“Mine has been a life of much shame. I can’t even begin to guess what it must be to live the life of a human being.” – Osamu Dazai
Shame drew me to porn. It seems like it should be the other way around, and it’s true that watching porn brought me a lot of shame, but the fact is I knew shame long before I ever knew porn.
I felt shame my whole life; it was all I knew. When I looked in the mirror I saw someone worthless and ridiculous, and I was so ashamed of the person I believed myself to be that the thought of being exposed – of anyone else seeing what I saw every day – was terrifying. Everything I did, every word, every step, every look, every movement, every choice in life… all of it was calculated to stop anyone discovering the worthless person underneath the facade.
I did a pretty good job of hiding this ‘other self’ from people, but I did myself untold damage in the process. Using all my energy to hide my worthlessness meant that this worthlessness, as I perceived it, was always on my radar. I had no chance to believe anything else about myself because I was reminding myself every day, “You are worth nothing. Make sure no one ever sees that, no matter what it costs.”
Who could keep living this way? Every day I felt a pain in my chest, like a lump of lead, that came from the awful realisation that deep down I was a stupid, worthless non-person. I could barely stand to think about what that meant – the slightest bit of self-examination would leave me breathless with a kind of horror at being me. And I was afraid, constantly, of people discovering the real me.
So of course I turned to porn – it was the perfect fit for the way I felt about myself. I’m not sure now how it started. I used to look at my brother’s Penthouse magazines when I was 10 or 11 and I can remember being fascinated and repulsed at the same time. I wonder if that helped set me on this path… I didn’t go back to any kind of porn again until I was 29 or 30, but I don’t think those early images ever really left my mind. When I finally found porn on the internet it was a lot different from those magazine pictures. This porn was rough and ugly and it treated women with violence, degradation and humiliation. And that resonated with me, almost instantly. From a young age I can remember being fascinated with stories of women being mistreated – abuse, rape, abduction, violence. It’s not that I wanted any of these things to happen to me or to anyone else, nor that I ever thought they were good things, but still I somehow identified with mistreatment. Worthlessness, degradation and violence went hand in hand – why would you treat something with care when it’s worth nothing?
Some women re-enact porn scenarios in real life. I can understand why, but I never wanted that. It was enough to re-enact them in my head, to put myself in a scenario of ugly mistreatment and abuse. I didn’t always do that, either – often it was enough just to see other women being degraded and treated as worthless. It made so much sense to me. Even without the mental re-enactment, those women were all me. Worthless, nameless, silenced objects, receiving the treatment that a thing, not a person, deserves.