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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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Lesbian kissing *click* blow job *click* cum shot *click* threesome *click* orgy

With a teenage sex drive only inhibited by a vague shame, I quickly fell down a “kink spiral.” After all, we’re talking about reaching climax — when the overriding thought is often just “more!” The unknown, the unseen, was sexy to me, and I pursued novelty with vigor.

I found myself rapidly desensitized to online images. If a threesome was kinky last week, then I’d need something wilder this week. To reach climax, I had to find that same toxic mix of shame and lust.

By my sophomore year in high school I felt torn. Even though I was fairly certain that most guys my age were regular porn watchers, I felt ashamed about the type of porn that I was watching (not something that even the son of psychotherapists was eager to share with friends).

In English class, we were reading “The Scarlet Letter” and the teacher told us to write down a secret that we would never want anyone to know. I scribbled down, “I’ve watched cartoon porn.” (Actually, I was so frightened of discovery that I wrote it in code). And I had. And MILF porn. And “bukkake.” And rape. And all manners of things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing in real life — for moral reasons, sure, but also because it wouldn’t even necessarily turn me on to do these things in real life. But I had watched them, and I was ashamed. And I wasn’t sure if I should be or not.

For one thing, I wasn’t hurting anybody. And for another, these sites put that pornography up there! They must be doing that because people want to watch it, right? I didn’t dream it up. I just clicked through the categories of what was there by popular demand. So it was normal, right? Did that make it OK?

* * *

These questions continued to bother me. I worried that real girls wouldn’t do it for me. So my senior year in high school, I decided to quit. Cold turkey. For five months. I actually decided not to masturbate at all, and I had few sexual encounters. It was refreshing, and I definitely became more easily turned on by “traditional” things — including the women around me.

But when I started having sex, I realized that I had far from cleansed myself, even though I had continued (and continue still) to keep up my boycott on pornography. I had trouble getting and maintaining an erection with the first three women I slept with. This didn’t feel like a small matter. It seemed like all the schoolyard jockeying ultimately came down to that moment of phallic power, and I just couldn’t do it. Was I more turned on by porn than by real women? What did that mean about my sexuality?

I starting seeing a young woman regularly, and some confluence of alcohol, weed, no condom, and the trust, comfort, and affection I felt with her allowed me to start enjoying sex — to an extent. I wouldn’t acknowledge it, but the majority of nights I had “good sex” I was intoxicated. And, what’s worse, I was fantasizing about porn during sex.

It was a dissociative, alienating, almost inhuman task to close my eyes while having sex with someone I really cared about and imagine having sex with someone else or recall a deviant video from the archives of my youth that I was ashamed of even then.

I’ve talked with other millennial men who’ve experienced this, and it’s not particularly surprising. A decade before we were having intercourse, our neural pathways associated ejaculation with an addictive, progressive perversity that demanded a superlative overstimulation — skipping from climactic scene to climactic scene so that it’s always the most novel, deviant, kinky.

 
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