I’ve been to the cinema a lot recently and, although I have yet to see an 18-rated film, I will doubtlessly be seeing one at some point, possessed as I am of a girlfriend who has an unhealthy obsession with horror. They mentioned, yesterday, as the 15 came up for the second film we watched, that they still feel a sort of naughty thrill at seeing a 15-rated film, even at the age of thirty.
I’m thirty-six and I still get that with 18s, mostly on DVD.
I have a complicated relationship with the BBFC rating system due to the fact that my mother was so stringent. My dad was a little more lax with what I was allowed to watch – I didn’t want to watch anything more than PG until I was about 15 myself anyway, so it was probably easy – but my mother was both nervous and worried about anything more than a 12, pulling us all into the lounge to have an hour-long talk about the ethical considerations of taking me to see Shakespeare in Love at the age of 14.
And then we have porn.
I started ordering porn – if you can call it that – at seventeen. I was underage, and I’m aware of that, but I had my Visa Electron card and an Amazon account. Amazon, in those days, had a “video erotica” section (now sadly lost) with a surprisingly varied collection of VHS titles… all rated 18, of course. Ordering one – even one as pedestrian as Emmanuelle: Queen of the Galaxy – gave me a curious feeling somewhere between excitement and guilt. I was doing something I could, obviously, but something I shouldn’t.
It was probably illegal. I mean, I don’t know, but it probably was.
When I got to university I ordered a lot more. I didn’t have a DVD player before, but my new laptop had one, so I could hit up Amazon for softcore basically whenever I wanted. In my first year I even paid money to sign up to a site where you could download individual scenes (which now seems passé – don’t move so fast, technology!). I still felt incredibly guilty, and when they arrived at the university hall postbox, I basically smuggled the goods up to my room as if I was doing something illicit. Even if they were in cardboard packaging.
I got to the age of about twenty when I realised that I was, in fact, well over the age of eighteen and, in fact, was not doing anything wrong, nor anything I wasn’t allowed to do. Indeed I was paying for the porn I was watching, which isn’t the wrong thing to do at all!
But I still felt like I wasn’t doing the right thing. Going back home at the age of twenty-one with a growing collection of softcore DVDs, plus a case full of Discs of Wonder (all hidden inside a D&D box), made me feel like a wretch. I knew my parents wouldn’t approve, and was readying myself for the conversation when it hit me.
They don’t need to know.
And then came
You’re 21. You’re well over 18. You’re allowed to buy porn and you’ve been allowed to do so for three years now.
Yet I still feel odd even considering doing so. It’s helpful, therefore, that I have a collection.