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Jack’s Naughty Bits: John Irving, The Cider House Rules

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Jack's Naughty Bits

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Okay, someone, please tell me what men are thinking. Why is the idea of a woman giving a blowjob to a horse exciting? This I just don’t get. A woman is a woman, and a horse, as far as I can tell, is just a horse. Yes, they have big horsey members, which, I suppose, might make them appealing to women. But why is this appealing to men? It seems almost like saying, I would love to have sex with you, darling, but I’d be even more turned on if you had sex with the 400-pound football player who lives next door.


    

Could it be that a woman being with a horse (or a dog, for that matter) somehow indicates, in the minds of the men watching, the depth of her need for penises? Or that this woman really wants sex — unlike all those women with whom the consumers of such material strike out regularly. Are these guys thinking, “Wow, if she’ll suck off Secretariat, my chances must be pretty good,” or is the idea that she could want that much, that badly, erotically appealing in itself?


    

My guess is that some kind of transference must be taking place. I remember the first time I saw a porn movie — it was surprisingly late in life, I think near the end of high school. The movie was a Marilyn Chambers vehicle, and I was very impressed that the filmmakers had created story lines where incredibly average-looking, average-seeming guys get to have sex with the lovely Marilyn. The dumpy pool man, the shaggy cable guy, etc. I somehow thought this was a technique discrete to her films: make the viewer identify with the guys in the narrative so his fantasy of actually being able to have a threeway with Chambers and her busty cousin from out of town becomes imaginable — even possible. Hey, if I ended up cleaning the pool of the right woman . . .


    

It didn’t take me long to find that a lot of porn is based on this principle — thus explaining, for any women still wondering, why the men in porn are traditionally so mediocre-looking. If the guy boffing Jenna Jameson happened to be hot, that would suggest that in porn, as in life, ordinary schmos don’t get to have sex with nymphomaniacal bombshells.


    

Identification is clearly vital to porn working properly. So why, then, the horses? What’s there for the average porn viewer to see of himself? Well, the average leading horse is a hairy, sweaty, priapic, emotionally-indifferent mammal with a two-digit I.Q. Ring any bells?




The equestrian excerpt below is from John Irving’s recently filmed The Cider House Rules. The accompanying audio track, a special for this week’s Read It/Hear It Issue, is brought to you compliments of HarperAudio.


    



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From The Cider House Rules by John Irving



“Come look at this, Sunshine,” Melony said. She was trying to pick the tack loose with her fingernail, but the tack had been stuck there for years. Homer knelt beside Melony on the rotting mattress. It took awhile for him to grasp the content of the photograph; possibly, he was distracted by his awareness that he had not been as physically close to Melony since he’d last been tied to her in the three-legged race.


    

Once Homer had understood the photograph (at least, he understood its subject, if not its reason for existing), he found it a difficult photograph to go on looking at, especially with Melony so close to him. On the other hand, he suspected he would be accused of cowardice if he looked away. The photograph reflected the cute revisions of reality engineered in many photographic studios at the turn of the century; the picture was edged with fake clouds, with a funereal or reverential mist; the participants in the photograph appeared to be performing their curious act in a very stylish Heaven or Hell.


    

Homer Wells guessed it was Hell. The participants in the photograph were a leggy young woman and a short pony. The naked woman lay with her long legs spread-eagled on a rug — a wildly confused Persian or Oriental (Homer Wells didn’t know the difference) — and the pony, facing the wrong way, straddled her. His head was bent, as if to drink or graze, just above the woman’s extensive patch of pubic hair; the pony’s expression was slightly camera-conscious, or ashamed, or possibly just stupid. The pony’s penis looked longer and thicker than Homer Well’s arm, yet the athletic-looking young woman had contorted her neck and had sufficient strength in her arms and hands to bend the pony’s penis to her mouth. Her cheeks were puffed out, as if she’d held her breath too long; her eyes bulged; yet the woman’s expression remained ambiguous — it was impossible to tell if she was going to burst out laughing or if she was choking to death on the pony’s penis. As for the pony, his shaggy face was full of faked indifference — the placid pose of strained animal dignity.


    

“Lucky pony, huh, Sunshine?” Melony asked him, but Homer Wells felt passing through his limbs a shudder that coincided exactly with his sudden vision of the photographer, the evil manipulator of the woman, the pony, the clouds of Heaven or the smoke of Hell. The mists of nowhere on this earth, at least, Homer imagined. Homer saw, briefly, as fast as a tremble, the darkroom genius who had created this spectacle. What lingered with Homer longer was his vision of the man who had slept on this mattress where he now knelt with Melony in worship of the man’s treasure. This was the picture some woodsman had chosen to wake up with, the portrait of pony and woman somehow substituting itself for the man’s family. This was what caused Homer the sharpest pain; to imagine the tired man in the bunkroom at St. Cloud’s, drawn to this woman and this pony because he knew of no friendlier image — no baby pictures, no mother, no father, no wife, no lover, no brother, no friend.


    

But in spite of the pain it caused him, Homer Wells found himself unable to turn away from the photograph. With a surprisingly girlish delicacy, Melony was still picking at the rusty tack — in such a considerate way that she never blocked Homer’s view of the picture.


    

“If I can get the damn thing off the wall,” she said, “I’ll give it to you.”


    

“I don’t want it,” said Homer Wells, but he wasn’t sure.


    

“Sure you do,” Melony said. “There’s nothing in it for me. I’m not interested in ponies . . . You get it, don’t you, Sunshine?” she asked Homer Wells. “You see what the woman’s doing to the pony, right?”


    

“Right,” said Homer Wells.


    

“How’d you like me to do to you what that woman is doing to that pony?”



© John Irving



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