’ at least once per sentence and substituting screams for words when I came too close to laughing. The masturbator was clearly loving this, his strokes got faster and soon–rather than telling me that he was masturbating or that he was a dirty masturbator–he just chanted the word over and over, getting faster as he reached his orgasm, “masturbate, masturbate, masturbate, masturbate, masturbatemasturbatemasturbate…”

It sounded as if it was less a command or a description than it was an incantation, some sort of mystical spell designed to conjure up an orgasm. When he was done, the Masturbator would always smile up at me, “Wasn’t that great, how we masturbated together?” and, still trying to suppress my laughter, I’d tell him that yes, yes it was indeed great. I’d count my money, wipe off a greasy hand, collect my clothes, and hustle back to the dressing room, Windex in hand, to try to clean up. I would shower twice a day for two days afterwards, and even then I could never get rid of all the grease right away.

As time went on, things with the Masturbator escalated. When he finally resigned himself to the fact that Patty would absolutely never appear on the other side of the glass, he began to beg her to come out of the office and open the door to the booth, “surprising” him in the act of jerking off. When she made the mistake of asking why he would ever want her to do such a thing, he told her about how, when he was a little boy, his mother had discovered him masturbating. He had, he said, been both mortified and excited, and he seemingly never quite got past this. Because the Masturbator was a bit of a Club Paradox celebrity, she recounted the story to us. It was a shame that this was 2010, rather than 1910, because Freud would have had a field day with this.

We, the naked ladies of Club Paradox, began to speculate about the baby oil. Did the Masturbator, like some comic book villain, perhaps fall into a vat of the stuff during a youthful jerk-off session? Did he grow up in a Johnson & Johnson’s factory, or near one? Perhaps his love of baby oil was related to his obesity, perhaps he drank the stuff and squirting us with it was his way of mixing two carnal pleasures? Would he, if given to opportunity, douse us in bacon fat instead of baby oil?

We never learned the secrets of the Masturbator, as Club Paradox closed its doors for good only a few months after I started working there. For nearly a year afterward, the few of us who kept in touch would text each other with just the word ‘masturbate’ in order to get a cheap giggle and start a conversation. I wonder sometimes, if this man ever had the faintest idea of what a legend he became among us or if he were to learn the extent of it, what he would think. I guess none of us will ever really know any more than the fact that there is a man wandering the streets of Chicago, a well-dressed man who looks like a wrongfully disgraced comedian from the silent era, who has a secret fascination with baby oil and clinical descriptions of sexual acts. The Masturbator will always remain a mystery.

Cathryn Berarovich is something of a renaissance sex worker; she’s currently employed as a stripper (and writer) but has held numerous interesting jobs in the industry. Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry.