"Most new discoveries are suddenly-seen
things that were always there."
-- Susanne K. Langer (1942)
Mind Caviar, Vol. 2 Fall-Winter Issue, 2001
at My Cock
An Intimate Essay by
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
© 2001 Christopher Hall. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy or
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