Mind Caviar

"Most new discoveries are suddenly-seen things that were always there."
-- Susanne K. Langer (1942)

Mind Caviar, Vol. 2 Fall-Winter Issue, 2001

Looking at My Cock
An Intimate Essay by
Chris Hall

Author “Tell me about your cock.”

That was the entire text of an e-mail I got from a woman named Stacy a little over a year ago. We had never seen each other at that point; she lives in Houston, I live in San Francisco. Our first contact was through the Internet, on a small bulletin board for people interested in talking about sexuality. [Ed. note: The woman pictured in the photos on this page is not the woman, Stacy, mentioned in this article.] Our correspondence moved from friendly banter to an exchange of very personal and intimate things without the physical distance narrowing in the slightest. Those five words had the most intimate implications than anything that had passed between us up to that point. In a sense they drew forth things that were more intimate than anything that I had ever spoken of to any lover who had actually seen and touched my cock.

The idea of physically describing my cock bewildered me. It was not something I had ever thought about before. My history is wholly heterosexual, and so the only penis I’ve ever seen up close is my own, and even then, I’ve mostly taken it for granted. For thirty-two years, I’ve touched my dick, stroked it, used it to piss and make love, seen it every time I stood in front of a mirror, but the intimate details of it, the ways in which it represents a part of myself stayed beyond me. I found myself mute in any attempt to describe my cock in a way that would make it seem unique and special.

In retrospect, there doesn’t seem to be anything strange about this, althouqh there is a certain tragedy to it. As much as heterosexual men brag about our cocks, we live with at least as much fear of them as pride. Between its flaccid and erect states, the penis is both extremely vulnerable and extremely impressive, and we have no control over which state it assumes. Consider how much the manly ideal rests on control — of the world, of others, and most importantly, of ourselves — to have so little control over the very thing that symbolizes our masculinity is the most frightening thing imaginable, and few ever confront that honestly.

And also, straight men don’t usually think of our bodies in terms of sexual potential. To our detriment, we learn early on that such intimacy with ourselves is faggoty, and so mute our erotic imaginations almost as soon as we’re old enough to understand the concept. It’s true that straight male sexuality is given more license than any other kind, but with the implicit command that all that sexual power is kept isolated in the penis, in a single generic, utilitarian package. If a man’s sexuality finds its way into his nipples, his ass, the nape of his neck, the way he combs his hair, it’s immediately suspicious. Better to keep it locked safely away between the legs, where the tricks that sex plays are at least private, and the rest of the body can present the illusion of control. And so, despite all the accusations to the contrary, men traditionally haven’t thought much about their cocks at all. We may obsess about them, worry about them, feel them lurking as an eternal presence at the edge of our consciousness, but to some degree, they remain strange and distant to us. Unlike women, men grow up seeing their genitals every time they undress, but except for obsessing over size, the idea that your cock might be as unique and idiosyncratic as your hands, your eyes, your mouth, is almost alien. 

Author When I expressed my initial puzzlement to Stacy about her question, she refined it: she wanted a description of its place in my erotic life rather than a strictly physical description of it. She wanted to know about how I touched it, what made me respond sexually, about what it made me feel. And although that opened many more possibilities for me, it also created more questions. Most of those questions came back to the functionality of the cock in heterosexuality. Our cultural models of male sexuality are focused on “performance,” not pleasure. Susan Bordo in The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and Private ( Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001) describes one manifestation of this through movies: 

"[C]onsider how rarely male actors are seen... having orgasms. In sex scenes, the moanings and writhings of the female partner have become the conventional cinematic code for heterosexual ecstasy and climax. The male’s participation is largely represented by caressing hands, humping buttocks, and—on rare occasions—a facial expression of intense concentration. She’s transported to another world; he’s the pilot of the ship that takes her there. When men are shown as being transported themselves, it’s usually been played for comedy... or it’s coded to suggest that something is not quite normal about the man.... Mostly, men’s bodies are presented like action-hero toys—wind them up and watch them perform."

It’s true that there’s been a long-standing failure of men to look past simple assumptions about sex and learn how to make a woman come, but even crude male fantasies use the woman’s ecstasy (imagined or real) as the ultimate demonstration of virility. To be able to brag to your friends about how she screamed so loud she woke the neighbors and came so hard it broke the bed in two is to have grabbed the brass ring of manhood. 

The irony of this utilitarian view of sex is that in considering my response, even masturbation was reduced to a generic, mechanical act focused solely on the goal of crossing the finish line. The luxury of masturbation lies in that you have the freedom of complete selfishness: you are freed of having to keep up pretenses for another person, you can indulge every whim without having to consider your partner’s desires or needs, and best of all, you know exactly what to do. Even given all these freedoms, I was still treating my body like a wind-up toy: stroke my cock and watch me come. Done almost as an idle amusement, with the same gentle detachment one might drift into while watching a sitcom. Only the punchline — the orgasm — mattered. It seemed odd to try to think on the process itself, to examine the nature of the individual steps on the journey rather than the destination. Masturbation seemed like too common and trivial a thing to think about in detail. 

This idea was certainly fed by the fact that I had been living in the jaws of deep depression for a long time. It had been almost three years since I'd slept with anyone, and longer than that since I'd loved or felt loved by anyone. Why think about my body when the only thing it could feel was emptiness and grief? Why pay any attention to the way I touched myself when I so obviously lacked the grace or attractiveness that would make anyone else touch me with any tenderness? Jacking off was an act of desperation that eased the urges of my dick momentarily while simultaneously making me more aware of how much the rest of my body craved touch. It eased some needs while making others sharper and more urgent, and thus was a cheap trade-off. 

But the thought of Stacy’s interest in me, in my body and whatever pleasure it might give me, made me rethink all these things. Because of my recent history, it was difficult to come up with an answer to her question in the past tense. So I wrote about potential. I wrote about how I would like to see my cock, and what I could do with it, rather than anything that I had done. To be blunt, I answered her pornographically. I wrote a long, fictional scenario about a possible meeting between us, when we could explore the possibilities of my cock together. In my reply, I envisioned us both lying together on a bed, our fingers entwined, making a cunt out of our hands and fucking my cock together. 

I was hard all afternoon while writing that, and my brain was burning with something else besides. While porn is supposed to be dirty, it felt in some ways like the cleanest thing I ever wrote. Through e-mail, I had become closer to Stacy than to any other person for years. My smutty reply symbolized the trust I had in her and the things that I had learned from our conversations. All that allowed me to write honestly about my cock as a precious thing, something to be shared, and most importantly, as a part of myself. Looking back on some of my sexual history from my early twenties, I realize that many of my encounters were poisoned by fear of being betrayed by my cock or the impulses that it drove through the rest of my body. It created a kind of stage fright, especially in my earliest days, that made sex as much of a burden as a joy. In my letter to Stacy, I envisioned it more as something that symbolized friendship and trust, and in general, things sacred about myself. 

Author We did eventually meet, when Stacy came to San Francisco for a week on business. The first time we played together was in a dungeon at a sex party, which was in itself a first for both of us. Despite the loud, public surroundings, I was amazed at how deeply private the space between us became. We didn’t do anything very explicit. We were naked, but I didn’t even touch her tits or cunt. She has a very strong, loving marriage, and being naked in that dungeon was the first time she had ever played outside her marriage. And, of course, we were both still testing each other, now that our relationship had physical substance instead of being merely virtual. What I remember most from that night is holding her, feeling warm skin against mine for the first time in years. I was trembling and nearly wept, and she later said that my intensity was “almost frightening.” 
Despite the tenderness and importance of that moment, I think what happened the next night was more important. We were in my room, talking quietly, late at night. We sat on opposite sides of the room, naked except for two worn bathrobes of mine. The nudity felt comfortable. I was able to speak clearly and honestly, despite an erection that made me shiver. What I liked most were the quiet spaces, when our conversation slowed and we let the room go still while we looked at each other. She studied my whole body, from the subtleties of my face and eyes to the very direct message of my cock. It was a warm and intimate look that implied a mixture of gentle lust and platonic affection, and stirred so many different emotions that I didn’t know where to put them all. I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had shown such genuine interest in either my physical or my emotional selves, or in the way that they fitted together. And under her gaze, I did feel like the two fitted together nicely, each aspect strengthening the other. I occasionally became self-conscious and tried to tuck my erection into the folds of my robe, but it was always a half-hearted effort that never succeeded for very long. It was an expression as honest and natural as any movement of my face, and even though I wasn’t sure if she would ever want to be as physical as we had been in the dungeon, for the most part my hard-on didn’t feel like an invasive or awkward barrier.

At one point, after we had been quiet for a long time, Stacy asked, “What are you thinking?” 

I considered and said, “That I like the way you look at me. I like the way it makes me feel.” 

“How does it make you feel?” 


Stacy cocked her head. “That’s interesting.” 


“I’ve never heard a man describe himself as 'beautiful'.” 

And in truth, the word seemed as strange to me as it did to her, in part because it was so obviously the right word. “Handsome,” although allegedly more appropriate to a man, implies a stoicism and ruggedness that does not encompass the rich sensuality that I felt running through me, connecting my body and self. My body felt open and receptive, rather than a barrier to hold between myself and the world.

Stacy and I did sleep together several more times during her visit, but we never fucked. Intercourse was something that she found to be too special, too intimate to share with anyone but her husband. We did do other things with our hands, mouths and groins. At her request, I showed her how I masturbated, sitting right there in that chair with that tattered bathrobe hanging onto me. And we also handled my cock together, sharing it with each other, a little like the story I sent her. And I kept on feeling beautiful with her. We didn’t fuck, which is supposed to be the definitive sex act according to heterosexual mythology, but I don’t think that any woman had ever gone so deeply into me. I hadn’t ever had sex with such a lack of fear-- fear of my partner or fear of betrayal by my own body. 

I think that's what was special about Stacy’s question, and later, her look and her touch, was that she approached my dick as a way of learning about me, and thus made me turn my own gaze around and look upon myself. The gender roles of our society are inherently infantalizing; our desires and even our own bodies become as twisted and shadowy to us as the creatures that lurked under the bed when we were children. I’m glad that I was encouraged to take a look and share what I found; having looked closely at my cock, I do feel stronger and more beautiful.

Copyright ©  2001 Christopher Hall. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or post. 

Author About Chris Hall

Chris Hall, a self-described cynic, lives in San Francisco, the perfect city for anyone in love with sex. He writes and edits book reviews for Maximum RockNRoll, and has been published in the anthologies Male Lust and Young Blood. He works as a volunteer at the California AIDS Hotline, trying to promote sexual health. Hall is a skeptic and a godless atheist, but in the right circumstances he can display a sentimentality that would give Frank Capra diabetes. His girlfriend is a zaftig sex goddess with very large breasts who lives in New York, a fact which inspires his one frustration with San Francisco.

Email Chris  with bribes, death threats, offers of sexual favors, job offers, and nude photographs.

About The Photos

Julian of SmartLust.org photographed the pictures of Chris Hall displayed in this essay at a Queen of Heaven sex party thrown by Carol Queen in San Francisco. SmartLust.org is a Web site that espouses "Life Affirming Erotica" and "Safe Sex" with brilliant pansexual pictures of happy people having sex and being happily sexual. 

Visit SmartLust.org to see more of Julian's wonderful work.

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