This piece contains graphic descriptions of adolescent sexuality.
I have a fragmented memory of my introduction to sex as a child. I remember hearing my parents having sex one time when I was probably 13 years old. At least I think so. I heard the rhythmic creaking of the bed, and somehow I knew automatically what that signified.
But my most jarring and sudden introduction to sex was at summer camp going into sixth grade. My camp friends introduced me to two things that summer: swearing and porn.
My friend Alex told me my first day there, “You can swear here. Everybody swears.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to swear, but everyone else seemed to want to, so I thought I should want to too. Also, all the guys at camp knew what porn was and were craving it. There was a sort of black market at camp where you could buy things that the camp didn’t allow: candy, Ramen noodles and porn. My friend Alex bought a porno mag at the end of the first week. He showed it to me. I remember the images pretty vividly. I’d never seen a vagina before. The women were all white and totally hairless, except the hair on their head of course, which was blonde and straight. Their faces were heavily made-up and appeared fake. I remember being disgusted initially. The porno consisted of two or three ripped-out magazine pages, so the images had this glossy texture to them, which made them more disgusting. The whole experience of looking at the porn, especially with a friend, felt dark. Dark, disgusting and obscene. Yet somehow all the more intriguing.
The next year at camp my counselor entertained me and my bunkmates with stories of his sexual escapades. That’s when I learned what “head” was. When my counselor, Mike, said he got “head” from a girl in a hot tub at one of his travel hockey tournaments, I had a hard time imagining what he was talking about. The idea of a “girl sucking on penis” had never occurred to me, strange as that may be. All my bunkmates appeared to already know what it was. Another time Mike told us the story of how he hooked up with the camp director’s kids’ babysitter. He told my bunkmates and I late at night about how he and the babysitter had gone out to the docks and started hooking up. He told us how he started to take off her pants to “finger” her — another new concept — but then she said, “No, I’m on my period” (and I did know what that was). Then Mike said, “Well, I’m not.”
“And what did she say?” we all asked excitedly.
“Nothing,” Mike said, “but then she started blowing me.”
Years later, when I was hooking up with my current girlfriend for the second or third time, she said the same thing, “I’m on period,” and then I said what Mike said: “Well, I’m not.” But that time it didn’t work. She just sort of squirmed awkwardly and let out a nervous laugh. The joke came off not as cool or suave, but as degrading. In retrospect I doubt if it worked for Mike either. I’m sure he embellished the story to give his horny pubescent campers something to jack off to. And it worked, especially because we’d all already had our own babysitter fantasies.
I have another confession: I humped my pillows imagining they were my female middle school teachers, who weren’t hot but in fact pretty gross and old. I don’t remember exactly when it ended — maybe sophomore year of high school? — but at some point I knew: This has got to stop. I would insert my dick between the pillow and the pillowcase, and then just sort of lay on top of it and hump it. I would pull out just before ejaculating — because who wants to sleep on a cummy pillow? — and then cum into my pajamas. Which leads me to another disturbing memory: Being afraid of putting my pajamas with the dried up semen on them in with the rest of my family’s laundry, because what if the semen from my pajamas transferred onto my mom’s undergarments and, well, um, you know, impregnated her? What’s even more disturbing is the Freudian conjecture that that may have been a repressed fantasy.
And I’ve never been a porn guy either. I’ve always preferred imagining sexual scenarios for myself and Ms. Beyoncé, because no one could recreate the fucked up shit that goes on in my head. Maybe I never overcame that initial disgust with porn that I had at summer camp. Porn still seems too obscene. When I’m watching it, I’m also watching myself. When I masturbate to fantasies with my eyes closed, I’m totally in it and there’s no meta/postmodern-watching going on.
So I should probably also mention my first sexual encounter, perhaps to the remiss of my now captive audience. Her name was Emily and she was a red head. It was the most fantastic pleasure I’d ever had. After overcoming my nervousness and associated flaccidity, I had, as Great Uncle Woody would say, “the sexual intensity of a jungle cat.” I could not get enough. But I had a lingering disgust with the vagina. It was obscene to me, just like the glossy vaginas in the porno I had encountered at camp. I knew that I didn’t want it to be obscene. I had a lot of anxiety about being gay as a young adolescent. I was occasionally disgusted with parts of the female anatomy and bras and stuff, which at other times I was also attracted to. In my masturbation fantasies, I never recall imagining a vulva — only tits and asses. Someone (e.g., Ms. Beyoncé) was giving pleasure to me. I was “inside them,” but the geometrics of the insertion were always vague.
When I showed my current girlfriend a draft of this article, and she learned that I find vaginas obscene, she said “that’s so you.” To which I replied, “What does that mean? Are there other facets of my personality that resemble this vagina aversion?”
She then elaborated, saying that I’m “condescending toward them.” She said “them,” as if she has observed me regularly being condescending toward them. How can one be condescending to a vagina?!
“It’s OK, though,” she said. “It’s a relief that you don’t love vaginas because I don’t really care for penises. But I like them still.”
That’s nice: My girlfriend and I are mutually disgusted by each other’s genitals.
Is there a point to all this? Let’s find one. First, I don’t know much about what’s going on in anyone else’s head besides my own, and it’s especially difficult to make generalizations about something that’s as private and personal as sexuality. But it’s OK to feel lots of weird, conflicting emotions about sex, sexual organs, middle school teachers, pop stars, etc. What’s harmful is to repress those emotions. Expressing them on the other hand, can be cathartic, and you don’t have to embarrass yourself in print, like I am.
Also I’m ruined for all women. No woman will ever satisfy like I want her to because I’ve created these impossible-to-obtain ideals in my masturbation fantasies. This explains my disgust with the reality of the vagina and the lack of sex organs in my fantasies. Can I blame the Victoria Secret ads? Maybe, but I as an individual agent deserve some responsibility.
And, lastly, we should ask ourselves where we learn about sex. I argue that we learn basically nothing important about it in sex ed and reproductive health classes. We learn about sex from our camp counselors and from ripped-out pages of porn magazines. The sources vary for each of us, but the underlying point is that sex for human beings is not primarily something biological (e.g., penises going into vaginas) despite what our sex ed teachers tell us. It’s something psychological that our social environment manipulates and sometimes, in cases such as mine, perverts. The really interesting aspects of sex and sexuality are socially psychological.