Friday, January 01, 2010

Paging Dr. Freud

I'm curious about, and would like to hear from others¹, whether sexuality or "issues" about sex have anything to do with how one learned about that subject.

I'm aware of course that boys and girls have always "played doctor" and picked up a certain amount of "knowledge" from the schoolyard rumor mill. And some of that will always be the case, I suspect. But I can't help but think that an ambivalence towards the sex act itself can't (ahem) bend a vulnerable branch away from normal sexuality.

To say that I'm ambivalent about sex is an understatement. My father never had a self-conscious The Talk. When I had my first emission, it was my mother who cleaned up the sheets I thought I had peed. My father said it was nothing to be ashamed of, just an accident that happens when you grow up. Which isn't exactly wrong, and I accepted that and moved on without giving it another thought. I knew babies had something to do with sex but never connected it to those weird muscle cramps between my legs until I learned the mechanics of the sex act when I was about 17, by looking it up in the encyclopedia. (In this case, it was the Teen Intellectuals equivalent of sneaking a peek at National Geographic.) My lack of interest in girls was chalked up by others to my being a bookworm. When a high-school friend asked me if I'd like to go on a double date (us and two girls, that is), I said "no" so vigorously that he told me later "you acted like you were offended by the very invite." Understand as well, that any identification as gay or pursuit of same-sex sex was even farther from my mind than dating girls. I simply was not interested in the genital areas at all. To this day, I cannot even imagine my mother and father in bed together, even though I am quite aware it happened (at least twice; probably more often)

Now don't get me wrong ... I am not now and never was a prude in any overt way. I can tell an off-color or even downright-filthy joke with the best of them. I watch R and NC-17 movies without a qualm, and am rarely offended, except by its use for titillation. And even blunt depiction and frank discussion of homosexuality do not per se offend me. (Pornography does make me wince, but only when I have my, so to speak, social clothes on.)

But what I'm suggesting, from my own experience, is that to speak of "sex as an act of love" is simply speaking a foreign language. Maybe that's not the right metaphor -- perhaps speaking a language one knows the grammar and syntax perfectly but not the meanings of the words. Oh, I've read Christopher West and all -- I know how the words fit together. I can even talk about it intellectually in a persuasive way -- I had a strange encounter with a waitress at a sports bar a couple of months ago I may describe soon. But at some level, it simply isn't something within my experience.² And perhaps that is why so many same-sex-attracted men, even those who identify as gay and maintain their satisfaction with that, have so little difficulty with overtly loveless promiscuity (I have had sex with more than 40 men -- only one under any impression that I loved him.)
¹ If anyone is still reading...
² Which makes it a *good* thing that I've never believed that one's own experience creates either morality or truth.


J said...

I think you might be on to something here. I never got The Talk from my father either--my mother sat the three of us down (all boys) when we were actually quite young and gave us the what's-what, but she did so in such a matter-of-fact manner that nothing really made sense. It was the only time sex was discussed in that fashion. My father was a minister, and anything with a "racy" scene in it on TV or on a movie was turned off as soon as it came on. I only really learned through watching hardcore porn at a (male) friend's house, but by then, I was awkward around my female peers and well on my way to struggling with the homosexual temptations I still do today.

Mareczku said...

It is great to have you back. You sound a lot like I was when I was a teen. I didn't know about intercourse until I was 17 either. I didn't really think about it and didn't have the instinct either. I was a bookworm. Nobody ever explained wet dreams to me either so for most of high school I thought I had a urinary tract infection and minor bed-wetting problem. I was finally glad when I discovered a way to end the wet dreams and then I didn't feel so dirty and bad about myself. However, when I got to your last sentence it seems we are somewhat different as I always eschewed promiscuity and have never actually been with a guy in that way.

Mareczku said...

You said, "To speak of sex as an act of love is speaking a foreign language." That is really sad. Perhaps that is why some people want same-sex marriage. They want something more. They don't want sex without love, they want commitment.

USMaleSF said...

Sad to hear that sex as an act of love is a foreign language to you. In my humble experience of 35 years of being sexual with other men, I see sex partly as a kind of sponge, absorbing and transmitting a wide variety of meanings, good and bad. But I am grateful that one of those meanings has been love: affection, delight, awe, tenderness, longing for union, reverence, connection, playfulness, ecstatic touching of heart and soul. Such eros between men can be friendly and it can be deeply animal at the same time. It does not escape the limits of human life, but it is a glimpse of a greater love. Or so it has seemed to me.