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What Does Watching Extreme Internet Videos as a Child Do to You?

We all got a bit naughty online back in the day, but what did it do to our #brains? We asked people if their early experiences scarred them.
Bunch of kids watching someone get horribly maimed, probably. Via Flickr

Unless you're part of the infernal Snapchat generation, watching Pewdiepie videos, drinking e-liquid, talking about whether you're a fucking panromantic something or other, then you will have had a truly old-school shocking moment online. We all remember the first time we went on a bad website. Mom in the other room, you getting your designated time on the giant Dell like a prisoner of war. But today you're being sneaky. Today's the day you click that pop-up with the tits. The tits are covered in a kind of off-white glaze. What is that? Well, you're about to find out!


Dr. Lindsay Ip, a child psychologist associated with the Private Therapy Clinic, says that this sort of pre-sexual online activity can spell bad news for kids. "Early exposure to pornography can be very disturbing to children. I've seen it in my practice as well. Some of them are really scared of the images, which can be quite lasting in their brain. It increases their risk of being sexually active earlier, a victim of sexual crime, or even a perpetrator, as well."

It's not just sex that fucks us up, either. An unfortunate by-product of the internet's rampant no-man's-land attitude to content is the introduction of gore websites. These sites are frequented by either sicko adults or teenagers who have the brains of sicko adults. "When they're older, they have more context and other resilience skills," Ip tells me. "Their prefrontal cortex is not as developed [as a teenager], so they're more likely to act impulsively and with less inhibition. They're also more likely to just watch things if they feel like it, and not think about what it means to them."

This was certainly the case with me. I started off being terrified of pornography. A shocking visit to ',' which should have really been fairly light in touch, was replete with pulsing, veiny cocks being shoved into the throats of petite, blonde, red-eyed women with running eyeliner. I didn't really know what to do with it. I told my mom not to come into the room the computer was in because I was playing a game and I 'really needed to concentrate.' It was after this that my journey into the abyss of Sexcetera, Laid Bare, internet porn, and other things began. But as I got older, porn became less of a shocking thrill and more of a necessary evil. It was only after I began going on a site called 'Ogrish' (which turned into LiveLeak overnight) that I really started to over step the mark. I can recall endless beheadings, animal killings, torture, hangings, and other morbid detritus, but the one thing that made me renounce all of it was a video of a kitten. The camera was place in what looked like a barrel of water, somewhere near the bottom. It looked up into the blurred blue sky above. From out of shot came a man's hand holding a kitten. He submerged the cat in the water. At first it looked confused and began searching around the barrel with its big eyes. Then it began a painfully weak struggle. I had to close the tab around a minute or so in. It remains the worst thing I have ever seen. Its pointless cruelty, and the sickening desire to capture it, brings a pain to my chest even now.


Anyway, here are some other harrowing tales of internet deflowering.


In the sweet early days of dial-up, during which I was in Year 5, I was allowed an hour online after school. I'm not sure if Messenger existed but me and a few friends did have email addresses. I'd just read It by Stephen King on holiday which fueled a pre-existing clown phobia. A female friend was also terrified of them, so we'd go home after school and send each other emails full of clown photos we'd found online with snippets of scary dialogue and narrative pulled from our perverse brains. These quickly escalated; each one had to be scarier than the last. One evening during a scavenge I came across a picture of a woman sucking off an impish clown with a cracked grin. I remember going cold, spinning around on the computer chair to see if my mom was in the vicinity. I followed the picture to its root site and found an early clown porn site. The pictures loaded slowly like Venetian shutters, each unfolding to reveal another loaded cock or circus gangbang. I shared, or rather burdened, my friend with this discovery. At some point emails were intercepted by my mom, which put an end to our little tête-à-tête and landed me in serious shit.

Looking back, those images must have seared into my mind permanently, particularly that first one. Had clowns been sexual in my mind's eye previous to this? No. But I would have satiated this desire to stoke at the core of what terrified me in some other way. If you go looking for shock, you'll find it, on or offline. It's inevitability. Maybe it did fuel a love of horror and extremes in art but then I was reading the master of macabre at nine so I'm reasonably sure my brain was just wired that way.—Hannah



I was always paranoid about getting a virus on my parents' home computer so avoided any websites that weren't BBC. In college we didn't have the internet at home—only in computer labs you had to wait in line for at 3 AM to access JStore journals. So it wasn't until I was around the age of 26 that I saw something on the internet that really made me feel uncomfortable. It was at my friend Jiro's house and he showed me a video of a Vietnamese policeman who had been run over by a truck and cut in half just above his pelvis. I like to think of myself as fairly impervious to internet crap, but that video—the policeman's confused, yet oddly calm face—looking about like he's slipped off a curb rather than moments from a grisly death—and the people milling about around him not really helping, made me feel very uncomfortable. It was the first time I felt that maybe it would be better if people didn't share that sort of thing. But my friend saw my reaction and decided to send me links to horrific shit daily for about a month—so now I am desensitized. Which might be best.—Bruno


I'd been looking at pornography since the age of 11. Mainly photos of women's asses because we only had a 56k modem back then and I couldn't even get a Quicktime video to load so I had to just scroll up and down a few photos of bare bottoms over and over again. Porn very quickly became very normal to me. Until one day at school. We had a library lesson, which meant that we basically sat around unsupervised for an hour in the school library. There was a computer in there.

Me and my mate Max went to fuck about on the computer for a bit because we were 14-year-old boys with access to a computer and being on the computer was more fun than reading a Malorie Blackman novel about heroin addiction or whatever. So there we were, and I was ready to spend a bit of time playing some fun Flash games on Miniclip. Max had other ideas. Max knew about a funny website that we should definitely look at. A slightly meek teenager, I was naturally submissive in these matters and let Max take control of the sticky mouse and clacky keyboard. Max directed us first to but I'd seen everything on there before and wasn't as shocked as he'd hoped I was going to be. So he went elsewhere. We ended up on a website called, I think, Camel Style. Camel Style, from memory, was like a prototype for the Lolporn tumblr we'd come to know and love in the near future.


One video featured a couple shagging, and that was the word for it—this was very much shagging rather than banging or fucking or making love—on a table. Now, in and of itself, this isn't that shocking but bear with me. The table snaps in two. Just like that. Just like Mick Foley dropped from the heavens onto these two tanned and toned shaggers. They lie there, for a second, dazed and confused and not sure what to do. The women looked in pain. The bloke, though, the partner administering the shagging, brutally, and I mean brutally shoves his dick right back in her and gets straight back to his shagging. I remember, at that moment, being shocked by it, because that was the moment I realized that male sexuality knows no bounds, that male sexuality is a horrible potent, possessive thing, that the phallus rules all. I forced a fake laugh out to appease Max. Inside, strange things were happening to me.—Josh


Look, watching gory videos online just wasn't worth it. Not because I had better things to do—I was a deeply suburban teenager with no chores, no job, and afternoons that revolved around a corny covers band made up of my best friends. Spare time yawned forward in abundance. But the dial-up internet where I finished secondary school in Harare, Zimbabwe was such a pain in the ass that I never prioritized doing anything more bandwidth-intensive than running a few MSN Messenger chats or logging into a pre-Facebook social network (shoutout to Hi-5).

The closest experiences I had to watching sexual violence or gore came from TV. Sometimes, at sleepovers when I was at primary school in Switzerland, my friends and I would sneak glances at the late-night porn. I mean, this was western Europe, so basically after about 11 PM regular channels would start broadcasting escort dial-in service ads and porn films. The TV in my mom's bedroom was connected to our living room one, so it would change the channel to reflect whatever was being watched downstairs. If she were also watching TV, and were to catch what we'd put on, we were potentially fucked.

I once remember flicking over onto a harshly lit close-up shot of a woman's labia right as a guy shoved his dick into her and pressed down on her neck. They were both deeply tanned and she was sort of screaming hysterically. My friends and I were about nine years old, so couldn't tell whether she was meant to be having a good time or not. We didn't love it, so we changed over to one of those 1970s-looking classics with soft focus and pubic hair but soon got bored of that, too. The seeds were sown early for my general indifference towards hardcore porn.—Tshepo

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