Originally published 2002_11_19
I don’t understand sex. For example, explain this to me:
If I pay a woman to have sex with me, that’s called prostitution and it’s against the law.
But if I pay a woman to have sex with me, and I film it, then that’s called pornography, and that’s legal.
Can anybody possibly explain this to me? In legal terms, or common sense terms, or any other terms you can come up with? Quite frankly, almost nothing about sex makes sense.
Say you’re looking at a chick walking by, and you say to another guy with awe: “Wouldja’ look at the ASS on that one!” And it’s meant as the ultimate compliment.
But if you say: “What an ASSHOLE!” That’s meant as the ultimate put-down.
Or take the word “fuck.” If you’re “fucking” someone, that word can be synonymous with “making love” — one of the highest things human beings can do with each other.
On the other hand, if you say “I’m going to FUCK YOU OVER!” that’s one of the lowest things you can do to another person.
Does any word in the English language have a wider spectrum of possible, and often-contradictory, meanings than the word “fuck”? And I think it reflects the ambivalent and contradictory and confused feelings we have about sex in general. You know what they say: “There’s a fine line between lust and disgust.” And sex seems to embody all of it. And everything in between.
I remember reading this book by this madam who spent her life running a high-class whorehouse. Her life-long immersion in the subject of all things sex gave her a somewhat jaundiced view of sex. She had an appreciation (and sympathy) for the absurdity of sex — this strange and overpowering compulsion that so easily makes fools of the best of us. As well as an understanding of the secret, and so-often hypocritical, and contradictory impulses that lurked inside the heart of man, the sexual beast.
There was one polite, mild-mannered, normal-looking guy who visited the whorehouse once a month, always leaving a big tip afterwards. He was known by the girls as the “Oatmeal Cookie Man.” He always showed up with a little bag of oatmeal cookies. He would pay one of the girls to take a dump on the cookies while he masturbated, and then (here’s the truly weird part to me) he would EAT the cookies, and then (it gets even weirder), he would immediately ejaculate on swallowing the cookies.
Who can explain the mysterious peculiarities that govern our sexual wiring? If not for a crossed circuit here and there, there goes you and I.
I read another book about Ted Bundy, the serial killer. He was a handsome, successful man in his 20s, had a beautiful girlfriend, a normal sex life, and a promising career. Then one night as he was walking down a dark street, he had this overpowering desire, coming from some mysterious place deep within himself, to pick up a 2-by-4 and club this woman to death and have sex with the corpse. For whatever reason, that was the “trigger” within him that got him off. He was shocked and horrified by these over-powering urges, knowing that if he didn’t resist them, his life was doomed. And, alas, it was. As anyone who has had to do battle with his own inner triggers can attest, this is a formidable force to struggle against. All of society may condemn you for your particular triggers (and often rightly so), and yet, the trigger remains, demanding expression.
I’ve always had a strange identification with homosexuals in this regard. Not so much having to do with their particular sexual predilection, but due to the battle that most of them waged against their own sexual triggers. (Which ultimately, I guess, is the battle to accept ourselves as we are, and society be damned). Most of them, of course, went through a period where they fervently wished they were heterosexual (for obvious reasons, mostly having to do with society’s disapproval and the way it forced them off the conventional, normal path). Many sought ways to “cure” themselves of their homosexuality; to rearrange their sexual wiring, to resist and modify the trigger that had inexplicably been placed within them. I think most of us fight variations of this sexual battle on some levels. For sex is such an over-powering force; we long to indulge in it, even as we’re frightened at how easily it can sweep us towards the precipice of disaster.
I remember myself, age 26, pulling myself out of bed at 3 in the morning, for no reason, for EVERY reason, and peddling 20 blocks down the road, to Mary’s house, to hide in the vacant lot across the street, to stare in her dark bedroom window, to spy into her window, to try and see if Mary was in there, to see what she was doing in there, and who she might be doing it with. To sit there for hours in the cold and dark night. Compelled to do it. Why? My sexual trigger. You know what they say: “When you got them by the balls, their minds will follow.” I’m not excusing myself or justifying myself, neither am I condemning myself. I may be extremely self-righteous and judgmental about everything else, but sex is the one thing I tend to give people slack towards. Because it has made such a fool of me. Finally, a car would pull up to Mary’s house and Mary would get out of the car, alone — “WHEW!” — and walk into her home. Only then — my compulsive sexual jealousy temporarily alleviated — could I get on my bike and ride back home to bed.
Sometimes I’ll see a photo on the front page of the paper of a man being hauled off to prison in chains for having committed some terrible sex crime. I’ll stare at his face and think: “Could it have POSSIBLY been worth it? Could that fleeting sensation of pleasure have possibly been worth the price you are now going to pay?” And wondering if he himself was thinking the exact same thing at that moment.
But it’s beyond reason. Beyond sense. Fucking sex. I knew another guy back in those old punk rock days, who also had a crush (and they don’t call it that for nothing) on Mary. His punk rock name was Neil Anderthol and he played saxophone in a jazz-damage band called the Geeks (they could clear out an entire club in 5 minutes); later he was to form the semi-famous punk-polka band Polkacide. Anyway, he once wrote a love song that I suspect was inspired by Mary. It was called “Spawning.” It was about our compulsion to smash our heads against the rocks in our drive to get upstream and procreate. And maybe sex doesn’t make any more sense to the fucking salmon either.