Porn Helped Me Bloom Into a Trans Man and Let Go of Sex Shame
6 min read | Jun 2022

Porn Helped Me Bloom Into a Trans Man and Let Go of Sex Shame

I was conflicted about my desires until I embraced a potentially problematic habit.

D. L. Harper / Millennial / Libertarian / Writer

I was maybe 7 or 8 when I was first caught masturbating. I wasn’t old enough to be aware of the taboos or that I probably shouldn’t have been doing it on the living room sofa. I wasn’t trying to be disgusting or perverse, but from my mum’s expression, that’s exactly what I was doing. “Stop that, it’s dirty,” she snapped and then stalked off, evidently too mortified to be near me a moment longer.  

Back then, I only knew she was angry, that I must be wrong. By the time I was 11, I’d started to realize I had an appetite for something that, by most accounts, I shouldn’t have wanted so young. I’m still trying to make sense of how and why the need arose in me. I have a theory: that even then, I nurtured a blossoming hunger for sexual pleasure that is often attributed to masculinity.

Transitioning Transformed My Sexuality

When I came out as a trans man at 29, it set me free to explore myself sexually, as well as socially and spiritually. As much as it feels like a binary-gendered convenience to say that I started masturbating early because I was a buried boy, that’s what makes the most sense to me. I didn’t have a father who was present in my life; I had no brothers I could aspire to or confide in—even my grandfather died when I was young. In a Freudian sort of way, it all lines up. While I was content with presenting as a girl, putting on all the right clothes and demure floral graces, exploring more private pleasures was fertile ground for my subconscious gender identity to assert itself. 

So when it was brought to light, my transness started to bring with it sexual freedom, allowing me to see myself as someone who deserved my sexual gratification to be guilt-free. This should be the case for anyone who enjoys sex, of course, but it turned out a lot of my guilty feelings were wrapped up in being perceived as feminine by myself and others.

My libido always felt like a filthy secret consigned to pages in my diary. While the straight boys around me growing up had bragging rights over their supposed sexual conquests, I saw girls ridiculed and slut-shamed for trying to have the same conversations. We were the ones who had to seek each other out, as I did, to confide crushes and the delicious power they had over our fantasies and physical responses. Sometimes, as an outlet, this became a kind of spoken-word porn. Back then, I never would have drawn a parallel between those talks and actual porn videos. Of course, I knew they existed—boys my age talked enough about them—but I felt, deep down, they were wrong for me to access. That self-imposed barrier between verbal and visual exchanges of erotic information was a safety buffer between myself and “dangerous” male sexuality.

I was acutely aware of the potency of masculinity. I always idolized and feared it in this way. I’d sometimes explicitly wish myself male in my teen journals, but it felt beyond me when I saw my school crush walking around assured in his sheer size, radiant exuberance and natural weight of presence, always looming larger in my mind. As greedily as I undressed him in my imaginings, fixated on his physicality while wishing I could emulate it, I was disgusted with myself. In the fury of my unrequited urges, I wanted to devour him, tear through and know what he’d feel like under my tongue.

“”

Was My Porn Consumption Problematic?

I feared that creature lingering in me, just beneath the surface. It made me think things I wished I wouldn’t, about throwing people against furniture, straddling them and taking what I wanted. This was my masculinity, a feral dog driven by instinct up to the brink of fear. My own fear of myself was like a chain-link fence I’d run up against with tooth and claw probing every opening, unable to gnaw through. After realizing it was my gender identity making me feel this way, I gave myself permission to meet my beast on neutral territory and get clear on a few things—like how the things I feared might work out to be good for me. 

By my mid-20s, I’d already started watching porn on sites like Beautiful Agony, essentially a library of self-uploaded masturbation videos. Because I could only see the subjects from the torso up, I could step clear of the discomfort I felt watching something that brazenly bared all. I could almost convince myself I wasn’t watching porn, despite how much it turned me on and the fact I always went to these videos with the intention of masturbating. This was comfortable for me, until suddenly, it wasn’t enough, and I knew I wasn’t having all my needs met. 

Four months into hormone replacement therapy, testosterone was sending my sexual imagination into overdrive. As I felt sexier in my own body, I wanted to experience the full bodily pleasure of other transmasculine people. As a queer man, I wanted to watch other queer men getting off on each other, almost as a fantasy where I could insert myself in the action. Discovering my gender identity also opened the way toward accepting that I’m polyamorous. I hungered for a way to express that while continuing to enjoy my monogamous relationship, which laid down the loving foundations for my sexual freedom. The limited gratis access to Beautiful Agony, with my equally limited financial means, wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

So I found myself at an impasse. I couldn’t afford the subscriptions that would assure me I was watching ethically made material, but I worried what I’d uncover when delving into the murky waters of Pornhub et al. I had a few tips on hand, like going in with an idea of what I wanted and searching for that instead of scrolling through landing pages. But as I started with an oiled and sensual cult ritual here, a gay threesome there, I still felt the fear of stumbling across something that would pollute my mind and make me want something abhorrent. I wasn’t even sure what that something might be or why I’d manage to trip onto it somehow, only that the threat was there, a lingering effect of being taught as an adolescent to beware of pornography. I was taking from those lessons for my own safety, but behind that, the first barrier was still lurking—the embedded suspicion that my pleasure was something dirty.

“”

Watching Porn Has Been Healing

I’ve been surprised to find myself watching one or two porn videos every few days or at least on a weekly basis. I feel the desire for it more often than I would ever have given myself permission to before coming out and starting hormone replacement therapy. Beyond wanting it just for the pleasure, I need it for my own self-compassion. It feels strange to know it as a need, but it has become absolutely necessary in accepting that I fear my sex drive, that it wasn’t my fault and that things can change now. As a mirror to that, I find myself feeling tenderness for the transmasc people I watch in gorgeous orgasmic bliss as they commit one of my favorite debauched acts: making themselves squirt. There are times I feel such love for the fact that they are empowered to share their own pleasure that any idea of filthiness drops away and I realize it’s all just love.

I’ve noticed I’m more inclined to watch women and femme people for the same feeling recently, whereas before, I was mostly interested in masculine bodies. I think this shift might mean I’m beginning to accept my old femme-presenting self as someone who was justified in wanting sex, even in the gray area of my tweens and early teens. I wasn’t expecting anything like this depth of emotional connection I’ve found with porn and the people who create it for themselves and others. But whether the performers entertained it as a possibility or not, they are helping me on my way to knowing and loving myself better.

Even several weeks into my explorations in the wildwood of hardcore porn, I still sit with my finger hovering over the search bar or play button and feel shame and disgust with myself. It’s a barrier I have to push myself over, allowing myself the enjoyment of my body I was denied as a kid. 

I used to be convinced that porn was where dirty people went to weasel their shameful way out of an unfulfilling life. But conversely, I begin to connect with myself deeply when engaging with it. I’m considering what I want for myself (finally!) when I’m searching for the right video. I’m learning to build language and deep, gut-wrenching feeling for what I find aesthetically, emotionally and soulfully pleasing. It’s a way I was too afraid to think when the need to touch myself, soothe the roiling ache for sensual contact with another body, was something to be ashamed of. I’m pushing beyond the pain of feeling my deep interest in sex, something I’m learning to admire in myself, was wrong, to an ebb and flow of mindful self-loving thought and release. I connect as I press play, push myself over the obstacle of my own guilt, then just let go.

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