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No, I don't mean porn with children in it—I mean children looking at porn, because most of us did when we were kids. And while I recognize that it's not the perfect way to learn about sex, I don't think it affected me negatively.
Perhaps that was partly due to my limited selection. There is a sharp divide between those of us who were kids before the internet was invented and those who came afterward. Hell, we didn't even have cable TV where I grew up until I was a senior in high school. So my porn viewing was limited to what my parents had stashed around their bedroom—which didn't include anything akin to "Two Girls, One Cup."
First, when I was about 12, I discovered my dad's knee-high stack of porn magazines in the back of his closet. It was mostly Playboy and Penthouse, but there were some issues of Hustler mixed in there, and I think I recall some Gallery and Oui. The pictures were interesting, and I recall being very taken with the occasional shot that had fetishy overtones. But I was—seriously—much more intrigued by the articles and the stories. I loved Xaviera Hollander's advice column in Penthouse. I got a lot of my early sexual information from that column.
I was never sure if I'd really examined all the magazines, but dust had collected around the bottom of the pile, and I was convinced that my father would know if the stack was disturbed too much. And occasionally I'd open the closet door only to find my older brother browsing for something to take to his room. Awkward.
So I began poking around the rest of my parents' bedroom to see what I could find, and struck pay dirt in the bottom of a dresser drawer: two paperback books. The first was a collection of Victorian smut called The Pearl. Once I figured out what gamahuche meant—oral sex—and that spending was weird British slang for coming, I realized this was an extremely fine book. Especially as a lot of the stories involved someone getting beaten with a bundle of birch twigs. It was my first BDSM-laced fiction.
The other book? The Happy Hooker, by that same lusty and entrepreneurial wench Xaviera Hollander. It was my earliest guide in how to be a sex worker.
I used to read and reread those books whenever I was home alone, and then carefully return them to their proper place. As far as I know, my parents were never the wiser.
I didn't start being sexual with another person until I was 16, and I didn't lose my virginity until a year later. I think that was appropriate. But I certainly explored solo sex for four years, making good use of porn magazines, raunchy Victorians birching and frigging and spending on each other, and an early example of the sex-worker memoir. And when it came time to be sexual with someone else, I think I made good use of what I learned.