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I started watching porn when I was about nine years old.

I vividly remember standing single file between other third-grade children at Gracemount Elementary School—intensely aroused and fidgeting as we waited for our homeroom teachers to stop chatting in the hallway. It didn’t take much at all then. Hidden under blankets, in corners, behind beds, I had touched myself wherever I felt unseen. I imagine it must have been terribly suspicious in those moments when I would be under a cover, probably shaking, with my entire family sitting in the same room watching Jeopardy.

I had discovered internet porn that year. The weird, questionably legal kind.

My parents, in their fifties at the time, could not keep up with my computer abilities. By the time I reached middle school, I cockily shared stories of how many of my dad’s passwords I knew and how I learned to stealthily delete our internet history without being tracked. I was caught a few harrowing times.

I grew curious about squirting; I had helpfully informed a friend in middle school that it happens when you try anal, based on all my “research.” I tried that—anything from bottles of lip gloss to the little rounded cone-shaped tip of my purple lava lamp—and was disappointed to find that it wasn’t true. I found peace with it through a little experiment I grew to love as a teenager—putting ice into my vagina and plugging it in with the lava lamp tip, and letting the melted liquid come out when I climaxed. I fancied myself a scientist then.

The second time I ever had sex was the first time I let someone cum on my face. I had just turned sixteen, and we had stolen away to the basement while our mothers talked about houses and homebuilding upstairs: complimenting each other on the marble finish on each others’ hibiscus plants or something.

Seeking the most privacy possible, we had gone to one of the smaller rooms where my mom did the laundry. Her nighties hanging to dry in the doorway were like a damp portal to another world. Inside that realm, I was ceremoniously bent over a running washing machine, and then an adjacent running dryer; there was movement to our little sexcapade. The light in the room was purplish—I never understood why but chalked it up to an artifact of the 80s. It added atmosphere. I couldn’t decide what kind of atmosphere, as most of the porn I’d watched for years up to that point had been fairly well-lit—even the dungeon scenes—and I’d certainly never been to a nightclub. Unconsciously, I decided from that point that purple lights were very, very sexy.

Finally, as he was about to finish I kneeled and enthusiastically asked him to cum on my face. After eight more years of sex, it was probably the most genuine I have ever been in asking someone to do so. He did, and for a moment, we reeled in the post-sex newness glow. It had been hot and passionate, and we had a new secret to add to a million others—not the least of which was that he actually had a girlfriend at the time—and the connection was clearly becoming something neither of us had expected. As such, I did the only sensible thing I could think to do at that moment; I immediately ran to look at myself in the mirror.

“Are you looking at yourself in the mirror?” my friend immediately asked.

Apparently, that was a faux pas of some sort.

“Yeah,” I smiled my voice full of wonder. “I’ve never seen cum on my face before.”

I didn’t like how it felt on my face after it cooled off, as I had never really pondered facials past the optics. Room-temperature sperm had not yet made it to my list of things that made me want to gouge my own eyes out. We went upstairs—I’m a little mortified to think about how obviously we must have smelled of sex. Now is probably an uncomfortable moment to mention that this was also my first time trying anal. I’m pretty sure I told my mother I’d been playing Taboo, and I’m mildly disgusted at how fitting that was in hindsight. My life was not a movie, after all.

There were multiple stretches of college where I would find myself waking up exhausted and wondering why I did not drop out to become a porn star. Primarily, this was one of many dramatic depressed-woman habits I had developed since arriving at college and it being none of what I had expected. I’d stopped enjoying sex—intimacy had started to feel blasé, and toxic relationships had made me disinclined to genuinely open up. I had vocally stopped wanting to talk about sex with “vanilla” people—people who did not participate in BDSM—despite the fact that I did not actively want or seek a Dom(me) at the time either. In truth, I did not want to talk about sex and did not know how to deal with that. Feigning superiority felt more comfortable than connecting with anyone.

I had more than one uncomfortable conversation with men who claimed that my provocation for them to choke to hell out of me had changed their entire outlook on sex. Men tend to think you being new to them is a compliment, as if extremes are not extremes for a reason. For a million reasons. Though I had enjoyed physical and emotional intimacy with partners, the highlights of my sex life had faded almost entirely into a jadedness that felt out of place couched in my early twenties. This, too, was a depressed-woman habit which had nested itself comfortably in what could now be described as a mild addiction to porn. I never described it that way, even when my ex and I had sex one time, on our sides and spooning, my eyes glued to a decades-old shibari scene, his eyes glued to me. Sometimes, I watched the movies we made of ourselves. We looked ugly having sex, I always thought. This is not what sex should look like. I had gotten off to far uglier things. I got off to our home movies easily.

I asked a guy a bit younger than me to pull my hair once. He pulled from the end, and I pragmatically informed him that you pull hair—especially black woman hair—from the root, not the end. I wondered the next day if the information I gave him had been more practical than damaging. But then, what is impractical about pulling hair? This is normal, I decided. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a grasp on normal.

People ask me during drinking games about my wildest experience and I never know what to say. Nothing about me has ever felt particularly wild; I have made people’s wildest fantasies mundane. Sometimes I joke with people that I watch horse porn as an adult. I don’t. Sometimes I pretend I’m completely serious, knowing that people will try and fail to mask their disgust with politeness, to remind myself how far my eyes have gone. Wild has become inconceivable. I pretend I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing. It’s liberating, sometimes.

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