monthly column from lifestyle author/activist
It's been said that using a feather is erotic but using the whole chicken is weird. What this means is that it's all a matter of degree and consensus in a given time and place. So how far you go and how your society feels will determine whether or not your particular brand of preferred sexual stimulation is considered weird.
Think about oral sex. A leading men's magazine once did a feature on where in the nation oral sex was considered a crime. In fact, they drew in a map and colored all the states red where you could get sent up for going down. No doubt this was done to facilitate any travel plans you might have had. But getting back to the notion of what's excepted here is a gross perversion there, a young man was caught transporting drugs through the old Soviet Union and sent off to a prison labor camp in Siberia. Once there, he quickly became something of a celebrity as he spoke Russian and was the first American the other inmates had ever seen. Each night they would gather around and ask him questions about life in the West. All went well until someone asked if girls in the US practiced fellatio? He allowed as how many did. After that, no one ever trusted anything he said. The idea was so outrageous he just had to be making up tales as he went along.
However, he later noticed that whenever a horse drawn cart arrived with supplies, the animal was always unhitched and lead around the back of the building. Curious, he followed along one day and found a small line of men waiting for their turn at the pony. Where oral sex was considered beyond the pale, bestiality was accepted as being perfectly normal. Perhaps it was not that long ago when animals were seen as sex objects right here at home. In an agricultural society, as was the case just a century or two ago, the close proximity of the barnyard no doubt made for an early form of sexual education. What's weird here and now was OK there and then.
Whenever I mention to people that I once had sex with a 14-year-old, I always have to quickly add that I was 12 at the time. She was my babysitter. So there, in about two seconds, I go from being a monster to being a victim. If I searched hard enough, there might even be some government money available for my rehabilitation. What's so strange about this is that in practically every other time and place, adulthood and puberty were seen as being one in the same. The first ejaculation and the first period of menstruation were considered a rite of passage. Today, a former Surgeon General was forced to resign after she suggested that teaching about masturbation should be a part of the junior high school curriculum.
Necrophilia is considered so weird my computer's spell check insists there's no such word. But might sex with a corpse be unusual only because dead bodies (like live animals) are so few and far between in this day and age? An undertaker friend confided to me that it was not so strange in his line of work and that, indeed, he had tried it once himself. Then too, there's that part in one of those books considered to be an indispensable part of every intellect's baggage where the hero (I think it's Achilles) has sex with the dead Amazon queen he's just defeated in battle. Actually, how far away is necrophilia from lots of sex as practiced today? I'm thinking of the Woody Allen line where he says to his wife "I really liked that part where you moved."
A friend from Pakistan told me that, as a young man, he would frequent dance halls where other young men served as partners. This was because the sexes were so rigidly segregated that any notion of boy/girl dancing was out of the question. Interestingly, this male-to-male intimacy was not considered odd by any means and just as Frenchmen kiss each other on the cheeks and Russians kiss on the lips, it's quite common to see men in the Middle East holding hands as they walk along the street. Americans, by contrast, might be considered homophobic. As a matter of fact though, a good case can be made for mostly straight but occasional bi behavior being the norm. The percentage of gays to straights in different societies remains so constant as to almost assure a biological component. That being the case, degrees of gender preference would be far more likely than a simple love-her-hate-him orientation.
I once made the mistake of referring to a cross dresser as a transvestite. He was sitting around the house in a green dress and size 14 high heels. His wife was in the next room and his two kids were playing a board game on the floor. Strange as this looked to me, no one else there thought there was anything wrong with this picture. He explained that while he liked to wear women's clothes, he thought anyone who actually wanted to look like a woman was some kind of a queer. No kidding! I found this so odd - that a guy with a full beard would wear a dress while denigrating a female impersonator - that I began to investigate this bit of gender whimsy. What I found was that, like the Hatfields and the McCoys, cross dressers and transvestites see themselves as being quite distinct from each other and certainly a whole lot better than each other. I think there's a lesson here for all of us.
When police found the youngster hanging in his bedroom, nude with a girly book on the floor, they listed it as a suicide. Why not? It was a lot easier than trying to explain Sexual Asphyxia Syndrome to the family. Now don't try this at home kids but hanging around the house (literally) is said to result in an especially powerful orgasm. Knowing just when to say "when" is, of course, crucial. Compared to the gasper's masturbatory tendencies, autoerotism in general is pretty tame stuff and yet this was not always thought to be the case. Just a couple of generations ago, medical school professors taught their students that "self abuse" would lead to mental deficiency. It was thought that blood rushing to the genitals would leave the brain high and dry. That acknowledged professionals - let alone the man in the street - would believe such nonsense should be hard to believe. Yet it was not until the sexual revolution of the '60s that women were told self stimulation was actually a lot of fun and introduced to the vibrator. Of course, then again in the '90s well you remember what happened to that US Surgeon General name of Joycelyn Elders?
Dr. Mason may be reached with comments and column suggestions at: DrSBMason@aol.com