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The first four camcorder tapes played scenes from a friend’s wedding, a panel from a comic book convention, and some old comedy shows. In short, nothing special.

There was one last tape to view before I could donate the old camcorder.

The tape had the handwriting of an old friend on it, to whom I lent the camera 12 years earlier. He must have given me the camera back with his tape in it. I popped it in and rewound to the beginning.

The start of the tape was a political rally. Nothing special. The middle section was a music concert. Again, nothing special. I fast forwarded to the end and hit play.

I was not prepared for what I saw next.

The tiny viewfinder of the camcorder was filled with a close up of a penis. My eyes widened. I couldn’t identify the penis by sight but definitely recognized my friend’s wife heading towards it, naked. I slammed the viewfinder shut. I looked to my left to see if my wife heard anything. She was dutifully organizing a craft box and was none the wiser to what I’d found.

I put the camcorder and tape back in their box and set it aside to think. I had found a sex tape.

You might expect the next paragraph to be about me questioning whether I would watch the sex tape. I’ll save you that moral dilemma. I was always going to watch the sex tape.

Here is why I had to watch it: They used MY borrowed camera and gave it back with the tape still IN the camera. It was possible they purposefully left it for me to watch. And if that was the case, it would be rude not to watch. I may have already offended them for the last 12 years of our friendship by not commenting on their sex tape.

The next day when I had a moment alone, I took out the camcorder. My reasoning was that if they did want me to see the video, they might reference me at the very beginning. I rewound to the start and hit play. There wasn’t much dialogue immediately. Then action escalated quickly. Then there was even less dialogue as one of the two had their mouth full.

There was no sign of me being referenced at the beginning. I hit fast forward. Now I was just doing a quick visual scan for any other signs pointing back to me in the video. As I watched, nothing jumped out visually except now the other person had their mouth full.

I had to make sure I wasn’t referenced anywhere in the video.  Still on fast forward, I powered through the video to the end, while on the viewfinder the couple powered through to the end. The screen went to blue and it was over. I had watched a sex tape.

That night I told my wife what I watched.

She emphatically said she did not want to watch it, but shared in my curiosity of the moral implications. Together we pondered:

Is it impolite to record a sex tape on a borrowed camera?
I didn’t specifically ask him to not record a sex tape with my camera, so really, that’s on me.

Does the fact that the tape is 12 years old make it more acceptable to watch than a current tape?
It’s a piece of history. A sociological snapshot of the year 2007. Watching it was more of an educational experience than anything else.

If my wife and I had made a tape and somebody found it, would we want it returned or destroyed?
For the record if you ever find a sex tape I made, you have permission to watch it. I don’t think such a tape exists but if you find one in your basement, have a watch! Don’t upload it to the internet or tweet me about it, but do indulge your curiosity.  I won’t be offended.

But to answer the question, I would want it returned so I could step back into my younger life for a brief moment.

Christina said, “Then you know what you have to do. You have to return the tape.” I knew she was right but this opened up a whole new round of questions.

Do I need to deliver the tape in person?
The majority of my communications with this friend over the last 12 years had been electronic. It would be a little weird to call and say, “I need to meet in person right away. I watched you have sex on tape.”

Can I drop the tape off on their front porch and not say anything?
This is risky. They’ll probably figure out I had it. Maybe even think I’ve been watching it for 12 years.

Can I drop the tape off with a note that leaves it open to interpretation as to whether I watched the tape?
This is risky too. They might not remember what’s on the tape and sit down to watch it with their kids. If I drop it off, I have to let them know what is on the last 7 minutes of the tape.

Do I owe it to them to overtly let them know I watched it? Would it offend them?
I decided the best path was to put the camcorder and tape in a sealed box on their front porch.

Inside the box I left a note that said:

Hi [Name redacted] and [Name redacted]!

I found this old camcorder in my basement. Before donating it, I wanted to make sure nothing important was on the tapes. One tape was yours with some “sensitive” material. I thought you would want it returned.


Greg Tindale

The next night I got a message on Facebook.

“Ha ha!!! Thanks for the blast from the past. Everyone needs the unearthed sex tape in their lives!! LOL I hope you enjoyed watching it! Holy Jesus on a popsicle stick!!! I am still laughing. Guess I won’t be running for City Council now LOL.”

I replied, “Haha! Sex tapes get you more votes these days. I say make it part of your platform!”

He continued, “Well this has certainly made our day more exciting! I think we are going to make another sex tape tonight!!! LOL we’ll leave a copy on your porch with a note ‘more sensitive material.’”

I replied, “Well the camcorder is yours now so you’re free to make any kind of movie you want.”

He continued, “I think it’s awesome! [Name redacted] was watching it and was like—damn I looked good. LOL”

I replied, “Yeah man. I wish I had made a tape back then when I was in shape.”

He concluded, “There is still time Greg. Hit the gym and start making some sex tapes!”

The moral of the story?

Trust your instincts. Watch then return sex tapes. Now excuse me while I hit the gym. I have a movie to prepare for.

Cal James

Cal James is an author, improviser, filmmaker, and entrepreneur. His memoir, “I Guarantee You Love, Fame and Legacy” follows his journey through self-realization as a comedian.

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