This image is the wonderful ‘Erotica’ by Federico Castellon
The most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life, still, to this very day, even more embarrassing than when my dad found my vibrator collection, and even more embarrassing than when I vomited on a footballer outside Frostbites, and even more embarrassing than publishing a poem called “YOU DID THIS TO ME”, happened when I was about 11. I hope my dad doesn’t remember, but I expect he does and just hopes we will never talk about it again.
When I was 11, I had a Mac Classic II. Gosh, it was so great. The screen was at least 150 pixels wide and there were so many fonts. Like, 12 fonts. I got on there every day and I wrote stories in different fonts (but mostly Chicago). Page after page of stories. Stories about horses and people with umbrellas and dogs at the beach and bananas.
And another kind of story.
I am fascinated by sex. All kinds. I like having sex, no doubt (though let’s have a conversation one day about what it’s like to grow up with Dolly magazine telling you that all boys want is sex! and being a girl with a high sex drive who feels constantly diminished), but before that was ever on my agenda, I was a kid and I thought about sex. A lot.
So when I was 11, I wrote erotica. And I saved it on the computer. And my dad found it.
I can’t remember what he said, but I remember so clearly the embarrassment that I felt. Shame. Humiliation. I knew that what I was doing was supposed to be “private”, but I didn’t really understand why. I was exploring myself and my body and my feelings and I had an inkling that I shouldn’t do that in front of other people, so I wasn’t. I was writing little stories. Sometimes I was just writing the word “SEX” over and over. I felt embarrassed and shamed and humiliated but I also felt like my privacy had been violated a little. Like if I wanted to think about people putting their genitals near other genitals, that should be okay, and what was he, the thought police?
Being a parent now, I understand his alarm. If my kid, who is 11, wrote erotica and saved it on the computer, I would want to put every computer in the world into a fire pit and then shoot the fire pit into the sun. But I was exploring my sexuality in the way I knew how to, which was, as with all things, through writing. I wrote a story about a man who fell over the back of a couch and was suddenly having sex with his wife. I wrote a story about two women having sex in a car. I had no idea what sex was or what it looked like. Most of the text was like this: “he fell over the couch and then they were HAVING SEX!!!!” I was determined to write stories about the way people were with other people, in a love and romance way. Sex and love have always gone together, for me. Never let me have a one-night stand with you; I will change my surname to yours and live in your garage forever.
I feel like a creep, telling you this, but on reflection, I was a kid with lots of questions. I wanted to know stuff, and I had no one to ask; I’m the eldest child, and my parents have always treated sex conversations as something to whisper to a mirror and then never speak of again. And after my stories were uncovered, I was too embarrassed to even try.
The internet was my teacher.
In 1995 we got the internet at home. In the early days, it really was full of creeps. I was 14 and men in their 30s said things men should never say. It was a dark and terrible place. These days there are some creeps and some normals. Back then, you could either read someone’s shitty poetry (mine), or you could look at porn.
(This is the most illegal thing I have ever admitted to on the internet.)
When I was 14, I went to a website called Lesbian Lovers, which I learned was for people who loved lesbians. It was the first porn website I had ever been to, and the very first time I’d had access to actual pictures of people “HAVING SEX!!!!” Maybe I thought I could do research for my stories. Or, more likely, I wanted to look at some boobs.
Lesbian Lovers cost something like $24.95 a month to access, which was a lot of money in 1995. Being 14, I didn’t have a credit card, and I was smart enough to know not to put that on my dad’s credit card. So I just made one up. You could do that, in the early days of the internet, before banks really understood what was going on. You could type in a bunch of credit card numbers and keep submitting them until one of them worked. So I did that. I bought a pornography membership with someone else’s credit card when I was 14, and I’m sorry. Truly.
The membership lasted for ten months. I would wait until my family went to the shops, and I would jump on Lesbian Lovers and watch everything. The internet cost $5 an hour. There was no browser history. I looked at as much porn as I could and then I wrote more stories about people “HAVING SEX!!!!”, only now they were more graphic and featured many more lesbians.
One day, I tried to login and the account was gone. For years after that, until free porn became a thing, I had to make do with watching TV shows with Grant Bowler in them.
For a long time, my views on sex were informed by this education. What I knew about sex came from lesbian porn and reading stories on literotica. My expectations were skewed and bizarre. I linked sex and shame intimately. I didn’t even kiss anyone until I was 16, and even then I was watching The Little Mermaid at the time and just felt afraid. Eventually I pushed the boundaries with sex because at least I would have a legitimate reason to be embarrassed. I’ve been caught having sex in public — by the police — more than once. I hungered for sex naivety, for gentle and kind sex, or for fierce and hateful sex. I chased a kind of sex knife edge, and I got my heart broken over and over. Just looking for things I’d never fully understood, because the internet supplied information but it did not contextualise it.
I don’t write erotica anymore. But I do open a lot of incognito browser windows.