My first encounter with sex surely occurred at a very young age. I can place early memories of HBO free preview weekend, courtesy of our satellite provider, during which a dramatization of Hugh Hefner’s life aired while my parents were away. Naturally, it watched like a soft core pornography: beautiful naked women, explicit sexual scenes, no penis shots.
In the small town where I spent my formative years, play time was spent at a friend’s house where both parents worked all day. I couldn’t have been much older than 10 when they revealed to me what their father had hidden in a folder on the family computer’s desktop labeled “Junk.” Wow, what a collection of smut for a couple of young boys. I recall the unexplainable feeling it engendered between my truly innocent loins. No doubt, I was too young for this, but curiosity kills cats—not boys, and I wasn’t harming anyone. Thus a fascination was born.
If my arithmetic serves me well, then it was two years of naughty photos before ever witnessing an honest pornographic movie. My friend had a brother, he was always two years older than us. On his 14th birthday, his father passed down the family heirloom of a set of VHS pornos. He assembled an eager bunch of boys to gather around the television for the premier. What we saw was a black man and a white woman having sex in a drab 80’s bedroom. This video struck me for a few reasons: first, I had never seen the real act of intercourse happen on video; I recall feelings of voyeuristic guilt for so casually spying on his penis entering her body. Second, the scene ends with the man ejaculating all over the woman, which was a completely new idea to this naive boy. Possessed with innocence, I noted the gift my friend’s brother received to my parents; I summarized what I had seen by saying roughly, “at the end, the black man peed on the white lady.” Oh what the world had in store for me!
I noticed throughout my preteen years that many adult men, including my father, had some interest in pornography. I knew of no such women. My uncle had been collecting Playboy magazine for a good portion of his adult life and he displayed his collection on all four walls—floor to ceiling—of his “man cave” in the basement. He must have taken this seriously, as he collected ample insurance money when a flash flood filled the basement and ruined the first few feet of Playboy. Hence, in my mind, browsing porn was a masculine past time, like football and beer but usually a bit more private. After my slip about the videos I had seen, my mother lectured me about how wrong it was for me to see porn. The shame slowed me down and moved my interest into a more private sector, but my adult male influences assured me by example that it was completely normal.
I think its worth noting that I had not yet discovered masturbation after a couple of years of watching pornography. It simply excited me, but I did not know there was anything to do about it. During some lonely night, at the age of 12, I did discover a way to touch myself that felt especially nice. For this history to be complete, I must say that it was not the standard approach: one hand held the member steady while the other held flat and rubbed the head as if to get the genie out the lantern. Only through after school bull sessions in the 7th grade did I learn what everyone else seemed to know about how to masturbate. Of course I did not share my strange technique! What humiliation would have ensued. Initially I found the new technique much inferior to my own, but practice makes perfect.
We moved to a new house in a new town when I was 12. Although the house was considerably smaller, it had the virtue of room—with a door—for the computer. Finally, privacy at the PC. My interest in porn really exploded because of that door. From mowing lawns I was able to afford a dinky webcam. Some very shameless and brave but not so innocent games of “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” followed on the internet with girls my age in nearby towns. Welcome to the 21st century. I was literally caught with my pants down and the webcam on not once, but twice before it was taken away from me. Smart move padres. After infecting the family computer with oodles of virus while downloading the goods from Kazaa, my dad installed an internet blocker to keep me clean. After taking a first semester in computer programming at my high school, this horny teenager wrote a program to mimic the password entry field and tricked my mother into entering the code to allow me access to an innocent site. Just like that, I was back in! I took extra care and they never discovered my deceit.
My tastes in porn were limitless. There was just so much variety! Curiosity took me many places and conquered repulsion; even if I didn’t think it was sexy at least I thought it exciting. Eventually, novelty became the sexiest thing. This is a trend that has continued to this day. Technological progress has made it easier than ever to see so much sexual insanity with little effort. Fads have been born and matured in my viewing time: my favorite example being CFNM which I recall being excited about as a teenager when only one website existed (titled something like “married women and adult male strippers”) and the acronym CFNM did not. Now the porn niche has exploded and that original site lost in the archives—however, the spirit of this site lives on in the “Dancing Bear” franchise.
Despite how it may sound, I was not so lonely. At the age of 14 I met the girl who a year later would become my high school sweetheart and first love. At age 16 I lost my virginity in the back of my first car parked on the outskirts of the town’s industrial park. How romantic, right? Actually, we thought so. With her I was able to more fully explore the extent of my own sexuality and she hers. However we were young and inexperienced so some things never really added up but it was fun and exciting.
Her and I NEVER discussed pornography. I felt mountains of shame due to my long history and her sure disgust at some of the stuff I liked. This shame has hung with me all this time. After that relationship ended and another long, close relationship followed, so did the shame continue. This girl wanted to talk about porn, wanted to watch it with me, and that scared the shit out of me. No way could I let her see what I was really into, she would get weird and draw so many wrong conclusions about my sexuality. For example, just because I like a certain style of porn does not mean I have any interest in participating. That seems hard to express, but perhaps I never gave her enough credit. We had sexual issues, I had sexual issues, they were complicated and delicate and never fully resolved. In retrospect, I wish I had been more honest. I wish I had shared more.
A few forces have inspired me to write this. First, I am a fan of this blog. Second, I recently watched pieces of the movie “I Am A Sex Addict” by the American film maker Caveh Zahedi on the Sundance Channel. The movie is a brutally honest autobiography about his addiction to prostitutes in the larger scene of his life. His openness shocked my cowardly secrets into remission. Why can’t I be honest about my sexuality? If not with the world like Caveh, at least with my girlfriends and maybe even close friends. So now I have a goal and this is a first step. But this unveiling cannot be without thought, without reflection. I dug up a book which I read again and again as a teen: Choke by Chuck Palahniuk. His writing does not speak to me like it used to, but there are still some gems. I would like to conclude by sharing a passage from Chapter 5:
“What the little boy first loved about pornography wasn’t the sex part. It wasn’t the pictures of beautiful people dorking each other, their heads thrown back, making those fake orgasm faces. Not at first. He’d found all those pictures on the Internet even before he knew what sex was. They had Internet in every library. They had it at all the schools.
As it was, his favorite website was pretty much not sexy, at least not to him. You could just go there, and there would be about a dozen photographs of this one dumpy guy dressed as Tarzan with a goofy orangutan trained to poke what looked like roasted chestnuts up the guy’s ass.
The guy’s leopard-print loincloth is tossed to one side, the elastic waistband sunk into his tubby waist.
The monkey’s crouched there, ready with the next chestnut.
There’s nothing sexy about it. Still, the counter showed more than a half million people had been to see it.
“Pilgrimage” isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind.
The monkey and the chestnuts wasn’t anything the kid could understand, but he sort of admired the guy. The kid was stupid, but he knew this was something way beyond him. The truth was, most people wouldn’t even want a monkey to see them naked. They’d be terrified about how their asshole might look, if it might look too red or baggy. There’s no way most people would ever have the nerve to bend over in front of a monkey, much less a monkey and a camera and lights, and even then they’d have to do about a zillion sit-ups first and go to a tanning booth and get their hair cut. After that, they’d spend hours bent over in front of a mirror, trying to determine their best profile.
And then, even with just chestnuts, you’d have to stay somewhat relaxed.
Just the thought of auditioning monkeys was terrifying, the possibility of being rejected by monkey after monkey. Sure, you can pay a person enough money and they’ll stick stuff into you or they’ll take pictures. But a monkey. A monkey’s going to be honest.
The point was, it’s not the sex part of pornography that hooked the stupid little boy. It was the confidence. The courage. The complete lack of shame. The comfort and genuine honesty. The up-front-ness of being able to just stand there and tell the world: Yeah, this is how I choose to spend a free afternoon. Posing here with a monkey putting chestnuts up my ass.
And I really don’t care how I look. Or what you think. So deal with it. He was assaulting the world by assaulting himself.
The same way every porno movie implies a score of people standing just off camera, knitting, eating sandwiches, looking at their wristwatches, while other people do naked sex only a few feet away…
To the stupid little boy, that was enlightenment. To be that comfortable and confident in the world, that would be “Nirvana.”
— Man Handle