How My Relationship With Porn Began

By Oliver Miller

The interesting thing about porn is that people are actually having sex in it. This in itself is weird. If you watch a movie about an archaeologist with five o’clock shadow who is trying to recover the Ark of the Covenant, well, he’s not actually doing these things. If you watch a movie about a plucky band of rebels who rescue a princess and blow up a moon-sized space station, well, that’s not really happening either.

But, excusing the terrible in-between sections where the people are trying to act, what’s happening in porn is actually happening. The people are really having sex; really, really. In a way, porn was the first-ever reality TV. And it’s much more real than reality TV. We know that what happens on reality TV is massively staged and edited. Whereas the sex parts of porn unfold right before us, in real-time. The camera rarely blinks.

The first time that I ever encountered porn was a revelation. When I was a teenager growing up in the early 90s, my parents finally acquired basic cable, which was very exciting at the time. Before this, I remember when there were only three television stations — and they would turn off at around midnight, and show a picture of an eagle, or an American flag, with music playing over it. That was it. Entertainment ended at midnight. There was no internet, no nothing. We didn’t have a VCR until I was  ten years old; they weren’t readily available yet, or, if you wanted to buy one, they cost about $2,000.

So the advent of cable TV was exciting; what with the HBO intro with the crazy music, ESPN (which at the time showed stuff like curling and ping-pong), and all the rest of it. And among the channels we received was Cinemax, or, as we young people came to call it — “Skin-e-max,” ha ha ha. The thing about Cinemax was that after 2 am, it would show porn movies; massively censored porn movies — but still, they were porn movies.

My parents were out very late one night, and so I saw my first porn movie. It was Swedish, and from the 1970s, and had some ridiculously translated title — SWEDISH SCHOOLGIRLS GO MOUTH-CRAZY, or something like that. The plot was awful. It involved a magical love drug, and a schoolmaster who was impotent. The love drug made everyone go mouth and sex crazy, and so the impotence was conquered.

Impotence is not a very sexy topic for a porn movie — but the point was, this was the first time that I ever saw real sex, and thus, the first time that I ever masturbated. I was 14 years old.

Soon, I became a regular Cinemax watcher. It was excruciating, staying up until 2 to 4 am on a school night, trying not to make any noise, lest I wake up my sleeping parents, but I did it anyway. I had no other choice.

And yet, there was a second option. Back then, cable TV featured “scrambled” channels; these were stations that you’d hadn’t paid for, but that would appear on the television – sort of. Among these channels was Playboy TV. The problem with the scrambled channels was that they were 80% blurred and static-y. Also, they were only visible in black-and-white. And not just black-and-white, but reverse black-and-white, like the negative of a photograph. Faces would be black-ish, and the dark things would be pale. Still, I persisted in watching, and I would actually masturbate to this stuff.

There were other problems as well. Another thing about the scrambled channels was that the more movement that there was on the screen, the more the channel would flicker out. Since sex involves a lot of — you know — MOVING AROUND, this meant that at the exact second that the really sexy parts happened, the picture would disappear in a massive fade of fuzzy static.

The final thing about scrambled TV channels is that they would randomly change stations. One day, Playboy TV would be number 103 on the television. The next day, it would be number 4. There was no way of knowing; you had to hunt around for the right thing. And since the channels would change numbers, and since you could barely see anything… sometimes you would end up masturbating to the wrong… thing.

These days, with the advent of internet porn, DVDs, pay-per-view, and all the rest, life is different. So today’s teenagers will never know the true, the soul-searing horror of thinking that you were jerking off to Playboy, and suddenly having the screen come into full focus, and realizing that you weren’t watching the right channel. Instead of watching some soft-core porn star, you were watching something else. And as the screen came into focus, you would realize that it was, say, a repeat of “The Golden Girls,” and you had been jerking off to the massive face of… Bea Arthur.

Eventually, I did grow up (sort of), and moved out of my parents’ house. And as discussed in a previous column, I started dating a bisexual stripper. She liked watching porn, so that was the first time that I got to rent pornography from a video store. I could never have done it on my own; too embarrassing. But I went into the back room with her — the back room where the porn was kept — and I felt a massive, fleeting sense of superiority. Everyone else in the back room was a single, lonely guy — and there I was with a cute girl. “Ha ha,” I thought to myself. “Look at these losers. Iget to watch porn tonight, and have sex with a real actual girl.” It was an asshole-ish thing to think, but I thought it anyway.

But as always, there was a… problem. The problem in this case was that I liked porn too much. The stripper girl would go to work at her strip club, and in the meantime, I would watch a ton of porn and masturbate. And then, when she came back from work, I would be spent, and wouldn’t feel like having sex.

So she started hiding the porn from me, in increasingly creative places. But our apartment was small, so I could eventually find it, no matter where it was hidden.

It was like a cold war of porn — escalation, détente, mutually assured destruction. Her hiding places got better and better, which meant I was devoting more and more time to The Search for Pornography. One day, it took me three hours to locate the videotape; it was exhausting. I finally found it in a hat box, hidden on the top shelf of our closet. Man, I was excited.

But then, something occurred to me. And so, I sat down on the floor of the closet, after locating the videotape. And I experienced a moment of what the Eastern mystics call satori — total realization; revelation, whatever you want to call it.

“You idiot,” I said to myself. “You just spent three hours searching for porn — three hours that you should have spent doing practical things — like writing and applying to grad schools. And tonight, after you’ve jerked off, the stripper girl, — the girl with D-size breasts, who dances naked in a strip club to Portishead songs — will come home, and you won’t want to have sex with her. And then she’ll get mad at you.”

“You waste all this time searching for porn,” I said to myself, “when your life is essentially PORN ALREADY. You idiot.”

And after having this revelation, I stood up from the floor, and put the porn back in the hat box, back on the top shelf of the closet.

…Or no. I’m just kidding. I watched the porn anyway. But still, it was an interesting relevation.

COMING NEXT: Part Two; The Bitter End

Culled from thought catalog

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