Monday, August 27, 2007

Being Open with Other Men - My Penis and Me

I have tried off-and-on over the past 26 years to connect with other men in a variety of ways. The Pro-Feminist Men’s Movement has helped me significantly, particularly in the 1980’s. My first men’s gathering was so meaningful for me that I helped coordinate the planning for another one which was very successful.

In 1983 I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, USA. I went with a number of fellow members of the Madison Men’s Center to the Upper Midwest Men’s Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota in October, 1983. We were greatly inspired by Andrea Dworkin’s first speech to a predominantly male audience. Out of the initial efforts of eight of us, we formed Men Stopping Rape, Inc. of Madison which did some incredible work helping share and educate men about rape related issues in the Mid-1980’s and beyond.

Fathering my son in the late 1980’s as well as moving to Oakland, California (where of financial necessity I began working full-time) curtailed most of my activist work. A few years ago I joined a men’s support group in the Bay Area which helped me connect with men in some ways and frustrated me in other ways.

I have found it hard to connect at a deep level with other men. To a large degree my issues may relate to how alone emotionally I grew into adulthood from my childhood. It is hard as a man to connect with others at a deep emotional level. This is of course doubly hard when one hasn’t learned to connect deeply within one’s birth family and with peers.

Recently I’ve read a lot on various blogs related to (heterosexual) men and our sexuality. Though I have had male lovers in my distant past, I would at a minimum identify myself as: “straighter”. Much of what I’ve read has fascinated me, both where I’ve found commonality and differences with other men.

Though it feels scary to talk about my own body as well as my feelings and life experiences, I would like to share some of me. I hope that over time more other men will be honest and share more of who they really are underneath the webs of silence, as well as varying levels of dishonesty (at least among some of us).

I grew up feeling very alone as a child. I was a tall, awkward young boy who rarely had playmates. I remember visiting the houses of others with kids to play with. I don’t remember having a “best friend” as a child. I loved sports. I had season tickets (alone) at Purdue University (men’s) basketball games starting either at age 7 or 8 and walked alone close to one mile to the (night) games. My parents and younger brother had no interest in sports. I was in swimming classes and for several years a youth Saturday morning sports program. Though I enjoyed much about physical activity, I wasn’t good at everything I tried.

I remember first being aware that I was developing pubic hair just before my 12th birthday when we were in Israel. Moving into adolescence I don’t have a lot of clear memories in many areas related to my growth. I remember being 13 in the summer of 1964 away from home for the summer having a peer group of at least two boys and I think two girls. I remember having a crush at one point on Betsy Linton from Philadelphia, but I don’t remember being with her alone or any reciprocal feelings on her part.

After my father’s death later that year my grades in school went up significantly. My abilities at running improved as my physical growth slowed, though I never was a great runner. I went to several dances at the beginning of ninth grade, but simply sat on the sidelines alone and didn’t know “what to do” with others. In the late fall I was terrified when a female classmate asked me to go with her to a Sadie Hawkins (“girls invite the boys”) dance. I declined the invitation. The summer ninth grade I asked the same girl out for my first date. The experience was traumatic for me. I don’t know what I expected, but I found that we seemed to have nothing in common.

During the 10th grade I had no dates and went to no dances. In the 11th grade I began dating Carol Denenberg, a 9th grader, whose family I knew. Late that school year I found out that we had “split up” without my knowledge. She was with another classmate. Though I held Carol’s hand, I never kissed her. I was naïve!

Late in the 12th grade I briefly had another girlfriend who I kissed – she was 19 and I was 17. Shortly after I graduated from high school I lost my virginity (technically at least) with another young woman who was also older than me. I was scared and inept and ejaculated very quickly. I’m sure that I gave no pleasure to my partner!

It wasn’t until I was in my last semester of college that I had sex feeling like I had significant control over my penis and the sex itself. Sex was still focused completely on penile-vaginal intercourse. I remember waking up with my girlfriend – having sex – and not remembering how it started. That was a thrilling feeling!

As a teenager I was certainly a slow learner! I had no peers to discuss things with – certainly among boys we didn’t talk. The world of “girls” was a mystery to me. My “relationships” lasted weeks and I didn’t know my “girlfriends” very well. Occasionally I had fairly platonic relationships that lasted a little longer, but lacked closeness.

I remember being 19 years old and discovering masturbation for the first time while taking a bath. I’d been with several female partners having “sex”, but hadn’t masturbated previously. My high school class was “The Class of 69” – but I didn’t have a clue about the sexual meaning of that – which was obvious to most of my classmates.

As a teenager my sexuality was probably most vivid in “wet dreams” when I ejaculated. I didn’t know much about them and didn’t get pleasure from them. The other part of my “sexuality” was waking up in the morning with “piss hard-ons” some of the time, which went away when I went to the bathroom. Pretty boring!

Reflecting back upon my early sexual development it seems congruent with the distance that I had from my peers and parents. We didn’t have television because my father felt it would keep us from reading a lot. Dad never talked with me about sex. Nudity in our household was accepted but sexuality seemed distant. It wasn’t that anything was “forbidden”. The emphasis in our lives seemed to be on being “good, upper-middle class Jews” who achieved. As an 11th grader I lettered in track and cross country, was in the band, the orchestra and the dance band and was taking college economics classes at Purdue University with juniors in college. I had no social connections beyond the brief time with my girlfriend at dances, movies and similar.

At 20, I was floored when my mother out-of-the-blue – asked me: “George, are you a virgin?” to which I replied “no”. She said: “Good, your father wasn’t a virgin either and I was very glad of it.”. That was the end of my single “sex” conversation with my mother.

At 25 I had my first lasting girlfriend and we were married about eight months after we first dated.

In my 30’s and early 40’s I first really discovered my sexuality in positive ways. Because of the influence of Feminism in my life, I moved very clearly away from a focus upon “performing” with my partners. I didn’t mostly focus upon my penis and “routine sex”. When I had good sex it was a time of celebration with my partner, losing track of time and place and other “realities”. It was being in the gentle sexual touch we shared.

There was no correlation between time, orgasms or similar and “good sex”. Good sex was simply a wonderful few hours of being with a partner I loved making love with.

Little did I know how good I had it in those days at least sexually. In my mid-40’s I began to notice an increasing inability to get and sustain erections, particularly with a partner. Nothing physiologically was “wrong” with me – from exams with my doctor.

In 1998 – I was jarred into reality when I really “couldn’t get it up” repeatedly – I couldn’t deny to myself the issues that were moving gradually in my body. The only ways that I could really feel my sexual connection with my penis was when masturbating. Gradually over time even that has varied in how difficult it is to orgasm or get partially erect. Often when I do orgasm it isn’t with a very erect penis.

It may sound crass and silly, but it really is a weird and discomforting experience to not know – without touching one’s penis with one’s hands, whether and to what degree one has an erection. It is a strange feeling to feel very aroused – and then to find out that one isn’t erect at all. It is confusing to occasionally be erect and not to know it. Gone too are the piss hard-on’s except once recently – which pleasantly surprised me.

After some years and pressure from my second wife, I began trying to use Viagra. It seemed helpful at first and gradually became more inconsistent in effectiveness. Viagra, to be effective (for some at least), needs to be taken on an empty stomach. It’s hard to be spontaneous at all on a weekend to need to plan to have sex at least 4-5 hours after eating. When one’s partner isn’t a morning person and doesn’t want sex on a weekend morning generally, it’s hard to find a time when Viagra will work effectively. I didn’t realize the effects of food until my doctor referred me to a urologist at my request. After seeing him, I wrote my doctor to suggest telling other Viagra patients the food issue.

Most recently I went to another urologist who pleasantly shocked me. She suggested I try something and a few minutes later I injected my penis with a solution (Trimix) which brought about an strong and lasting erection within a few minutes. Unlike Viagra it didn’t seem to depend a lot upon my mood/emotions and other things. It felt much more like I used to feel before my mid-40’s. I masturbated after I got home feeling Very Much Better than I had felt in a long time when masturbating. After masturbating I still had “strength” in my cock which gradually lessoned over the next half hour or so.

Since then I’ve had mixed success with Trimix. It’s moderately expensive. It doesn’t necessitate not eating before it. The solution needs to be refrigerated. I overcame my fright at injecting myself. My partner hasn’t taken to it. For now - it'll be not tried anymore.

I can and do enjoy my sexuality! Feminism thankfully has given me a base to recognize that I’m not my cock. I can enjoy the feelings I get and get aroused (if not always within my penis). I can have orgasms fairly regularly, but I can’t generally have successful intercourse with my partner.

I’m not seeking sympathy from others! I do hope that other men will share their sexual lives particularly when they have issues – as I’ve had in my life. It’s not like this kind of thing is talked about more than the Viagra ads and ads for seeing high priced doctors who promise to make us “whole”.

In some ways what I feel relates to the increasing aches and pains that I feel in my mid-50’s and other ways that I feel myself aging. In other ways it feels different. It feels sad to get excited when I feel my cock – tingle a little and react – as it did quite frequently when younger –and now does perhaps 1-3 times a year – in normal day-to-day life.

I never felt that because I felt mild or stronger feelings in my cock, that it meant anything in of itself. I never “needed sex”. Physiological sexual feelings sometimes came from feeling sexual excitement and sometimes just “happened” – for no apparent reason.

It feels ironic that as I grow and presumably am maturing in some important ways in my life, my sexual being faces limitations far more significant than the lessoning of sexual activity that many men feel as a “normal” effect of aging. I presume that with the popularity of Viagra and sexual-healing clinics for men, that I’m far, far from alone in my issues.

I can only imagine that many, many other men must feel very alone and inadequate when they find their penis weakening sexually as I’ve felt. It didn’t feel good when I got up the courage to share what I was feeling with my men’s group several years ago and found that the others couldn’t or wouldn’t relate to what I expressed. They let me talk, but clearly much of what I said made them uncomfortable.

I hope that as men others are doing a much better job than I did relating to each other in our various lives as: sons, fathers, uncles, cousins as well as best friends, good friends, workmates and our other life roles. Gay men may have issues I don’t face. We each have our own issues.

I’m thankful for much in my life! I accept my penis as it is. It gives me pleasure as well as doing its other functions as advertised.



Sassywho said...

wow, i don't think i've ever read anything so foreign to me before. thank you for sharing!

this statement:
"I remember being 19 years old and discovering masturbation for the first time while taking a bath."
is a little surprising to me.

jeff said...

Thanks for sharing this stuff Geo. Men don't often enough talk so frankly about their sexual development--I suspect that yours wasn't that different from most, actually; I also suspect that many men feel their development was *very* different, when it was, in fact, the norm.

It's too bad your mom didn't talk with you more about sex, and it's too bad that she put so much emphasis on the virgin thing, but it was nice of her to point out that one perhaps ought not be a virgin when one gets married...

At any rate, thanks for the post, and congrats on the full disclosure--it's hard to do, and men tend to be not so good at it, generally.

geo said...

Thanks Sassy and Jeff,

S - Obviously I wasn't particularly testosterone driven and was "weird" in my slowness related to masturbation! I can laugh about that part of my past.

From what you've written on your blog I gather that your upbringing was far more open and challenging of authority and similar. I note that contrast with my partner now.

After my father died when I was 13 - in a small, mostly sick way - I was "the husband/father" of the household and my mother relied upon me in ways that as a boy - I wasn't ready for - not related to sex (of course!).

My experiences with all of my long-term relationships make clear to me that my experiences were far different from those I've loved.

J - I didn't see my mother putting an emphasis on my Virginity at all. Rather I saw a curiosity in her and perhaps a lack of boundaries, though it was more amusing than annoying.

J - you make a very good point about us as men - feeling like we are "different" - as well as implying rather directly our isolation from each other because we don't talk about intimate parts of ourselves with each other.

I think as a parent (now) it important to show affection with my partner around our children so they get at least a little sense of who we are as adults.

Talking honestly with each other is important - not only in sexual areas of course!

Thanks again - both of you!