Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stealing Playgirl, Transparently


I don't often do "confessional" posts, but I am going to do one now, mostly because something from my past made its way into my consciousness today, and I am going to do now what I do best: be transparent.

Speaking of past transgressions, wasn't it funny how we were always encouraged not to discuss past transgressions? I never followed that advice, and certainly now is not the time to start. Get ready for all the juicy sins that I am about to lay forth.

But first, a note on transparency. Last night I had an extremely sexual dream about one of the guys in my cast who happens to be straight, and who is not someone I am consciously attracted to. Today when I saw him I felt so... I don't know, INTIMATE, with him because of my subconscious corporeal union with him, that I just had to tell him about it. I did it in front of the whole dressing room.. WHY? Because I can't help it. I'd rather be embarrassed than hide something. I told you: transparent.

Back in the ancient past when I was the wee age of 15, the sexual revolution inside my body was in full swing. As a good mormon in the teachers quorum, there wasn't a lot of permissible activities associated with human sexuality. I had never masturbated in my life, in fact I didn't really know how to do it, and I had never experienced an orgasm. But I sure knew that there was something spicy brewing inside my body.

One day in a shopping mall book store, I discovered a stack of Playgirl magazines in the lower cubby of a small waist level shelf adjacent to the magazine rack. Just seeing the shirtless guy on the cover sent a cocktail of emotions rushing wildly through my entire body, and sent a lot of blood rushing directly to my, well, cocktail. Sitting on the floor indian style, and as subtly as an em-boner-ed teen could, I quietly leafed through the magazine without blinking, only turning my attention back to the bookshelf when I felt someone near me. Then I realized that if I positioned "Better Homes and Gardens" right in front of me, but had the forbidden fruit behind out of sight, I could just look at the pictures and read the magazine without too much risk. Over the course of the next year, things escalated, just like my priesthood leaders said they would.

In mormon culture, porn is really bad. I mean, marriages end because a man looks at porn. Families are shattered and hopes are dashed by those pictures, images, and sounds that are now so readily available. My priesthood leaders and my parents all seemed to share the same idea that pretty much all bad things start with porn. As an example, I remember once hearing someone say that somebody had been interviewed on death row. He had killed a bunch of people. When asked how his history of violence was born, he said that it all started with his first porn magazine. First it was just naked women, then he moved on to videos, then to videos featuring S&M, domination, then onto more violent porn, and of course after that he acted it all out. Porn made him the killer he is today, and now he's going to be hung for it, or shot at close range if he was in Utah. Looking at porn for a young man like me was a way of inviting all the evils of the world to take over my life. But I just couldn't help it. My curiosity and sexuality were too strong to resist.

Let me now explain the escalation I referred to just a moment ago. After simply looking at the magazines, I felt I needed to take something home with me so I could experience these feelings in more private quarters. So I started tearing out pages as quietly as I could, and folding them up and stuffing them in my pants pockets. Eventually it got to the point where I would just stuff the entire magazine into the top/front of my pants, cover the remainder of the magazine with my shirt, and then stroll out with a flushed, forced nonchalant expression on my face that I can only imagine now. Sometimes when I would get home, I would feel so guilty that I would just rush back to the mall and replace it. Once or twice I even left 20 dollars on the counter while the clerk was helping someone else just to try and satisfy my horrible guilt.

I remember once I kept a Playgirl for a few weeks and hid it.. WHERE? You guessed it! Under my mattress. I know. Real ORIGINAL. I kept having these nightmares that my mom might find it while changing my sheets, but I never moved it because I just didn't know where else to put it. Well one day I came home from school and the magazine was gone. GONE! I can't describe how panicked I felt, so I am just going to ask you to imagine. My world felt like it was crumbling. I may have been a professional bullshitter in English class writing about the theme of Heart of Darkness, but I knew I could never talk my way out of this. I was certain my mom had found it. I didn't know what to do next.

I walked down to see my mom, and to my further horror, she was acting COMPLETELY normal. This was either the most subtle attempt at a confession I had ever seen, or she was just not wanting to talk about it. Deciding that she knew but was choosing to just let it be, I slowly just allowed it to slip quietly into my private history. The truth of what happened to that stolen Playgirl never crossed my mind, and I would not find out about that until 8 years later. (I'm not making this up!!)

One Christmas break, my older brother Stuart, my younger brother Guy, and I were all taking a gentle stroll down memory lane. By now I am out to everyone in my family, and all my siblings are very comfortable with me being gay. "Hey Stuart, remember that time we burned Clark's playgirl in the parking lot of Doerre?" (a nearby jr. high school). "WHAT!?" I screamed. In truth I hadn't thought about that for so long, but suddenly all my fear and horror about my mom finding it now flooded back into my brain. "Yeah. We found it under your mattress because we thought you might be gay, so we searched through your room. When we found it we didn't know what to do, so we just burned it."

Ok let me just pause for a moment and do this justice. My poor brothers, 17 and 13 years old, burning their closeted brother's gay rag. I can't imagine what they must've felt, and how strangely righteous it probably felt for them to burn that wickedness into flames. Gay porn is obviously so much more reviling than the straight porn Stuart had been watching for the last 3 years. But I think more than judgement they were trying to protect me from something so alien to them.

We just laughed our heads off after that, felt even more bonded to one another. Of course. Transparency does that to you. Its a possible side effect, so check with your doctor before taking Transparency. Other side effects include but are not limited to, serious rash, explosive diarrhea, cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, and of course, utter and abandoned vulnerability. (say the last sentence really fast.. its the fine print or the last 5 seconds of the TV commercial they hope you won't notice).

So I guess I have to add thief to my list of odd jobs. I probably stole a total of 8-10 magazines during that period of my life. I had never stolen anything before that, and I have never stolen anything since. If I had to do this the mormon way, I would probably pull out the five Rs of Repentance just to make sure I have covered all my bases.

Recognition: Wow I totally stole. Stealing is wrong. Stealing a Playgirl, priceless.
Remorse: I feel terrible about stealing that magazine, well, excited and terrible.
Restitution: Should I send some of my babysitting earnings to the Playgirl to pay them back? I hope they pay tithing on this!
Reformation: When I turn 18 I'll be able to stop stealing these and I guess I'll just commit a different sin and buy them.
Resolution: I'm gay.

As a final note, I would like to say that while I take an extremely Swiss stance on porn, I must decisively declare that porn has not made me become a murderer or a rapist. It just hasn't and so I guess the Mythbusters don't need to come in on this one. That myth is officially busted as far as I'm concerned. But I give you leave to hate or love porn as your heart desires. Like so many things in the world, you have to choose what you think is best for you. Take my advice, though, if you want to enjoy porn. Pay for yours. Stealing porn not only makes for a demeaning activity, it also makes for a truly mediocre blog post.

And for my final selection: Why did I sit down at 2 am and write this? I don't know. I just have to bear my nakedness to the world. It's my M.O. It's the song I can't get out of my head. It's me.

16 comments:

Jim said...

Oh my gosh... I almost peed myself a couple of times reading that! This was not mediocre. Haha I'm glad that I'm not the only one to steal pages from magazines. Too funny. Oh and congrats on going thru the repentance process with us, I was worried till that point :)

Ausmo said...

Great great post!

Reading it was like watching a movie and then the shock/confrontation my reaction from laughter to the Oh Crap! I know the gut reaching feeling you get when, at that age, you think you have been caught out :-p

Daniel said...

That was a delight to read.

To this day my mom believes that looking at gay porn made me gay, and it is her fault for allowing a computer in my room against the proptings of the Spirit. Maybe your mom shouldn't have let you go to the mall. You might be straight today if not for playgirl!

Ezra said...

Wonderful post... my first gay porn was a sheet from a magazine that I found in a public bathroom, but that was my only print porn--I remember that after "enjoying" the picture for a couple of days whilst being simultaneously wracked with guilt, I flushed it down the toilet.

Thank goodness it didn't clog--I'd have fun explaining it to the plummer/my mother.

Also, that photo of you is super sexy! You look amazing!

Thanks for being transparent with us.

Scott said...

I had to comment...

"I may have been a professional bullshitter in English class writing about the theme of Heart of Darkness..."

AP English, 12th grade, a quiz on the section of The Heart of Darkness that we had (or were supposed to have) just finished reading:

Q: Why did Marlow throw his shoes overboard?

(correct answer: his helmsman had been pierced with a spear and bled all over his feet)

My answer: They had gone out of style.

Teacher's response? (after the laughter of the class had died down): Full credit for creativity! :)

Here's to bullshitting about The Heart of Darkness!

Beck said...

This post has significant resonance with my adolescent years. It wasn't Playgirl, but just the male fitness magazines from the grocery store where I worked as a naive 16 year old... They started with a few being left around the back breakroom. Oh the memories are flooding back of that time.

Thanks for the lessons of transparency. I'm still learning those transparency lessons that I should have learned decades ago.

Scott said...

(I ought to perhaps add that I did do the hunky guy magazine thing too, though I was more like Beck in that it was the milder fitness mags that drew my eye. But it was the Heart of Darkness reference that really brought back the memories and made me laugh out loud)

CLARK JOHNSEN said...

Thank you all so much for the responses! I am really glad that we basically all went through a version of the same story. I told my brother who burned that infamous playgirl that I blogged about it, and my brother Stuart said that what made him look for more juicy porn was my stack of international male catalogs and exercise mags. He said "hmmm where would I keep porn?" and under my mattress was the first place he looked. Isn't it so incredible the process of growing up and blossoming sexually? What were we all so afraid of?? Amazing. Thanks again for all the comments!!! They are so fun for me to read!

HEART OF DARKNESS! Scott, that is brilliant! I'm glad your teacher thought so too.. i think you should have gotten extra credit for thinking of that and being brave enough to say it!!

Keri said...

I was going to leave a comment about your confessional, but I'm too busy laughing at your friend's Heart of Darkness comment.

Bravone said...

Clark, I don't think I have ever commented on your blog. I first met you on You Tube More Men Like Me. This was about seven months ago. I was so impressed with your sincerity and the way you articulated your feelings about God, sexuality and the church. You were not offensive or condescending to those who still want to stay within the church in spite of their homosexuality.

I have a good friend who left the church and lives with his partner in CA. I think you might even know him. Every time I talk with him, he puts down the church and tries to convince me to leave. I respect him for living how he feels is best for him. I know he doesn't respect my decision, but I wish he would respect ME for living my life the way I feel I need to. Thank you for your approach. I think that if more who cannot reconcile participating in the church with living true to their gay nature were as thoughtful as you are, many of the stereotypes and prejudices from church members would greatly dissipate.

Now for my transparency. I lived within 1/2 mile of the county landfill. My friends and I would walk, ride bikes or horses to get there often to go exploring. We always found porn, always. One day we were particularly blessed to find "the mother load!" We filled a gunnysack full of them and stashed them in an old abandoned house on our farm.

As we went through them, although I didn't understand at the time why, my "cocktail" was particularly motivated by the few male images in the magazines. In the middle of the stack, we found a Playgirl. I was totally excited, in many ways, but acted disgusted like all my friends. One friend ripped it from the pile and threw it into the field.

Later that day, I retrieved it and slipped it back into the stash. A few days later, two friends thought it was their turn to have the mother load nearer their homes, so we hid it in the willows by the river down the road. We would spend hours pouring through them. One day the friend who threw the Playgirl away found it again in the stack and declared,"how the hell did this end up back in here?" I cleverly explained that the man who owned the magazines must have stuck a few in there for his wife to enjoy:) For better or worse, I distinctly remember every detail of the centerfold's beautiful,long,lean,tanned body.

I wonder why it took me 45 years to realize and admit to myself that I am gay when my young preteen body knew so many years ago?

CLARK JOHNSEN said...

Bravone-- Well I am so glad to have your post, and your transparency as well! If I had lived by that land fill I would have been LIVING in it waiting for playgirls to show up. It certainly would have been less guilt inducing than having to deal the the guilt of breaking one of the ten commandments!

As for your comment about your ex-mormon friend.. a lot of gay people and others who left the church find it nearly impossible to reconcile why anyone who is self-actualized would remain in the church. I just disagree with that whole idea. I am thrilled when people outside of the box decide to stay for whatever reason, because I know it helps so much for the collective consciousness of the church to become more enlightened. Young people growing up there will benefit from your openness and self acceptance, and that is a rare gift in my opinion. The only thing that concerns me is when I see people staying in the church out of fear. The church teaches this all the time: fear is the opposite of faith. So if someone if just staying because they are afraid of the wrath of God, the judgement of peers, or simply afraid of the unknown, I think that can definitely hold a person back. BUT people are complex and have so many reasons why they do what they do. I for one applaud your conviction and strength. You need to do what truly makes you understand that you are whole, wonderful, and beloved. That's just my opinion, but I definitely have developed it "through deepening trials". Please keep in touch!

2Mod4U said...

That is funny! What is more is that speaks to my soul...I never stole porn...I made excuses when I wanted to buy it from previous manager, this middle aged mom that owned the local book store. I told her that it was a gag gift for a friend's birthday...I saw right through me, too.

I don't think she ever told my friend Elaine, that worked for her for years, to my relief.

I'm just recently coming out...I really perspectives.

Thank you for sharing them.

2Mod4U said...

Whoops, that is the Owner of the book store could likely see right through me. She was still always friendly with me, though.

Stella said...

It is so true, about the need to accept those who decide to stay and those who decide to leave. I am still on the fence about it. The church brought me so many good things, wonderful things. But the church also presented heartbreaking things to me as well. I have many friends in and many friends out. Some of my friends who have left are bitter and angry.

I become angry to a point,, but it's not fierce anger, it's a type of "are you kidding me?" and I have a desire to stay in the church just so young girls can have a clear example of a strong feminist woman who loves god but doesn't believe the end all and be all of life is to be "presided" over by a male and have lots and lots of babies.

But, moving on to porn

Here is something I find slightly disturbing about the porn issue. A quote from the 2005 conference by Elder Oaks. He said

“And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.”

Now, this is simply wrong. This is teaching young girls that if they dress a certain way then THEY themselves ARE pornography?!! Um wtf!!

That is crazy and wrong to teach that to young girls. i think each person is responsible for whatever they do in life, and that women shouldn't be held responsible for making a men think thoughts or do things that the church sees as wrong.

Just a sidenote.

CLARK JOHNSEN said...

Stella-- that reminds me of extremist muslims who get turned on because they see a woman's hair or ankle and then BLAME THE WOMAN for causing them to have sexual thoughts!! Its just such a ridiculous notion that a woman dressing a certain way is porn to someone.. or even more that she should be held accountable for some guys righteous boner. That is SO STUPID! I'll never get why men feel entitled to justify so many of their behaviors while women take the blame for it. I'm at a loss

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