-"How many of you ever watched porn?" the religion teacher asked.
There were about twenty boys in the classroom, whose minds were already on their lunch break.
Suddenly everything in the dusty classroom seemed tense. Wary of a trap, the boys looked at each other from the corner of their eyes. Did the teacher expect the boys to answer honestly? And what would be the consequences if they did? Mr. Mars got a little impatient and frowned, "Come on, up in the air with those hands."
He was a middle-aged man, with black hair that turned grey at the temples. His aura radiated a certain world-weariness.
Although he was a devout Catholic, he also loved to tell stories of his wild years. Those years before he found God, of course.
It seemed like a safe bet that sometime in those lost years, as he liked to call it, he had watched porn.
A brave student raised his hand cautiously. A second followed shortly after. It started a chain reaction; an exposure seemed to take place. Almost everyone in the class had raised their hand. The mood soon shifted from embarrassment to an almost remorseful pride.
The most beautiful boy in the class had also raised his hand and was now exchanging grins with his fellow students.
He had admired that boy for months. Not that he dared to admit that to himself. He couldn't stop staring at the small grin that played on the pretty boy's pink lips.
He was the only student in the room who had not raised his hand. He sat motionless; couldn't move and could barely breathe. Mr. Mars began by lecturing on the dangers of porn.
Of course, he had lied. A few months earlier, his mother had bought a new computer for his sister. And although the computer was for his sister, she also allowed him to create an account. His mother found out soon enough and rushed to install a filtering software designed to keep youth away from offensive material by flashing angry letters on the screen: Restricted Website!
Just as quickly, he discovered a loophole: the software only worked on English-language sites. The sites in another language slipped through.
And so he spent hours at the computers, while his parents were still at work and his sister at soccer practice.
He did not know French or Spanish language, but he quickly learned a few keywords. Strange words, as seductive as the men he saw on the family home computer.
He was always looking for pictures of men. Not the innocent underwear models from the catalog, but real men who were genuinely naked. He told himself over and over that he was just curious. His right hand on the mouse, his cock painfully hard in his too-tight jeans.
The men on the computer screen were also hard. Those men were older than the boys in school and they looked so good: nice and muscular. He could keep his eyes on those men for as long as he wanted, they just stood there in front of him, on that monitor of his sister's computer.
They often wore work outfits or uniforms, which they pulled off their tanned bodies piece by piece.
Mars continued to issue warnings that porn would corrupt their relationship with God. But the static hum of the computer always made the teacher's words fade quickly. Just looking at the photos made his heart pound frantically. Every attempt to think was thwarted. Then came the shame; later on. He spent at least five minutes each time covering his tracks, just in case his mother used that computer to read her e-mails. He thought it would be just as easy to erase porn from his life.
Every time he came across a video and stared in awe, he thought of the word pornography. A word associated with shock. He remembered the faces and the bodies, the words spoken, and even the furniture that set the scene. It was all kept in a hidden chamber of his brain: a repository for the beautiful and voluptuous, and above all, the immoral.
By the second year of high school, he knew all the addresses of the websites by heart. Those sites that the software didn't respond to. Those websites became rooms of sexual opportunity, inhabited by beautiful men with tanned bodies and dark eyes. He started to like a different kind of photos more and more. Depictions of real men, as opposed to the models who just posed and had eternal smiles on their faces. Those men always looked directly at the camera with a mixture of a kind of dark rage and electric joy. They didn't hide anything. It made him shake with desire. What if he could slip into the straight man's world? Unseen.
He later learned that this was a common gay fantasy.
Over time, more and more porn sites came online. And peer to peer networking. Raw and muscular.
The boys he went to school with agreed on one thing: real men were straight. And he believed them. For years he believed them.
- Mars was not alone in sounding warnings about pornography. The other teachers were Catholics as well and were equally convinced that pornography encouraged ignorant actions. It was identified as one of the sins contrary to chastity. In the catechism lessons, he learned that pornography was not so much a physical thing as a private act, revealing what should be kept secret.
However, pornography was not the only sin viewed as seriously contrary to chastity. Homosexuality was another one. And besides, it was against the law of nature.
But he soon discovered a trick developed by the Catholic Church to condemn homosexuals to a life without sex. They said that those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should be accepted with compassion. That, of course, was only a form of tolerance that claimed that homosexuals were called to the virtue of self-control, with the ultimate goal of Christian perfection, of course.
In school, he learned that being gay was not wrong in itself, but acting on it was. The nuance eluded most of his classmates. Every day he sat listening with bile in the back of his throat as the boys called each other gay and fagot. Friendship with them was impossible for him.
He told himself that none of it mattered and that he didn't care.
Something began to press on his chest: it was desire. Not the kind of longing that sometimes made it hard to keep his eyes on the floor as everyone changed in the dressing room. It was a craving for something different.
Although his religion teacher impressed on students that pornography equals the destruction of intimacy, the opposite was true in high school. His classmates did nothing but talk about sex and enjoyed it. They even exchanged their favorite porn stars. Then their voices would fall and become almost reverent, muffled with a pleasant sense of conspiracy.
He always sat apart and never took part in that kind of conversation. It showed him the art of trading secrets, and how that could turn a group of boys into a closed circuit. But he enjoyed their blazing energy.
Despite everything he learned in school during the religious hour, he just kept downloading videos. More and more. In college, he stopped listening to porn talk from straight men. Driven by curiosity and suppressed desire, he started talking himself.
One sulky night, bored with his homework and brimming with the newfound freedom that college life brought, he started talking about porn with his roommate.
-"I think I was almost addicted to it." told the well-built and cute-looking boy seriously.
He could hardly believe his ears. Excitement clawed at his lower body. The roommate turned to his laptop and began searching furiously. He stayed on the other side of the room; terrified and aroused at the same time.
A few months later, they stopped talking. His roommate had found out he was gay. In return, the roommate started acting cold and he responded by acting bitchy. But he couldn't erase from his system the feeling of that one damp night and the intimacy they'd briefly shared.
He made up his mind to go to another university, and this time he was going to let it all out. He would do more than just look at a screen where men were touching each other.
That's not what happened in the end. He was strange at that college and remained as chaste as he was in high school.
After college, porn was easier to find than ever. Now he could stream dozens of videos at once, plus he had the luxury of exercising pickiness. It was both exciting and mind-boggling to be able to access so much so quickly.
After a few drinks, he was completely ambivalent when discussing porn with other men. He wanted them to tell him why excitement was nagging their groins, and what was making their cocks hard. He wanted to know what images had stayed with them year after year. He wanted to access that secret chamber in their brain. The secret compartment in their upper room.
He had listened to many guys mumble about porn, but it kept amazing him, how much they talked about it, and he couldn't believe they shared something so intimate with him. Sometimes the stories were very sweet, and sometimes very dark.
They were concerned about the size of their cocks, and he found out that sometimes they didn't even want sex at all in the sense of the intimacy of two bodies, but the image of it.
Around that time, one of the straight men he'd had a crush on had posted a picture of himself on Instagram. He was standing by a waterfall in just a swimsuit. He had saved the photo to his desktop. A sickening sense of shame swept through him, but the beauty of the photo dispelled any doubts, and he soon began to keep more photos of friends. He became adept at bypassing social media privacy settings.
As soon as he was away from the computer, he hardly thought about his photo file. He could always go back there. The pictures disappeared from his mind for a moment, but not from his life.
The images themselves were not pornographic. He exercised a kind of intense attention, as well as an almost intentional forgetting. First came the longing, the consuming of images and almost being consumed by them, and when it was time to shut down the computer, a lull not to remember. Purification of a story, which nevertheless kept repeating itself, distracting him from real thinking.
-"One last time," he began to say to himself as he looked at the screen on the computer. " One last time, and then I will find myself in the secret world of the real boys."