This is a fragmentary post. I apologize – I wrote it and didn’t have the patience to edit it, to make it more better.
I recently walked past a porn store, one of those stores that sells a mixture of porn DVDs and cheap sex toys, heavily weighted toward those that can be used alone, by men (blow-up dolls, dildos, etc.), as well as a fair amount that, I imagine, are bought but never used by patrons who fantasize that one day, one day, they’ll find partners who’ll use them.
Maybe this is wrong. Maybe the toys here are sold to couples, or to men with partners. But the store is so forbidding to women, so much the opposite of, say, Babeland, or any other place that celebrates sex, that I can’t imagine a woman setting foot inside. This place oozes shame, self-loathing, disgust.
Anyway, I walked past, and as I did I remembered the expanses of time I spent in such stores, gazing in a dissociative haze at the seemingly endless racks of flesh, emptily imagining that if I just looked at enough box covers (they were videocassettes then, not DVDs), I would find the one, the video that had the right mix of stimuli to… to what? To end my search?
The memory was of a soul-crushing, simultaneous experience of hope and despair. The hope – this fix will give me, finally, what I’ve been seeking. And the despair – the twin awarenesses that a) it won’t, and b) in fact, it will kill yet another little part of me. This was the agony of my addiction.
I remember how I would gaze at hundreds of box covers, knowing all the while all the truths that made the experience a fool’s errand, or worse. I knew the box covers bore little if any resemblance to what I’d find in the movie. I knew that whatever awaited me in the box, it wouldn’t be transformative. It would provide me with five or seven scenes to which I could masturbate, achieving one, two, maybe three orgasms. I wouldn’t likely want to watch any of them again. Or maybe, maybe, it’d be truly stellar. There’d be something about this movie, this scene, that would make me return to it. A few times. Or even more.
But even with those videos (or magazines – this was as much a magazine phenomenon for me), the ones to which I returned were unsatisfying.
There’s an echo of this in my behavior today. I’m never satisfied. Women have been sending me highly personalized porn for almost three years, and it’s still the NEXT video, the next photo, that gets me hard. Never the last one.
There’s a difference, of course. Maybe several. First, foremost, when I set foot in those porn stores, I left a huge part of myself outside. That dissociative haze was a way of distancing myself from my own desires, my own behaviors, which I found so confusing, so loathsome, so intolerable. Today, my sexual interactions are, for the most part, joyful, happy, fun, and connected. They’re with humans, whom I like. I still like porn, but my relationship to it is much less disembodied. Fuck, one of the things I like to do in my enjoyment of porn is to write about it, to share my tastes, to make it into a social experience, in some way.
Second, I was on a quest. I believed (even as I didn’t) that I might – no, that I would – one day find the perfect magazine, the perfect video, that would bring to an end my search, that would be the Platonic ideal of the fulfillment of my pornographic tastes. This position, in which I believed and didn’t believe something at the same time, was the worst part of my years of compulsivity.
Today, I know all the parts of this in a mostly integrated way: I know that I crave newness, discovery. That once I have something, I can’t very well get it again. And that I really, really like getting, discovering, finding.
I kept on walking, past the video store, and I took out my phone, and began to type.