Love & Sex

My First Encounter with Porn Was Absolutely Terrifying

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October of 1995 was life changing for me. 

October of 1995 was life changing for me. I had just turned ten and I was invited to my neighbor Lindsay’s 13th birthday slumber party. Understandably, this was huge for me. As the oldest child I had always desperately wished for an older sibling to help show me what was cool and lucky for me, Lindsay was an only child who enjoyed having someone that she could boss around and impart her tween wisdom onto.  But it all changed when the porn came out.

So it’s an understatement to say I was excited and nervous for my first real “teenager” slumber party. I showed up, nervous that all these young women would wonder what a mere child such as myself was doing at their very cool slumber party. Lindsay was sweet and proudly introduced me to her friends as her “neighbor who is like basically my little sister,” and that was all it took to make this group of 13 year old girls fully embraced me that night. That would be the one and only time in my life a group of 13 year old girls would fully embrace me because 13 year old girls are terrible.

And so my education began. The first thing we did was devour several issues of YM and Teen Bop magazine, all while eating candy necklaces that Lindsay’s friend Anna had brought “as a joke.” Anna was the epitome of ‘90s cool, wearing an oversized flannel shirt that “belonged to her stepdad” and she had dyed the ends of her pigtail braids bright red using Kool Aid. I was so scared of her. She read an issue of Tiger Beat to me, holding it out for me like it was story time, making sure I could clearly take in each and every heartthrob and instructing me on which ones I needed to be obsessed with. 

“What do you mean you’ve never heard of Andrew Keegan? You need to hang his picture on your wall today,” she instructed me and ripped out his picture, which would hang on my wall for years despite the fact that I was really always more of a JTT and Devon Sawa kinda girl. 

Next we moved on to cake and presents, and the best gift Lindsay got was a CD by a singer I had never heard of: Alanis Morrissette. As soon as she unwrapped it a hush fell over everyone and I knew this album must be really, really important. It was called Jagged Little Pill, which even I knew had to be some sort of drug reference and this thrilled and terrified me in equal measure. We abandoned our cake, gathered around her boombox, and I was immediately punched in the face with the most powerful, angsty voice I had ever heard. I was enraptured. 

I didn’t understand most of the lyrics – I was pretty sure I knew what “going down on you in a theater” meant, although the idea made me very nervous. I knew it was my life’s mission to get that CD as soon as humanly possible and commit every word to memory and continue to obsessively listen to that album for at least the next 18 years of my life.

As if being exposed to Jagged Little Pill for the first time wasn’t overwhelming enough, I was informed that we would be watching an R-rated movie and that movie would be Nell, the Jodi Foster movie about a woman who grew up by herself in the woods until she was discovered as a young adult and the only thing she could say was “tay in the win.” I had no idea what the hell was going on in the movie, but when they showed Nell delicately placing flowers into the eye sockets of the skull that had once been her sister, I knew I shouldn’t be watching this. I hadn’t even seen a PG-13 movie yet, this was way above my head. The movie ended and I felt uneasy, as if I had just been peeking into someone else’s life that wasn’t quite my own, one that I didn’t understand yet. I guess I felt much like Nell would have upon entering our civilized world. Okay, I get the movie now.

And then it happened. Lindsay told us she wanted to show us a “secret channel” she had discovered – and she scrolled up to the 90s, which was no man’s land of the cable channels, until she stopped on a staticky screen where if you looked carefully you could see a man railing a woman. Who was on all fours. The other girls gasped and giggled then quickly fell into a hushed silence, crossing their legs, engrossed. 

I don’t think I blinked for a solid ten minutes. I knew about sex, the mechanics of it, I knew that that’s what my parents had done to create me. But now I was bombarded with it. My first glimpse at what sex actually looks like was horrifying, even though she seemed to really like it. I knew in the back of my head that someday sex was something I would do but after watching that woman get pounded I was just thought, “No way will I ever, ever, ever do that! Are you insane?”

Suddenly we heard her parents walking around upstairs and Lindsay quickly shut the TV off amidst a wave of guilty giggles and everyone eventually fell asleep. I, on the other hand, did not sleep because my world had been shattered. I stared at the ceiling and thought of my sweet, loving parents who were now depraved degenerates who had done that to make me, how Nell’s parents had done that probably under a tree in the woods, how Andrew Keegan’s parents must have done that, or who knows, maybe he’s even done that – how all of us were here on this earth because two people had done that terrifying thing I had just seen. 

Halloween was a couple nights later and I hit up my usual trick our treat route, filling up an entire pillowcase with candy. Normally this haul would have sent me over the moon, but this year I just couldn’t get as excited about it. My mom noticed right away. 

“Honey, aren’t you going to count every piece of candy and organize it into piles according to type and size like you always do?” How could I explain to her that that was something old Laura did? I had made some major life discoveries the other night and suddenly my world just didn’t feel the same. I’ve never been good at hiding my emotions so I immediately began to cry and guiltily admitted everything I had seen – Andrew Keegan’s nipples, an album about drugs or something, an R-rated movie, and worst of all, a guy and a girl doing it. I thought my mom would be mad at me, that she would reprimand me for breaking so many rules.

Instead she just hugged me, and gave me some great advice. She said, “Laura, sex is a complicated and confusing thing, but that’s something for adults to worry about. In fact, you don’t need to even think about sex for at least 15 to 20 years. Maybe longer,” she promised me, patting my head, “You’re just a kid.” 

I felt a wave of relief which gave me more of a buzz than eating a handful of Sweet Tarts all at once. I was actually able to sleep well that night, knowing that just because I had seen all that stuff didn’t mean I needed to grow up immediately. And also because I knew that I had 273 pieces of candy carefully organized and safely hidden under my bed and that I’d get to enjoy that candy every day for a real long time. Maybe even enough to last me until I had to start thinking about sex again. 

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