pornography, pt. 1.

the first time i saw porn, i was eleven years old, and i was at a classmate's birthday party. his brother had a whole closet full of xxx vhs tapes stacked in rows in his closet. he put one on for a group of us boys, a movie called general hospital, where a bunch of busty blonde girls fucked their patients. i tried to watch it, but i couldn't actually watch it. i was feeling confused. i was getting aroused, but i was surrounded by a bunch of boys, and i knew if i got an erection in front of them, well, that would be the end of me. i remember feeling clammy and my face burned, and i felt sick and excited. i can't remember how the other kids reacted, but i knew it was their first time seeing something so hardcore before, too. the tone switched a lot that night. at one point everyone was laughing, the next all you could hear were the grunts and moans coming from the television set.

i knew that what we were doing was wrong. we were watching something we weren't supposed to see for at least, legally speaking, another seven years. but there was also something very liberating about it. it was more than just a dirty movie. it was a glimpse into the future, a gateway to hell. it was so far removed from the routine of home, school, church, home. it was an act of defiance to my dad who warned me not to watch channel 44 when he got us a blackbox for cable. an act of defiance to my mom who made me feel shame and guilt when she caught me red-handed with the macy's swimsuit catalog. but it was also my first taste of misogyny, of watching a woman get fucked, utterly degraded, treated like nothing more than a stupid whore.

i remember going downstairs after viewing the porn, and mike r. was just sitting on the couch by himself. he had walked out of the room after a few minutes, he just couldn't take it. he was holding a pillow to his chest, and he looked absolutely traumatized. eventually, i got him talking, and we ended up watching some of the lawnmower man on cable. it was a strange moment we shared on the couch, both coming to the realization that our youth, in some small way, had ended the moment noel's older brother pressed play.

the following week at school, nobody talked about what happened. nobody bragged about it, nobody said a word. i couldn't look at girls the same way. it was like i knew their fates, knew all our fates. at some point, we were all going to have to do that, and it was going to be either really awesome or really terrible. a few more weeks passed, and we had to go to confession. i knew that i had committed a sin, and i was really afraid i would go to hell if i didn't say something. i told the priest, father angelo, that i had watched a "bad movie," but i didn't go into any great detail. he told me to say some our fathers and hail marys, and i felt a little bit better about it. noel asked all us boys if we had said anything. all of us said we hadn't.

in junior high, i watched the playboy channel and the spice channel almost nightly. my friends always wanted to spend the night at my house because they knew my parents had a blackbox. while the porn on those channels was often hardcore, it was censored, so you could never see penetration or cum. it didn't matter, though. porn was porn, and we watched the shit out of it. i had seen enough of it that it had become normalized. i no longer felt guilt or shame, just a general need to see more. when the internet became available, i downloaded jenna jameson videos from chatrooms. i visited everyday in high school, as soon as i got home.

i gave my older cousin money to buy me porn tapes from liquor stores. i'd fast-forward through the chubby girls, the way too skinny girls, the girls with flat faces. i needed the perfect girl to do her twenty minute thing on a four hour cassette tape. when i turned 18, i rented my own porn, and i dubbed my favorite scenes. i started to memorize the names of my favorite stars: melody love, bridgette kerkove, madelyn knight, lexus locklear. all my friends and my cousin knew about it, but they all just thought it was funny. nobody ever mentioned anything about addiction, about it being a problem.

when i went to porn shops, sometimes with my cousin, i'd look at the other people in the store. they were usually older white men, and they kept quiet while browsing the aisles. i kept quiet, too, turning over those large vhs boxes or dvds with their plastic coverings. on the cover of each box, there was always a naked young woman trying her hardest to look either really stupid or really young, usually both. you know the look: wide eyed, twirling her hair around her finger, mouth wide open, dark eye shadow, bright lipstick, and with her shirt pulled up, exposing her nipples. i'd pick out one or two titles, whatever looked the most promising.

sometimes, my friends would pick out really bizarre shit and take it to a whole other level. for instance, there's this creepy old man named max hardcore with a series of films, and he does some of the worst shit imaginable. regrettably, the scene i remember most involved some orthodontic tools, a mug full of cold milk, and an extra long straw. i have seen some awful shit in my life, but i really wish i could take that one back. there were also gagging videos, where the girls cry and or/puke, gangbangs, blacks on blondes, milfs, teens, bukkake, pissing videos, etc. sometimes, i just wish i could be absolved of all of it.

my parents didn't ever talk to me about sex. teachers did, but they merely described the mechanics of it, how blood flows to the penis to create an erection, how the sperm fertilizes the egg. there was never any mention of intimacy or awkwardness or how sex changes everything. there was no talk about things you shouldn't do, how to behave, or how it feels for the other person. i didn't know a damn thing. everything i learned about sex came from poorly produced, unrealistic films.

at twenty, i somehow miraculously managed to get a girlfriend. my mom asked me if we were having sex, and i told her the truth. we weren't. my girlfriend and i talked about it. she straight up asked me once if i had seen porn, and when i told her i had, she acted really surprised. later, she asked me if i had seen anything really gross or violent. it was at that point i started to lie. she kept coming at me with more questions, and each time she brought it up, i'd get frustrated, lie some more, and then shut down. all that shame and guilt and thoughts of going to hell resurged. at one point, she told me to look her in the eye and swear to her that i didn't still watch porn.

i looked her right in the eye, and i fucking lied.

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