Thinking Out Loud

February 22, 2010

Unresolved Past Issues from Junior High School

Filed under: pornography — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:40 pm

Two years ago, when I originally submitted the manuscript of The Pornography Effect to a psychologist for professional review, she came back with the comment that I wasn’t spending enough time on what it is that motivates men to spend hours online seeking out images.   Given that the publishers I’ve spoken with feel the current length — even though we’re deliberately aiming for a short-read, crisis-book — is too short, I’ve been looking for other dimensions of the subject that might make up additional chapters, if and only if I can figure out where to fit them in within the flow of the book.    This is one of them.

Regrets

The high school Creative Writing teacher thought it would be a good idea to bring in a guest speaker from the seniors’ home who could articulate for her students some of his memories from when he was in their place in life.   She found one who was able to both visit the school and tell his stories clearly.

Mr. Watkins spoke mostly about the upper elementary grades and first year or so of high school.   He told stories of being picked on, a fight that broke out in the hallway, a girl he liked a lot but was afraid to speak to, a camping trip with another boy’s family, a school dance, swimming and fishing at the cottage…

It went on and on, but he had been chosen because he was a competent storyteller and he made some jokes, explained some cultural things he knew they wouldn’t understand, and then he ended with, “You know, I can remember all those things so clearly, but I can’t remember things from five years ago, or one year ago, or two months ago.”

Memory experts can probably tell us reasons why this is so for seniors, but even if you’re only in your twenties or thirties, there are probably experiences and images from middle school or junior high that are simply permanently “burned in” to your brain.

There’s a saying that many people don’t regret the things they did as much as they regret the things they didn’t do. In a discussion of teenage sexuality it’s probably a good thing that there are things most of us didn’t do.   There are others who bore the consequences of a more liberated lifestyle in terms of unwanted pregnancies, disease or an inability to find lasting love.

Don’t take this as an indication that I favor a more liberal approach to sex, but the fact remains that in many parts of the western world — and definitely including North America — most of us grew up in an environment where sexual urges were necessarily repressed for either societal or religious reasons.

As I mentioned in a previous chapter, the numbers yield a very strong tilting of both visual and text pornography to sites which feature teens, and I also indicated that because of the law of diminishing returns, most men start to skew their preferences either toward fetishes or the often legally-gray area of teen pornography, and in some cases to the more clearly-illegal area of child pornography.

I personally believe that the motivation for the preoccupation with teen pornography is rooted in some — but not all — cases with unresolved issues from those critical junior high or middle school years.    Things they did, yes; but mostly things they didn’t do.   Situations they wish had played out differently.    Years that flew by so quickly that there wasn’t time to take in everything that was playing out.   Wishes that they were born in today’s more promiscuous times.

In a single word:  Regrets.

I think — and this is just my opinion — that many men spent their own teen years somewhat sexually clueless.   The pieces started to fit together when they were already in their twenties, or perhaps after they were married, or perhaps after they had already started exploring pornography on the net.    (Some wives would like to make the argument that some of us are still fairly clueless!)

When I hit the rewind button of my own life, I recall a couple of church youth group parties where a couple of girls — now that I see it in hindsight — were clearly asking me if I wanted to make out.    But that was the farthest thing from my mind back then.   I was at the party just to hang out with my friends.   I was into music as were many of my peers.   Others were into cars, electronics, water skiing, political activism, etc.   I remember one girl leaning across the car seat and planting a kiss on my lips.   I momentarily kissed back, which gave her the wrong idea; but then backed away.   I didn’t really find her attractive at all.

In some cases — for me, not that one, I assure you — a guy will replay a scene like this later on and wish he’d acted differently.    Some will regret not having “sowed their wild oats.”   Some will think they should have been more experienced before entering into marriage, even though that marriage myth contradicts a whole lot of anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

But if the text sites are any indication, many of the unexplored regrets pre-date the years someone like me would be behind the wheel of a car.   They go back to ages 11, 12, 13, and 14; some perhaps starting earlier, some perhaps continuing later.   The text sites involve babysitters, siblings, cousins.   They deal with loss of innocence on a number of levels.

With text sites, the number of stories being added to the internet daily is in the hundreds.   While there’s always the possibility that a few of these narratives truly happened — probably leaving some very messed up lives afterward —  the vast majority are fantasy, written because the writers perhaps wish those things had happened.

James Heller in Catch 22 adds to the term deja vu (the feeling you get that something you’re doing has already happened before) givng us the terms presque vu (the feeling that something similar but not quite the same has happened before) and jamais vu (the feeling that you’ve never done anything like this before.)

Most of the text pornographic sites are based on jamais vu situations.   The writers are sitting at home making stuff up when they should probably — forgive me for saying this — get a life.   But I think that many of the people who read their prose fall into the preque vu category inasmuch as they see something unresolved in their own past that identifies with the situation.

The text sites provide clarity for what also drives men to the world of non-legal images of teens and children.   The stories and pictures allow them to live out vicariously the things they never wanted to do at the time, the things they never did, or the things they never knew were possibilities. Of course, the stories and images are intoxicating because they belong to a world of non-reality.   In non-reality the colors are always brighter, the emotions are always more intense, and the ending is always happy.

Reality is quite different:   Those stories never happened; the writers made them up and got addicted to making up more.   Those pictures are not real; that girl is there against her will and when the smile fades from her face in a few seconds, she is actually about to cry.

But there is another, harsher reality that some men need to face:   You can’t go back in time.   You’re not thirteen anymore.   Or fifteen.  Or even eighteen.   There is no way that cashier at the grocery store would ever be attracted to you.    The student at the fast food restaurant isn’t flirting with you, it’s just her first day on the job.  The woman at the library who reminds you of someone you went to school with isn’t that person.

For the many men whose online tastes do not skew “young,” that doesn’t mean that early adolescent memories and issues are not a factor.   Sex is extremely complicated, especially for those of us who grew up in a pre-internet world where every last shred of information wasn’t available at the click of a mouse.    What did or didn’t happen in those formative years shapes us far more than we realize.

Richard Neibuhr’s advice to “accept the things we cannot change” is extremely pertinent here.   Rather than fantasizing about ‘the one that got away,’ or ‘the things we never did,’ we need consider the alternative, which is to find fulfillment in marriage and focus on “things that are true…the things that are pure…the things that are right…”  (Philippans 4:8)

To do otherwise is to just set yourself up for greater hurt.  My message to anyone living in the shadow of the past would be to say, “That was then and this is now.”

You can read all the chapters of The Pornography Effect here.  This is an updated addendum to the book, copyright 2008, Paul Wilkinson.    This post is exclusive to the blog Thinking Out Loud and is not to be reproduced on other sites


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