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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Porn-O: a Sea Story

Back at the turn of the Millenium when I began my naval career I was assigned to an old Spruance-class destroyer in the 7th Fleet. It was a good, old ship with a strong, tight crew and things mostly went pretty smoothly.  But that was about to change.

I don't want to embarrass anyone in particular, so I'll call him "Captain Deed."

Captain Deed started his tour as our commanding officer as a relatively jovial guy who was clearly very excited about his shiny new assignment and optimistic about making his ship the best ship in the Navy.  He was a welcome relief after the previous skipper who was a whole different story.

Then one day we were copied on a set of personnel orders in our incoming messages.  A new Ensign was coming to us from the US Naval Academy and she would be arriving within about six months.


For most of us this was no big deal.  Women had been in the Navy since long before I was born, serving on ships since before I could read and by 1998, Commander Maureen Farren had already become the first female commanding officer of a combatant vessel (the USS Mount Vernon, an amphibious assault ship).  So we'd have our first female shipmate on board.  Then probably start getting a bunch more of them.  Cool.

Captain Deed was not cool with it.  Apparently he was one of the increasingly rare naval officers who had never in his career served aboard a ship with a woman.  He had specifically aimed for command of an all male ship for fear of having to deal with girl problems.  He was unhappy.

The first thing he did was call the Bureau of Personnel to tell them they'd made a mistake.  "No Captain," says them, "you've made a mistake by calling us about this.  Your ship is being integrated.  There's nothing you can do about it.  It's time for you to catch up with the times."

This was not well received.

Having come up in the time of the Tailhook scandal and all manner of other nightmares, he was convinced that having a woman on his ship was going to end up getting him ensnared in some horrific sexual harassment crisis and end his career and ruin everyone else right along with him.  So he started having us all sit through sensitivity training and sexual harassment prevention training and so forth.

He also started conducting personal inspections of every single space on the ship to ensure we didn't have anything offensive visibly displayed that would trigger his ultimate downfall as soon as some girl saw it.  This sounds reasonable in theory, but it was insanely aggressive in execution.  So a month ago he would've walked by an explicit photo of a nude woman displayed on a bulkhead in one of the engineering workspaces and shrugged, but this week if someone had a copy of the Navy Times sitting on a desk showing a picture of a female sailor in uniform, he'd haul everyone in that crewman's chain of command into the space and yell at them about how this sort of material is unacceptable and we'll all burn for it if we have these sorts of things out where "she" can see them.

It was a little sad, but also really frustrating.

So one Friday evening in the midst of all of this, I met up for drinks at the officer's club with some of the other division officers.  One had brought his wife.  Her name was Sarah.  As would often happen when a bunch of us were decompressing at the end of another unpleasant week, we were talking about work.  This week that meant complaining about the Great Smut Crusade that had the Captain rampaging around the ship and screaming at people in nearly every workstation.

"I hadn't really thought about it," remarked Sarah, "but with 350 guys on the ship, there must be an awful lot of pornography stashed away."

"Sure," says I, "when Navy ships are designed, regulations require naval architects to allow for 1.2 long tons of porn per 100 sailors."

It was a joke, and the discussion got funnier from there.  As we continued to drink and joke about the porn on the ship, the joke took on a life of its own.  If you took the jokes to be true, the single largest space inside the ship is actually the porn library.  Everything is organized by Dewey Decimal System and being an older ship we have a card catalog to keep track of it all, but newer ships maintain a database for ease of browsing.

The comedy continued and one of the ship's junior officers is responsible for maintaining and cataloguing all of it.  The Pornography Officer, or "Porn-O" for short, was responsible for ensuring that items borrowed from the library were returned in a timely manner, properly sanitized, and re-filed for easy access.  Then there was discussion about what percentage of the ship's annual operating budget was allocated to replacing worn items and updating the library.

We had a lot of fun with it. Then went on to enjoy our weekend.

Fast forward to Monday morning.  This was back in my professional drinking days, so I was sitting in the Wardroom having breakfast and feeding a third cup of coffee to my mild hangover when Captain Deed walked in.

Usually we never saw him at breakfast when the ship was in port.  The only time he'd make a morning appearance in the Wardroom was when he wanted to gently announce some kind of policy change to the junior officers.  It was weird to see him and it was never good news.  Still, he made a big show of pouring himself a cup of coffee and casual small talk with those of us that were sitting at the table.

"By the way," says he, to let us know the thing he's here to say is next, "I don't want to know any of the details, but whoever is responsible for the illicit pornography library on board needs to get it off the ship by the close of business today."

All of us who were at the bar on Friday knew exactly what he was talking about.  We also knew there was no such thing.  It was a joke and I'm sure Sarah repeated some of it to one of the other officers' wives because it was hilarious.  Then, over the weekend, it percolated through the other officers wives until it got back to the Captain's wife and lost the funny along the way.  So we knew what he was talking about.  So it was even funnier now.  At least it was to me.

"Captain," says I, "can I call away a 15-man working party to my stateroom this afternoon for porn offload?"


"Aye, sir."

Then he stormed out of the room and when the door closed, we exploded laughing.  That poor guy is so worried about the specter of incoming womanhood that our stupid joke on Friday has snowballed into a major crisis on Monday.

Half an hour later I was working on some admin chores in my stateroom when there was a knock at the door.  I opened it to find the ship's Supply Officer holding a stack of half a dozen VHS tapes.

"These were in my room when I reported aboard," says he, "I heard we were supposed to give them to you."

What. The. Fuck.

"Alright," says I, "I'll take care of these for you."

So I put them in a locker and went back to work.

Five minutes later there was another knock at the door, this time it was one of the enlisted guys from the engine room with a stack of thoroughly dog-eared magazines.

"The Chief said to give these to you, sir."


This continued all day.  By the time I was ready to go home, my little X-rated library had grown to several hundred magazines spanning at least three decades of porn history, a few dozen VHS tapes, and a couple of DVDs.  While I had no idea what to do with it, I certainly couldn't risk the possibility of it being found in my possession after this morning's talk.  It had to go.

I went down to the Supply Office and snagged the biggest cardboard box I could carry through the ship's narrow doorways.  Then I went back to my stateroom and filled it.  The pile of porn was so massive that I had to stick magazines in vertically around the edges to make higher walls to keep everything from spilling out.  It was all I could do to lift the thing and carry it by myself, but it was late and there wasn't much help around.

So I dragged the giant box with thirty years of orphaned lewdness down the length of officer's country, past the wardroom, and toward the quarterdeck so I could haul it down the gangway and off the ship.  Once I got to the door, I lifted the whole thing up and carefully started backing through the door.  Just as I stepped onto the quarterdeck, I heard the bells ringing on the 1MC (the ship's loudspeaker system) to announce the Captain was departing.

When I turned around, the man was standing there, looking directly at me.  Me holding a giant box carrying my own weight worth of weapons grade erotica.  For once, I was speechless.

"Is that all of it?" asked the Captain.

"I sure hope so, sir," says I.


"Sir," asked me, "I don't suppose there's any way to convince you that I actually didn't know this was all on board before this morning, is there?"

"Just get it gone."


So I took it all off of the ship right then and there.

Some of it was actually pretty good.