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      Kids Have It Too Easy When It Comes to Porn

      October 30, 2013

      Back in the day, we'd have to crank it to this kind of shit. Hell yes we did, and we liked it. Photo via Flickr user Paul Beattie

      I

      In seventh grade, my friend Brian found his dad’s porn stash.

      It was in the underwear drawer, a classic hiding spot for suburban fathers to keep their dog-eared fantasies. We breathlessly flipped through his dad’s three or four issues of Playboy—not knowing exactly what to “do” with the porn we had unearthed, we just looked at it, marveled and had to rearrange ourselves on account of our tiny boners. Then we heard a car door slam. Brian’s dad had come home early from work.

      My friend hustled up the stairs to his parents’ bedroom, with me right behind carrying the precious contraband magazine we’d been poring over. (I remember Jenny McCarthy was on the cover.) As I bounded up the steps, I felt something seize my ankle—Brian’s dog had been spooked by our sudden frantic movements and lunged at what his stupid dog mind thought was a new intruder. As I fell back down the stairs, I frisbee’d the magazine to Brian, who avoided the fluttering pages and caught it by the spine. He placed the stash back in its proper place and stacked the underwear on top, just moments before his dad walked in. “What are you guys up to?” he asked.

      “Nothing!” was the only appropriate reply.

      II

      I was in a mall bookstore’s magazine section, trying to be casual. This meant picking up an issue of Spin and flipping through it absentmindedly to give anyone watching the impression I was just another music-obsessed kid. In reality, my eyes were scanning the rack in front of me in search of a rare phenomenon. While most “adult” magazines were wrapped in cellophane—and are therefore impossible to secretly unwrap—every now and then some brave soul “stuck it to the Man” by ripping one open. That’s what I was after.

      Then I found one, a Penthouse. It was in the back of the middle rack, mostly out of sight. I returned my Spin, placing it right in front of the Penthouse, before going off to wander the store to allow the group of periodical browsers to get replaced by a new set of eyes who have yet to note my interest in music. (Like all adolescents, I assumed everyone was watching me all the time, since I was obviously the most interesting thing in the room.) I returned a few minutes later and retrieved the same Spin, extending my grasp ever so slightly to also snag the magazine I’ve hidden behind it. I flip through Spin and wait for the proper moment to make the deft transfer, sticking the Penthouse inside the larger music magazine to conceal it. I pull off the sleight-of-hand and do a mental fist pump. (In hindsight, I imagine everyone around me was thinking, What’s that weird kid doing with the Penthouse? Whatever.)

      I took my prize to a quieter section of the store—Classic Literature—to have a focused and uninterrupted read.

      III

      During freshman year of high school, a friend and I broke into our town’s recycling plant, which wasn’t nearly as daring as it sounds. There weren’t any security cameras or barbed wire; this was before the threat of identity theft made those measures necessary. It was just a bunch of oversized trash bins surrounded by a fence. There was a lock on the gate. We climbed over it.

      Kneeling on the mountains of paper, flashlights in our mouths, the atmosphere sweltering and soggy under the closed bin covers (which we had shut to avoid the suspicions of nosy neighbors), we scanned the discarded recyclables of the residents of Oak Forest, Illinois. Magazines, pennysavers, tabloids, junk mail, paper bags—we sifted through it all just to find photos of naked women.

      An hour or so later, we realized there were none. The closest possible score—if you wanted to extend the definition of “naked women” as far as it could possibly stretch—was the lingerie section of the Sears catalog. For that night, it’d have to do. 

      Time was, if you wanted to see some wild shit like a dick you had to either go to a museum or get some guy to whip it out for you. Which actually wasn't that hard. Photo via Flickr user Benjamin Vander Steen

      I have another dozen stories like those, youthful attempts to get photos or videos of naked people doing naked things. I’d stumble upon such materials in forests—bringing to the imaginative mind the image of some kind of Porny Appleseed, hat made of dildos, littering the countryside with used Hustlers—and take extra care to get the soggy and torn remnants back home in one piece. I’d wait for my friend to distract the clerk of a mom-and-pop video store, then duck under the saloon-like swinging doors of the adult section. I’d fashion TV antenna extensions out of wire hangers in hopes they’d somehow get us the nudie cable channel. (This, clearly, was before I understood the difference between cable and broadcast signals.) That’s what life was like for an underage kid living in the 90s, young friends. 


      That was back when porn meant something.

      Telling those tales of scarcity today seems insane. Any kid old enough to click is just a 1.6-second-long Google search away from a Smithsonian’s worth of perfectly tanned and medically enhanced actors with abnormally sized body parts doing Cirque du Soleil inside one another.

      And I, for one, do not like it. The easy access to nudity is removing two of the most important developmental processes of a child: discovery and ingenuity.

      While we can’t know exactly what changes are taking place inside our minds thanks to the internet’s now-dominant place in our lives, we’d be silly to think it’s all business as usual up there. Having the ability to look up whatever we want whenever we want has certainly made the memorization of facts a lot tougher. So it’s reasonable to assume that easy access to porn—including really hardcore, borderline violent stuff—has had some effect on kids. Maybe it makes them more comfortable and tolerable of different kinds of sexuality. (Hooray!) Maybe it makes them believe that orgasms come only if you continually pound with ball-smacking force. (Boo!) Maybe it makes guys more apt to see ladies as nothing but landing pads for their seminal outbursts. (Double-boo!) But the ubiquity of porn in our culture has certainly taken away the feeling that sex is taboo. And that’s a quadruple-boo, folks.

      Kids today have no idea what it was like to jack it in front of a statue. Wasn't easy, I'll tell you that much. Photo via Flickr user ketrin1407

      The first booby or hoo-ha or wiener you saw was a no-doubter milestone in your upbringing. Most likely, you still remember the flush of naughtiness that accompanied your first viewing. (There’s something to the idea that the rest of one’s sexual life is just one long chase after that original dragon.) That excitement was a byproduct of the inherent rareness of nudity. A youngster’s viewing of naked bodies was once sparse and spread out: a nipple in third grade, maybe a shot of some pubes in a R-rated movie in fifth, full penetration in seventh. It was an echoing of the slow progression along the sexual base path. That time frame’s been condensed dramatically—the temporal landscape between a kid’s first glimpsed boobie and his first viewing of 500-person gangbang is determined only by what search terms he types. (If you think that kids can’t evade whatever parental controls are on their machines, c’mon.) The magical sense of discovery that comes with the slow reveal is lost. This is not a good development. Kids should learn about kisses and the basic mechanics of physical affection before they find themselves watching a set of dead-eyed Eastern Europeans perform in “18 year-old fuck party threesome squirter.”

      Worst still, the boys and girls in search of porn—well, let’s be honest, 99 percent of the “kids” I’m talking about have outwardly-protruding genitalia—don’t have to Put In The Work to see anything. My quest for porn required me to engage in problem-solving exercises that I’ll be drawing from for my entire life. (When I’m not being extremely embarrassed by them, that is.) No, hopping the fence of a small town recycling plant won’t make me MacGyver. But it definitely did more for my skill set than sitting in front of a computer and typing “boobs” into YouPorn.com would have. (Typing “58008” in a calculator and flipping that sucker upside-down is a whole different matter.)

      I’m not here to tell everyone what to do about the sticky problem of our precious youth’s easy access to pornography. I don’t have any solutions. There aren’t any that I can see. Any possibilities involve the word “censorship,” and that’s not a healthy road to be going down. The genie is out of the bottle, and he’s not going back in. But what we all can do is remember a time when the word “porn” used to mean something. Before the thing it referred to was always available as long as you had internet access. Before it got so easy, dammit. We’ll get together like grumpy old men and whine about how kids today are soft and never had to work for anything in their goddamn lives. Meanwhile, we’ll carve out a small space in our underwear drawers where we’ll stash away the occasional hard copy of nudity we come across, most likely found during our daily retreats into the nearby forest.

      @RickPaulas

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      Topics: porn, kids today, personal history, won't somebody think of the children, sex

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