I never sought out pornography; it found me. With technology these days, it was practically inevitable. Even in 2006. It all started with soft-core pornography; it all ends there, too.

I talked about my porn habits in our latest YOBcast episode, and I wanted to dive deeper into my pornography origin story. Particularly my fixation with soft-core pornography.

I was 19, a sophomore in college still living at his parents’ house. I scrolled through Facebook one night and happened upon a friend’s page. He’d just posted a video; I clicked it. He and a friend were dressed up in “cool guy” attire, shades and hats as they lip-synced and danced to a pop song.

It was humorous. It was cute. I smiled as I watched the first minute unfold.

Then, without warning, my friend ripped his shirt off. His friend did the same. They played with their belts. My friend’s video started turning into a comical strip-tease, and my heart raced more than it ever has on the Internet.

The video ended after a couple minutes, and nothing else was shown. No pants came off, no other body parts exposed, no sort of sexual interaction between the two friends.

But what I saw in my friend’s video gave me a taste. Awakened this desire in me to see other men wearing progressively less clothing, acting uninhibited and without shame together. Confident.

I clicked away from Facebook that night, heart hammering, desperate to see what more the Internet had to offer me. One little search for soft-core pornography led me down a rabbit hole for the next few hours.
I’ve not escaped this hole all these years later.

I remember my first bouts with pornography as so innocent. The content so very tame compared to what I’d uncover years later.

I’ve clicked onto a few hardcore pornographic sites over the years, only to quickly click away, my senses overwhelmed. A “muchness” shutting me down and steering me back toward tamer waters.

All the hardcore stuff out there has just never appealed to me. I guess I’m more about the relationship, the intimacy, the anticipation and the “tease” more than any actual reveal.

These days, I only ever watch soft-core pornography (when I do). I think a lot about my friend’s old video and all the soft-core ones that followed.

He didn’t create that silly video with pornographic intent, but my heart latched onto it that way anyway. Twisted his carefree confidence into some convoluted sexual thing.

Looking back, I think I wanted to be in that room with him. Taking off clothes with him. Acting with him. Connecting over our inherent maleness. Our ability to take off shirts for the camera in a provocative yet ridiculous way and not mean it sexually, bonding as we go, unrehearsed, natural.

Men. Together.

Eleven years later, I don’t think I’ll ever get pulled into the world of hardcore pornography, though I don’t want to presume to be “exempt” from such snares.

Nonetheless. Here I am. Still tempted and lulled by soft-core pornography all these years later.

Still yearning for connection and male togetherness more than anything else.

Without being graphic, describe your first pornographic experience. What feelings did your first look at porn evoke in you? How has your pornography habits evolved to where you are today? Do you draw any lines between soft-core pornography and hardcore pornography?

  • I was super young when my struggles with porn began. Though, unlike you, I sought it out. Originally, porn gave me what I was desiring, or so I thought it was. But even at a young age, I realized the feeling was temporary, lasting only as long as the images were in front of me.
    I do draw lines between what is hard core and soft core, but it’s still porn. Ranking it from “sinful” porn to “more sinful porn” seems like saying, “It’s only a little arsenic, not a lot of arsenic.” It’s still arsenic.
    Thank you for sharing your story, Tom. This was definitely a vulnerable blog to post.

    • It’s possible to build a tolerance to arsenic if taken in very small doses. Same way with heroin. Both eventually kill you from the inside out, kind of like porn. I like emotional porn – the gay movies with a plot that show them living happily ever after. Are they less toxic? I would say no. They portray a life I will never have, but create a longing for it nonetheless. It’s not good to have that kind of conflict in one’s head. What I have noticed about this emotional porn is that it always focuses on younger gay men that are always good looking. That ain’t life for the out and proud, let alone us SSA that are trying to escape. It’s another strap that pulls us down into despair and it makes it very hard to rise above our desires and live with higher purposes.

      • I have been trying successfully to escape porn for a year, but it is VERY difficult when there is softcore porn EVERYWHERE, from underwear and swimsuit ads, never mind all the TV shows as of late (even something as innocuous as The Simpsons); it all serves to remind me of something that I can’t have and don’t (spiritually) want. I suppose it would be the same if I was straight. Porn is like a chocolate bunny you receive at Easter: It is sickly sweet, and flavored with chocolate (but not good chocolate) but COMPLETELY H O L L O W INSIDE!!!

      • I know that struggle, brother. Different sins do indeed have different earthy consequences. But, as you correctly pointed out, it still leads to brokenness. Understanding that tension is a life long endeavor I believe.

  • “Awakened this desire in me to see other men wearing progressively less clothing, acting uninhibited and without shame together. Confident.” Yes. Ditto. Tom, I could kiss you for saying that.

  • This is…really weird that this should be featured right now. I looked at pornography for the first time in over a year of quitting a few days ago and what I looked for was completely different than before I quit. It’s really hard to describe without being graphic, but I never looked at “real” pornography, but rather stuff that focused on specific fetishes when I was probably 12. Now, coming back I looked at more “real” stuff but still not quite there yet. Upon looking at the “real” deal for the first time a few days ago, my sex drive just kind of died (at least for now) because of how disgusted I was. I was always the person who didn’t care about the emotional stuff and was only in it for the gratification. Now after one year of being free and returning and seeing the real thing for the first time, I feel way the opposite. I don’t want porn or sex so much anymore. I want to be loved in a perverse way that God is trying to protect me from. It’s so weird how in a year my entire perspective on homosexuality completely reversed. It’s been hard lately but enlightening at the very least.

  • This topic moves me in so many different directions, Tom.
    To be up front and quick to the point, I realized some time ago that the times when porn has captivated my time and attention, that it was certainly the “softer” aspects of it that was always the appealing and metaphorical “baited hook” for me. I loved looking at images that seemed to portray two men sharing a moment of nude but deliberately non-sexual intimacy together.
    Of course, whether intimacy involving nudity between two men can ever truly be classified as “non-sexual” or not—that is a topic of discussion for another blog posting. But I’ll just put it out there that it is my own belief that nudity, even with limited physical intimacy, does not always necessarily equate to being “sexual.” And there’s a photographic history that also proves this out.
    But still, I also humbly admit that I do have a certain amount of “spiritual” anxiety about the possibility that I am in error there, because of my own struggles and SSA issues… I am confident in my own reasoning to a large degree, but not so completely certain that I’d refuse to budge in that opinion, if more specific “spiritual opposing-truth” were illuminated to me in sorting it all out.

    Anyway… sorry. Back to the topic at hand. Like I said, two men pictured embracing, cuddling or just sitting together, or groups of men engaged in non-sexual activities like camping and such, and sharing casual moments of nudity together. That’s my own “baited hook,” as it were.
    Images like these just seem to tug right at the very heart of the voids that I so often feel within—sad to say—the Christian Church environment, in so many of those relationships, and in my sense of the “brotherhood” that I feel with those other men. Why do those relationships always seem to feel so shallow and “check-the-block” to me, in their nature and interactions?
    But I am also drawn to, and even fascinated to the point of being captivated in wonder by non-pornagraphic historical images—black and white military photos taken by TIME and LIFE Magazine journalists, or by military war photographers and such.
    Tom, you’d be amazed at how many of those images depict the brave American men of WW2 engaged in activities of complete nudity together… and with such an obvious, casual freedom and lack of sexual concern about it, that I can’t help but to wonder to myself, “Who stole our masculine innocense from us, and where did this deep sense of camaraderie among American men go?”
    But those historical images do depict it so truthfully and naturally that one can actually sense and feel the genuine masculine nature calling out to us through those old photographs. I love looking at those images, and I actually own two hard-cover books that are full of them.
    But it is difficult to “Google” that stuff on the internet without also getting all of the pornographic garbage that will always come back in the search results, as well. And that additional “garbage” is always a temptation to me that I’d rather just avoid if I can.

  • I have a very atypical relationship with porn. I’m 22 years old and I masturbated for the first time last year, believe it or not.
    I consider myself a grey-asexual (not going into details now, but labels tho problematic can help sometimes).
    I grew up trying to get hooked up by porn (no pun intended) because it seemed that everyone was affected by it (especially the youth at church sharing their struggles). I felt a complete alien. So I would occasionally watch some random porn expecting to find what people said it was.
    Nothing.
    Until last year, when in one my attempts I came across an amateur material. A simple closeup of a (straight) married couple intercourse. Here we go.
    Since then I realized this real, amateur material really turned me on.
    It didn’t take me long to realize “solo” men was on top of the list. Never got into “real” stuff between men, only foreplay. I intent to keep it that way.
    Porn has affected a lot how I perceive certain situations. I’d say nobody should never get into it if it was possible.
    I know I didn’t say much, but now it’s late here and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to leave a comment and congratulate you on your work,

    • That’s interesting. Like you, I also started masturbation (with a few exceptions before puberty) and watching porn only in my (late) 20s.
      Amateur and solo men stuff have been some of my “favorites”, too. My same-sex attractions are primarily physical and less emotional.
      So, watching guys only taking off shirts and being affectionate hasn’t been “enough” for me.
      I’ve also found out that some (not all) of my porn watching habits were about comparing myself/my body/bodyparts with others.
      Sexual attraction is a higly complex and multidimensional phenomenon that doesn’t fit into distinct
      categories like straight, gay, bisexual or asexual.

      • Definitely! Since last year when I started to masturbate and watch porn I realized how complex sexuality is. Not to mention the theological implications of it all.
        Being more specific about myself: it seems like I have some sort of fetish with the male genitalia. I don’t feel attracted by men strictly saying, I never looked at a man and desired to engage in any sort of sexual activity with him.
        Actually, I have never felt attracted by anyone (men or women) in that way.
        However, I almost always get aroused by naked men or the idea of being naked around men. Since I was 10 or 11 I struggle to use changing rooms because of that. I just can’t avoid an erection. For that reason I spent my whole teen years extremely concerned about the possibility of being gay. Especially because I didn’t feel attracted by woman. Only in the last few months that I understood that my arousal was not necessarily linked to attraction which is very confusing. Sometimes I wonder if that is not some sort of light attraction.
        Explicit sexual activity between straight couples also arouses me, as I said. And the more amateur the better. But definitely men masturbating is the most triggering.
        I just wanted so bad to be able to openly talk about it all without people trying to push me into categories. Neither my gay friends nor my Christian friends. So I end up hiding it all from most people
        In my small group quite often the guys talk about their struggles and confusion with masturbation and OSA. I just see no room for me though.
        You mentioned no emotional attraction towards men. I never had a crush on a man, just a few on women. I think emotional attraction has a lot do with how we set up our minds.
        But I have been noticing how I have some “bromances”. Thank to YOB I’m noticing how sometimes I just want to be accepted and loved by men. Sometimes I even get aroused when a friend is telling me something very personal, not even sex-related. Then I think “wtf”, but that’s some sort of physical sign of what makes me feel more complete or whatever.
        It’s quite complex.

  • The first time I ever saw porn, it was shown to me by my uncle. I was raised by my mother, who had absolutely no idea how to raise boys. She relegated the sex talk to her brother in law, but he being uncomfortable with the talk himself showed me porn instead. It was the hard core stuff and I was only 13 at the time. I had already had a bad experience at summer camp in the showers (this is how I found out I was gay), and now seeing a woman fully exposed was quite nauseating. I became more interested in the guys.
    At that time, you could only get pornographic magazines in convienience stores and they were always run by some old lady who knew my grandmother, so that was enough to deter me, especially what I wanted: Playgirl (I had heard other boys talking about it and making fun of those who looked at it (I even made a tasteless joke or two to keep up appearances)). My cousin found one of his father’s hard core porn magazines. He gave it to me as he had plenty. It featured men and women and so I had plausible deniability if I was ever caught with it. The women in it did nothing for me, but the men…I HATE SSA AND I HATE PORN!!!

          • When I was a teenager, I saw ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’. It is the idealized true story of the Chicken Ranch in LaGrange Texas. The movie painted it as a sweet place to get away, and how dare a newscaster from Houston expose them. In real life the prostitutes were in slavery to the Madame of the house. Now the newscaster Marvin Zindler was a self righteous, self aggrandizing schmuck, and his motivations for closing the Chicken Ranch were hardly moral (it was all about making him look good on television) (plus he was trying to get ratings); he did expose the true horror of what goes on in those places.
            Besides, recent revelations have come to light that my mother motivations were more than ‘education’. She knew what I was, and talked him into trying to ‘change’ me. It only made my attractions worse and began an addiction in me that I still continue to fight (two years sober).

          • Bradley, Thanks for the education about that movie (I’ve heard of it but never seen it). And sorry that you had a not-good experience. My comment was just an attempt at making a joke (a house of ill repute having a good reputation) – would one cancel the other out, making it just a house? It didn’t work…

  • Soft porn, like many catalogs and newspaper ads which have models in underwear and swim suits, did become addictive to me. Now some of the news articles are just as bad. I remember cleaning out a home and found 1940’s magazines with much of the same.
    No one has mentioned the National Geographic magazine of years past. When I was young this was the original soft porn. Edition after edition would have natives of some unknown land with little or no clothes. Might have been my first dopamine rush.

  • My first pornographic experience came about when my brother brought home a straight porno on a VHS tape. It was of poor quality both in lighting and sound, but what do you expect on such a low budget. My feelings watching this encounter were solely confusion. That’s what sex is?! It looks weird. Of course, the “actors” were lewd and non-traditional in their activity. Not your typical definition/example of sexual intercourse. I just summarily dismissed it. My pornography habits evolved to where I seek the emotional connection. Sadly I don’t see this in hardcore porn as I find it unappealing compared to softcore. When I access my app I tend to look for erotic imagery, but I look for instances where guys are not engaging in any sexual activity. They are either sharing a bed cuddled together, shared male nudity (no sex), or they are showing some physical affection towards each other (clothed). It’s like certain softcore to “medium” porn has a greater draw for me because it invokes more of an emotional connection. Like Tom, hardcore porn causes me skip or checkout altogether. I think this is the mindset of the porn industry, stick to the sex acts and abandon the intimacy and emotional connectivity. There is barely any dialogue or if so, cheesy dialogue in all these porno films because of the myopic nature of the producers — sex sells. There is no reason, cause or priority for “porn stars” to foster any emotional connection with their audiences. It’s just about sex period. After a while, it’s “dead and empty.”

  • I’ll keep this short since I’m late to this post, but I too share that desire for emotional intimacy. And so if I do fall into the snare of porn, it’s moreso the kind where a couple is kissing or where I’m even just seeing only facial expressions – the kind of porn where I can feel the emotion of the person/people in it. For me that is addicting on so many levels, which makes it all the more dangerous.

  • Thomas Mark Zuniga

    When I don't wander away for weeks at a time, I live in Asheville, North Carolina – the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our two podcasts. I've written a couple books, including a 2013 memoir in which I came out to my readers. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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