Dear Readers, I know that some of you have very strong, emotional reactions to pornography. I describe one pornographic image in the third paragraph. In my last paragraph, I ask for your comments on and personal experience with porn.

This post is in preparation for my interview on Thursday with Robert Jensen, author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. This is a really fascinating book. It prompted me to examine my personal relationship with pornography for the first time.

I was maybe 11 when I saw my first porn picture. I was walking on a street near my house alone, and there was a piece of paper on the ground. It was maybe 4 by 6 inches and seemed to be torn out of a small book. So of course, always the avid reader, I picked it up. What stands out in my memory is a naked woman, bending over, with only the top of her thighs to her lower back showing. It was extremely lurid and disturbing. There were at least two other people in the picture, both naked, but all that I remember of them is what seemed to be vast acres of naked flesh. I did not really understand what I saw, but I was horrified, dropped the paper, and ran off. I was afraid someone would see me and think the picture was mine. I would have been able to describe the image in some detail, but I don’t think I could have identified the body parts I was seeing. It was only years later, looking back, that I was able to identify the subject of this image that still stood so clearly in my mind.

The next porn pictures I saw were maybe six months to a year later. A friend and I were in a neighborhood pharmacy. The staff knew me well. My friend and I peeked inside the blocked-out plastic cover on a Playboy and saw the picture on the front cover. We also peeked inside at a few pages. I remember the event more than the images. That we were clearly doing something illicit was delightful. We giggled and jostled for a better view. We may have also picked up a Playgirl and peeked inside. The pictures were not nearly as searing or painful as the one I picked up off the street. They seemed to be from completely different genres, and I did not connect them in my mind.

None of the men I dated in high school or college were particularly interested in porn. At least they didn’t admit to me that they were, and I remained blissfully ignorant. I probably would have thrown a complete fit and used it as grounds for a break-up had I discovered otherwise. I probably would not have been able to articulate why I was so distressed by my boyfriend using porn. Pornographic pictures became, while still uncommon, at least not-shocking over my college years. They continued to make me feel slightly ill, in an undefined, unexamined kind of way.

I am interested in hearing about your early experiences with pornography, both as a child and as an adolescent. Were they positive or negative? How did they shape (or not shape) your current perspective on porn? What kinds of experiences are common for boys versus girls? I would also love to know what place you think porn has (or does not have) in the adolescent mind?