The Sexual History of Jared Sabbagh, Part 1
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?
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.
Photo via Dimitry Pinchuk/Flickr