Friday, January 7, 2011

My Life in Porn

When I was about 12 years old, I was a precocious reader.  I went with my mother to the grocery store every Thursday night, and often I would ask to buy a book from the paperbacks for sale there.  One week, I asked for, and was given, a book that told the story of the Leopold–Loeb case that took place in Chicago in the 1920's.  The book explored the gay relationship between the two killers, and it blew my mind.  It was the first indication that I had that there were other men who loved men.  It wasn’t really an erotic work—far from it.  But it offered me the first insight into the fact that gay people existed and that gay men had sex together.  As such, it was very erotic to my fevered libido.

Sometime in the next two years, I found a book in a book store, The Lord Won’t Mind, by Gordon Merrick.  This book was an actual gay–themed novel and gave me a whole frame of reference for the strong sexual feelings and emotions that were running amok in my mind and body.  I could hardly believe that such a book really had been written, or that I had a copy.

Also during this 12–14 period, I found a hand–written story hidden in my Dad’s handkerchief drawer.  I’m sure it was something my Dad had picked up when he was in the Army Air Corps in World War II.  Complete with hand–made illustrations, it told the story of a horny Nubian slave and his many, many sexual conquests.  In my memory, little was said about the women with whom the slave had sex.  What I remember are the explicit descriptions of the slave’s performance and his genitalia.  I’m sure that the role of the women in the story was much more prominent than my memory tells me, but I just wasn’t interested in them.  I was fascinated—obsessed—with what was written about that Nubian slave.  I couldn’t believe my Dad had ever read such a thing, much less that he valued it enough to keep it, hidden in that drawer, all those years.

While I was in the seminary, from the age of 14 through the age of 21, I strove for, and pretty much achieved, celibacy.  Erotica in any form just wasn’t part of my life.

My real exposure to erotica began when I left the seminary.  At first, I had access only to the straight stuff (Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler) that my brother kept hidden in the room that we shared.  When I was 23 or thereabouts, I learned of the existence of two magazines, Playgirl and Viva, that showed naked men.  I would leaf through these magazines at the drug store whenever I thought no one was looking.  Soon I got up the courage, fueled by raging horniness, to buy a copy now and then, always from a store far away from my house.  As soon as I got my own apartment, when I was 25, I got a subscription to Playgirl so I wouldn’t have to go through the ordeal of asking for a copy at the store.  I had no idea then that thousands of other gay men also were subscribing to this magazine.

When I met Father Ben Simione, in March of 1975, I was 28 years old.  In him I saw the hope of getting rid of my gayness and becoming straight.  All copies of Playgirl, and the few other pieces of gay erotica I had collected, were tossed.  I was going straight.

Despite Fr. Ben’s empty assurances, and Beni’s loving support and patient perseverance, I found that there is no way to change a gay boy into a straight boy.  No way.  Period.  It cannot be done.

So, in my late 30's, with a wife and four daughters, I re–discovered gay erotica.  I was with a friend in New York for a few days when I discovered two amazing things: book stores crammed with gay books and magazines, and movie houses on 8th Avenue in Manhattan that showed gay porn films.  I was in my late 30's!!!  Every other gay man I’ve known knew about such things when they were in their teens or early 20's.  Anyway. . . I discovered in New York that there were many genres of gay porn/erotica.  I’ve enjoyed them ever since.

Now, though, in my 60's, I have to say that erotica/porn doesn’t do a lot for me.  If it’s commercial, I know that the men depicted aren’t performing prompted by passion.  They’re being paid.  And I know that some of them aren’t even gay.  That stuff is very boring, to me anyway.

What still interests me is real–life, self–produced porn.  This stuff shows men who are prompted to share their sexual lives and who are excited by that sharing.  Even much of this, I have to admit, I find boring.  But there is the occasional gem, a video or a story where it seems to me the guy is sharing his true passion, his true self.  This stuff is truly erotic to me now.  It’s not necessarily sexually arousing.  It is always, though, emotionally arousing and fascinating to me.  It’s a window into a whole world of sexual interest and experience that is still new to me.

I’m afraid the day will come when none of this stuff will interest me.  I hope that day is years in the future. . . and a day or two before my death.

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