If nobody was talking about porn and masturbation, then certainly I was doing something odd. I knew porn stars by name, bookmarked all my favorite sites and switched up all the ways I got off — fingers, vibrators and, of course, the water faucet for old time’s sake. I kept searching, clicking through endless galleries of flesh, waiting to be impressed. One that gave me that body-tingling, heart-racing, sweat-inducing rush of excitement. No longer was there enough shame in simply watching porn. I rarely allowed myself to surrender to the sensations or our connection — that’s not the kind of pleasure I knew. I needed to separate shame from pleasure, and the first step was to get rid of the source material I’d long used to enforce this bond.
My hormones were a freight train, and I tried to keep up. This girl probably wanted to be an actress, but couldn’t make it. The more pitiful the story, the more I was turned on. What did it mean that my escape method was someone else’s supposed misfortune?
I wonder now if I would have lost the thrill of masturbation eventually, once the novelty wore off, but I found new thrills. I masturbated every day, multiple times a day, until I was exhausted and sore. I became interested in S&M, casting call couches, bang buses. It didn’t matter if the stories I invented in my head were true.
I started staying up late, when Mom and Dad were snoring away in oblivion, to watch softcore porn on Cinemax. I didn’t know whether to hate her or love her, but I knew I needed her. My brother was three years older, and I’d wait for him to leave the house and then raid his stash, hidden in his bedside drawer under men’s fitness magazines and school notebooks. Later, when classmates at my all-girls Catholic high school were talking about MTV, YM magazine and PMS, I was educating myself on all sorts of other acronyms: DP, POV, ATM and more. Some of the videos had horrible acting bits that made me giggle. I hadn’t a clue what compelled these actresses to pursue this line of work.
I was in the bathtub, helpless to a steady stream of warm water cascading down my lady parts, while the most intoxicating buildup brought me to my first orgasm.
Nothing in my hush-hush Catholic upbringing and innocent friend circle had prepared me for this earthshaking experience, equal parts pleasure and shame.
I didn’t know what I stumbled upon, only that it felt scary and wrong, but I tried not to care. Dredging through the book “Treasure Island” in seventh grade, I told myself I was allowed to masturbate to orgasm at the end of each chapter so I could finish by the due date.No longer would I be crushed out on Eddie Vedder or Chris Cornell. There are 34 chapters in that book and, having made that deal, I breezed through them over the course of a few blissed out days.With the advent of chat rooms on AOL, I supplemented porn with cybersex and sometimes managed to find clips and videos online, which took hours to download. Others were uncomfortably real, such as forlorn Thai hookers and mistake-making drunk party girls. I prayed the “teen” porn stars were 18 like the disclaimers promised. Whether I was in a relationship or not, my bond with porn never waned. What mattered is that I was getting off on their — real or imaginary — pain and subjugation.I needed to have an empty house and no plans for the day for that kind of work. I was proud when I talked to boyfriends about my kink. Tuning in and rubbing one out always sounded like a good idea. It didn’t matter if I’d already had two or three orgasms that day. Then one day, I found myself clicking through gang bangs, but bored by the number of men I saw. I realized that in order for the videos to keep their charge, their intensity and their effectiveness, I needed them to induce shame in me.When friends invited me out, I often made excuses, preferring the ease and familiarity of my screens and self-soothing to the pressure of social connection. When dial-up was replaced with broadband, porn was even more immediate. There was always time and a clip I hadn’t yet seen. I could be in a great mood, a foul mood, angry, sad, bored — whatever was going on, I knew I could top it. Six in this one, eight in that one, 10 in the other. After all, that’s how I found pleasure — in that bathtub at 12, submerged in fear and confusion and the belief that I was bad — and that’s how it had to remain. And, just as I’d blamed yet glorified my softcore hero Shannon Tweed as a child, the women in various porns were also subject to my ambivalence, and eventually my anger. The act was unsatisfying unless I felt some inkling of shame.I feared that somehow they’d figure out my dark secret. With sites like 89, Red Tube, Pornhub, Tube Galore and so many others, I didn’t have to depend on anyone else for my fix. Thoughts of the acrobatic arrangements of flesh and dirty talk filled my mind all day long. Later, when I started having sex for real, I didn’t abandon the usual porn-and-masturbation combo. I surprised boyfriends with my enthusiasm when they’d forgotten to clear their history and insisted that we watch together. Heaven was literally at my fingertips, just a click away, and mine for free whenever and however I wanted it. Usually gang bangs were a sure bet to getting off, but not this time. I’d wired the neural networks in my brain so well that it had become impossible for me to feel sexually turned on without feeling horrible about it. I wanted them to be punished for their insatiable lust, their vacant eyes, and their tireless, mechanical movements with men, just as I emotionally punished myself for my similar relationship with porn. I often fantasized about men cheating on me, hurting me, using me, just so I could get off.