The coming of age story of online pornography
By Philippe Payeur, Contributor
I was born in 1985. I may be of the last generation to masturbate to magazines and the first to masturbate to dial-up Internet porn. Porn mags were hard to come by and late-night-cable nudity was in its infancy. We sat through grainy experimental art films for the possibility of a love scene that featured breasts, which were by no means guaranteed. Porn on the computer was exciting and new in 1998, but kids today couldn’t imagine how cumbersome it was.
For starters, the computer was a desktop located in one room—the office. The room with paperclips, file cabinets, and envelopes. This was the business-like setting where we came of age sexually. Avoiding bodily fluid spills on important documents was part of the routine.
Porn only being available in one common room created another problem: you had to have the house to yourself. School got out at three. The adults would start to trickle in at 5:30 p.m. That was your window in which you had to push your mammoth pubescent hormones through. After racing home and getting undressed, the next step was to disconnect the phone line and dial up the 56k modem.
I may have lost you on a term you may not recognize. A phone line was a physical cord that was wired through the house connecting to a telephone. The phone didn’t leave the house or needed charging, and the only game on it was called crank phone calls. For more details, ask your parents.
When the Internet first came out, the only way to surf the web was with the phone line, a platform that was never designed for that purpose. If you’ve never experienced dialing up on a phone line, imagine the laggiest computer you’ve had right before you gave up on it and reformatted—only combine it with about a minute of shrill squealing. It sounds unbearable, but as a horny 13-year-old it howled the promise of carnality. I was on the homepage after five minutes in. The adults would be home in less than 2 hours. Let’s do this.
Watching video clips was completely out of the question; even a 10-second clip could crash the computer. Pictures were my bread and butter. Finding them was nothing like today. The modern Internet is a monument of meticulous cataloguing, with innumerable videos tagged according to their content. Want porn of a blond midget riding a donkey? Type “blond midget donkey” in any porn search engines and you’re done. The sites that facilitate this make their revenue from banner ads that sell to the massive traffic.
Back then the landscape was different. A relatively small number of giant pay sites controlled the content tightly, and you needed a credit card to get in. Free content existed on smaller sites, but you had to go looking for it. Search engines were primitive. Once you found a dozen pictures depicting a woman taking her clothes off—or if you were lucky, two women—you were off. Each picture took a minimum of thirty seconds to load, but once it was loaded the fantasy began. I explored my budding sexuality with an ear perked to the sound of the door lock. Now pornography is as adaptive as the technology that holds and shares them.