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Porn and my Parents

_This is for Z. who is always willing to learn. _

There it was again, the other night: The p-question. I was enjoying a Franziskaner Hefe at my favorite Tuesday night place after a rather unproductive day of research when Z., who is always curious about my newest findings, couldn't hold it in. "What did your parents do wrong that made you turn to porn?" he asked. Then he sipped his beer and waited.

I knew he was joking. He is a PhD student as well and aware of the fact that there is nothing "wrong" with a genuine scientific interest in all kinds of topics. If there was, all Holocaust historians would have a Nazi fetish, I suppose. All econ students would be greedy; and all mathematicians: well, I don't even want to go there.

It's the love of research that brought me to Santa Barbara. Along with an interest in how America speaks and makes films about sex, I admit. But mostly, it was my insatiable urge to discover things I didn't know before. Z.'s question still made me wonder. Why is it that we think everything we do is ultimately our parents' fault or achievement?

In Z.'s defense, he sure was not the first to ask me about my family. Many people have inquired. I walked to the bus with a classmate recently, and she, too, wanted to know: "What does your Mom think of your porn interest?" Apparently, our parents' opinion about the things we do matters to us even after having fully grown up. It's like we need permission in life long after having mastered university degrees, jobs, internships and trips abroad, not to mention the art of living in and surviving messy relationships. We know how to live life. Why do we even as grad students care what our parents think?

Well, good old Freud would have had an answer to this one. Although his ideas have lost some of their appeal in academia these days, Mr. Oedipus still dominates popular discourse. Whenever people do something unusual, we wonder what their childhood's got to do with it. Well, if you really wanna know, here is what my parents did wrong:

I can pinpoint it to one simple fact BRAVO, an infamous German teenage magazine that's been around since the late 50s. BRAVO is known for its scandalous posters of full frontal naked boys and girls in their teens and a devoted sex-ed team called "Dr. Sommer". To be honest, the dangling, well-lit penises inside BRAVO reminded you more of a medical journal than of porn; and for a twelve-year old, they were just scary. It was more of a test of courage than a turn on to look at those pages. But my Mom still wouldn't let me read it.

I think, my Dad had a more liberal opinion about sex but as the good husband he was and is, he let my Mom have her will. So if anyone is to blame for this, it would be her because she really got me interested in what I wasn't supposed to see.

She, however, is also the one who is more interested in my project now. She keeps asking how I deal with it "mentally", watching all the porn and such. She's second wave and very concerned about women getting hurt on screen. She has a very different definition of porn, more brutal and less entertaining. Sometimes that makes it harder to explain my interest in it. But then it also makes me think about my own, maybe narrow definition. So, thank you, Mom, for still taking care of me even here in Santa Barbara.

I never answered Z.'s question that night in the bar. I told him I was gonna answer it on my blog, so next time someone asked, I could just refer him or her to this entry. Z. was fine with that he kinda had to leave anyway. On the way out, he bought me a beer. Then he made me swear not to mention him on my blog. His parents might wonder why he was so interested in all this research...

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