Yet another childhood photo is stirring up memories. This time is with colleagues and friends, rather than teachers.
These being pupils (and not having any “public” status the way teachers do), I shall rename them accordingly. Starting from the left, in the front row we have Peda, Ivanhoe, Pavel and let the last one on the be Storin. Peda was always very protocolar and his general manners appeared somehow evil to me, though that was simply a groundless, subjective impression. Pavel had a strange way of invading your personal space and talk in a sotto voce, as if peddling illegal wares. He wasn’t easy to escape. We went once in a ski camp in Sinaia, and he tried to talk me into giving him my bed, which, being located next to the heating elements on the lowest level, was the best. He seemed genuinely upset when I refused him on the grounds that he wasn’t a relative of my mother, nor had we been studying at the same kindergarten. I also remember him coming at my door back when I had started to sell video games and asking me to give him stuff. But the one I had to do the most with was Ivanhoe.
I used to live in Bucharest in a white, 4-stories building, while Ivanhoe lived 2-3 minutes away, in a 10 stories one. I had a black and white ancient TV-set called “Modern” (which was perfectly fine since there was nothing to watch on TV other than 2h of BS every evening); he had a color TV and a VCR. Around the time of the photo above (or a year later), we used to all get together at his place and watch a movie, most of the time porn.
Soon enough, when the porn got old and boring and no longer a novelty, we started playing basketball in the court of an industrial high-school in the neighbourhood – a place full of horny and not-too-bright girls. The opportunities were endless, but we had seen it all and the line between fantasy and reality was clear and omnipresent in our minds.
Today it may seem rather wrong that kids this young would be exposed to depravity and “wrong choices”, but back then porn was different as well. Black market video tapes (you couldn’t buy them in a store and throughout my childhood I had never seen an original) would travel between friends and acquaintances, most of the time dubbed by the same high-pitched, now familiar voice. Porn tapes weren’t dubbed, at least not by her and I suspect that generations of Romanians learned not just about life, but English as well watching them.
Our “video watching” escapades would follow an unwritten script. First, prompted by Ivanhoe, we’d have a few sips of cognac from his father’s not-so-secret stash. We’d pop the tape in then start watching it. The porn I remember was fun – maybe also because it was punctuated by our comments – and not today’s boring, repetitive, visually-assaulting and intellect-insulting fare. Our favs seemed to all star Traci Lords, the “fresh” looking starlet who single-
handedlyvaginally transformed millions of VCR owners (and their friends) into pedophiles. I specifically remember an old man, a banana and a seemingly disinterested Traci in a movie that was more allegoric than it was titillating – we were struggling to make sense of it, not knowing the effects and extent of cocaine penetration into that underworld.
About halfway through the tape, Storin would go to the washroom, followed shortly by our concerned host, who, after listening attentively for a few minutes, would start to plead that he masturbates at his own freaking place and stop clogging up his toilet with his sticky, ill-formed but voluminous emissions. Romanian has some highly evolved, imaginative and long-drawn insults – most damaging in the world, according to cracked.com – and that dialogue, somewhat reminiscent of a contest between drunken, well-traveled sailors, would’ve certainly made proud both Deceneu and Burebista (or Deceballus and Trajan).
- I: Storin, WTF u doin’ there?
- S: I’m taking a dump, what else?
- I: Why don’t you go jerk off in your own washroom, you f-in’ twat?!
- S: I’m not! [FAP FAP FAP]
- I: Look at you, how pathetic can you get? Jerking off in other people’s washroom.. WTF is wrong with you?! If you clog my toilet again connard, I’m gonna do your mom with the toilet pump and what comes out of it!
This had the potential to go on for hours, and that show was far more entertaining than the VCR porn. It is also for this reason that my memories of watching porn were more about having fun than about getting turned on. Besides, masturbation was a hobby I discovered only a while after losing my V – yes, I was that weird.
Things have changed since.
In a 2010 analysis of 50 randomly selected adult films, researchers found high levels of verbal and physical aggression. Of the 304 scenes analyzed, 88 per cent contained physical aggression, including spanking, gagging and slapping, while nearly 50 per cent contained verbal abuse, particularly name-calling. In most cases, the men were dominant and the women almost always responded neutrally or with pleasure. Only 10 per cent of scenes contained positive sexual behaviour. (torstar)
University of Copenhagen’s Gert Martin Hald and colleagues conducted an online survey of 4,600 young people asking about a broad range of sex acts, from threesomes to experience with one-night stands to prostitution. They found that among the 15-to-25-year-olds participants, almost 90% of males and nearly half of females reported that they had used porn some time in the previous year, the vast majority of which was online. And there is some evidence that widespread access to the Internet, with its triple-x domains, may be pushing exposure up. In 1973, for example, a study found that 84% of men and 69% of adult women had seen pornography, the majority before the age of 21. Thirty-five years later, a 2008 survey in CyberPsychology and Behavior revealed that 93% of boys and 62% of girls had encountered dirty materials online before they hit age 18.
Heightened exposure, Hald found, was associated with high-risk sexual practices like accepting some kind of payment for sex. He and his team also tied porn usage to “adventurous” behaviors, such as having “real-life sex” with someone they met online, which some experts believe may lead to increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases.
But the researchers emphasize that the tie between porn and risky business isn’t absolute or clear-cut. For example, there may be other contributors to the promiscuous behavior, such as a tendency toward thrill-seeking (which, in turn, could make young people more likely to experiment with porn). Pornography is “just one factor among many that may influence the sexual behaviors of young people,” they concluded, while cautioning that the findings “should not be interpreted as an indication that the influence … is negligible, nonexistent, or unimportant.” (time)
Ivanhoe didn’t rebel against his father only by serving his cognac with us, but also by using his Dacia for a joyride. My father had a Trabant, so taking it for a joyride was out of the questions: it would’ve been like riding a motorcycle without all the open air fun. I don’t remember much of the joyride, only that we sorta did it, and cognac had been involved.
Most parents left Romania more than a year before I did, and most of my friends thought that I had been abandoned, the way many other Eastern European kids had been. When I had finally got my plane tickets, I told only a few people goodbye. Ivanhoe showed up at my door with a pack of cigarettes. Years before, when I asked my cousin what he was planning to do with his cigarette in my non-smoking living room, he answered “prizez” (I sniff), so this time I simply told Ivanhoe “bitte nicht rauchen”, which he promptly ignored. I don’t remember if I smoked one of his cigs with him. He smoked it all smiling, silently, then he left. He was now a man.
P.S. When I first watched Rocco’s exploits, prompted by that Salon article, I was seeking the same level of entertainment I had enjoyed in my childhood. Alas, those times were gone to never come back again.
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