Thursday, May 7, 2015

Recycle Bin Empty - 07/05/2015

(this isn't poetry, for the most part, but a rewrite of a post I put up on Facebook on April 6th. I read this version at an erotic fiction event last night.)

I had been watching pornography for years before even so much as holding hands with a girl.

I grew up believing that I was never going to (be able to) touch someone. Through my teens and into adulthood, when hormones stacked on top of loneliness, on nights when the desire for sex was unbearable and almost physically painful, pornography was a solace, a balm, a thing to help me cope.

In an isolated state where I all I could connect with was frustration and anger, in times of deluded misogyny, in my worse moments watching porn even felt to me like an act of defiance. Back then the combination of illicitness and difficulty in accessing porn, made it all the more thrilling. You had to be thin-walls quiet, and shared-space careful. It was exciting.

I imagined women touching me, I imagined me touching them. Being naked in front of someone. Imagining some girl wanting to be with me and her wanting to fuck me. That was the fantasy.

At twenty one I met a girl for the first time in my life that I connected with romantically. Finally I could express myself physically, and all that adolescent rage vanished overnight. No longer did I see women as enemies, nor as holders/withholders of something I wanted, it wasn’t about watching or imagining alone in front of a screen. A whole new world of sensations and adventures was opening up, I learned what my turn ons and turn offs were.

I learned about anticipation, the process of building up excitement, warming your partner up, how to touch, learning how I liked to be touched. The smell and feel of soft skin in one’s hands, against your skin. The thrill of undressing someone. Spontaneity was a turn on, lingerie was a turn on. Being wanted was a turn on. Suddenly against all that, the idea of porn looked completely pallid, unappealing, and it vanished from my life.

In the midst of my first long term relationship, I understood my prior use of pornography in context as a substitute to sex. However as two years became three then four, then five and on, sex went from a thing we do anytime we find shade, to daily, to weekly, to sometimes after an argument, to becoming the occasional thing that we, (settled monogamous adults in their twenties) do if we both go to bed at the same time (which was less and less often)... and pornography crept back as a secret supplement to my sex life.

Sneaking out of bed late at night, or closing the curtains when I had the house to myself. My little secret, my small slice of me-time, and this had all the same quietly-illicit thrill it had had in my teenage years.

A schism happened somewhere there, and I suddenly had two sex lives. One with a real person, a well trodden routine we’d visited literally a thousand times, and a second one. Contained entirely inside my head, and accessed through cleverly hidden folders on our hard drive. It was varied, it was everything I couldn’t ask my partner for, to wear, or say, or do, to me or with me. Here, if I could think of it, pretty soon I could find it online.

By the time I became single again, internet pornography was manifoldly-easier to access, and once more became the focus of my so-called sex life. But it wasn’t exactly a replacement for sex anymore, it had become something else, almost completely separate, an additive to my life. It was just something I would do when no one was around. I never saw these two sex lives as competitors however. Anymore than lunch competes with dinner, or your coat competes with your pants.

Pornography was easier though. Because there’s no judgement there, no rejection, no competition, no embarrassing erectile failures, no miscommunications or patience needed, nothing you need to ask for or negotiate. You just let your fingers do the walking, your hands do the stimulating, and your imagination does the exploring. No demands, no moods, no filters and no... no. And no subsequent partner ever superseded my interest in porn again.

However somewhere along the way, with increasingly complicated emotional baggage and a string of failed relationships dragging behind me , two sex lives with one going on hold for months at a time, and the other, easier and never stopping for anything other than not having a room to yourself at night, pornography has slowly taken primacy over physical expression with real lovers. Easier became better.

To the point that, regardless of how emotionally connected I felt to them, some sexual partners in recent years felt more like a distraction from physical gratification than, well, actual partners in it. Porn has become my partner.

My turn ons and turns off all gone digital, and if I’m honest with myself here, pornography was interfering with my physical responses, colouring my desires. Needing to use my hand to achieve satisfaction. Needing to think about those images during three dimensional encounters. Waiting for her to leave the house and boot up the computer. Sex had become the substitute for pornography, and I didn’t even realise it.

I felt compelled to use it at least once a day. Not even because I was that hot and bothered, or needed that wonderful gratification of an orgasm, so much as it was a habitual thing. Like brushing your teeth. But this isn’t just brushing your teeth. Above all though- it was getting worse, both in terms of consumption, and extremeness of content.

Cognitive dissonance is a magnificent thing, and I’d tell myself that this is just the way it is. That no relationship is perfect, or completely emotional or physically fulfilling all the time.

Told myself that this is just me and here I am and there is no normal, and that is that, and what the hell, and I still feel good and fucking hell...

Deep down I knew, I've been in trouble for a long time, and now being single again, recently reached a point where it’s impossible to keep denying this schism, and the negative effects .

In every measurable sense, this is addiction.

I’ve recently returned from a trip cycling across Australia. Last month a friend and I were talking about ideas for my next big adventure, and she challenged me to try looking inward, we stumbled into a conversation about brains/neural pathways/cognitive therapy etc, and I just blurted that ... I’m addicted to porn.

I've rarely discussed it with anyone. Obviously not something I've wanted to confront, because the situation seemed hopeless to me. It's amazing the power that something spoken, or written, can have though. Articulated outside your head, you’re forced to acknowledge it, in a way your private thoughts don’t demand.

I also had to acknowledge, I’m a pretty capable sort when I want to be, I don’t really know what a hopeless situation is, from the inside out.

I decided that I can do something about this; therefore I should do something about this. And I will do something about this. I came home and gathering up all my materials, the various backups, and I deleted every trace of it. I was terrified of what I did, but figured like skydiving or bungy jumping you only have to be brave for one moment and it’s done. All gone. And it won't be coming back. Recycle Bin Empty.

Ultimately there is damage done that can never fully be undone, there are obviously limits to your brains plasticity, and what's in my head is in my head. However... I want to do better, to be better, and I'm using this piece of writing to essentially shame myself into doing so.

I'm going to try and not expose myself to pornography anymore. I don't quite know what to do with myself now. So to speak.

Note that I'm choosing not to discuss any larger social issues with pornography here. I'm not condemning pornography or defending it. It served a function for me that didn’t hurt anyone, for a long time, and somewhere along the road it got out of control. I’m not putting my head on the chopping block for anything else, at least for now.

That head has over twenty years of exposure to aesthetic sexualisation to grapple with.

I have never known what sexuality is without pornography.
I know my own hands,
I know meticulously hidden folders and secrets,
and none of it sensual

Every day I have to keep making the choice not go back.
Sometimes I feel its absence more than others.

Because I know how this ends I if go back, every time
and I’m fucking tired of my sexuality
being tied to something that I’m ashamed of
that I can’t share with anyone else and isn’t real,
so I gotta not
the relief the balm the hands that feeds itself,
but I gotta not

- - -

It’s been about a month, today
I just have to remember what it is I want

sexuality is all about wanting
and for everything that pornography showed me
and all the more important things it left out
I want to fill those in, with someone

don't want to look at screens for relief
want to look at someone’s eyes
half rolled back into bliss
eyes inches away from mine
and get my pleasure there from sharing theirs

slow, sensual, rough, gentle, and strong
all the fun ways we can find to connect
through fabric, through tremblings
under tables, in shadows
in seconds before we get spotted

want you to stay over the night
and breathe out jagged rhythms with me
want to hold and to please
and plead with you, not to leave
the next morning
with a no-you-hang-up-first sincerity
not waiting for you to go
so I can sit in front of a keyboard
to empty myself out, alone

I say I want this back
may have never actually ever had it

it was years of porn before I held hands
with a real person

Recycle Bin Empty.
Turn me off.
Then turn me on, again.
Hard reset.

My turn-ons include-
opinionated discussions about movies,
and infectious smiles
big enough to reach your eyes.

My turn-offs include-
use of the phrase 'lol',
any talk of astrology
(beyond ridicule of the concept),
also new cars,

and this computer.




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