I am often asked, by friends and lovers alike, if I have always known I was kinky. It rarely comes as a surprise to either group when I say yes. As far back as I remember, I’ve always been intrigued by esoteric fantasies, desires and proclivities. As an adolescent, this intrigue developed into a more full-bodied enthusiasm, especially on realising that I wasn’t alone in daydreaming about what other uses a school ruler might have. However, there were definitely formative cultural moments in my sexual development: snatches of films, books and television which chimed with my burgeoning youthful desires. None of them are very explicitly erotic, but formative, none-the-less. For me, these influences both reflect and shape my kinks, taking on an almost mythic aspect as my adult sex life solidified. Thinking about them to this day, I can still recall the first flush of an unexpected arousal, and the subsequent fixation that they caused in me.

Despite my coming of age just as the internet arrived in homes, almost all of these things came from other sources – often when I wasn’t expecting them.  Whilst I’m by no means anti pornography, I do think one of the offshoots of its accessibility is that the glimmers of eroticism that abound in everyday ‘vanilla’ life lose their potency.

I thought I’d share some of these influences with you here – perhaps they’ll offer a little insight into what makes me tick.

In this scene from the John Wayne original, the young protagonist Mattie disobeys the ranger La Boeuf and follows him. He catches her and beats her with a birch branch. I saw this as a child on a family holiday, and still remember the strange frisson I experienced seeing it for the first time. Watching it back as an adult, it seems so tame, but back then, the combination of corporal punishment and Mattie’s humiliation had a huge impact on me, spurring a life-long love of all this spanking related. 

  • The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Angela Carter (1979)

“Nevertheless, I opened the doors of that bookcase idly to browse. And I think I knew, I knew by some tingling of the fingertips, even before I opened that slim volume with no title at all on the spine, what I should find inside it. When he showed me the Rops, newly bought, dearly prized, had he not hinted that he was a connoisseur of such things? Yet I had not bargained for this, the girl with tears hanging on her cheeks like stuck pearls, her cunt a split fig below the great globes of her buttocks on which the knotted tails of the cat were about to descend, while a man in a black mask fingered with his free hand his prick, that curved upwards like the scimitar he held. The picture had a caption: ‘Reproof of curiosity’”

Given to me by the cool older sister of a friend, Carter’s dazzling feminist re-working of fairytales was an absolute revelation.  The language is breathtakingly rich, and the writing features a corporeal aspect that’s overwhelmingly sensual. The centerpiece of the collection is the refashioned Bluebeard myth, but told from the perspective of the pirate’s (here a European aristocrat) virginal young bride. In the extract above, she has discovered her new husband’s taste for sadistic pornography – a foreshadowing of the macabre twist to come. I think this was the first time I read the read the word ‘cunt’ in a truly sexually context, and the impact of the phrasing still feels like a sudden blow. Throughout the story, sex, love and sadomachistic violence are woven together inescapably, which the young pervert in me found captivating.

So shocking it was initially banned on release, I first saw the video for Nine Inch’s Nail’s Closer on a late-night MTV show and became obsessed. The song itself is a paean to an all-consuming, animalistic sexuality, with a furious, industrial rhythm that whips itself into a frenzy before quickly burning out.  The video is rich with BDSM references, including a blindfolded naked woman, leather-clad lead singer Trent Reznor suspended from the ceiling, ball gags and elbow-length heavy rubber gloves. It horrified and captivated me, and prompted rather dark daydreams about being trapped in that derelict laboratory, silently observed by those unsmiling, suited men.

(Notably, director Mark Romanek would go on to make the music video to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, which could perhaps be described as Closer’s exact opposite).

This DVD was surreptitiously passed around my boarding house, and I watched it alone (and repeatedly) during the school holidays.  Alfonso Cuarón’s road movie explores both literal and emotional transitions, as two young friends drive across Mexico with a beautiful older woman. The film is so drenched in lust it practically spills out the screen, and an excellent introduction to group sex. It also bought out the voyeur in me, namely because of the scene above. In the seemingly-unending summer between finishing school and going on to university, the two boys mooch around an empty country club, talking, smoking, and furiously masturbating into the swimming pool. The film itself went on to fuel many of my own fantasies about exhibitionism and MMF threesomes.

There are, of course, myriad other little scenes, excepts and moments which helped my kinks to flourish, but these four hold a particular resonance. Care to share any of yours? I’d love to hear what made innocuous TV series, film or book made you who you are today.

2023 — Louisa Knight