Thursday, August 29, 2013


The Sexual History of Jared Sabbagh, Part 1

Jared is a 31-year-old man who lives in Chicago. This is the first of three parts of his story. Here's Part II and Part III.

What’s the first sexual memory or thought you can remember?

I remember finding my father's porno cassette in 1987. I'm five years old, and this VHS is called The Satisfiers of Delta Blue—a fact I confirmed years later when I found it on a porn site and was like, “My god. This is it.”

The cassette was up in the very top shelf in his closet. I think knowing that this was such a secret thing, before I even knew what it was, was enough to give me a response of near hyperventilation. I was instantly titillated.

Did it have a cover image?

No, it was a typewritten video-store label, and I couldn’t even read it. But I knew it was secret, and that reaction, I think, has informed a lot of arousal throughout my life—I’m hot-wired for this sense of sleazy secrecy; that really does it for me. So I put in the video, and it’s a sci-fi narrative porno where men on a space station can call up and order “Satisfiers” by number. There’s a stable of sex slaves in the fleet.

This sounds sort of great.

Yeah, it was fabulous—one of the characters is made to feel emotion by the end, he’s doing it on a sex chair screaming “Tell me you love me!” and afterwards calling up his Satisfier to chat on this absolute brick of a space-age Motorola intercom phone.

But so the first scene is two chicks, a close up on their faces, which are right next to a big dong. They're sharing it. And I was so confused—I had no idea what it was, I had never seen an erect penis. I thought it was some statue, or a lollipop that didn't melt. I went through all the things you could possibly put in your mouth and none of them was a dick, because this thing was just completely disembodied—all you could see was balls, dick, lady faces, and their perms.

Then it pans out, and then I saw where on this person's body it was, and I was like, “Oh! Oh! That’s what it is!” I kept watching, and there were facial cum shots—I was thinking, “I can't believe they're peeing on her, she kind of seems to like it, but also seems to not like it?” There was all this confusion and arousal, terror that I might get found out—I remember shaking, trying to rewind it back to the exact scene where it’d started.

Did you watch it again after this first time?

I watched it constantly. I was a latchkey kid, I got home from kindergarten at 3 and my sister got home half an hour later, so that half hour was Porno Time. For two solid years, I’d say.

Did you get erections?

I remember having sensations of some sort, but the excitatory response was just sort of pulmonary, cardiovascular. My nervous system was on fire in this general way.

Did knowing about this video affect the rest of your life at the time?

Our neighbors would babysit me sometimes, these neighbor boys, and I found some way to broach the subject, like, “We've got this porno tape we could watch.” So I'd watch it with them with a blanket over me and my knees up and it super turned me on, even though I didn’t know—I wasn’t paying attention to them as sex objects, even though now if I was watching porn with a straight boy I’d just be fixated.

Another babysitter, another straight dude, told me that he was having sex with some girl, and I begged him to record it for me somehow, but in retrospect I think he was bullshitting me—he was 14 or so at the time.

I remember, for a brief period after seeing the porn for the first time, I was still young enough to be bathing with my mom and sister. I remember thinking, “Oh—there's your vagina, that's weird.”

What was your moment of first contact?

With almost all of my friends in early elementary school, there was some sort of playing doctor moment. The girl I’d play with after school, we’d get naked and roll around with each other, and at school I’d have naptime with Eric, and we shared my pillow, which looked like a raincloud, and we’d spoon and hold each other’s penises, and it was really tender. But then we were found out. There was a shitstorm, and I denied it, like “Mom, the teacher’s lying.”

Did she believe you?

No. We got separated. And then, right around that time I was living in this neighborhood with this girl Joy, and her parents swore too much and her brother was sort of a ruffian and Joy and I were always riding bikes together and getting into all sorts of trouble. We'd have sleepovers. Our friendship lasted from age 6 to 14, and it started as this innocent same sort of thing—we'd touch each other's junk, we'd watch her dad's porno tapes. Then we started to hit puberty, and I started to get erections, and the whole thing started shifting. Our talk about it become more aspirational, like, “Wouldn’t it would be really cool to have sex?”

How old were you at this point?

I was 10 and she was 11 when things started to change. I don’t know if she was menstruating, but I remember she had some pubic hair. She would always give me a hand job, even though I still wasn’t ejaculating at this point (although surely I was having near-constant erections in public). I was into it to a point—I liked the sensation of her touching me but didn't want anything to do with her vagina.

Then one night her friend Bonnie’s parents were out of town, and the three of us swam in Bonnie’s pool and grimaced through sips of peppermint schnapps for awhile, and then we started playing Truth or Dare. One of them dared the other to blow me. I can't remember who it was, but one of them went down on me and it felt really good.

The next round of dare was: sit on his dick. So we hunted for condoms, this truly exciting contraband. We slipped one on my teeny tiny dick, and one and then the other just sat on it, and I don't think anything happened, and then we sort of fucked a little, and then afterwards gave each other these truly childlike high fives, like "Guys, we fucking did it!" 

This is such a crazy loss-of-virginity story.  

I know. The three of us talked a little bit later, very serious and earnest, about how we didn't want to ruin our friendship—we’d seen TV shows, we knew that that sometimes happened.

And that's the one and only time you've had sex with a girl, right?

Yeah. The three of us were at Bonnie's house another night, and her parents had a bidet, and Joy was like, “I blew you, so you have to go down on me.” That very childish you-do-me, I’ll-do-you.


Fair point. So I was like, “Okay, I’ll do you, but you have to wash it.” And so she hovered over the bidet, and she's being rinsed as I was bringing my face towards her.

So you went down on your friend mid-bidet?

I actually started dry heaving. And you know, I still watch straight porn, but I just can’t—I can’t do it. I’ve always known I couldn't have a threesome with a straight couple, which is a good thing to know, considering how much I experimented. And when I watch straight porn, anyway, it's the most anti-feminist, gang-bang sort of stuff.

After that encounter, what happened next?

I moved to Iowa, and that was a quiet period of me just jerking off to my dad's porn.

How old were you when you moved, and when did you realize you were gay?

I moved around my 12th birthday. And although I’d been getting called “faggot” by all the children in my elementary school since first or second grade, there was this brief time in Iowa where no one knew me enough to give a fuck that I was swishy, so all of a sudden there was nothing to actively resist about the idea. I realized that I knew all the names of the guys in my dad's porn but not the girls.

So I was thinking, “Okay, maybe this is all true. Maybe there's this real thing that I might actually have to conceal, rather than baseless accusations that I have to defend myself against.” And I had an active fantasy life: I remember fantasizing about my math teacher, never about boys my own age. Except, actually, my cousin—for some reason I ended up borrowing a pair of underwear from him at some family event, and I was so titillated—it's still the kind of briefs that I wear today.

And then I took a trip to visit my mom, and we went to Washington DC together. We were in Union Station, and I went to use the bathroom. Have we talked about this yet, the bathroom thing?

We haven’t.

Okay, so let’s back up a little. Around the time I was 10 or 11, I found that I could peek at men's penises in the urinals, and I got the same sort of “I’m taking a risk, I could be seen looking” thrill that I loved. So I would use bathrooms constantly. My cover story was that I was a germaphobe and needed to wash my hands.

So in DC, I’m in this bathroom, which turns out to be crazy cruisey, and all I know that you could look. Every urinal is full, and there are men jerking off next to me—this is 1995 or ‘96. And this old man with a grizzled ginger beard jerks off next to me, to completion. I see him come, and I was like, “My whole life has changed.”

So what did you do?! 

It was a Lacanian jouissance moment. Too much sensation for my body. I left the bathroom and had to go and act like I had just pooped or something. My mom and stepdad were having a totally continuous day, but I was in a whole new world—I felt adult, and ashamed, and desperate to go back to the bathroom, all of these things. On the outside, I just said something like, "This train station is nice!" and made small talk.

My mom and stepdad said I was quiet for the rest of the day. In a sense I had been preyed on, and I also wanted more.

So now I knew that this could happen in bathrooms, and my obsession with bathrooms got even more intense. There was this bathroom in a restaurant, a Texas Roadhouse in Florida—and this waiter, a total creep, he would follow me into the bathroom, get himself hard, and I would just leave. I didn't know the ropes. I didn't know that you could just stay and fuck the person. I later became totally expert at bathroom sex, but all I knew was that maybe that he could jack off next to me.

You never thought about touching him?

No—I was still abiding by the rules of the urinal. I thought about him a lot, though, later. I regretted that I didn't do anything. I didn't realize that you could do more until I was visiting my sister during this weird period where she and her friend were taking fitness classes at the community college. I was thirteen, still in middle school, and I had to wait for her one day, and I spent the entire time in the bathroom. It was just me and this guy, peeking underneath the stalls, in this awkward position where you’re on a toilet, leaning down to make eye contact.

After fifteen minutes of us just furtively looking, I walk up and stand at one of the urinals. He (and he’s a much older guy) walks out and goes behind the wall of urinals where there are showers, a more private space, and I don't follow, I stay frozen in place.  This is the first time I ever touch another guy’s dick—he comes back and blows my mind by slowly touching my erection, and then I do it back.

From there it was pretty incremental, and eventually it got to the point where I was 14 or 15, living with my mom, and it was freshman year of high school. The Sears at the mall had a really cruisey bathroom, where you’d pick a guy up and then go off to the bathroom at Montgomery Ward which had a really roomy stall where you could actually get it on. So I’d go to the mall with my mom, and we’d share a Cinnabon, and I’d tell her I was going to go wander off and then I’d go suck dick in the bathroom.

Were you still feeling cognitive dissonance about being gay? 

By the time I was smoking pole in public bathrooms, my plan was just to survive high school and get to one of the colleges in the big book I had, one of the colleges that had a Gay and Lesbian Student Alliance. I was having a hard time—suicidal ideations. There was an excitement and relief to every one of these encounters but I also felt like I was going further down the rabbit hole of sin and ruin.

Was your depression explicitly tied to your sexual activity in your own mind?

Well, at 12 I was like, “I’m gay,” and then at 15 I was like, “I’m gay and a fucking sex maniac.” At home we sometimes talked about my father's sex addiction; my mom would bring it up and talk about what a snake he was, and he’d talk about how he'd never had enough sex in his life. And I thought I was surely set to inherit this thing, and in addition to being a social pariah—it didn’t seem promising.

Did your parents know you were gay?

Not until the day I was supposed to start my sophomore year. They weren't surprised, I was just confirming it for them, I think, and I came out because I knew I wouldn't survive another year at that high school. I told them, “I can’t go back—let’s talk about what we can do instead.”

The whole thing was weird. I didn’t have any gay role models, I was obsessed with anything on TV with a gay character, like the Real World, the Greg Louganis Story with fucking Mario Lopez. There were so few visions of gay lives, and I had no idea what it meant to be gay. The farthest and best I could imagine was being in college with a supportive group of people, and being able to talk about being gay.

And I thought about that a lot. I wrote all this very dramatic poetry about traveling from island to island, feeling the water getting progressively warmer. "All of my cares evanesce,” I wrote.

See also: Part II | Part III

Photo via Dimitry Pinchuk/Flickr

32 Comments / Post A Comment


Wow. I'm not sure what to say just yet, but this was intense reading.

Sophia Jacob

With the carousel riders, when they realize that marriage and stability hasn't cured their restlessness, irritability and discontentment they look to hop back on the carousel because that's how they self medicate. They don't look inward - at their own character defects. They don't do the repair work necessary to make themselves happy - they blame everyone around them. They are a tornado of destruction. @me

Jolly Darling

So now its an hour before closing time. My boss is now back to our location to help us close. He starts going through our paperwork and money and realizes we are about 1600$ short. I explain to him that Mr. Soandso came down to our location to do a mid day drop since he didn't work. He told me Mr. Soandso doesn't exist and calls the corporate office. It turned out this guy had gone to over a dozen Mrs. Fields in the area and robbed over 10k worth of money. They never figured out who it was. I ended up being fired over it with my buddy. We stole a giant cookie cake as compensation. Worth it. @cook


So I’d go to the mall with my mom, and we’d share a Cinnabon, and I’d tell her I was going to go wander off and then I’d go suck dick in the bathroom.

Not to copy @nina!, but: Wow. I don't know exactly how to respond to that.

It's like this perfect juxtaposition of the banal and the jaw-dropping.


@stonefruit brb quickly writing my book proposal for "the banal and the jaw-dropping: a collection of hairpin sex interviews"


@stonefruit Heehee, "jaw-dropping".


Wow. It is so fascinating to read about other peoples' introduction to sex and sexuality - this is very different from mine. Can't wait for part 2!


Dudes, I love you. Your lives are intense.


My teenagehood/early sexuality is SO boring/nonexistent in comparison.


@ach_so Mine too, unless you count furious masturbation and reading women's erotica.


Whoa whoa whoa, far be it for me to tell a stranger his sexual awakening is not okay, BUT WHO ARE THESE 'MUCH OLDER' GUYS HAVING PUBLIC-BATHROOM SEX WITH 13-YEAR-OLDS? And 11-year-olds giving handjobs, so much nopetopus right now.


@TheBelleWitch Right. It sounds a bit legally problematic...


@TheBelleWitch I haven't quite figured out how to articulate this, but I think that Jared's experience specifically as a gay kid who was explicitly, self-consciously attracted to transgression really shifts and dislocates the lenses on what's okay. Obviously these men who are overtly preying are people who could legally deserve jail time and I could have heard his story from someone who said "I was taken advantage of repeatedly" and I'd have been like "Yes, you were." But that's the really interesting thing to me with all this - you get to tell your story for yourself - and he, understanding fully the nuances and absolutely questionable individuals involved in some of these situations, is claiming his experience in a way that I find really honest and almost radical; and I think, if someone wants to own something, he gets to own it, etc.


@TheBelleWitch yeah this is actually very much not okay and im glad im not the only one who thought so.


@j-i-a I get what you're saying and I do respect his right to tell his own story, but I still don't feel comfortable with it, I suppose. If he were a she saying 'oh older men had sex with me but I'm not a victim,' I'm not sure we'd be as quick to agree it was okay. I mean I'm not arguing Jared needs to fit into a nice little box, and I do see that he felt he had agency here. But we can make sense of things in adulthood in ways that 13-year-olds can't, so retrospectively applying that narratives seems dangerous to me. Hopefully I'm making sense - as always this was a very interesting interview, and your talent at nonjudgmental listening shines through.

rebecca the brave

But why do we think we should be comfortable with this? Or even that Jared is asking us to or assuming that we will be? I think this person's story requires that we hold two ideas in our heads at the same time: that Jared's narrative and emotion is true because it belongs to him AND that these men were predators.

This interview is stunning to me in every way-- a story I have never heard before told with rigorous intimacy.


@rebecca the brave Oh, I don't think we do. I'd be interested to hear Jared address it specifically, though. How does he feel about these guys?


@TheBelleWitch the whole thing gets crazier in future installments and he does address this really specifically - it'll be up next week!


Oh, the Derek Jarman of it all!

(I love Derek Jarman.)


This was amazing. Jia, you stun every time. Reading about other people's sexual development is SO fascinating because some of it is so unique, but some is so universal.


Well, I loved this.


Give me more!

In my opinion, shame is the most unhealthy feeling to have about early sexual experiences, especially when you were a kid and didn't really know what you were doing other than it felt naughty and exciting.

I'm glad Jared was forthright about facts that he may have felt ashamed about when he was younger. Reading his story is probably healthy for anyone else who feels ashamed about what they experienced as a child and I'd like to see more honest discussion about it, it being a high sexual drive from childhood as well as differing sexualities and I think it's a good counterpoint to the interviews with virgins/asexual people.

Keep it coming, Jia! Your interviews go deep.


@rimy I have this totally made up and probably bullshit theory that shame is necessary in the development of sexuality. That it's a step we go through, related to the development of self-consciousness and the relationship of the other to our desires.

It's sort of a "Adam and Eve is a descriptive rather than proscriptive story" theory.

I dunno. I felt a lot of shame around my sexuality growing up, even though my parents are hippies and I had no religious upbringing. So maybe my bullshit theory is just trying to make what I felt ok. But I still kind of think that a utopian ideal of growing up with zero shame around sex may be unrealistic. I got no shame now, if it helps (it helps me, that's for sure).

And yes. Amazing interview. Blew my fucking mind.


@rimy yeah, so glad you feel this way, i do too - very little real chat about people who are hypersexual, just as there's little real chat about the other end of the spectrum.

Sea Ermine

@RNL i think it's possible to grow up not feeling shame about sex, it just doesn't happen as often as it should. I didn't feel ashamed about sex or sexuality growing up, I think the first time I felt it was as an adult, when I realized that society didn't really have a place for women with higher sex drives that their boyfriend's. And I don't think it was ok or natural or healthy for me to feel ashamed about that, I think it was a side effect of our broken culture. There isn't anything wrong or unnatural about sex and sexuality, so I don't see why anyone should ashamed about it.

Can I ask, did you grow up in a culture that promotes shame around sex? I've noticed that some friends of mine who grew up in the US feel way more conflicted about sex than I ever have, even if they were raised in liberal homes,bbecause the cultural attitudes there had such damaging messages about sex. The first time I felt shame about sex was after I jad moved to the UD and started consuming a lot of media (growing up I didn't really watch tv/use the internet, which I think plaued a huge role in me being super comfortable with my sexuality as a teen)


@Sea Ermine I used to work at a Major National Magazine targeted to women, and we wrote about sex and desire all the time. I was *constantly* trying to get stories in there about women who had high sex drives, straight women with higher sex drives than their male lovers/partners, etc...but I got shot down every time. Nobody believed me--they all insisted that men's sex drives were "Naturally" higher. It's still such a deep taboo, at least in the US. Denying that this pattern exists causes huge problems, because the women feel like freaks, and the men feel like failures.


@morose_delectation As a straight woman who very often does (we both tend to go through phases) have a higher sex drive than my boyfriend, it makes sense. I mean -- if I can have unlimited orgasms at any time (theoretically), then why wouldn't I want sex frequently? Whereas my boyfriend, with a latency period of at least half a day, is beholden to more of a sex budget, for lack of a better word. It is the most intuitive thing in the world, that women would want sex at least as often as men.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Oof. That was intense. I know this is Jared's story, but, since he's sharing it publicly, I think I'm allowed to have a perspective on what I've read, and it is this: Having known children who grew up from an early age with porn, and they did not turn out all right (i.e., needing psychological services, social workers to teach them that sexually explicit language is not OK in regular conversation, a 5-year-old shouldn't tell his social worker to suck his cock, bitch etc...), I hope Jared is all good and healthy and happy.


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