boy on the plane

boy on the plane
image by dall.e 2

On my flight back home, one week ago, I saw a child reading a porn magazine on the plane. He was in the seat in front of me and in an effort to not get caught, he had turned his phone towards the window, away from his mother. Before you deem me a stalker, I must clarify; I was resting my eyes while listening to soft 80’s bops and when I got up from my slumber, I saw his screen’s reflection in the window to his right. I was not wearing my glasses so I could barely see. Yet, my experience being a woman for over twenty years garnered me the ability to identify the body of a naked woman in the magazine. I am not a stalker, but I am a curious girl. So I picked up my glasses from the compartment in front of me, and looking ahead, I saw his little fingers scrolling away at what seemed like an Indian porn comic. This was one of those moments when I wanted to look away but couldn’t, so I simply moved my body upwards in an effort to disprove that the reader of that comic was a little boy like I thought. When he heard me shifting, he quickly switched tabs and fixed his eyes back on his aeroplane screen. I didn’t know what to do. I was wearing my mask, like the responsible traveller I am, so it afforded me at least a jaw drop but deep down, my heart broke for the boy for reasons I will explain briefly.

My initial response was that of shock. I was confused too, as to how this boy of about eleven or twelve (he could’ve been younger) had discovered porn and how he got to the point where he needed to read a porn comic on a five-hour flight. I have been passionate about child psychology for some time so I thought back to developmental theories in an effort to trace where exactly Piaget’s model of human development reveals that at some point children grow in the knowledge that somewhere in the world, people are having sex and recording it. At what stage do children realize that they can go for five hours without food or water, but not without porn? Of course, these questions are sarcastic because unlike most elements of our development whose manifestations are a product of both nature and nurture, a desire for pornography is purely an element of nurture. There is no section in our DNA anointed with the duty to seek out pornographic material. And I know this not because I am a specialist in human psychology or biology (although I wish I was), but rather I know so due to my own experience.

The first time I came across porn, I was not looking for it. I was with my brother (yes, I’m gonna drag his bum into this too), and we were playing games on my Uncle’s phone (I might name him towards the end of the article, let’s see how I feel as I write). It was our custom… we would always ask him for his phone when he came back home from university and he would see to it that we finished our homework first before we could play with his mobile device. That was the deal. We were in fourth grade, we were nine years old. One night, I think we got bored of whatever game we were playing so we went into his photo gallery and started going through all the images he had taken. We didn’t find anything peculiar but it wasn’t long until we got bored of the gallery too and moved on to another app and another one and another one until we landed in his files application. There were several mini folders inside it and one was titled “Do not Open”. Of course, we opened it. Inside it, was another folder titled “Do not Open At All”. And inside it was another folder that read “I told you not to open this”. I felt that at that point, he was just teasing us, so of course, we poised as seekers of this grand secret he was hiding in his nested folders until we landed on two video files.

I don’t remember whose idea it was to go ahead and open the folders, but my perfect and completely unbiased and non-self-righteous memory is telling me it was my brother, whose name is ironically “Innocent”. To our demise, after clicking on the first video, we were introduced to the world of penises and vaginas (cringe), moans and fake orgasms, orgies and masturbation, and years of wrestling with lust… when sometimes we won, but often we didn’t. Even more unfortunately for us though, that video was an explanation of what sex is and how it works. The actors were wearing wires and cameras and there were even subtitles to it. That, my dear reader, was the day I got the bees, the hives, the honey, and the sting talk, which I still, to this day, have not gotten from my parents like most of my friends from my country. Even though it was a short video, probably about 3 minutes or so, my brother and I were no longer as naive as we used to be nor as clueless about how babies are formed or why people need to get married or why our mother stopped bathing us in the same bathroom. I went for years without craving porn or even thinking about it, but from that day, I knew that at any given moment, I could find it… because, from that day, I was introduced to the concept that somewhere in the world, people are having sex and recording it. And somewhere else in the world, someone is watching and enjoying it… perhaps during their five-hour flight to Tanzania, like the boy on the plane.

I don’t know what his story was, nonetheless I have reasons to believe that he most certainly bumped into it somehow through the irresponsibility of an adult. It broke my heart to imagine that from whatever moment that little boy was exposed to porn until that point on the plane, he had evaluated and come to the conclusion that Qatar Airways’ in-flight entertainment was not doing it for him. Nemo, Spiderman, Buzz Lightyear, Spongebob, or Goku were not as pleasing to his eye as the naked Indian woman in a probably-pirated pdf tucked away neatly somewhere on his iPad.

image by Kelly Sikkema

As I settled back into my seat, I wondered to myself, what exactly does he get from this? Some dopamine? Some gratification? Some excitement? Does he know that some people have gotten erectile dysfunctions due to overconsumption of porn? Or that others’ relationships have been broken because of it? What about those who have ended up committing hideous crimes such as rape and child sodomy because of porn? Is he aware that some of the actors in the videos may be victims of human trafficking? How is he coping with the guilt after reading through those comics because he was definitely hiding it from his mom?

The answer is still the same… I don't know what his story was. I have no idea if his parents even suspected that their little boy was now an admirer of female anatomy in all its glory. I have suspected this for a while now… perhaps the boy discovered it from his dad’s Cosmopolitan magazines that the father reads because he’s gotten bored of the little boy’s mother. Maybe the little boy has a brother, cousin, or uncle, who accidentally left a tab open on his iPad and the little boy found it when he was just looking for video games. Or… could he have stumbled upon porn like many boys do, in a boys’ dormitory or locker room? Maybe all the boys were reading those magazines and talking about it and the little boy didn’t want to feel left out so he chimed in. This is all speculation… necessary speculation though… because I haven’t stopped thinking about that boy since I came back home. I don’t know much about him but one thing I know… his life will never be the same.

On some days, when he feels lonely, he may feel tempted to pull out his iPad and scroll through endless and readily-available images of naked women. When he feels things in his body, his entire mind will gather its energies to give him some form of release from all the pent-up sexual tension and he may decide to find a lonely-looking-daddy-issues-having young lady to become his partner. They will explore what little there is to explore in the bedroom, but the little boy will never be satisfied or know how to truly satisfy the girl. They will break up because he will have cheated on the little girl with an even lonelier little girl because he thought the sex wasn’t good due to the first little girl’s ignorance of how sex works. She should’ve just watched porn like me. Later on, though, he will beat himself up for fumbling a perfectly good relationship, and his friends, the very same little boys who were reading porn magazines in the dormitory or in the locker room, will tell him to try alcohol and drugs, and more sex. Somewhere between him drinkin’, sniffin’, and lovin’, it will hit him that maybe indulging in pornography was not such a good idea. And he will ask himself, “Where exactly could I have stopped and sought help?”. Oh, I know the answer to that... maybe on the plane on the way to Tanzania when you were sitting in front of the author of this entry.