While many people have likely blocked out their first experiences of pornography, some of us can vividly recollect the day we first saw a picture/video/whatever of a grown adult being naughty in the nuddy.

What’s really interesting about asking people for their first experiences with porn is:

  1. How much it reflects how old we and our friends really are (who remembers dial-up and VHS tapes amirite?).
  2. The question of whether or not these encounters have had some influence on our sexual lives since.
  3. The marked distinction between men and women’s reactions to it.
  4. How many people’s seems to inexplicably involve bushland.

Apparently stumbling about X-rated material in amongst the trees is the thing that really connects our generation.

I remember the first time I encountered pornographic material. I was about nine years old, in the later stretch of my primary school years, mucking about on Windows Media Player on a shared family computer. Yes, it was the ’00s. Families shared one big desktop which was more often than not in a not-so private place so Mum and Dad could see exactly what you were Googling.

I was trying to find a particular song that I knew my brother had downloaded  – from Limewire probably – I think it was ‘A Night Like This‘ by The Cure or ‘New Killer Star‘ by David Bowie, because I was always an insufferable wanker, although at the time, not literally. Also those are the two songs I vividly remember being on WMP. Instead what I found was a POV video of a woman performing oral sex on a man. And I still remember my thought process: “Why would she put her mouth on that?”

As an adult, I now reckon that it was my oldest brother – if I was 10, he was a very horny 18 – who probably downloaded pornography to the shared family computer. So I asked him if he remembered when he first saw the dirty stuff.

He says he found a dirty VHS tape in the canal near our suburban Sydney family home, but when he and his friends tried to play it at one of their home’s the tape didn’t work. He also found a foot fetish mag stuffed the hollow of a log in a nearby park. No playback issue there.

So we cast our net wider, how common an experience is the woods thing?

Well Tom found a bushland connection too: “I was like 13 and one of my mates showed me a mouldy old porn mag he found in the bush. I remember finding it weird that the dude was super oiled-up and wondered if that’s a thing you’re meant to do before sex.

It took me ages to discard my hang-up about mouth stuff being gross, and more intimate than P-in-V stuff. And maybe that’s the fault of the weird porn I found? Imagine for a moment how long Tom thought he needed to oil up before intercourse.

Chris found “a ratty porno mag in the bushland behind [his] house“: “I remember there were Gatorade bongs near it, and since I was a stupid kid I didn’t realise what they were until years later. So in hindsight some dude was getting high and smashing one out in the bushes.

Having an older brother obviously accumulating wanking material on the family computer is one thing, but what about if it’s your parents who are in possession of explicit content? That’s Charlene‘s story – oh and there’s weed involved too.

Once when my mum and dad were out – I was probably nine or 10 at the time – me and my sisters went through their draws trying to find money. Instead, we found three porn tapes on VHS and a huge bag of weed which must’ve been a couple of years old ’cause it was drier than a nun’s scalp. ‘Twas a bit weird.

Yeah mums and dads are definitely not blameless in this one. Kathy‘s mum kept her dirty mags in her make-up drawer: “When I was nine and raiding my mum’s make-up drawer, I found a bunch of mags of men, standing beside swimming pools and other clichéd situations, with massive boners. Think it may have scarred me for life!

Josie blames the neighbours for her first experience of porn, because the first she saw was from her neighbour’s dad’s stash.

So when I was younger my next door neighbour at my dad’s place was from some European country and she had stolen her dad’s European porn magazines (this was before the internet, my god how old am I?!!?!). She showed one to me and it depicted a woman with cum on her face looking very pleased about it indeed. I was mortified and felt instantly sick, even gagging in response to seeing this disgusting bodily fluid on someone’s face. I told her to take the magazine away and never show it to me again!

Johnny saw pornography for the first time when he found proofs from something like Penthouse on a suburban train seat when he was on his way home one day. He folded up four pages very quietly – because he didn’t want to look like a pervert – tucked them into his board shorts and changed seats. A bloke who got on at the next stop just casually put the rest of the proofs in his bag. Johnny kept those pages for years.

Alasdair was using his dad’s old computer, now the shared family one, at age 10 or 11 when he stumbled upon some strange files in the Cookies folder. They seemed to be fragments of a picture of a naked woman, so he set about piecing them together, a 4 x 3 puzzle of a very busty porn star in Microsoft Paint. And then he saved his creation in the ‘Alasdair’ folder on the Desktop as secret.jpg. No doubt he was always checking over his shoulder to see if he’d be caught, as the computer was on the landing between three bedrooms. Alasdair still remembers the porn star’s name.

Of course Alasdair’s is not the only story to involve an old, shared computer. Young James got up to plenty of virtual mischief too.

I downloaded a Playboy screensaver to my dad’s laptop when we were away on holidays once and didn’t realise that it was a screensaver. You can imagine his joy when his laptop clicked into screensaver mode mid meeting the following week.

Meanwhile Lucinda at seven was searching for pictures of frogs when she found a file titled ‘World’s Worst Willy’ on a shared family computer, and she reckons it set up her low expectations of men’s dongs.

The year was 2003, I was seven. My cousins from the country town of Bairnsdale used to come to Melbourne every few weeks and crash at our place in Melbourne. My older cousin, Catherine (16), would go into the study most nights after dinner and use the family computer to email her friends. I’d always hear her giggling in there and I’d be really curious about what. Anyway, one Saturday morning after she’d spent the Friday in there, I logged into the computer to Google pictures of frogs. I was obsessed with saving pictures of frogs at the time, and I would save them under nicknames like ‘Little Jim’ and ‘Fat Freddie’.

Anyway, I logged in this time and found a new picture on the desktop – it was titled ‘World’s Worst Willy’. I hadn’t remembered saving one… so I clicked it. Turns out the file name was not clickbait at all, it really did describe the image. What I witnessed was a savagely hairy micropenis sitting flaccid atop a ruler, coming in at about half a centimetre. I thought it was hilarious, so I showed Mum and Dad who were (understandably) furious. That was my first encounter with the male form. At the very least it set me up to have low expectations. Catherine had to use the computer with the door open for the next few years.

Jess has another family computer story, and while she was upset at the time she now feels she has a healthy relationship with pornography.

My first experience with porn was finding it on our family computer. It was clearly my dad’s, and at the time I felt like he was cheating on Mum and got really upset. Now I have what I think is a healthy consumption of porn and realise it can be completely fine within the confines of a relationship. In terms of when I started using it to get off per se, I discovered Literotica, an erotic fiction site I use to this day. I’m an avid reader so I suspect my brain works better with words and my imagination than it does with film or photography.

Conclusions: family members are more often than not involved in our generation’s first encounters with porn. And if they weren’t, porno mags were uncovered in the woods, a place where kids were just trying to play, only to have their whole sexual lives shaped by weird dirty pictures.

That’s an exaggeration. Nowadays it seems like people’s sexual lives are influenced by the infinite amount of pornographic content on the internet – you hear stories about teenagers expecting anal sex, etcetera – so I think we’re all pretty lucky to have just found some titillating pictures in unexpected places, however disturbing they may have been for some of us. Even if it’s only the boys who seemed pleased to see them.

Image: American Pie