Andy Bodle was a precocious youth with an excess of curiosity and desire.
But that which Donna Inez most desired,
And saw into herself each day before all
The learnéd tutors whom for him she hired,
Was, that his breeding should be strictly moral;
Much into all his studies she inquired,
And so they were submitted first to her, all,
Arts, sciences, no branch was made a mystery
To Juan’s eyes, excepting natural history.
The languages, especially the dead,
The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,
The arts, at least all such as could be said
To be the most remote from common use,
In all these he was much and deeply read;
But not a page of any thing that’s loose,
Or hints continuation of the species,
Was ever suffer’d, lest he should grow vicious.
—Byron, Don Juan
I had my first orgasm at the age of three.
The details are understandably fuzzy. Whether someone at nursery school showed me what to do, whether I was acting on some deep-seated urge, or whether I discovered it purely by accident, will forever remain a mystery.
I didn’t know what it was called. I didn’t know how it worked. And I certainly didn’t know the correct technique; instead of touching my private parts, I would lie face down on the floor, tuck my hands in between my thighs, and rhythmically raise and lower my bottom until the nice feeling came. It usually took about 20 minutes.
What I did know, from a very early stage, was that it was shameful and bad, because one of my earliest memories is of my mother, after pulling back the sofa to find me in flagrante delicto, reacting with such horror and rage that I cried for the rest of the day.
But there was no way I was going to stop the single most pleasurable activity I’d discovered in my few months on the planet (I still haven’t found anything to match it). Not least because no one ever told me why it was wrong.
As far as I could tell, there were no downsides. No side-effects, no after-effects, no damage to life, limb or property; and it didn’t cause any harm to anyone else (unless, apparently, they caught you). It was just a bit of exertion, followed by ecstasy, then euphoria, then sleep. So from that day forth, I confined my activities to my bed.
At about the same time, in what seemed to me to be an entirely unrelated development, my best friend and I started playing a new game.
Joanne, the daughter of one of my mum’s friends, was a few months older than me. Whenever one mum had an errand to run, she’d leave her child in the charge of the other, and Joanne and I would do what young children do. And from time to time, we’d play Bottoms.
There weren’t really any rules to Bottoms. You just took off your underwear, lay on the bed, and the other person would do things to your bottom. Touching, kissing, gentle smacking, that sort of thing.
Here again, I must draw on the Clinton defence. I have no idea who initiated the game, and nor does Joanne, but both parties were definitely consenting (and enjoying). What’s more, I was not, at the time, aware of any connection between this behaviour and the masturbation. “Doing my ding-ding” was a private, purely physical thing. Bottoms was about fun, about exploring—more of a social activity, if you will. Besides, it was a completely different part of the body!
However, it seemed that this activity, too, was frowned upon, because when Joanne’s mum caught us with our hands in each other’s pants one weekday afternoon, she quite literally threw me out of the house.
I would have only one more “playmate” before puberty: in 1977, I persuaded Sarah Nielsen, a dark-haired, olive-skinned girl in my class with a mole on her upper lip, to come with me behind the boiler in the playground and show me hers. Her bottom, of course; I was a good seven years away from even suspecting the existence of vaginas.
But I carried on abusing myself as before; two, maybe three times a week, in exactly the same routine, for eight years. That was when some gobbets of information finally started coming my way.
First, there was Jane Fonda in Barbarella. Then, one day in the summer holidays in 1981, I was at my grandmother’s house down the road with my cousins Jeff and Rich. Rich, like me, was a good boy, but Jeff could be, as Nan put it, “a bit of a handful”. On this particular day, he decided it would be a laugh to write the word “wanker” 50 times on the jotter by her phone. From the hysteria that followed, I deduced that it was not a word that should be repeated in polite company. But it was another few months before I found out what it meant.
At the end of autumn in the first year at senior school, I was standing outside one of the mobiles at morning break with a group of kids from my class. Bryan Boult did something to earn Steven Foster’s disapproval, so Steven Foster called Bryan Boult a wanker, and while doing so made a shape with his hands: he touched his thumb to his forefinger to form a circle and made a jerking motion. The uproar that followed my question—“What does that mean?”—still ranks as one of my life’s more humiliating episodes.
Of course, as soon as I got to my bed that night, I tried out this revolutionary new technique. And I was an instant convert: it required less exertion, and offered more control. From that day forth, I never humped my hands again.
And then, with puberty, came … an emission. An end product. The first time it happened, I was mortified—terrified. What was this stuff? Was I ill? I couldn’t ask Mum and Dad, because I wasn’t supposed to be doing this. I daren’t ask any of my friends, for similar reasons, and our solitary sex education lesson was still a good year away. But nothing else seemed to be wrong with me, and the mess was easily cleared up, so after a while, I just accepted that this was a new hazard of the job, and made sure I had a decent supply of tissues before embarking on any further misconduct.
I don’t remember what it was that finally helped me put two and two together to make sex. A late-night movie, maybe, an overheard conversation, maybe the sex education lesson; perhaps it was just because I thought about girls so often, and masturbated so often, that eventually, by the laws of probability, the two activities overlapped.
Anyway, shortly after my infatuation with Kerry, I realised that the two greatest puzzles of my life—the lovely, funny feeling I got when I touched myself, and my obsession with girls – fitted together. What my body was telling me to do, with increasing force and regularity, was not to put my penis in my hand, and put my hand on a woman, but to put my penis into a woman. Masturbation, it turned out, was all just practice.
Of course, since it was another four years before I could persuade a girl to go anywhere near my penis, I had time for an awful lot more practice.
And all I’m going to add is that, if you’re a male, there isn’t really an upper limit on the genetic advantage conferred by a sex drive. The hornier you are, and the more frequently you are horny, the more likely it is that you will reproduce prodigiously, and thus create more horny male offspring. As a biologist might put it, the selection pressure on sex drive is positive and unconstrained. I suppose you could technically get so horny that it jeopardises your survival—if it gets you killed by other jealous males, for example, or if you’re so busy copulating that you forget to eat.
But even death doesn’t matter too much, provided you reproduce before you kick the bucket. Look at praying mantises, and many breeds of spider, where the female eats the male after (or during) sex; the males are quite happy to give up their lives, as long as they’ve done the deed. Male wild salmon, too, die immediately after they’ve fertilised the females’ eggs.
(To give you an idea of how important sex can be to males, I would point you to a horrific, but undoubtedly fascinating, experiment conducted in 1953. A researcher implanted electrodes into the brain of a monkey, which allowed anyone to give the monkey an instant orgasm. The monkey was given a switch with which it could activate this electrode. What happened? The monkey proceeded to push the switch once every three minutes, for 16 hours a day. Then it would sleep for eight hours, get up, and do the same thing all over again. When a similar experiment was conducted on rats, offering them the choice between an orgasm or food, the rats repeatedly chose orgasm until they starved to death.)
PS: I’m not a (total) freak. Many boys, and some girls, are physiologically capable of orgasm from an early age; they just don’t always hit on it so soon. Some boys have even been seen masturbating in the womb.
Assuming you haven’t already taken in WAY too much information, I’ve talked a bit more about this with Jack Romance on his Mr & Mrs Romance podcast, whose archive you can reach here.
I also (ahem) touched on it in my Getting Better Acquainted podcast with the punchably talented Dave Pickering, whose website is here.
This was previously published on Womanology.
Image credit: oksidor/Flickr