i’ve recently given up smoking. it’s been hard as hell to fight the cravings and not light up when the urge to stick something in my mouth and suck takes ahold of me. which it often does. i told a friend of mine that i was going to have to find a new oral fixation to devote my time and energy to, and he replied that hard candy or a hard cock would be my best bets. not to be outdone, i promptly opened my purse and pulled out some lifesavers and some condoms. he laughed and the conversation continued on to other, less salacious topics.
he would have laughed harder had he been there when i was buying said condoms the week before. i think i was in the hygiene aisle for half an hour, perusing each box carefully, reading the backs, trying to decide between his pleasure and her pleasure and mutual pleasure. was ultra-thin the way to go? perhaps ribbed? or flavored? feeling overwhelmed, i eventually decided to utilize the process of elimination. lasting pleasure was the first to go, for although the name sounded promising, the description seemed… well, as soon as i read “male genital desensitizer with climax control lubrication,” it just sounded a bit unfair. one orgasm should never come at the expense of another.
ribbed seemed like a possibility until i looked at the drawing on the back, which looked more like some high-tech torture device; two sets of ribs and alternating nubbins, supposedly to stimulate things that need stimulating. flavored might also be nice, but seemed like it would only be useful on specific occasions. i had no idea what kind a man would like, and even less of an idea about what kind I would like. ultimately i went for the smooth lubricated ultra-thin condoms. i figured it’s like learning a foreign language; start with the basics and build upon your grasp of the subject gradually.
you see, it was only the second time i’d ever bought condoms. i don’t even know how to put the damned things on. and the possibility that they might expire before they see any action has become more daunting than the act of buying them ever was.
confession: it’s been almost ten years. dear god, a decade without handholding, neck massages, gentle exploration, deep penetration and out and out fornication. i have become a born-again virgin, not of my own choosing, but through a series of circumstances, bad decisions and fear. so i suppose i am to blame for some of it. but in a society pervaded with casual copulation, it seems like i’m the only one in the world not getting any. so along with quitting smoking, i’ve also decided that it’s time for me to get over it and get under someone.
but how does one begin? with my aforementioned predilection towards the desire to let things just happen naturally, the requirement of major trust and the understanding that my needs are as unique as my tongue print, it may be awhile. and i’m notoriously bad at signals. i can’t seem to distinguish between a friendly touch and an interested caress. how long does a hand have to linger before it’s a declaration of intent? what areas of the anatomy are innocuous, and what areas are fair game for foreplay? when is it too much, and when is it not enough?
i was raised in a religion that prohibited dating until the age of 18, considered the act of masturbation an unforgivable sin, and condemned anyone who had sex outside the bonds of marriage. i never had the sex talk, in part because i was such a shy little thing and the thought of asking questions of that nature mortified me. also, i think my parents found the idea too unnerving to actually go through with. so i did what any repressed teenager would do; i checked out the joy of sex from the local library and poured through it like a traveler stranded in the desert of ignorance.
unfortunately, it only raised more questions. questions that remain unanswered to this day. the two men i’ve been with turned out to be worse than indifferent to my lack of experience. and as i’ve found no one thus far willing to guide me through the caves of carnal knowledge, i’ve had to rely on love scenes from movies and the occasional hot and heavy passage in the odd novel to add piece by piece to my paltry understanding of sex.
the thing is, i know enough to know that it’s being misrepresented. in any given room i enter with more than 10 people, it’s a sure bet that at least two thirds of them are sexually active. and these people don’t look like movie stars. they are not so verbose or eloquent in their dialogues of desire. they are balding men or wrinkled women, pudgy and gangly and overwhelmingly normal.
but we all watch brad pitt and angelina jolie tango their way between the sheets in moves so choreographed you wonder if stunt doubles are used. we see this, and think that’s the way it should be. but of course it isn’t. most of us don’t have our own personal sex instructor, rehearsing our moves with us so that when the moment comes it all goes smoothly and no one gets hurt. and it leaves us wondering why we can’t seem to find that mutual rhythm, or why we don’t come at all during intercourse, or why it isn’t always fireworks and earthquakes and mutual orgasms descending into bliss.
the best we can do is fumble around until we find something that works, something that feels good to us, to them, and together. it takes a careful eye and keen observation, a willingness to find your partner’s buttons and push them in the right sequence. even then, bliss isn’t guaranteed. but if it does happen, at least you’ve gotten there under your own steam.
the mechanics of passion is beautiful in its construct. it’s all quite simple really. insert penis into vagina and ejaculate. the rest of the species on the planet have it easy. they don’t have to worry about the faces they make when they come, or the quandary over post-coital conversation versus the immediate need for sleep. they do their business, ensure the propagation of their particular genus, and move on.
but humans require more. it doesn’t matter if you’re a sexual athlete or a prude, a casanova or a virtual nun. we feel the need to attach emotion to the act, and that’s what screws us in the end. we mistake attraction for attachment, and sex for love, until it’s a conflagration of misunderstandings and broken hearts. this is why I fear for the human race. it’s also what gives me hope.
that unabashed drive to transform a simple biological process into an act of beauty. the belief that, in the end, what matters is not the way we connect, but the connection itself. the constant striving for that one sublime moment when we are held up as a thing to be worshipped, and feel that we are worthy of such adoration.
the faith that it’s all worth it, everything, all the pain and fear and risk, because when we look into each other’s eyes and discover that blessed rhythm we see the divine in each other.
that’s when sex becomes making love. and that’s when we know exactly what it means to be human.
now if you’ll excuse me, i’ve got to go practice on a banana.