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The Next Best Thing

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 PERSONAL ESSAYS
My tenth grade health teacher gave me an STD. It happened during an in-class demonstration on the horrors of unprotected sex. She distributed an index card to each student and asked us to place them, face down, on our desks. We were instructed to talk to a different person in class every time she blew her whistle. (She was also the gym teacher; I think this made her feel more in her element). At the end of each round, we were to write down that person’s name on our card. After five minutes, she blew the final whistle and explained that every sixty-second “chat” represented an unprotected sexual encounter. She asked us to turn our cards over.
     “Who’s got a black X on theirs?”
     Erin Sabia and Jason Smith raised their hands sheepishly.
     “A black X means you chose abstinence and that none of what goes on in this exercise will negatively affect you. Congratulations guys, good choice! Abstinence is the only way you can be one hundred percent safe! You can remain seated for the rest of this.”
     Erin and Jason high-fived each other. I glowered at them.
     “Okay now, who’s got the red X?”
     Brian Pinsky stood up beaming, as though the red X meant he’d just invented the chlamydia vaccination.
     “Brian, you have gonorrhea. Please stay standing.” Brian looked like he wanted to peel off his skin. “Whoever’s got Brian’s name on their card, please stand up. You’ve got gonorrhea too.”
     This went on until everyone who had “slept” with Brian — and everyone who had “slept” with someone who had “slept” with Brian — was standing, trying to look nonchalant while scratching their private parts through their pants.

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     I resented Erin and Jason with the intensity of a weeklong Tony Robbins seminar. They had stolen my chastity right out from under me. I had never had sex in real life and there I was, at fourteen, with gonorrhea.
     When I got to college, I got a boyfriend. Six months after the period in a relationship when most couples start having sex, I decided we should wait a little longer. I needed more information, I told him. He assured me that he’d only been with one other person. Recalling the facility with which I’d contracted VD in high school, I asked how many partners his partner had before him. “You do understand that not only have you slept with that girl, but you’ve slept with everyone she’s ever slept with and everyone they’ve ever slept with,” I said. In an attempt to assuage my fears, he told me that his high school girlfriend had only been with one other person: a sweet, virginal, pure-as-the-driven-snow hemophiliac.
     “Hemophiliac?! “ I choked. He ran out and made an appointment at the campus health center as I rattled off statistics about HIV transmission from blood transfusions.
     Ryan and I made an interesting couple. As paranoid as I was about contracting a sexually transmitted disease, he was twice as concerned about contracting every other kind of disease. He wouldn’t let me walk outside barefoot for fear of skin-burrowing bacteria. He once interrupted a passionate lovemaking session because a fly had landed on the window above our bed and threatened to give us both malaria (“Can you be sure it didn’t fly here from Costa Rica?” he asked). He probably would have had unprotected sex with every woman in our graduating class before eating a gumball out of a candy machine (“They’re repositories for disease! You’ll get diarrhea!”). I, on the other hand, could eat food off the floor in a public bathroom but wouldn’t get within a hand’s distance of someone’s genitals without a complete blood workup.
     Years later, fresh on the dating scene in Manhattan, I tried to be forthcoming with men about my pre-fuck requirements. I discovered that a perfectly lovely meal can be instantly ruined with the sentence, “Just so you know, I have no intention of sleeping with you.” Experience taught me that delivering such a line after dinner, although unpleasant, was entirely less unpleasant than laying it on someone in his apartment as his zipper began to chafe. As it turned out, neither strategy was all that effective; I had a lot of first dates in Manhattan. When a guy I really dug told me I seemed “prudish,” I realized that I needed to change my approach. I wasn’t uninterested in sex, I was just uninterested in syphilis.

It’s amazing how quickly someone will retract an accusation of prudishness when you put two fingers up his ass. Although it started out as nothing more than a safe way to say, “Try this on for prudish, you fucker,” turning men into human popsicles turns me on more than anything else. It was hard to believe that I could get off without getting anything. This was my reasoning: if one used a dildo and rubber gloves, butt sex could be almost as safe as abstinence. I felt like writing my tenth grade health teacher a letter:

Dear Ms. ______,
I’d like to clear up some misinformation you gave me during my most formative years. You claimed that abstinence is the only way to be safe from STDs, but you neglected to mention certain types of ass fucking as a viable alternative. If you’re in need of a guest speaker, please feel free to contact me.
Yours,
Jenny “Butt Fucker” Rabin

Penetrating my boyfriends wasn’t a long-term replacement for regular sex, but it was enough to satisfy me until their blood work came back. Then I could neatly incorporate it into my regular bedroom repertoire. (God knows, if you’ve ever fucked a man in the bum, there ain’t no giving it up.) Once I experienced being inside someone, everything that eluded me became perfectly clear: all that scientific research about women being biologically submissive was conducted by men who’d never been fucked in the ass. It’s not physiology that makes one feel superior, it’s having someone in front of you on all fours.
     There was one guy, Sturgis, who allowed me to experiment on him to my heart’s content. Looking at him, you wouldn’t think he’d let a girl put her finger in his belly button, much less her cock in his ass. He drove a motorcycle, drank whiskey, and built shelving, and in the privacy of his own home, he liked being tied down and penetrated until he cried. We started out with a couple of fingers, then worked our way up to a medium-sized dildo snuggled into a black leather strap-on. It hurt him, and he liked it. He made me powerful, and I made him my boyfriend. To this day, his ass remains my favorite place on earth. (Unfortunately, since we broke up, it’s a place I’m no longer allowed to visit.)
     Since Sturgis, it’s been difficult to find another willing playmate. I’ve had to finely hone my conversational skills. On more than one occasion, I’ve tried to casually ascertain a man’s feelings on getting fucked up the ass by a girl. Usually, the reply is answer #318 from The Heterosexual Man’s Answer Book, a.k.a. “What to Say When a Girl Wants to Put Something in Your Butt:” “I’m quite sexually liberal in general, but that’s just not something I’d be into.”
     The best response by far, though, was from Mel, whom I’ve just started dating. I picked him because he looked like a guy who’d taken it in the ass more than Jon Cryer in the ’80s. I was crazy about him immediately. While we were on our first date, I broached the subject carefully: “I think every man needs to be fucked up the ass at least a couple of times.”
     “I completely disagree,” replied Mel.
     “Why is it that so many men have a hang-up about this? I think they’re afraid of their latent homosexuality.”
     “Nope,” said Mel. “It’s the poo factor.”
     This threw me. Could I get involved with someone who had no desire to see me in my strap-on? Maybe it was just a knee-jerk reaction on his part. That night, I tried sending my smallest finger on a brief reconnaissance mission while his attention was on something else. He didn’t go for it. I told Mel I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, but it was either this or a trip to the health clinic.
     Our appointment’s next week.  

 

©2002 Jennifer Rabin and Nerve.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J.B. Rabin lives in Oregon where she writes
lying down in her cowboy pajamas.