by Hannah Bennett

  The imposed nudity of my Father was oppressive and scary to me as a child. And although the threat of nudist camps was never realized, the threat was never far from my mind. Just in case. I would often wonder; what does happen to children at nudist camps............ Hannah Bennett

      It's dusk in our incestuous little town that's nestled in between the nuclear reservation and two mighty rivers, the Snake and the Columbia. Dusk seems to be the time when most small four year old children are hustled off to bed. But if you happened to look in the window of a tiny green house you would see a curly, tow headed little girl sitting amidst two stacks of what appear to be magazines. She's seriously poring over each page memorizing all the information for future use. Her eyebrows are knit closely together and her large brown eyes are narrowed. You wonder what such a small child could possibly be so engrossed in. You try for a closer look. You see her father looking on with a self satisfied look, proud of the education that he alone can give his young daughter. He is going to teach her to be the perfect woman. 
      Yes, I was looking at pornographic magazines. Soft core, T & A. I remember it well. I knew what I was doing was bad, nobody had to tell me that. But that's what my father wanted, my education had begun. I remember the slick feel of the paper in my hands and the shape of the women's breasts in the photo's. Their hair was styled like helmets...........it was the 60's after all. Some of them wore shorts or tights with high-heels. They stood in awkward positions. I turned every page drinking in every detail. As I finished one magazine I would lay it face down to my left and pick the next one from the stack on my right. I was careful not to rip any pages or leave marks from my sweaty baby hands. Our sofa was old and nubby. The fabric would leave small indentations on the backs of your legs if you sat in the same position too long. I didn't move , I didn't scratch. I was scared and confused. I felt a heat in my crotch that made me uncomfortable. There came a knock from the front door, somebody was here. I jumped and slammed down the magazine I was looking at. My Aunt was here and I didn't want her to know what I had been seeing, already at four I was protecting my parents. They were both in the room, my Dad had given me the porn to look at. I however, did not want to be caught. Then the horrible sound of my father's voice, "Show Auntie what you've been looking at." "NO!" I said. I flushed a deep crimson from the tip of my toes to the top of my head. "Do it," he said "now." I knew I had to comply or face the belt. I showed her the magazine, I had been careful to keep my place. My Aunt laughed, nervously. And I died a four year old death that evening. The enticement followed by humiliation had begun. A pattern my father would keep for at least ten years. I remember that when I held up the magazine the woman in the photo looked more naked than she had before and i felt uglier and dirtier than I even knew how. 
      I learned that my body was for men's pleasure that evening and I never forgot it. I knew what would happen to me when I became a woman. 
      Pornography would be the one thing that was a constant in our household along with my Dad's abuse. What makes my abuse involving porn different from other women's is this: no incest. None, ever. I could have lept about naked in front of my father at any time and he would have simply told me to move. No, he was on a mission to create what he believed to be the perfect woman. One who was bawdy, sexy but not cheap (he of course hated "cheap"). One that could tell a dirty joke in a roomful of men without batting an eyelash and belt down whiskey with the best of them. One who could please her man. One that knew her place in this world. One that could swallow. He stole my innocence. I never had anything to learn, sexually that is. I knew how to fuck well before I ever did. I started learning what was expected of me at age four. 
      We were all at my Grandma's house and everyone was having a good time laughing and carrying on. My Aunt had a new boyfriend and he had a son, Tony. I'm around seven now...........it's the early 70's. Tony was pushing me on the swing, we are steps away from the adults who are on the patio. As Tony is readying a push he quickly pulls back the waistband of my shorts. He saw my ass, I knew it. I scream for my Dad, Tony is terrified, he knows he shouldn't have done what he did, he KNOWS that he will be punished. So do I. My Dad looks over and yells, "What!" I told him what Tony did and he broke into a wide grin and yelled "All right, Tony!" All the adults laugh, all of them. Tony is confused at first and then puffs himself up with pride. He became a man that day, and I? I became a woman. 
      My Dad and I are at my Aunt's, she lives in a new singles apartment complex and is living the high life. Like every hip, swinging single woman (and gay man) in the 70's she had a subscription to Playgirl magazine. An issue was laying on her coffee table, I pick it up curious. I remember that the cover had a man sitting under a waterfall with lots of greenery around it. My Dad yells to my Aunt in the kitchen that her niece is checking out her Playgirl. My Aunt yells back that I'm his daughter and for him to handle it. My Dad looked at me with a wink and asked what I thought. I replied sincerely that I found women's bodies more beautiful. He laughed and said "Yeah me too!". To this day I doubt that he realizes what I was saying to him. But I think it's real clear that he didn't see me as his daughter. 
      I burst into the house excitedly, my neighbor has asked me to go shopping with her and I'm coming in to ask permission. I say "Can I go to the mall with Janet?" I'm practically jumping up and down. Something in the way my Dad looks at me makes me take pause. I look closer at he and my Mother, they are sitting next to eachother on the sofa, he has his arm around her. I continue this time slower, "Can I go?" Then I notice my Mom's face, she looks sick, she's pale, her eyes are far away, she's willing herself to disappear. I look again, this time I follow his arm, his hand is inside her blouse cupping her breast. He's smiling at me, his eyes are narrowed and NEVER leave my face. I become hysterical. I know this situation is not for my eyes and yet it is very clear that he is staging it just for me. I start crying, I say in a whisper this time "can I go?" He tells me no I can't leave, I start lunging for the door, he thunders "DO NOT LEAVE OUR YARD!!" I go to the back yard sit on the steps that lead to the back door and cry in my hands. Why is he doing this to me I say to no one. My Father appears after some time and proceeds to tell me about the relationships between men and women. This is supposed to make me feel better. There is a screaming white noise in my head, I had to make him shut-up. I force myself to throw my arms around him, I tell him that he's the best Father in the world. He finally is silent. 
      When I entered puberty the humiliation began in earnest. There was no more enticement. I can't recall if this was because I was becoming or already was a "Lolita" or if it was because I was becoming conservative. I had decided at some point that I would never be sexual. -NEVER- My big plan was to have ten kids (?!) and never get married. My other fantasy was to enter the convent. But considering the fact that we weren't Catholic that didn't seem too likely. I wouldn't let anyone see me naked, I was too ashamed and this made my Father very angry. He was a devotee of a self-styled nudist theory. He believed that if I saw my mother and he naked (a lot) that I would be at ease with nudity and my own body. The whole shebang back fired on him, I just got sick of seeing them naked and would pray for God to make them put some clothes on. 
      My Father has proposed a vacation. He is excited by his idea. My Mom and I are staring at him in disbelief. My Mom says that he can't be serious. "Serious as a heart attack" he replies. She asks what they will do with me, he says it would be good for me to go with them, an experience I'd never forget. I needed to see people feeling good about themselves, people in a "natural state". I know it's a threat but can't help feeling sick, I start to cry without even knowing it. Maybe this time it's real, maybe this time he'll really make us go, maybe this time my Mom won't be able to reason with him. I wonder what happens to children at nudist camps......... 
      I am hiding my face in my hands, my Father is screaming at me to look at him. I am sobbing deep and low, I can't catch my breath to talk to him. My father has been interrogating me on my use of soap. That's right, soap and whether I use it effectively or not. I am a young woman now and have been having my period for a few months. This brought no celebration in my house. I was inconsolable, I knew what happened to women. Along with my new womanhood I received permission to begin shaving my armpits and legs. Every night I shaved the fuzzy down off my legs and from under my arms. I explained to my Father that in order to do this I had to use soap. He wouldn't listen to me and kept yelling that I needed to use the soap EVERYWHERE not just on the parts I was shaving. I didn't understand then that my Father was accusing me of being filthy because I was a woman. He knew women were filthy. But, I didn't. Yet. I thought that he didn't realize that "young ladies" no longer played in the dirt and therefore didn't need to make an obvious dent in the bar of Safeguard that was kept on the edge of the tub. He checked it and my bathwater everynight from then on. The water had to be murky (construction worker dirty, after all he knew that women were filthier than he) and the bar of soap noticeably smaller. I used to spend a good 5 min. at the end of my bath rolling the bar of soap in between my hands to get the water murky enough. 
      My Mom is at the kitchen sink burning the edges of pornographic pictures that she has cut from my Dad's Penthouse. I am fascinated that she can burn the edges with out catching the whole image on fire. She's going to decoupage the porn onto wooden plaques that she has already stained and has waiting at the kitchen table along with a big bottle of Mod Podge. I ask her why she's doing this, I know she hates his porn as much as I do. She tells me that they will be part of his birthday gift and simply, that they will make him happy. That is what we lived for at my house: to make him happy. If he was happy he left us alone. I sit at the table, it's wood grain formica and the chairs are mottled gold, green and white plastic. I hear the chair release air as I sit down. My Mom tells me to find something to do. I tell her that I want to watch. She takes a sponge brush and gently begins to spread Mod Podge on the back of the first picture, this will secure it to the plaque so that she can spread Mod Podge over the picture without it moving. She's ready to brush it on the entire surface now.........The woman in the picture has been photographed with a filter so she's all soft and pastel looking, she's standing with her back to the camera and is looking back over her shoulder, her hair is tousled like she just got out of bed, she has obviously just put on her chemise as it's still falling down and therefore you can see the bottom of her ass. This is a picture of a satisfied woman. One who is giving the impression that she's been fucked well. I now know what I should look like after I have been fucked. My education was right on track. 
      My Father is laying on his stomach. He's on the floor, he is thumbing through my current issue of Vogue. I am on the sofa watching. I am tense and angry. I know that there is a "beauty" photo of a nude woman in this issue and I know that he will see it. I am angry because he will look at her like the women in his porn and I don't want him to look at her that way. I imagine myself ripping the magazine from his hands and screaming "That's mine, it's not for you!" Vogue is my "porn" of choice now. It is the end of my education. It is teaching me to not just hate myself but to LOATHE myself. Everynight I do as the magazine instructs: I imagine that there is a graph on my face and I examine each imagined square for imperfections. In my Cherokee inspired face there are many, my eyebrows are too thick, my lips too full, my nose too broad, my chin to square. Everyone knew in the 70's what was beautiful: thin features in a small face, blue eyes, straight blond hair. The "California look". I decide then and there that I'll never be o.k., I cry hot angry tears into a hand towel. I now have a degree in womanhood. My education is complete. 
      Of course it doesn't end there, it never does. I have years of anorexia ahead. And I must learn to pornographize myself, the last installment of my complete persona as voyeur and porn's complete woman. But I have the education. This will all be a piece of cake. 
      I've moved away to the big city.........it's the 80's. Ironically I am back on the same street where it all began. Only this time I'm visiting "old friends" with my Dad, right next door to the tiny green house where we once lived. He wants to show me off and he has, all day. We are chatting at the kitchen table. I am listening through the veil of my cigarette smoke to their compliments of my beauty. "You're lookin REAL good" said our old neighbor. My Father is very pleased and says "Doesn't she look dynamite?" "Yeah" they both say in unison. In the 80's "exotic" was in, I am now considered beautiful. And look where it has gotten me. I smiled back politely and inside focused on getting back to my Grandmother's house. There I could smoke a joint in my room and disappear. Our neighbor then continued their conversation about porn. "Hey, you should come over and watch dirty movies sometime." This was directed to my Dad. Our old neighbor had just gotten a satellite dish and could now watch pornography from the comfort of his home. My Dad asked if he could get porn from other countries and if it was good "quality". I wondered aloud why women in porn flicks always had dirty feet. My Father beamed, I was his creation, the perfect whore. A young (i was 18) sexy woman smoking and drinking with the men and not blushing when they talked of their great obsession: pornography. Quite to the contrary, I was talking with them. Adding to the conversation, making them laugh.........entertaining them just like a good woman should. Neither one of them knew that I was gnashing my teeth and that my stomach was in knots. I wouldn't give them that kind of satisfaction. No, I would win the Oscar for this performance. This was the first sign of my recovery: they made me sick.