Growing Up on Planet Porn

tree of knowledge, innocence, childhood, porn, sexual images, sexual health, sex education, boys sexuality, masturbation, internet porn, Playboy, Penthouse, nostalgia

Were our kids sexually healthier when sexual images were harder to come by?

When I was eight or nine, I had one Playboy, and one glossy Penthouse magazine in my possession. I kept my cherished rags outside, hidden in a forested area behind our house. The Penthouse was stuffed inside of a plastic poster tube, which I crammed behind a large boulder, and oddly enough, our neighbor’s open-air chapel. I kept my Playboy inside of a book about whales and sharks, wrapped up in a plastic bag, jammed under a rock half buried into a slope between two fences along another neighbor’s property line.

Although the Penthouse was more explicit in nature, and thus of greater curiosity, I favored the Playboy, due to the stunning redhead inhabiting the centerfold, who I planned to marry one day (I’m a romantic at heart), despite our age difference. Whenever I felt the urge to look at pictures of naked ladies, I’d head up into the trees and flip through my magazines. Despite my guilt and shame for holding onto such forbidden treasure, I managed to keep my “dirty” periodicals hidden for a couple of years.

One day I came home from school, or maybe soccer practice (I forget), and discovered my parents pulling down the fence, working their way up the hill toward Playboy Rock. Luckily, a friend of mine was milling about. I frantically explained to him the peril I was in, and told him where he could find my magazine. While I distracted my parents with some inane questions, he crept up to the rock—even though my father kept telling him to climb back down—and smuggled my Playboy out, tucked beneath his shirt. When we got a moment away from my parents, he asked if he could borrow it for a while, which I reluctantly agreed to, because he’d saved my skin.

When I think about this story now, I smile. I wonder if children these days will ever have such a story to tell. Images of naked people, and depictions of sex, have been with us since cave people learned to paint on stone, although the ease of our modern access to hardcore pornography is unparalleled when compared with the delivery mediums of the past (drawings, literature, printed images, sculptures). I worked very hard to get my naughty magazines, and once I had them, I held onto them for dear life. Most eight-year olds today understand web browser parental controls better than their parents do, and for those kids fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have tech savvy guardians, porn can still be effortlessly obtained through the conduit of an older sibling, or at a friend’s house with fewer restrictions.

It’s normal, and often a rite of passage, for children to satiate their natural sexual curiosity by viewing material considered taboo for their age group, or perhaps even for society at large. I started out with a Playboy and Penthouse, and didn’t see my first real porn film until I was teenager. A young boy or girl now, clicking through various webpages, could easily land on a popular site like PornHub. Sure, a few softer sections exist for those with more delicate sensibilities, but if I had to guess, nifty categories with titles such as anal, bondage, bukkake (look it up), creampie, fisting, gangbang, orgy, rough sex and squirt would be hard for the sexually uninitiated to ignore. That’s one hell of a way to get your first visceral introduction into the realm of sex—regardless if you’ve already received “the talk” or not.

This isn’t one of those articles bemoaning the amount or content of porn available today, or what all of this porn says about contemporary society. Some folks like to watch two beautiful people making love, while others prefer a gangbang orgy full of bukkake, torture play, and maybe a few farm animals thrown into the mix. Whatever gets you off—I’m not here to judge. I’m not even worried about the loss of childhood innocence, per se, but rather the rapid-fire pace with which I suspect it happens for many kids today.

We’re all going to arrive somewhere in our adult sexual life, with a few detours along the way, whether that be ho-hum station or coked-up swingers central. For me, the unpredictable journey of discovery is what makes human sexuality such an interesting, and enjoyable ride (sorry for the overuse of train metaphors here).

When I imagine my eight-year old self perusing YouPorn, PornHub or any one of a seemingly countless number of other porn sites, rather than memorizing every female curve inside of a single issue of Playboy magazine, there’s no way I wouldn’t have clicked on all of the categories available to me. What would have happened to my dream of marrying that redheaded centerfold? I probably would have replaced it with an interracial fetish, women’s dorm threesome money shot fantasy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (for a sexually mature adult), but some things ought to be worked up to, and probably shouldn’t be introduced to a boy before he’s hit puberty.

The porn paradigm has already shifted (no more dingy theaters, brown paper bags for your magazines, or need for magazines), most likely irreversibly so, but still, I yearn for a simpler time when a body had to put in some effort, and go on a bit of a quest, in order to get hold of some naughty images.

 

Read more on Men and Pornography on The Good Life.

Image credit: TheBusyBrain/Flickr

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About Carl Pettit

Carl Pettit is a writer, illustrator and musician whose education and travels have taken him all over the world. When not out exploring, or pondering the universe, he finds time to produce fiction for both adults and children. You can catch up with him on his blog, or twitter.

Comments

  1. wellokaythen says:

    And, unfortunately, kids today are less and less likely to have any woods nearby anyway. I had a similar experience growing up, discovering my first Penthouse (I think it was, because there was no cover) when someone left it in the woods behind my house. So, I grew up associating the woods with sex and the forbidden. I discovered my older brother’s stash under his bed soon afterwards….

  2. It isn’t just porn, kids also have an easier time seeing adult material through R rated films, mature rated video games, and tv channels like HBO, all of which either didn’t exist or are now more widely available than they once were. Its simply, a cost of living in a more liberated and free society. The more widely available and easily accessible we make mature content for adults, the easier it is for kids to get a hold of it.

    I think the last part of the article however, reads a little too much like a yearning for the good old days for the sake of it. In the last paragraph it seems you aren’t just bemoaning the fact that kids are being exposed to this stuff, but that they no longer have to jump through hoops and have awkward misadventures like the one you described.

  3. I think the issue you hit on – one of instant access to pornographic images – might also contribute to what’s sometimes referred to as “entitlement culture”.
    When you had to make an effort to access your magazines, they were significant, and valuable.
    When naked, willing ladies are only a click away, it makes them seem as common as pebbles, and maybe feeds into an attitude about how ‘available’ women are to be used as a commodity.
    Some people would argue that the magazines are just as objectifying, but I think the significance of those women-objects has shifted – the difference between a golden idol and a wad of Kleenex.
    There have always been men treating women like sex objects, but is the Internet making that attitude more normal? I could be wrong.

    • Doubt it, I saw porn early, saw regular hardcore porn and I got no sense of entitlement from it, all I had was hope that one day I’d have a gf and could have sex n love n happytimes. Porn was just to bide the time until then.

    • Valter Viglietti says:

      @Ophelia: “instant access to pornographic images – might also contribute to what’s sometimes referred to as “entitlement culture”.”

      Nope. Easy access to lots of porn, makes you even more acutely aware of the fact that a real woman is not there with you. :(

      I’d rather say that “entitlement culture” comes – mostly – from parents that regard their children as princes and princesses, teaching them they can have and do everything, and the world is at their disposal; thus, inflating their egos beyond measure.

  4. The Wet One says:

    Holy cow.

    That story sounds so familiar it hurts. I recall doing the exact same. Hiding the porn, scurrying about. Guilt. Shame.

    What nonsense that was.

    Now, with the flick of the switch, instant porn. Ahhh…. Blessed maturity. No guilt or shame either. No time for that rot. I’ve got better things to worry about.

  5. Valter Viglietti says:

    Carl, I understand the “nostalgia effect”…
    but I like to think that all the worry and doubts about porn nowadays, aren’t much different from the worry and doubt parents experienced when you were a kid: most of them thought porn might ruin a young boy.

    As a matter of fact, it didn’t: you seem a fine adult to me. :)
    And the same will be true for most modern children. Any old generation worries about the change in habits and costumes, but any new generation turns out just about fine (most of them, anyway).

    More than 2000 years ago, Cicero was complaining: “O tempora o mores!”
    (Oh the times! Oh the customs!)
    As you can see, nothing new under the sun. ;)

    I’d be more worried about modern children not having access to forested areas, grassy hills and backyards. :|

  6. The issue with porn isn’t the porn itself. The issue is the immersion in a highly unrealistic world that a kid will carry into his own sexual experiences. At my age, I’ve managed to sort out that most women don’t look or act like porn stars, nor do most men. But I wonder, if my worldview at the ages of 13 or 14 had been shaped by porn, how I would have viewed my own sexual real-world. Interesting question.

    • Veronica says:

      I agree with you David. When I discovered my teen was visiting a popular porn site-I spit out my coffee at 6am first-then I was concerned he would take the images literally b/c he has Aspergers. I reassured him that I wasn’t upset or angry, but he needed to know that these performers were scripted and that girls would not normally just start having sex on a bus. Actually, I recommended a few videos on that site that I thought were more realistic and um, educational.
      But overall, what disturbs me most is the unrealistic ideal of all these young, impressionable men seeing these perfectly formed vaginas, as though THAT is what every woman has. At an age where discovery and vulnerability converge, I worry that young men are looking at young women and asking “what’s wrong with you down there?” With the rise in vaginal surgery, someone has got to be saying it. If we are going to talk about healthy sexuality than we have pass on what the mature mind knows, vaginas come in all shapes and styles, and don’t judge lest you be judged.

      • Since watching porn videos, I’ve seen a very very wide range of vulva from “neatly tucked” to large outa labia, large inner labia, it’s pretty much impossible on the budget they use to “photoshop” a video like that. Porn videos will get a better idea of diversity than they would get elsewhere, especially amateur porn.

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