If you haven’t already, read the first Whelmed column
|I told my lover this morning that when I was fifteen and sixteen, erupting in hormones, masturbating two, three times an evening, pining for a woman to share my arousal, I took solace in the idea that someday in the future, after I had actually had sex with a woman, I could tell her of these long, lonely, priapic evenings and she would wish that she had been there at my side to guide me, touch me, there as a kind of emissary of the future to tell me that my young, spry body would not go unappreciated. (In more indulgent moments I imagined several, perhaps a delegation of future girlfriends sent to console me). I knew I would meet this woman, and I knew when I described this she would pine for me as I did then for her, like a prisoner kissing his lover through the Plexiglas.
This knowledge pacified me, vindicated me (my plight in that lonely bedroom, you see, seemed pretty pathetic at times). I felt her companionship in a very real way; I held her close and spoke to her. She understood, in my imaginings, my passion to be something more than sleaziness, and my shyness to be something more than social impotence. I called her various names; no doubt at some point I called her Genevieve. My lover told me this morning that she is that woman.
I don’t know how many women understand the ignominy of growing up a horny boy. Do they know the shame, the helplessness boys feel as they discover in meadows and cars and janitor’s closets that their lust is only weakly returned?
Of course boys and their Napoleonic erections are the subject of much humor — stuck in desk chairs waiting for woodies to wilt; bent at the waist, stumbling down the street, stiff rods in their pant legs like pulled parking brakes, desperately reciting Silas Marner. I find these memories humorous now, but at fifteen, the laughter was forced.
We saw salvation in the folds of girls’ genitals; they regarded ours like mysterious, nocturnal zoo animals. This was crushing — it made us feel like depraved nuisances — and I believe that most men never fully recover from this experience: it’s a standard fault line in the male ego.
Presenting young men as sexual victims, of course, is a Gettysburg-like proposition, and there is a reason for this: boys are a prideful and vainglorious lot who often compensate for their early sexual disempowerment by affecting a callous, sometimes violent disregard for the objects of their lust, which isn’t good for anyone (and certainly doesn’t help their prospects). But perhaps we all deserve fifteen minutes of sympathy.
It does get better though — ah, the glory of discovering in college that women wanted us too! And even thought fondly of our genitals, against their will. Ah, the colossal, ceaseless sex of that first serious relationship! It was awkward and uninventive sex, of course — we were too embarrassed to pronounce what we wanted — but the very fact of it was unfathomably wonderful. I have found more recently, in my late twenties, great relief in noticing my sex drive subside a bit; it still can be just as rambunctious, but it’s less cloying than it was. Now I can pretty much choose when to be sexually active — a novel idea for me, though perhaps a luxury most women take for granted.
Why did I sense that my girlfriend was pleased when she learned (not from me, mind you, but from my bumptious little sister) of the Christy Brinkley posters that wallpapered my room in junior high school? Perhaps, I suggested, she enjoyed this evidence of the strength of my pining for the female body — surely she, a beautiful woman, enjoys dividends from this society-wide tectonic force, this mass male attraction to the female form; surely she, possessing this body, realizes that she wields a considerable power over me.
No, she counters, I don’t feel that you were looking at me on your childhood wall but rather some mutant breed which has nothing to do with me. On the contrary, it makes me feel less appreciated, as if your desire grew irrevocably towards some ersatz light.
Then I understood why her eyes warmed when she learned of my adolescent wall appointments: she was endeared by my patheticness; she saw them as a sign of my weakness, my geekiness, which charms her. How good.