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Did Porn Warp Me Forever?

Like other boys my age, I grew up with unlimited access to smut. At 23, I wonder if it's totally screwed me up
 
 
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It was the era of Kazaa and we knew no better. Among my group of male friends at my austere private elementary school, watching, discussing and even sharing pornography became a sexual outlet. With the ease of downloading, we would burn CDs and swap them in school with “clever” titles taken from some album with a vague penis reference (like Will Smith’s ignominious “Big Willie Style”). That way, we could talk about porn in public, asking each other on field trips, “What did you think of that new Craig David CD I burned for you?” The “inside joke” rose to evil middle-school comic genius when other students bought the actual music albums to get in on the trend. It was a typical preteen hijink, except that the images on those CDs were far more raw than the traditional Playboy pin-up.

Both of my parents were shrinks, and even though I was generally comfortable talking about sex in my household, porn — especially the porn I was watching — just had to be taboo. It was inexplicably gross, divorced from the concept of sex as it had been explained to me. If sex was a man inserting his penis into a woman’s vagina, then how did girls drinking cum out of champagne glasses fit into that picture? Because of its unspeakable nature, Internet porn became inextricably linked with the anxiety of being caught.

I would sneak downstairs to the family computer once the house was dark. As I would settle into the polyester-cotton seat of the swivel chair and open a browser, my heart would thump with a mix of thrill and shame, my ears perked for any reason to abort my mission — zip, pull and dart with an excuse ready about checking the weather for tomorrow. (An excuse that worked more than once. I was a tidy kid). The terror and guilt would only be overridden with lust once the videos began to stream. It was an addict’s high, a high-stakes heist for sexual pleasure — an association that would not soon recede in my primal brain.

I distinctly remember the first time I ejaculated. Even back then it felt weirdly insidious — an innocent, exuberant, almost ancient moment of sexual development, stained with the futuristic debasement of a flashing screen. I leapt up from the chair at the family computer and bounded upstairs to the bathroom. I looked into the mirror, truly proud that I could now fulfill my procreative proclivities, and raised my arms and said out loud to myself, “I can be a dad.”

When I was 13, we moved to a new house with a lock on the computer room door. I was still cautious, but a few times I had my pants down when I heard the clicking of someone jiggling the locked doorknob.

Were you watching pornography?

No.

We checked the history, and there were porn sites on it.

Must be a virus.

It’s an impasse that many parents and children have known. It’s not just that it’s embarrassing, it’s paralyzing — no one knows how or exactly why to move forward. What, you want me to admit that I was watching porn? What does that do? Am I supposed to be ashamed of this? Do you expect me to stop? Everyone I know is doing this!

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Those of you who’ve browsed youporn.com or redtube.com or any other porn site know the set up. The sidebar will list the categories: Mature, Hentai, S&M, gangbang, foot fetish, redhead. Under each category there are pictures and videos (but c’mon, who would look at pictures when there are videos?), and with a fast enough Internet connection, you can skip to your favorite part of a video and move on to another.

 
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