Tuesday, June 27, 2006

So I'm thinking a little bit on how we get where we are, how we develop into the adults we are, for good or ill, what shapes our political/sexual identities.

Although I fear that such a discussion may trip triggers or mash buttons or otherwise cause more harm than good, I guess it doesn't have to. I mean, if we're all very respectful and careful and gentle with each other, maybe we could find more similarities than differences between us. Or, if differences present themselves persistently, maybe we can honor them and learn from them rather than let them continue to get us all upset with each other.

When I was about twelve I had a friend, F. She was exponentially more sophisticated than I was on every level. She was a wild child - no two ways about it. I admired her, certainly, as I was kind of shy and retiring and gawky and, well, doofy. Anything F. did/said/wore/liked was about a thousand times cooler than what I did/said/wore/liked - and intensified by the "bad" factor, that cigarette-smoke-lipgloss-hairspray aura that made everything she did so much more alluring and naughty and grown-up.

One thing F. had none of was respect for her elders. She thought nothing of talking back, openly defying, subtly sabotaging - she was rebellious to a shocking degree. Her flagrant disregard for parental authority was made abundantly clear to me one day when we snuck into her father's bedroom and rooted around under the bed until we found The Dirty Pictures.

By this time I had grasped the nuts-n-bolts of reproduction, thanks to The Life Cycle Library and a handful of "Your Body and YOU" - type books. But The Dirty Pictures seem to have anything at all to do with the reproductive process. I'm not sure I would have known they were Dirty Pictures, except that F. announced it when she found them. "aHA! The Dirty Pictures!"

While the pictures themselves were surprising and fascinating, it was not the naughtiness of those pictures that was so captivating. Far more exciting was the act of violating a closed door, seeking out the hidden and forbidden, learning the strange and arcane secrets of the adult world.

Thereafter, I devoted much of my free time (probably too much of my free time) looking for more Dirty Pictures. When I discovered that Dirty Pictures were hard to come by (being under eighteen and all), I moved on to Dirty Books, which were much easier to get my juvenile hands on. I haunted the Adult section in the public library, of course with the finely-honed eye for quality and high level of sophistication of the average twelve year old - Anais Nin left me cold, even though the title of the book clearly read "erotica"; Danielle Steele kept me occupied for hours. My mother and I began to wordlessly trade the most egregious paperbacks, silently removing and replacing them in their hiding places between our respective mattresses and box springs. The Happy Hooker - fascinating. Wifey - not so much.

It's important to realize that nobody was shoving the material down my throat. Not by a long shot. I hunted this stuff, stalked it, like a kitten stalks a grasshopper.

And then I found it. The motherlode. The granddaddy of them all.

Way way up on my stepmother's highest shelf, innocently hiding in plain sight among the much-loved American and world lit of her grad school days, was the legendary Kama Sutra.

And next to it, Philosophy in the Bedroom. I didn't know what that was about, but I figured it had the word "bedroom" in the title so it had to have at least some good parts. And I had begun to hear the author's name, Marquis de Sade, flung around here and there...

In order to reach the books I had to stand on a couple of encyclopedias, balanced on a box, balanced on a chair, and even still I had to strain every muscle in my body upwards while teetering precariously on tiptoe. But it was worth it, I felt. Worth it for the good parts.

The much renowned encyclopedia of the Hindu art of love was totally beyond me, frankly. I had trouble adjusting to the whole "yoni" and "lingam" thing...I was looking for something, I don't know, something...different...something dirtier...

something like Philosophy in the Bedroom.

I remember that book, the way the pages felt so soft and fragile, the way it smelled so delightfully old, the way some of the pages slipped from between the ratty paper cover on to the floor. I remember feeling so afraid that a random page would float away and get lost behind a shelf or under the bed, only to betray me later. Mostly, I remember skipping the philosophy and aiming right for the bedroom.

Dirty I wanted, and dirty I got. I knew my quest had come to an end. No book could possibly be dirtier.

I dug it. Maybe I dug it because it seemed the the very peak of rebellion. Maybe I dug it because a couple of stories featured the utter destruction of a mother or stepmother, and that meshed nicely with how I felt about my own stepmother at the time. Whatever the reason, I dug it.

I guess that was the point of no return for me.

any thoughts?

I remember feeling similarly about the "kinky" stuff in a number of my father's Joseph Wambaugh cop novels. I think I just sort of glossed over that they were pretty much being pathologized.

Who knows how it starts, though?

I remember my first experience of being sexual (o.k. masturbation) from when I was...must've been three, maybe? two? four? I had some sort of game with little cards; you were supposed to match the correct head, torso, and legs with each other; there was a cop, a ballerina, a clown, a number of others. anyway I remember deliberately putting the wrong head on the wrong body and being sexually by this. who knows why? all I know is: it predates theory, for me.
oh, and when I was in junior high, had a friend with whom would giggle (and, privately, get off) to/over such things as the "Lace" novels by Shirley Conran, which were pretty damn kinky. sociologically they'er probably more interesting as commodity fetish fantasies; deisgners and description of terribly expensive clothing, the scene at Vail, jewelry, and so on are/were at least as masturbatory as the actual sex scenes, as I recall.

i also recall hormones kicking in during about that time and being aware that it felt like a different track of eroticism: all directed toward girls and women. pounding heart, blushing, spontaneous and embarassing turn-ons, the whole bit. didn't necessarily affect my masturbatory fantasies, though; although I now became uncomfortably aware that what I hadn't particularly worried about in the past, my kinkiness, was in fact probably not something shared by other girls. primarily i was worried about not being attracted to boys, and being attracted to girls, though.
I feel a bad/wrong/guilty for admitting that I went out and looked for sexual content when there are so many out there who had sexual content non-consensually thrust upon them.

It's like I have no excuse for being kinky - it's my own fault.
Where does the guilt come from, do you think?
That post concentrated mostly on developing a sexual identity, not so much the political identity, I realize now.

That came much later,when, in my search for "good parts" I discovered Our Bodies, Ourselves and Sisterhood is Powerful in the school library in (I guess) tenth grade.

the guilt - Well, I have the luxury of speaking about growing into a sexual identity of my own free will, whereas others have experiences which specifically negate that.

I guess for some reason I'm just acutely aware of my privilege as non-youth-sexual-assault-survivor.
You know what, though: we've all experienced abuses at one level or another; and we all also have a certain amount of agency. I think.

ultimately the guilt is...

well, i have my own thoughts about that, wrt my own guilts.
I sometimes feel like I should have made healthier choices, having had that luxury.
i dont think my experiences on this was much different to yours tbh. i didnt have to look for 'dirty pictures', my dad had a great big stack on proud display in his bedroom.

i liked to read as a kid and i used to read my mums books, virginia andrews and crap like that, nothing with any realistic sex in, all "throbbing manhoods" and the like, rofl! i didnt read the marquis until maybe three years ago.

i did see a lot of porn in my teens, mostly bullshit mainstream stuff, but some 'kinky' stuff. mostly amateur too, i dont think ive ever seen any well made porn, nothing with any sort of real budget. and lots of european stuff from the seventies/eighties.

i dont think you should feel bad ap, and i think you hunting stuff out like that is pretty normal. do you remember Judy Blumes Forever? "katherine, meet ralph" - surely one of the most memorable and funny lines in a kids book EVER. that must have been the most borrowed book in my school library. i'm sure most kids were hunting stuff out, in different places. i dont know that most kids would have had the patience to read de Sade though! he does go on a bit.

and belledamme, sounds like you had a fun game there. i remember sitting on the swings for ages trying to find just the right spot, when i was really little. ;)

when i was still small, six, seven maybe, i used to 'perform' in my window. strip and dance and all that. i dont know why i did that but i think about it sometimes and wonder.
oh the throbbing! the swooning!

women were always swooning in Philosophy in the Bedroom. In my mind's eye they all tumbled ass over teacup and cracked their heads a lot. from the swooning.

Forever didn't really light my fire the way it was supposed to. But people thought it was dirty, so it became dirty.
I've always wanted to open a used bookstore, and call it Dyrti Books. that way I could answer the phone and say "good morning, dirty books!"
i never saw forever as a 'dirty' book, just a book with sex in it. i never saw porn mags as 'dirty' mags, just mags with naked people posing rather stupidly in them.
Yeh, I never really got the "dirty" thing either.

I remember some earnest little classmate telling me that "Physical" (then-popular Olivia-Newton John song) was "bad." and me, gormless, earnestly arguing back: "no it's not! physical means exercise!!"

i just had no idea what she meant. and even if i had done, i doubt i would've understood it in the same way she did, doubtless from the parentals or summat.
I always heard that one chorus as
"I wanna get animal, let's get an animal!"

which didn't seem to make sense in context at the time, though I could certainly sympathize. I wanted an animal, maybe a goldfish...

My favorite song of the period (circa 1980-81) was, no question, "Superfreak".
the guilt - Well, I have the luxury of speaking about growing into a sexual identity of my own free will, whereas others have experiences which specifically negate that.

True, but what happened to other people is not your fault, nor does it negate the worth of your own experiences.

I say this as someone who has wrestled for years with way too much unnecessary guilt!
I remember being 12 when I found my parents' copy of Alex Comfort's "The Joy of Sex." Sure, there were naughty pictures, but it also spoke of a concept of sex that was free, uninhibited, and empowering. Later, I came to view this as "hippie sex." Still, something in those illustrations was a thousand times more erotic than all the illicit Penthouses sitting in my closet, or in my dad's work cabinet.
"Wifey" was awful, btw. i mean, seriously: and she didn't just kill her godawful husband because...?
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