I’ll tell you what’s wrong with porn; it no longer takes any skill or daring whatsoever to obtain it. It used to require a bit of ingenuity, a little risk and a little touch of audaciousness if you wanted to look at something naked.

Back when the earth was flat you had a couple of choices:
1) The easy way out; you looked at National Geographic or the Sears catalog, pretty lame no matter how you slice it.

2) Slightly better; you ogled the Snap-On tool calendars and Vargas pinups in Dad’s workshop or basement (assuming Mom hadn’t already heaved them into the garbage.)

2) More daring; you stole one of your friends Dad’s girlie mags and let your friend take the heat.

3) Or, for the truly advanced kid; you bought your own Playboy.

Now buying your own, meant you had to have qualifications. (In today’s lingo – you needed mad skills)

A) You had to be tall enough to pass for at least 12, too short and the purveyor at the newspaper stand would send you packin’. In my day newsstand owners felt that 12 years of age, possession of $1.50 or the height of 4.5 feet (whichever came first) was the legal definition of the age of consent.

B) You needed a bit of swagger to be able to stand in front of a newsstand operator, whose beady little eyes were boring through you, sizing up the depth of your moral failing. You stood your ground calmly, casually choking down the adrenalin rush, the drenching sweat and skyrocketing embarrassment.

C) You had to maintain a cool façade that said “Yes, I would like to buy a girlie magazine so I can read the articles; I hear the writing is excellent.”

D) You had to be wicked cool. You first bought a pack of cigarettes, then a pack of gum, three Baby Ruth bars, an orange Fanta, two Sergeant Rock comic books, six packs of baseball cards, some modeling cement … then just as you’re about to pay, at the very last second, as if it were the most meaningless of afterthoughts, you point to a Playboy behind the counter and with an air of bored detachment say “Oh, and one of those too.”

E) And finally, you had to be able to hold out the proper amount of money to the proprietor without your hand shaking so badly he would worry you had early onset Parkinson’s and call an ambulance for you.

If you were that one kid in your neighborhood who had these qualifications, you were the man. You stood tall, you were a big shot … of course, you were also the idiot who was most likely going to get caught by their Mom reading a girlie mag (more about that later.)

Note to women: I know a lot of your husbands will say they never tried this, never bought a girlie magazine, and I must be some sort of sick, demented pervert. Well, they are all filthy liars, the whole lot of them; they all know exactly what I’m talking about, because all men are sick, demented perverts.

It took planning on the level of a WWII land invasion to get hold of a girlie magazine back then. You consulted your older brother for tips (which was usually the advice that got you caught.) You made sure you wore your most grown up “Big Daddy Roth” or “STP” t-shirt to make you look older. You used up a whole can of Right Guard deodorant to knock down the smell of fear. On the morning of the day of the purchase you did your best to grow a beard.

After a successful purchase, the challenge was keeping the damn thing under wraps. The magazine had to be hidden with great care, behind bookcases (good idea), under your mattress (bad idea), under your brother’s mattress (a better idea), even in the woods if necessary (another bad idea, the woods are really soggy.) The magazine had to be secreted in and out of your house with the skill of a Watergate burglar … OK, bad example … with the skill of Jack Kennedy sneaking girls in and out of the White House. Your friends would demand you produce this publication every day so they could stare at the “articles” until blindness set in. Occasionally one of the younger kids would actually have a heart attack upon seeing God unwrapped for the first time. I left my little brother for dead on at least two occasions.

Of course nothing great comes without great risk, and nothing was worse than getting caught with the goods. If caught, as bad as it was, you prayed it would be by your Dad. Dad (most likely being a male himself) might have a tiny sliver of sympathy for your sick depravity and you might survive the beating, but not Mom. Nothing could compare to the horror of being caught by your mother. The humiliation alone killed thousands of underage boys in those days. A large “P for Pervert” would be hacked into your bare breast with a dull kitchen knife (which was far worse than that stupid big-ass red “A” they stitched onto Hester’s white smock in that dumb book they made you read in high school.) Your mother would immediately disown you. She would forbid your brothers and sister to ever utter your name again. She would have you declared an orphan of the state and put you on a train to be shipped off to northern Idaho to spend the rest of your days at the “Underage Male Perverts Institution.” You were never seen by friend or family again… Your father would simply shrug and go along, to get along. He realized it would be far easier to make another child than try and convince Mom you were salvageable.

But things have changed. Today’s youth are lazy and complacent. Obtaining porn is now an easy, no-risk proposition. You simply Google “www.BigOlHonkin’Hooters.com,” hit enter and you’re off to the races. If caught, you blame it on that Russian computer virus, and Dad, for not updating Norton’s Porn Blocker. Or skip the internet entirely and just watch Family Guy on network television; it makes the 1972 X-rated, no one under 21, Fritz the Cat cartoon, look like Mary Freakin’ Poppins. The Family Guy’s dog is a drunk who has sex with the Family Guy’s wife, which, to be frank, is simply disgusting. TV has come a long way, hasn’t it? I really can’t picture sitting around with Mom and Dad on Friday nights, watching the Flintstones while Betty, Wilma and Dino have a threesome. But maybe I just didn’t see the hidden irony of the Flintstone’s being “From the Town of BedRock.” YabbaDabbaDoHer Fred.

In my day, Gunsmoke was about as hardcore as TV got. We all kinda knew that Miss Kitty ran the “entertainment” district in that town and had a real hitch in her skirt for Ol’ Matt Dillon, but she was salt of the earth and had a heart of gold. As far as I know, she never took Matt upstairs, put a ball gag in his mouth and bitch-slapped the snot out of him on Tuesday nights.

Magazines were so tame back then when compared to the stuff of today. Miss December showed off a little skin, but not everything, always leaving something to the imagination. I don’t imagine anyone buys skin magazines these days. The web is a massive porn wonderland with websites featuring activities I’ve never actually thought of, let alone done. And I thought I had thought of everything. There is stuff on the net I find hard to believe is physically possible to do … you squint, you move the monitor, you turn your head sideways and then … when you finally realize what-in-the-hell you’re looking at, you let out a little girl scream and faint dead away. Maybe it’s just me, but in my day looking at dirty pictures was supposed to be fun, not leave you with a permanent case of night terrors.

Where is the challenge for today’s youth? There’s no sneaking around, no furtive behavior. How does a young boy learn the dark arts of intrigue, subterfuge and the art of lying? Are these all things of the past? How sad. How are kids today to be expected to learn the basics of deception and deceit? In the future will only Catholic altar boys know what shame and humiliation is? Will today’s youth be prepared to take our places in society and gracefully become lying, cheating Washington lobbyists, Wall Street scum or oil executives without this critical training?

Ah, the good ol’ days… when life came in a plain brown wrapper.

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Trevor Stone Irvin

Trevor Stone Irvin

Illustrator and Designer living in the Candler Park area...At one time I worked at the Atlanta Constitution and then for CNN at the startup...it all seemed too much like real work so I went freelance...which my father defined as "being unemployed for a real long time".