Saturday, August 21, 2010

I started masturbating when I was nine years old. I also smoked my first marijuana when I was nine. It was something of a pivotal year for me…

The Winter before my ninth birthday, when I was eight, Olympia Fields, Illinois shared the Great Chicago Blizzard of 1967. I think of that as the last season of my childhood, since so many things changed for me after that brilliant season of digging tunnels and playing in the snow with my brother and sister. There was no traumatic event that cut my childhood off early, just a curious and precocious boy digging around his house, finding his sister’s weed and his mother’s sex manuals… It was just time for me to make some discoveries.

The pot was no big deal. I knew what it was and knew I wanted to try it. I took one of my mom’s Kent cigarettes, emptied half the tobacco out and packed in some of the green weed I’d uncovered in the baggie in the back of the closet of my big sister’s bathroom… I snuck out to the garage and smoked it, just like any clever child of two smoker parents… and I felt nothing. No high… No biggie… I figured it was overrated. I wouldn’t start getting high in earnest until I was 11.

The masturbating however, was a huge deal from the first moment I laid hands on myself. I’d found a copy of a book called “Love and Marriage” in the night stand on my mother’s side of my parents’ King bed. It was a black, hardbound volume without a dust jacket, and was stored next to “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Lenny Bruce. I pulled it out in those days I was home alone and lay there on my parent’s bed, reading. I only remember two chapters, “Sexual Intercourse” and “Autoeroticism.”

The Autoeroticism chapter actually didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time. I was far more fascinated with Sexual Intercourse, and the simple descriptions of what it was, how it was done, what goes where and how it’s supposed to feel, all written for newlyweds, I think, since it seems weird now to think that a married couple wouldn’t know all that stuff before they were committed to doing it, but at the time, I was too swept up in the reality of the mechanics, which were an utter mystery up until then.

Sometime later, it occurred to me that I wanted to know what that felt like. I wanted to know what “ecstatic pleasure” meant. It sounded really good, although it was little more than an interesting word to me then (and I’ve always loved words). It didn’t occur to me right away, but after a week or two, I reasoned that my penis might be really stupid, and that I might be able to fool it into thinking it was experiencing a vagina during intercourse. I thought, well, a vagina is supposed to be warm and wet and slippery, so I went to the bathroom and closed the door, locking it for the first of many, many such occasions, and made my hands warm, wet and slippery with hot water and soap. I then put both my hot, soapy hands together into a tunnel and inserted my stiffening penis.

I started to move my penis in and out of the warm, wet slippery tunnel, and became very, very focused on the strange new feelings emanating from my penis, absolutely fascinated at the sensation of tightening through my stiff shaft, like a thick knot of tension drawing slowly but steadily tighter and tighter, and then it seemed like a light flared inside my chest, as my penis suddenly swelled up and began spasming and oozing a few tiny drops of pearly fluid. This was definitely not pee, and definitely something new.

And it was a secret. And it was mine.

And I was back in that bathroom three more times that day and several times every day for weeks, just exploring this “simulated intercourse” I had so cleverly devised. I tried other lubricants like lotions and oils and powders. I tried creating friction through my underpants and virtually everything worked. There didn’t seem to be a wrong way to do it, and over that year and the next the volume of pearly fluid increased and the strength of its ejection from me became greater and greater.

I think I abandoned the idea of simulating intercourse pretty soon, and when a couple of years later, I bought a small copy of The Little Red School Book, something clicked in my head that fit perfectly with the development in my body. Inside that small volume I found very short, very simple descriptions of masturbation and orgasm, and very plainly stated that “it’s quite normal.” This very simple and, to me, obviously true statement, became bedrock for my own developing sense of self, my feelings about my body and my desire for sex. I read it over and over and over like a mantra…

From the beginning, I knew I needed to keep my masturbation private, to hide it from everyone else, but in my secret world of early post-childhood, I was also developing a fundamentally positive sense of masturbation and sex that would ultimately bring it out of the shadows. I think it’s that fundamental self-acceptance that set the stage for what I later described as my awakening to the “basic goodness” of the sexual impulse, and the abandonment of sexual shame…

(Which I’ll pick up on another time.)

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