The Slippery Slope of Modern-Day Sexploitation
As a writer, I tend to shock those who aren’t yet desensitized or tolerant concerning what is still considered taboo in our American society. As many of my colleagues, who have known me for a long time have pointed out when controversy arises, I have “always been like this”. At times when I hear this, I can’t help but feel sympathy for myself as an adolescent and what I was exposed to from a very young age. However, I struggle with putting the blame solely on the media and keep in mind that I had a natural curiosity due to being sheltered as someone who grew up in the Jehovah’s Witness’ faith.
There were a lot of boundaries that seemed quite ridiculous within our household. What comes to mind was the prohibition of ESRB-rated video games that contained “Suggested Themes” which is described by the site as “Mild provocative references or materials”. This could be anything from cheeky dialogue to a hard-nipple under a shirt. With that in mind, my brain was trained to treat such guidelines as “forbidden fruit”, if they were to be barred from being obtained. My personality has always encouraged me to challenge authority and seek knowledge, regardless of the reason for the restriction. This desire further increased during puberty, which can begin between ages 9-10.
I would say “JET Beauty Of The Week” from JET magazines were the light-start of my curiosity about female beauty, but as a nerd, I had fancied certain women from cartoons such as ‘Johnny Bravo’ or ‘Totally Spies’, along with graphic novels that were constantly flipped through by my father prior to being purchased, in order to make sure that they were suitable for my age. It wasn’t uncommon for them to be drawn seductively, which motivated me to become an artist to draw my own pornographic figures. Of course, I wasn’t good by any means and they failed to “do the trick”. I would say escalation occurred with satellite television. I remember making compilations of my favorite titillating moments from raunchy forms of entertainment that could not exist in this #MeToo era using VHS Tapes and my TV, which had a VHS Player that could record. For example, I recall recording bits from ‘The Man Show’, ‘The Howard Stern Show’, ‘Pants-Off Dance-Off’, and ‘The Girls Next Door’. Pixelated nudity was all that was required to get the job done, and who could forget BET: Uncut?
Eventually, we had movie channels and there were films that included a lot more than I was used to. Some were softcore porn and exploitation films. I made sure to be on the lookout for any that was rated TV-MA with an “S” warning beneath it. While the goal was masturbation, many had a story that was worth sticking around for. As an adult, I had found out that quite a few are regarded as classics. From ‘The Dreamers’ to ‘Y Tu Mamá También’, ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’, and ‘The Lover’.
As many have probably guessed, the natural progression from this stage would be internet porn. It wasn’t as accessible for me as it is for many teenagers in this day and age. Not only was there just one computer in the household, but there was software put into place so that children can browse safely, along with routine emails sent to the administrator detailing what sites that were visited. Of course, not every porn site could be blocked, however, my father and I both had a suspicion that knew each other was well aware of my habits. I have a very funny memory of receiving a passive-aggressive skype message from him as a teenager that read “Stop watching porn. :)”. Eventually, after constantly blocking new sites (which included and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) that I would find, he had to deal with my brothers going through a similar phase, in which he decided to remove the block entirely. As you can see, he thought that there was no use for it still being on there anymore.
With very little restrictions as I was almost an adult, my personality became very “edgy” and my behavior, along with thoughts, influenced my creations. While I attempt to make statements these days, back then, I cared less about context and more about crossing any line that I could find. This is prevalent in GameCargo’s ‘Mad Gods’ one-shot graphic novel. It has taken me a couple of years to release it because I literally feel like I am co-writing with someone I grew out of. Luckily, I do notice a bit of self-aware genius in the splashes of madness that I come across and manipulate it to my advantage as if I’m acting as a time-traveling P.R. practitioner.