The wide world of porn

Yesterday, I tweeted:

My first exposure to porn was a brief flash of printed penis when I was young. Had to be quite young as my recollection is it happened when we lived in the first house I can remember so maybe about five years old or so. I was at a friend’s who lived with his single mom and I remember a Playgirl magazine (at least I assume that’s what it was) open to its centerfold on a chair. That was the first time I saw another guy’s dick and I remember it totally blowing me away. It wasn’t hard (since that would be vulgar), but it was big. You know, compared to a five-year-old’s, they’re all big. This entire event lasted seconds but has stuck with me my whole life.

How I started to look at porn in a serious way is almost too cliche to admit: My dad’s Playboys when I was ten or eleven or so. He stashed them in what he may have thought was a good hiding place in the bathroom, but it wasn’t. I poured over these magazines, eventually even reading them. I wasn’t just interested in seeing the woman, I wanted to get a peek into this secret world of grown-up naked stuff. The things they would never discuss with or around a kid. The first time I saw the term “cock ring” was in a Playboy and they were not fans of them (they said it was a gay thing — the Playboy editors were fairly conventionally prudish, considering). I was also unsure of the dirty Alice in Wonderland comic where Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum stood side by side with their hands in each other’s pants and the mushroom, instead of making Alice taller or shorter, made her tits so big they burst out of her pretty blue and white dress.

Soon after, I recall looking at those and other magazines with my friend Larry (who was from Florida and profoundly racist) along with some other dude from next door and me saying something about how all these naked women were fine, but seeing a guy every once in a while would be good, too. They both thought that was pretty funny and laughed at me. Like, why in the hell would you want to see a dude, dude? That was the first time I realized that maybe what I liked (re: naked people) was not what the other boys liked. Or, at least what they’d admit to liking since Larry was yet another in a long line of purportedly straight boys who was happy to have naked play time with me.

In general, I think porn is a good and natural thing. Sure, it can cause issues (like unrealistic expectations of what real sex is like and body image issues for all genders, etc.), but wanting to look at porn and enjoy it is, I think, a basic human desire. I think it has a lot to do with our fundamental inclination towards sexual promiscuity (see: Sex At Dawn). We get off seeing others fuck because we’re wired to. Anyway, I think the modern version of my dad’s Playboys is way, way better.

The thing I really appreciate about Tumblr over the hidden stash of girly mags thing is that the act of using someone else’s porn at such an early stage fixes in your mind to what’s “normal.” You have no exposure to anything else so you don’t even know there’s a spectrum of erotic imagery and words from which to partake. And then you might innocently say something like, “Gosh, it’d be nice to see a naked guy every once in a while,” to your pals and get laughed at. On Tumblr, you can find the entire breadth and depth of human sexual expression laid out before you. And that’s a social benefit.

I believe that exposure to people who are different than those your immediate life experience typically includes leads to an understanding of them and their motivations and that leads to tolerance. I’m a big fan of tolerance, as a general rule. My main Tumblr is a pretty good reflection of my interests in that it’s filled with images of men and woman and men with men and women with men and women with women. A bisexual’s paradise. Over the time I’ve been curating it, 3,403 people have chosen to follow it on Tumblr (and another couple of hundred visit its URL every day according to Google Analytics).

Typically, what happens is someone stumbles upon my stash and likes or reblogs a whole bunch of stuff all at once, along the way following me. I can see through this reblogging/liking  and visiting their own Tumblrs what kind of stuff they’re interested in and nine times out of ten, they go for one gender or the other exclusively. But they also often follow me which means they’re going to be exposed to their non-preferred gender frequently as the images I choose to include get posted. So, when they’re on the Tumblr and getting all hot and bothered and playing with their fiddly bits (or clawing at the containers covering their fiddly bits), they’re exposed to all manner of erotic stuff. Stuff inside their comfort zone, stuff outside their comfort zone, stuff they never even thought about before. And not just from me. Tumblr is littered with this stuff. I wonder how many kids today identify as flexible or bi or pan or whatever word they choose (let’s all try and get “biflexipan” in our conversation today) because they saw things on Tumblr that got them off they wouldn’t have otherwise seen had they been paging through the stuck-together pages of Dad’s magazines?

I also wonder how Tumblr is affecting women’s sexual empowerment. Boys finding their dad’s stash is pretty common (or at least it was when the stash was physical rather than virtual), but I’ve never heard it said the same was true for women. At what time was porn for women even a thing? For how many women was their first exposure to the stuff through their boyfriends or husbands? Now, they can sample the entirely of human sexual interests in their own time and follow their own bliss. They can form an idea of their sexuality prior to going out and trying to practice it in way I just don’t think was possible before. I think this is a big fucking deal.

I know my son’s looking at porn because he’s a) 16, b) a human male, and c) has internet access. I’m actually pretty happy for him that he’s coming of age in this environment and not the one I grew up in. Eventually, my daughter will start to be interested in sex as well (come on, Dad, she already is). Perhaps the easy access to porn, which bothers so many, might end up being something good for her, too.

Based on the things I’m told and hear from my peers who have kids, my thoughts on this are pretty far out there. We like to pretend our children will never be as we were. That we can keep them from seeing that sex and sexuality is a thing in the world until they get married. But I remember being young. I remember the lengths I went to to explore sex and I also remember all the things my friends were doing right along with me (and sometimes to me). Humans are sexual animals. Even the young ones. I hope being able to see all of it like they can on Tumblr will help them find themselves faster than people of my generation or older.

17 thoughts on “The wide world of porn

  1. Speaking from a female perspective, I always find it funny that women don’t want to admit to watching or reading porn. Or it is dressed up as “erotica.” My friends and I went through both Playboy and Playgirl along with anything else we could find. It was exciting. Even better? The bondage pics in the True Detective stories. I guess I should have known what road I was going down even back then. 

    Snake and I used to buy Hustler for reading out loud material on road trips when we were in college. When we had kids, the rules were always that they could watch movies with sex long before they could watch ones with violence. It’s part of life.

    Our daughter has been on Tumblr since its inception. I’m sure our son viewed porn, but he is still kind of a prude. No idea where that came from. She knows that we knew. We’ve never pushed a sense of “normal,” so I don’t know if it changed her view of things. She was exposed to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Rent by us at the same time she started on Tumblr. A chicken or egg question.

    But I think it is good to see different types of couples. Different body types. She never felt strange being biflexipan. It was easily found on Tumblr and any number of other sites. It isn’t always easy to talk about sex and porn with kids and it is a nice thought that they are too young to think about sex. We did have uncomfortable conversations regarding all of that but I think, in the end, all of the openness and visibility is good.

  2. I’ve always liked porn with both sexes in it. I’ve noticed that I like the males to have penises that look like mine (circumcised, hairless, and not giant). I’ve been known to watch handjob videos. I do like a good one! I think it’s my way of putting myself into the picture. I can imagine that porn penis belongs to me and that I am having that very good time. Pictures of naked women or, for that matter, men without something happening is not a turn on for me.

    I don’t think this preference has anything to do with who I would actually want to have sex with. I am not interested in other men at all. I’ve had chances, but I just don’t want to be sexual with a guy. I don’t mind it if guys are sexual in my presence. As a long time member of a large leather organization, I have been to many parties where same sex couples are engaging in all sorts of stuff. If the activity is interesting, I find male/male just as much fun to watch as heterosexual activities. I just don’t want to participate. It’s just the way I am wired.

    That’s why I agree with your discussion of bisexuality. You are or you aren’t. Wanting sex with another man is much more than finding penises in action exciting. It’s much deeper, at least for me. But that doesn’t stop me from vicariously enjoying other males having sex with either sex. But it does stop me from actually dealing with another man’s penis.

  3. “Boys finding their dad’s stash is pretty common (or at least it was when the stash was physical rather than virtual), but I’ve never heard it said the same was true for women.”

    That’s just because women don’t talk about it, especially to men. I found my dad’s Playboys when I was a kid, much like you did (and also lamented the lack of penis in them), and used to look at them when I was alone in the house.

    Paper porn for women was/is mostly in the form of “romance” novels; those things can be raunchier than people who don’t read them would ever believe. My elderly aunt particularly loved the very graphic ones and would pass them along to other female family members with glowing recommendations.

  4. In my experience, the Internet has been wonderful for sexual expression for women. You would not believe the millions of words of written porn that, for example, women into science fiction TV shows have written for each other (featuring all combinations of genders and every kink you can imagine–plus a few they made up on their own!). It’s amazing and fantastic and has been happening since long before Tumblr (at least since mailing lists and BBS existed, and in paper zines before that)–but Tumblr absolutely has made it easier, and made sharing pictures a snap. I think it’s great.

  5. Not ever really been into porn, but my husband must have seen it all by now.
    Shame he’s only allowed to view when in chastity 😉

  6. Yes, porn is nice and dandy, except … well, sometimes (and probably depending on the user) it isn’t. In fact, porn might be indeed comparable to drugs, at least in the way it might fuck up (no pun intended) your brain due to long-term use and thus your “sexual abilities” … I went there, unfortunately, so I kinda know what I’m speaking of. It took me quite some time and lots of effort to righten the issue, so be careful, boys and girls: Just as with drugs, alcohol, food and most other things, also in porn the dose the poison makes. Interestingly enough, I eventually managed to “cure” myself by turning to male chastity, thus becoming able to end my porn-masturbation habit. You never know what those cages can be good for.

    http://yourbrainonporn.com/about-this-site for further information on the topic, if anyone’s interested.

    And: Thanks for your writings, thumper. In my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have thought of chastity to righten my problem, at least not on my own. Your blog set the wheels in motion, sort of. So, thanks again. 😉

  7. I’ve seen my share of porn, but it became a case of diminishing returns. It struck me as increasingly artificial, mechanical and repetitive, not to say boring–certainly commercial porn, especially the “kink” variety, where the typical fakeness of the scenario is too much of a turn-off. Yes, seeing exceptionally beautiful and beautified people remains appealing, but I’m quite past paying for the stuff, and even the freebies online get pretty old pretty quickly, or quickly seem interchangeable. Maybe my attention span just isn’t what it used to be, or maybe I’ve realized I need to get real candy instead of looking at pictures of it.

  8. For what it’s worth, which is bound to be negligible, I have no problem with you liking or loving certain porn or most of it, for that matter. It’s your taste and your business. I was simply stating my take on the topic, which you can certainly disagree with, but reducing it to some TV comedy show caricature is a tad, well, facile. However, this is your blog, and just as in your house, you should not be constrained to express yourself to suit my preference. Again, my mistake.

  9. Having been lurking over your various blogs for a while, finally commenting to say…I’m really glad you’re accepting your children’s sexuality! And maybe you just didn’t mention this because it’s not the topic of this blog, but I benefited from having educational sex materials in my life as well as (mostly unknown to my patents) porn and if your children aren’t getting these from school or (in my case) their Unitarian youth group, I’d recommend leaving a few frank books around the house. Bonus points if they have drawing/pictures with diverse bodies you often miss in porn, even the stuff on Tumblr. I hope you don’t mind the unsolicited parenting advice from someone who’s not too far from teen years herself, I felt strongly enough that I jumped in anyway.

  10. I have to comment just to let you know I have read enough of your blog and we are the same age, but different gender and very different in many other ways. You mentioned in this blog post that women didn’t grow up with access to porn and being the same age as you and being a woman I have to tell you that is not the case. I grew up in a very middle class household, my parents were older as I was the youngest of five children by a large margin, but we were just a normal family compared to all around. I found my father’s stash of porn magazines when I was quite young, less than 10 I would never have looked in my mother’s things for porn, but I was in there searching for things to wear and found playgirl magazines as well. I think I was about 11. And yes, of course I did read the heck out of all those magazines I found. I was fairly curious about such things too 🙂

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