Me and Porn I

I still remember the first time I looked at porn. It’s kind of a funny story, and in college I wrote a short story about it. In sixth or seventh grade (I think sixth), my computer class teacher gave a little spiel about how we’re not supposed to look at porn on the school computers. Innocent little me didn’t know what porn was at the time. So what did I do? I went home and googled it, of course.

But I couldn’t remember the word when I got home, and I initially searched for “Korn,” the heavy metal band. “Yup,” I thought. “That seems pretty bad.” But at some point I realized that wasn’t it, and I did the search for “porn.” I still remember one of the first images that came up.

In my Catholic school I had learned that God reserved any kind of sexual activity for the loving relationship between husband and wife in marriage. So I knew it was wrong. But for some reason I kept going back to porn. It’s something I’ve struggled with for a really long time and feel that I’ve only recently begun to truly understand and process.

I think one thing I sought after in porn was a relationship with myself. Growing up in a conservative town in a Catholic school in a fairly run-of-the-mill (though really quite good) family means that being gay isn’t ideal. It’s not something you grow up talking about, and it’s something better to not be. I never told anyone about my sexual desires towards other guys. My family didn’t do those kinds of conversations, my school wasn’t the kind of place where I could be open about it, and my church only talked about it when giving a definition of marriage or condemning certain lifestyles. So I had no place to relate to my sexuality.

In that world, I think porn became a “safe space” for me. It was the only thing I could confide in about that part of myself without a fear of rejection. The insidious thing about the situation, though, was that this didn’t actually mean I was accepted. You can’t be accepted by images on a computer screen.

But in some ways it was a place where I could relate to my sexuality, in a world where otherwise I was living in a vacuum. If I could confide in no one and nothing else about my sexuality, I could confide in pornography. And that confiding eventually also became a place of coping for me, coping with all kinds of things: stress, anxiety, conflict, fear, loneliness, insecurity.

I think the pressure of the secrecy surrounding my sexuality was a significant part of what pushed me to pornography. Today when young people feel like they have nowhere to go, they turn to the internet. I don’t think that pornography for me was just about what we think of as lust. It started with an authentic desire for vulnerability and connection that could be pursued in a space that gave a physiological response to those human needs.

To be sure, that response corrupts the personality. It teaches you to seek connection in ways that are not actually dialogical, that cater to what you perceive as your needs in the very specific way that you want them fulfilled. No real loving relationship functions like this. But in a world where gay teens feel they have nowhere to find this connection, it can be understandable, even if still unacceptable, that they turn to porn. The danger is that they will become habituated into this mode of “connection” and that this mode will eventually sabotage them as they later try to pursue authentic relationships.

We need something else.

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