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SEPTEMBER 19, 2017

With a 7-inch dildo in one hand, a vibrator pressed against my clit and an incognito tab at the ready, I dove into the treasure trove that was Reddit’s NSFW Plowcam page.

A red circle proclaimed “18+” and I was hit with a question that was now an old friend: “Are you over 18 and willing to see adult content?”

I remember the first time I saw red. While contentedly browsing games on my family’s shared computer, my 7-year-old self chanced upon an animation branded with a glowing red label: “Warning, Mature Content.”

Thus, my first interactions with sexually graphic material started with Naruto gerbil porn and a “Gotta Fuck ‘em All” parody of the Pokémon theme song. Like stumbling upon a dragon’s porn hoard, I marveled at the bounty of mature content with an innocent, childlike curiosity.

From terrible sex quizzes to pornographic adventure games, I treated each pixelated, uncensored discovery with the same reverence as one would a lost Monet. The gallery that made up my young mind nestled the imagery of quivering members right next to the concept of basic addition. As the years went on, I rotated outdated sex tips out and ushered new kink knowledge in like a seasoned art curator.

I moved to China when I was nine, but even the country’s fervent censorship failed to stop me — equipped with a trusty VPN, I continued to explore the then-mysterious bowels of the internet, and I wasn’t afraid to get dirty. As I continued to refine my knowledge in carnal delights, I found myself captivated by the “bizarre.” Delving into the world of the sexually eccentric made me feel like I was living lives I would never otherwise experience.

My late night investigations turned to the taboo, devouring in half-abject horror, half-rapt fascination at vivid accounts of diaper fetishes, bugchasing (where one intentionally tries to contract HIV) and most memorably, roadkill romps gone wrong. What went awry, you may ask? Let’s just say that rotting animal flesh doesn’t mingle well with vaginal contact.

My fascination with this “deviancy” was an extension of my obsessive desire to amass as many hand-me-down lives as possible, which I supplemented with “Choose Your Own Adventure” quizzes, story-writing and theater. Even though these accounts vastly differed from my own, I pushed past this initial shock appeal and found myself simply among other human beings.

The first renaissance of experimentation blossomed as I reached my teen years. Seldom was I interested, however, in practicing what I read online in reality, especially my more esoteric, unsavory insights. I fancied myself a lone ranger; my isolation, self-induced and cultivated by others, resulted in both resignation and anticipation of a life sans emotional and physical entanglements. I was content sitting alone in the peculiar sex museum of my own creation.   

Unsurprisingly, for a long period of my life, I believed I was aromantic and asexual (otherwise known as aro/ace). I couldn’t imagine myself in a romantic relationship, and while I clearly wasn’t sex-repulsed, my fascination with all things sex rarely stemmed from attraction toward others. I still tried to see how far I could deepthroat bananas and popsicles, though.  

The second renaissance, however, of experimentation awaited me in the form of college. Finally, I could be an artist, rather than only a patron. Much like Leonardo da Vinci, I, too, began developing techniques to study the human anatomy: How could I not when I suddenly had a wealth of new muses to observe?

 With my arms and legs akimbo like the Vitruvian Man’s, I was determined to draw my own conclusions about the ideal body. Finally, all my aimless Kegel practices in my youth could be put to the test. I milked my free birth control like a 17th-century dairy maiden squeezing the teats of a beautiful cow and liberally applied the decade of accumulated sexual knowledge, to mixed reviews.

That’s not to say that after a few Tinder romps, I emerged a perfect, glaze-fired ceramic. I am very much still a lump of clay, continually molded by my surroundings. While I no longer identified with the label of aro/ace, I knew that monogamy as a medium did not resonate with me, either.

From seeing five people at the same time, consistently planning threesomes, to my current state of dating my long-term boyfriend and having adventures with a little piece on the side, I continued to discover what mediums worked for me.

Being in an open and polyamorous relationship opens up a liminal space for me to explore relationships that are otherwise lost in the Bermuda Triangle that is our binary, taken-or-not society. I wish to shed light on the buried, forgotten, and ostracized aspects of emotional and erotic intimacy.

I’m opening up my mind’s strange sex museum to the public for the first time. As you walk through these not-so-hallowed halls, I hope you’ll be inspired to make your own art, too.

Michelle Zheng writes the Tuesday column on sex. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @thezhenger.

OCTOBER 03, 2017