Spy-cams, reality-television, pay-per-view websites. It seems everyone wants to know what someone else is doing in private. But what if watching were your job? What if you were a government sex researcher who knew everyoneís secrets - everyoneís, but your own?
Walking alone late at night after running a safer-sex group in a New York STD clinic, young sex researcher Jason Green is mugged and has only one thing to defend himself - his hard penis. Itís not a real penis of course - itís a wooden condom demonstrator shaped like one. But once the newspapers get hold of the story and add a titillating headline, Jason is launched to sex research stardom and begins a whirlwind trip through New Yorkís Giuliani-era sexual underground to continue his work watching what others do in secrecy. He goes to sex clubs and bathhouses to spy on other men having sex, he pulls up dirty internet pictures for research meetings, and maps out cruising areas where men meet in the dark. And all on the federal payroll.
Jason certainly has no problem researching sex, but itís another story on the personal level. His seemingly clean separation between the personal and the professional disappears in an instant though. Through his research, he discovers that his boyfriend Mark is cheating on him and has become HIV+. He may be used to the sex secrets of total strangers, but Jason canít bring himself to understanding those of the man he loves. The two break up, but Jasonís late nights are filled with voyeuristic visions of other men having sex, reminding him of how much he misses Mark.
Jasonís psychologist co-workers arenít much help with advice, either. His best friend is a sexual compulsive who probably shouldnít be doing this type of research, his unhappily married supervisor often fantasizes sheís a gay man trapped in a womanís body, and the beautiful professor in charge of the whole project is hiding her past as a Pam Grier-like dominatrix, though it crops up in her unusual fascination with black leather Coach products.
It all comes together for Jason at the bookís climax when he tries to do work in one of the last pornography theatres in Times Square. Finding out that the theatre has been shut down by Giuliani's anti-sex administration, Jason is flooded with memories, from his Motherís childhood warning of the dangers of New York sex environments, to his clandestine teenage visits to gay porn theatres. Jason finally understands how the fears of sex his Mother instilled in him as a child and his furtive introduction to watching other men having sex in public played into his decision to build a career as a sex researcher. Armed with a better understanding of himself and his own sexual hang-ups, Jason decides to make amends with Mark, but the only question is, will Mark take him back?