My parents took me to all those Primary School sex education evenings where you watched dull 50s American documentaries involving clean-cut American teens and their mysterious problems, and you were given diagrams of such things as fallopian tubes and vas deferens. I came away from those evenings with some understanding of the mechanics behind the reproduction process, but no real idea of how it applied to the real world. It all seemed very vague and abstract to me.
Everything became even more confusing when my friends and I found a collection of pornographic magazines. We were riding our bikes around the back of the local shopping centre one afternoon, when Ashley suggested we look in the big industrial rubbish bins kept there for use by the shops. He was convinced we’d find toys, electrical goods, tools and other goodies in there. We didn’t find anything like that, but we did find a big box of porn, not just glossy ‘girly’ magazines, but hard-core stuff, with head jobs, spurting cocks and wide-open beavers. For a bunch of 7 or 8 year olds it was like coming across evidence of an alien civilization. The pictures were exciting, shocking and a little bit frightening.
As the ‘finder’ of the magazines, Ashley felt he should be the one to look after them. We helped him carry them home in a variety of bags and boxes, and smuggled them into his room, where they were secreted safely under his bed. The next day at school, news of the discovery spread like a contagious disease. “Ashley’s got porn,” was the catch cry of the day. The fact that no one actually knew what ‘porn’ was made everyone all the more curious.
That night, and every night of that week, children that Ashley barely knew were appearing on his doorstep. “We came over to…er…see Ashley,” they would explain to Ashley’s bewildered mother. After being escorted to his room, Ashley would reveal the magazines with great ceremony, to gasps of disbelief from his visitors.
Ashley’s mother may have become suspicious of the sudden interest in her son, but it was something else that gave the game away. After spending time in the shopping centre bins with rotten meat and other revolting items, the magazines had acquired a rather unpleasant odour. It was upon investigating the source of the stench that Ashley’s mum discovered his porn stash. He was ‘grounded’ for a month. Of course, Ashley’s parents immediately told my parents about our disgusting secret, and I was punished too.
Things never entirely returned to ‘normal’ after the porn incident. It was like we’d been awakened to a new and ugly side of life. Suddenly sex was everywhere. It’s not as though we started having orgies with our 8-year-old friends – it was just as difficult connecting the pornographic images to ‘real life’ as it was the images in the Sex Ed documentaries, but some of our activities did become tainted by the exposure to sex.
Not long after Ashley’s one-month punishment had expired we built a cubby in the vacant block next to his house. We’d found a pile of discarded building materials and managed to erect quite a solid structure. The cubby house had walls and doors, and a carpeted floor. We felt quite safe and sheltered there. Some days, when everyone was together, we’d take our clothes off and sit there in the nude. It wasn’t overtly sexual at all; there was no touching or anything. It was just like a nudist colony – for youngsters.
And later still, a bizarre trend started among our peer group. We started wearing our trousers low at the back, so that the tops of our bum cracks showed. This was especially exaggerated when we rode our bikes. Our backsides would have been almost completely exposed. Thankfully, the trend never caught on in the wider community.
I’ve had an aversion to pornography ever since that first incident. I’m sure it has something to do with the smell accompanying that first glimpse of hard-core flesh – rotten cabbage, rotten cauliflowers, and rotten meat.