When Porn Was Fun

Before the internet men had to run the gauntlet of sneaking a jazz mag upstairs and then hiding it from Mum's prying eyes.Those were the days...
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Before the internet men had to run the gauntlet of sneaking a jazz mag upstairs and then hiding it from Mum's prying eyes.Those were the days...

Any time today’s generation of young men fancy a quick one off the wrist, they can tap into billions of explicit images and videos via the internet, most of it easily accessible and free of charge. As for being detected, they know far better how to conceal their online behaviour than those monitoring it.

If I was to go back in time to meet my thirteen-year-old self, there’s a great deal I would want to say that might equip him for the difficult years ahead – I am sure most of us would impart similar advice to our younger selves – but I would not divulge the technical advances to come in pornography for fear of cheapening the pre-internet experience. The adolescent me would not appreciate how lucky he was, once he learned that graphic material could be displayed almost instantly on a hand-held portable device in the not-too-distant future.

Here’s the rub, if you pardon the pun. No amount of cyber-porn can ever beat the excitement of trying to get into the house, past your parents and up to your bedroom whilst concealing a jazz mag. The thrill of thumbing through the glossy pages for the first time, trying to savour the pictures without using up their powers all at once; reading the far-fetched stories and “letters”; marvelling at the appalling bedspreads and headboards of the readers’ wives, with their dodgy white stockings, eighties perms and faces concealed in case someone were to recognise Julie from the local Spar.

The first porno mag I ever saw was being passed around at Scouts. It was clearly from the seventies and featured women with hirsute pubic regions, wearing strings of beads and sitting on horses. There wasn’t a boob job, bleached arsehole or oven-ready chicken in sight. One of the boys had raided his elder brother’s collection, and he quickly became the supplier to me and my friends, at least until a mate of mine came across a den in the field behind his house that was home to a decent stash of about twenty mags, which then did the rounds.

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Any bloke that has ever obtained an adult publication that has been through more hands than a rugby ball, will recognise the familiar traits – missing pages, pages stuck together, corners folded over – but one mate of mine passed me a magazine with the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ written next to each model. I asked him about this, and he told me that it saved time. The same friend later lent me a mag with some pages Blu-Tacked together (it actually was Blu-Tack, I checked), in order to quickly turn to the pages he wanted to see. This is how I discovered that he had a thing for women wearing oversized nightshirts and woolly socks.

Another buzz today’s generation has been deprived of is trying to buy a magazine from a newsagent whilst clearly underage. I always found the best places to go were Muslim run – if they didn’t object to stocking them in the first place, they didn’t seem to mind who they sold them to. I would buy them on behalf of friends, who lacked my bold streak, meaning that they would pay and I would get first look.

One thing that probably hasn’t changed is the potential to get caught in flagrante. On one occasion, I heard my mum walking upstairs and just knew she was going to barge into my room. I had a choice – put my tool away or attempt to conceal the magazine. I chose the former, and I still think I made the right decision.

Ironically, it’s the magazine format that dominates the softer side of titillation for today’s youngsters – publications such as Nuts, Zoo and Loaded are certainly better than the lingerie section of the Kay’s catalogue, although even these titles have suffered a huge decline in sales in recent years.

It has been plausibly argued that excessive exposure to internet porn can give people a distorted impression of what sex is, and what normal human bodies actually look like. I would argue that it has also adversely affected what porn itself means, making it too easy to attain, and cheapening what was an important aspect of growing up for generations of young men.