He kept taking home all of my friends, but what was he doing with them?
Elliott was an anomaly. He stood just short of six feet, dressed well, and was naturally handsome, with a shining smile. He was kind, he was intelligent, and he was hip by the tightest of standards. At the bars we frequented nightly during our time together living in Seoul, South Korea, he could take home just about anyone he wanted, and frequently did. This was all normal, but what made him so unique a ladies' man was that Elliott was a virgin.
It took me a while to discover this fact; for months, I assumed he had plenty of sex. We were at a music venue called Platoon Kunsthalle, which has locations in Seoul and Berlin, when we met. That night, I assumed he was going to go home with one of my friends, and he wasn't shy about proving me right. "I'm going to take her home tonight," I came to find he often said, sometimes adding, "I'm going to fuck that woman." He'd leave the bar early, which in Seoul means about three or four in the morning, with the woman of his choosing. She was usually a tall, nameless, attractive white woman, but now and then, the occasional local.
It wasn't until later that I discovered his 21st-century dirty secret. A friend and I were sitting in a sports bar called Sam Ryan's. "Now don't tell anyone I told you this," he said. "Elliott is a virgin."
I was floored. "Our Elliott?" (Expats become close incredibly quick.) The only fact shedding any light on this mysterious revelation was that I'd heard Elliott mention religion on numerous occasions. Growing up in the South, in a strong church community — okay, I get it. But what's with all of the "I'm going to fuck her?"
I took out my confusion on Elliott in several ways. First, with aggression: "What are you thinking? When you say you're going to fuck someone, fuck them!"
"Nah, I can't."
"I just can't do it. Not until I'm married. You have to respect that."
"But you put your tongue in their vaginas?"
…and then with the Socratic method:
"So, your god…"
"Why is he okay with cunnilingus?"
"Well, in my eyes that's okay."
"And your god is okay with anal?"
"Yes. I guess."
He was dodging me. "But he doesn't like gay people?"
"My god likes gay people."
I just couldn't get around it. Cheeky old God had a personal vendetta against Elliott having a sex life. I couldn't get him — or maybe it was me — past this, through multiple conversations that were closer to interviews.
But why did I care about whether or not Elliott had sex? Was I subconsciously taking this as an attack on my own sexuality, or had I just never met someone so open to everything but vaginal penetration? It bothered me that I couldn't understand him.
This is where my fiancé, Patty, came in. After all, Elliott was a ladies' man; maybe he'd be more comfortable opening up to a woman. He spent most of his time outside of the nine-to-five in a quest to find that special lady, her face changing every day.
They were at a bar before I arrived, as usual, around six. Any given day in Seoul you're trying to get social time in before the last train leaves for home between 11:45 and midnight. I showed up and they were already at it, my fiancé questioning Elliott on his recent encounter with her friend Jane. She was already deep into sexual chat, but he seemed more receptive to her. He was fully attentive, not scoffing, not dodging questions as he had with me.
"My friend is a bit disappointed."
"You took her home. Women expect sex, believe it or not, and…"
"Well, people shouldn't always expect that."
"Yes, they should. No one takes you home from the bar to have your face in their vagina for an hour."
"I thought women liked that."
"We do, but we're almost thirty, Elliott. We need penetration." She's very straightforward.
"Todd, how do you handle this?" he asked, as if I was in charge of Patty's views on sex.
"Well," I explained, "I think that people should express what they like, don't like, and have done in the past that worked."
"I don't know if I could handle that," Elliott replied.
"You get used to it, over time," my fiance said.
Somehow, this helped him take the taboo out of the conversation. "I'm worried about performance." We were on to something. "It used to be a more religious thing, waiting until marriage. I'm a Christian — it's important to me. But as I've become older, it's more that I need someone who understands that I'm a virgin, and that takes time."
"If that's what you want, you can't take home a different woman every night," I said.
The gears were turning, but for Elliott, attention from multiple women was a craving. He didn't want to be viewed as a womanizer, but deep down in him, as with all of us nerds, artists, and other forms of weirdo overseas, he needed validation in forms that he hadn't found before. Seoul had given us that rare opportunity, a community where everyone at the bar has a college degree and no one has a sexually transmitted disease. (Expatriates in South Korea are all tested, and even those who are curable are deported. I'm not saying this policy is just, but it did help with nightlife.)
"There are some other things about me that I think people don't understand," he said, about three drinks later. "I have a foot fetish. I love feet. No… looove feet." He was laughing hysterically at this point, an occasional response that was part of his charm.
"That's perfectly fine. You do what you want to do," Patty told him.
"Isn't it weird… I'm a fucking virgin, but I have some super-weird fetishes."
"No, nothing is really strange. Who are you really hurting?" I replied.
"I guess you're right." He sat silent for a second. The Baltimore Ravens were winning on the television, so I watched that while I waited.
"You mean it's not weird?" He snapped back in. An in-unison "No!" came out of the both of us. He beamed.
We left with a plan. We had a thrift sale planned for Patty's departure from Korea; we decided that we were going to make a special gift for Elliott. In a cloth grocery bag, we placed a small case with lubricant and condoms on top of a pair of Patty's bright-red high heels. When he showed up, we gave it to him. I haven't experienced a tighter hug in my life.
"Seriously?" he shouted. "I love you guys!"
He'd gone from conflicted virginal ladies' man, to proud foot-fetishist ready to take on the world, starting with the East Asian expatriate community. About two hours later I found him on the other end of the gallery. "Look at what Patty and Todd gave me!" He was waving a heel in his right hand.
He disappeared to the bar, telling us the next day that he'd had a woman home to walk around in the heels while he masturbated. In the end, I believe he came to learn that, in the phrasing of a human-sexuality professor I used to know, "Good sex is funny and wet."
I talked to Elliott last week. He's doing well, preparing to come back to the States for our wedding before we all jaunt off to wherever it is we end up. He's met a woman who he spent more than one night with, who he can be open with. If it continues, he says, "something real good is going to happen." I'm happy for him, and I hope to meet her someday, because for all of the amazing sex there is to have in this world, it's best with that special someone who breaks out the heels without your asking.