"Dirty" is in the eye of the beholder. When I entered the X-Mart Adult Supercenter in Clarksville — just off Interstate 40 where it meets state Highway 103 — on a weekday, the beige floor tile gleamed. The windowless sales floor had been shined and bright lighting revealed neatly organized inventory. A subdued house music track from Sofi Tukker emanated from the speakers. In fact, if it weren't for the warnings on the door — "If adult-oriented material offends you, please do not enter" — and the immediate request for my I.D. upon entry, X-Mart could just as well have been peddling swimming pool equipment.
"This is just like any other corporate job," the manager — who would not give his name — said. "Paperwork. Set rules that you follow. The only thing different is the material that we sell." He's amiable and earnest, a difficult dude to imagine as the reviled subject of a sermon from the Baptist church down the street.
"The community that we're in is a strong Christian community. With that said, there are a lot of people who are pretty vocal. Videos that we have of intercourse, they consider that cheating or against religion in some way." Because of the material, X-Mart has had to navigate its business partnerships in town carefully; when you're peddling porn in the Bible Belt, it doesn't take long for word to get around about which bank is hanging on to your money, or which hardware store might replace one of your light bulbs when one goes out.
Nevertheless, "the material" is what makes this place run. It's the reason there are three cars in the parking lot at 10:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning, and it ranges from the decidedly pornographic to the barely risque. Along one wall are "play kits" for couples with massagers, lubricants and something called a "tongue flicker." There's a select assortment of lingerie and costumes: a Roman Goddess, one called "The Count," a tank top that says, "Your wish is about to come true." There are mile-high stilettos, glass pipes, body jewelry, heart-shaped bath bombs, a poster of Wiz Khalifa, a couple dozen varieties of kegel trainers (Google it) and tin signs that read "Happiness is having a large, loving and caring family — in another city!" There are the latest and greatest innovations in vibrator technology: A brand called "Ovo" is the Cadillac of the vibe world these days, but there's also a "ravishing rabbit," a "rotating rabbit" and all manner of other articulated fancy ticklers. There are, of course, shelves and shelves of DVDs — no doubt the source of most of the antipathy directed at the shop by Clarksville's more conservative contingency — and all the makings of a raucous bachelor or bachelorette party: "Dickdar: The Talking Penis Size Detector," a breast-shaped frisbee called the Boobie Flyer disc, tiny penis keychains in a variety of colors, "Pecker Party" cake pans and board games with titles like "The Love or Lust Game."
The manager politely declined my questions about which category of "novelty" they sold the most of, or what demographic visited the store most often, gently responding with a "That'd be one of the questions I'm probably not gonna be able to answer." A knock came on the door, and he stepped out to handle a question from a customer, just as gently. A return, maybe?
"No returns," he said.
I asked him if this job is boring. For the first time since we've been talking, his eyes lit up. "It is!" he exclaimed.
The Clarksville location of the X-Mart Adult Supercenter chain is open 8 a.m. until midnight daily, and its sister location in Fort Smith at 3800 Century Drive is open 11 a.m. until 5 a.m. daily.