Addendum: This post makes it sound like I’m a big proponent of pornography. I’m not. I have a general disgust with most of the pornographic world, and an unyielding anger at how it fuels human trafficking, pedophilia, abuse of women and children, etc. This post is about how my own developing sexuality was delayed and warped by misguided religious beliefs, and how I used to soft porn to learn about my body (which I should have learned in healthier ways). When it comes to human sexuality, my stance is definitely anti-religious but that doesn’t mean there are no boundaries. Selling and buying human beings – with or without their consent – is never ok.
In my teen years, I didn’t date much. Not because I didn’t want to. I wanted to date like a normal teenager. I was attractive. I was popular. But I was also a bit of a prude, a bit stuck up, and a bit afraid of guys because I was told they only wanted one thing – sex. I came from a very conservative religious community that frowned on casual dating and absolutely forbid premarital sex.
I had a crush on one guy in particular who also had a crush on me. But when he asked me out, my lack of self-esteem wouldn’t let me think he was serious. I thought he was joking and turned him down, at least at first.
This means I spent a lot of my teenage weekends babysitting. This is when I was introduced to the big P – pornography.
After I put the kids to bed, I had a lot of time on my hands. Usually I had already done all my homework. I didn’t like talking on the phone. I wasn’t allowed to have visitors while I was babysitting. So I would straighten up the house and look for interesting things to read.
Surprisingly, a lot of the people I babysat for subscribed to magazines like Playboy and Penthouse. This intrigued me. These were “normal” people, often friends of my family. I didn’t know “normal” people could have these magazines in their houses. And they weren’t hidden at all – just stacks and stacks out in the open like Newsweek or something! Living in a Christian house, pornography wasn’t just frowned on. It was near the top of a very long list of things that would send you to Hell – things like murder and robbery and rock music.
I was a good girl. I knew I shouldn’t look at pornographic magazines. I actually thought I was a freak for WANTING to look at pictures of naked women. Only men liked looking at porn, right? Women didn’t like it at all, right? They especially didn’t like looking at pictures of other women. Unless they were lesbians. Right?
But I was curious. I’d never seen anyone else’s body except mine. So I started looking at these magazines. Occasionally I would luck up and see a man. It was nice to see what a real penis looked like. I honestly had no idea. But I was fascinated by the women. By their breasts, their pubic areas, their asses, their smooth legs and long hair and pouty lips. I thought they were beautiful. Looking at them made me feel beautiful. And I didn’t know why, but looking at them really turned me on. It might have been wrong. But it felt really, really good.
It was normal that I had urges. I had strong urges for a very long time. But since having sex outside of marriage was a sin, I was very abstinent.
My teenage abstinence wasn’t just about God, though. I was a good student who wanted to go to college and have a career. The last thing I wanted was to get pregnant. The next last thing I wanted to get was a venereal disease. The third last thing I wanted was to lose my virginity and then feel obligated to marry the poor slob who took it. I heard horror stories and saw too many people stuck like that. Besides, I wasn’t sure I would ever get married. So having sex didn’t seem worth all the risk.
Especially when I learned I could get satisfaction from looking at pornography and masturbating. And boy, did I do both with great enthusiasm!
So I was committing two sins – looking at dirty pictures and masturbating. But unlike actual sex, these were sins that could be my own little secret, accomplished in the privacy of my own room or bathroom or wherever. It didn’t involve anyone else.
So instead of going on dates – dates with horny boys who might tempt me into an unholy loss of my virginity and disappoint God more than I could bear – I stayed in my room and masturbated. Sometimes I had dates with the boy I had a crush on. We would kiss and make out in his car but stop short of third-base. Then we would both go home and finish the job. I luxuriated in long sessions of self pleasuring under the guise of listening to music or doing homework or just having alone time. Before long it progressed from merely mechanical to genuinely making love to myself.
I explored my body. I looked at myself in the mirror. I learned ways to touch myself that drove me crazy. I imagined performing for an audience. I created scenarios in my head. I used props and found things I could use as sex toys without even knowing there was such a thing.
I made masturbation into an art form.
Eventually I did have sex, and it was good. I still thought it was a sin, but I just couldn’t wait any longer. After college, I ran into the guy I dated in high school and we made up for lost time. We didn’t end up together – I never thought we would – but it was fun while it lasted. I was no longer a little shy pristine girl. I was an experienced lover who blew his mind. Because I learned early how to take matters into my own hands, I fulfilled all the teenage dreams he ever had about me. And even now that I’m past 50 and happily in a long term marriage, I am still able to make my husband feel like a teenager. And vice versa.
Having dysfunctional attitudes about sex and relationships is not a path I would recommend to anyone in high school or otherwise. But learning to know, respect and pleasure your own body? That is something I highly recommend, no matter your age.