Mac Porn

Porn and/or Sex

I was in one of the early (I hesitate to say the "first") echelons of American teenagers to figure sex out by way of the Internet.

Background: standard-issue liberal upbringing by 50s/60s-era parents. Parental affection displayed, correct answers about sex given from the beginning. Found out about storks by literary reference only. Had things pretty well figured out, biologically, before setting foot in a locker room. Found The Joy of Sex in attic at age 11, worked out some of the more subjective issues. That was how I found out about both insertion and thrusting in m-f PIV sex -- the 5th-grade sex-ed film with the cutaway diagrams didn't mention them.

Then much BBS usage ensued. Porn on the BBSes was a matter of delicate selection. Most every shot was explicit, because when it takes 3-5 minutes per image, a lot of culling goes on in the dissemination. Not much in the way of text-fiction, oddly -- even without developed tastes I noted that most of it was awful. Most adult BBSes, IMLE, had much the same stuff in greater quantity. Found out about a few kinks.

BBSes did have girls on them, here and there, and that helped. Out there in Real Life girls were busy falling for macho jerks who beat us up, or standing around at the center of one or another tornado of hairspray and giggling. On a BBS you could have a conversation with one, and neither of you would end up humiliating the other. That helped.

Started college at 15, and got access to Usenet. This was the pre-spam, pre-web, pre-CDA and almost-pre-commercialization period. Eleven thousand newsgroups with people talking on a more or less adult level. The alt.sex.* hierarchy was still active and usable: hundreds or thousands of people talking honestly and unashamedly about what they were trying just then, what interested them, what their problems were. Learned about a few dozen more kinks, in a medium where various kinks and fetishes were broadly accepted. Nothing squicked me particularly; it was just what various people were into. rec.arts.erotica was going well just then, and had a fair amount of decent erotica from writers of both genders. Reading accounts and fantasies of the rest of the world helped too. Collectively it was like finding your father's stash of Playboys, but based on the sexuality of actual people trying to communicate, not a company selling titillation for profit, and in greater volume than you could ever get through.

One day I ran w(1) on the college Linux shell server. Of the eight dialups to that machine, six were running sz to download porn; one person was running a mailreader, and the eighth was my w. This is more or less where the Internet stands now, in fact.

I wrote software to gateway a UUCP feed into the WWIV BBS network software. Fed a dozen or so newsgroups into it. I noticed that a fair number of people would switch right to alt.sex.stories, do an automated Z-scan of the whole thing (dumping every message in the subboard out without pausing), then log off to read the capture at their leisure. That was the only sex newsgroup I could afford to feed -- it was certainly popular, all over the BBS network to which it was gatewayed, but it accounted for half of the total inbound traffic.

Right about then the web happened, the BBS communities folded up like paper snowflakes in a bonfire, and capitalism plonked its pasty behind down all over the Internet. I never found any porn on gopher, but it came to the web quickly enough. Web porn is terrible, by the standards of Usenet circa 1993. Web porn mostly works because most Internet users don't know there's anything to the Internet besides the web. The supply of men and women willing to take their clothes off without being paid for it was never that large to begin with, so to generate more than a small volume of electronic porn you still have to pay the models/actors. Combined with a Clinton-era administration that had other priorities besides trying to exert sexual control over its citizenry (instead focusing on stuff like taking away their privacy), scads of web-porn operators wedged into a market, slicing that pie up incredibly thin. If the margins on electronic publication weren't so small there would have been an enormous die-off. Those thin margins bred all sorts of competitive efforts, many of them at the expense of their own customers, or completely uninvolved parties (who do you think invented the popup ad? Or spamdexing?). If I hadn't taken up with a similarly raised girl IRL and gone off to University just then, I'd have been heartbroken at the wholesale strip-mining and paving-over of so much material.

Now I help run a newsgroup myself. It's nothing like what it was, but when teenagers come in to ask about penises hanging to one side or whether anal sex causes pregnancy, they get answers. I'm sure there are plenty of teenagers just reading along, figuring things out. Maybe growing into their own sexual adulthoods, well informed, adventuresome, feeling less inhibited, afraid and confused than otherwise. They'll be more likely to have found out about and thought through the million or so kinks and flavors out there. They'll have seen homosexuality, transsexualism and trans-gender issues treated with decency and respect.

I'm still young enough to believe that information is a better basis for a sexual revolution than permission was.


I've skipped over the matters of morality and what kids should be exposed to in this thing. For the morality: what you do with your mind and your body is your own choice, and none of it is wrong. What you do with other people is your own mutual choice, and if it's consentual, that's not wrong either. And that's all.

Regarding the kids: the cure for information is more information. Give your kids the ability to think critically and to apply reason, and they'll come out lots better than if you tried to control what they read -- it's not like you can keep them from finding out more about sex than you tell them. Keep them in the dark and they'll just grow up to be ashamed, unhappy and afraid of it.

Flames involving the words "disgusting" or "depraved," or applying some particular theology to me, will probably be ignored. Don't bother.

Devin Carraway <porn-and-or-sex[at]devin.com>