men, masculinities and gender politics

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Love myself

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PORNOGRAPHY was one of the scariest things I had to challenge when I was growing up. I took decisions in my life not to do things a certain way, or to be a certain way. But sometimes decisions have not been enough, and inconsistencies come up in my life that make me feel torn between how I was brought up (both family expectations and societal obligations) and how I prefer to be.

One of the reasons pornography is so scary is that it sometimes feels larger than I am. After the scary bit I just feel ashamed. Sometimes I feel I really need it. Stick magazines, filthy calendars, dirty wonderful pictures, articles I couldn't care less about. I love it. It's the only way I know of having sex with so many beautiful women. I also know that it's a fatally flawed attempt at closeness and that the pages never love me back. I shove that thought away. I still love it. I convince myself. But the problem is that I have to keep my secret. I'm not a dirty old man or an excited little kid on a hormone rush, I'm - well, I'm respectable and respected. My feminist friends would never suspect (sigh of relief), nor is pornography something my male friends talk about seriously (embarrassed shuffle). After all, I'm a nouveau sensitive guy with a reputation to protect.

In my teens I was swiftly indocrinated into pornoculture. I was lucky: Dad's collection was bigger than the local newsagent's, although I stole those as well. I learned all about what a woman's body should look like, and my imagination filled in the part I was obviously destined to play. This was all just before I entered puberty, and so I was well primed for my first orgasm although surprised by it. All this happened in Dad's shed, hurriedly, excitedly. Childhood fantasy was rapidly replaced by adult five-dollar fantasies, and the shed was no longer the place where I'd fix my bike but the place where I'd dream of my first woman.

It never seemed much fun cleaning up the mess afterwards and having to hide the magazines again. Although the pleasure was only momentary, I kept doing it for many years. I never got caught, but there were some close shaves. I guess I was pretty confused about the messages I was getting from the ready availability of pornography, from the fact that they were Dad's magazines, and from my fear that he or Mum would catch me reading them. Then I discovered real girls, and the dilemma seemed to go away.

A little while ago I found a magazine in the park, perhaps left there by a boy not unlike the one I was a few years ago. I surprised myself by taking it home and using it to wank over. I thought I'd left that all behind. It was fun, but all the guilt came flooding back as if I was a clumsy, bashful fifteen-year-old again. I can't help thinking how much less complicated my sex life would be if I hadn't formed false impressions of sex with women all those years ago. It makes me think heterosexually. It makes me desire more than is reasonable. It makes me think it's my right to get it. It makes me think of my ejaculation as a goal. It makes me face up to those feelings. It also makes me sad.

Lots of people now say it's better to "pull it (my dick) than to push it" (with women), but my first sexual experience was all wrong. I miss Dad's shed and the times I would build go-karts and make kites and paint things. I'm glad that they're the types of fantasies I still like the best, and that my relationships are far more satisfying than the pages of the magazines ever were. The temptations are strong to use pornography again, especially when I feel unloved.

I'm challenging my views on sex and relationships rather than reaching for my dick. Many men make me feel there's something wrong with me for resisting pornography, but I'm getting better at telling them I'm finding deeper and more satisfying ways of loving myself.

Reprinted with permission from the magazine XY: men, sex, politics. PO Box 26, AINSLIE, ACT, 2602, AUSTRALIA © Copyright 1995