Along with turnips and paper towels, many women have added a new item to the week's grocery list: a hard-core pornographic movie tape ready to pop into the videocassette recorder at home.
The woman next door, even in the most upscale neighborhoods, may well be taking in some of the below-the-belt cinema that used to be confined to theaters in seedy parts of town.
"It's the privacy that makes it fun," said a 50-year-old Fair Oaks teacher who picks up an X-rated movie every few weeks to watch at home with her husband.
About 15 years ago, she went to an X-rated movie theater with her husband. But she felt more self-conscious than sexy.
"I thought somebody would see me who would recognize me," she said.
Ears to Red
She said the only time her ears turn red in embarrassment is when she picks up tapes at the local video shop.
More and more businesswomen, housewives, moms and grandmothers are renting adult movies.
"Sometimes the women who rent them have a little kid in hand," said John Zimmerman, owner of the Video Movie Center in Rancho Cordova. "They'll pick up 'Pinocchio' for the kid and an adult movie for themselves.
"They aren't just young women either," he said. "I have a pair of ladies in their 60s or 70s, who come in together every week. And they'll whisper together and choose an adult film. They look like your grandmother."
At Tower Video on Broadway, 30% to 40% of the renters of adult movies are women, according to manager Jerry D. Pompei. Most appear to be between 25 and 50 years old, he said.
Third of Customers Are Women
Luce Barney, who owns Carmichael Video with his wife Patti, also said about a third of his customers are women.
"A lot of them would never go to a theater. They wouldn't want to be seen going in," Barney said. "A doctor's wife came in a few weeks ago and rented one for her friend's 50th birthday party."
At Clas Video Enterprises, assistant manager Chris Perry said women make up about half the adult movie customers.
At 49er Video on Arden Way, women usually come in with boyfriends or husbands in the evening, according to sales clerk Matthew W. Mabry.
Women say the movies are sometimes erotic, sometimes laughable and often both.
"It always seems to be a pretty good aphrodisiac," said one 29-year-old woman. She rents an adult movie every few weeks to watch at home with her husband after their 2-year-old son has gone to bed.
Strictly for Laughs
But one woman's erotica is another woman's comedy. A single 28-year-old legislative consultant said she watches X-rated movies with other women friends strictly for laughs.
"It's fun to see them with a bunch of women, like at bachelorette parties," she said.
"One problem that is clear is that the movies are made by men. I think what men find appealing is not what women find appealing," she said. "There's no plot. There's no real buildup. There's no real romance."
The new female audience is changing what occurs on screen, according to Jeff Armstrong, a spokesman for the Mitchell Brothers Film Group, an adult movie maker in San Francisco.
Armstrong said new videos appeal to women by featuring more plot, more romance, couples who converse as well as get perverse, better looking men and more liberated female characters.
"The women even dominate, not in a sadomasochistic way, but they are willing, and they choose what happens in the new movies," he said.