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How Do You Start Masturbating?

December 28, 2012

I started masturbating young. I don’t know how young. I used the bathtub. I would have died if anyone in the house ever busted me on the long-running water in my preadolescent, then adolescent trips.

They were trips. I had no idea about sex. And though I didn’t think of mysticism, or probably even understand the word, they were mystical experiences. I would have abstract visions. I would feel my body ballooning and shifting shape. My thighs and abdomen would expand and expand and expand in my mind until I reached climax. My head would shrink. I would surpass any possible area that could be bound by a bathtub. I would become bigger than the house. Decades later, in art history class, the Venus of Willendorf would illustrate as a concrete representation (though tiny) a reoccurring perception of my body from those times I masturbated before it had a sexual context.

I would see shifting lights in baby-blue and cobalt, flickering, undulating luminescence with bubbles and curves and being. I would see a sea of coffee-with-cream-colored liquid, wind-mottled, like the surface of a lake going on and on, forever and ever. I would see blackness with stars of every pastel color glimmering and expanding and shrinking. I would careen though space, through time. I would cease to exist, to care, to worry.

I must have been 10 by the time I started this. I had few friends once we moved away from Arizona. I’d been popular there. I was not popular after we moved, first to Indiana, then to Kentucky. It was another culture. I didn’t get it. Matters were probably not helped by the general perception in our family that Kentucky was stupid, that the people there were stupid. My attitude must have reflected this.

In my early thirties, a friend who was close with my elementary school librarian told me that she remembered me. She described me to him as a surly little girl. I laughed, but at the time I was being a surly little girl, I was not happy. I wanted to be accepted. I didn’t have the right clothes. I was a step behind. The friends I made were good ones, but I remembered being friends with my whole class, and it changed my world when I knew that wasn’t the way it was going to be anymore.

The undercurrent of hostility in our house — the screaming about infractions like the scraping of teeth on a fork at the dinner table, the mixed messages of being told I was smart, but being taunted and bullied and called stupid — bred the anxiety and worry I still live with today. My parents didn’t even seem to like each other anymore, but the party line was that they were in love with each other. It was like Santa Claus. I knew it wasn’t true, but I didn’t talk about it. The dissonance between the truth and what I was told was so much a part of me it was like a skin over my skin. I became the problem child, an emotional barometer that exploded and got punished over and over again for my tone, demeanor, and attitude. No matter how many times I told myself to keep my mouth shut, it never worked.

There were few escapes and masturbation was one. Later cigarette smoking was another. I have never stopped either for any significant period of time. And even when I started my sex life, masturbation continued to be something separate: an abstract world I went to again and again. I’d get freaky with teenage boys in cars, careful to maintain a technical virginity more from fear of pregnancy than anything else, but those fingers and tongues and cocks had nothing to do with what I thought about when I was alone.

And before any of this, I experienced the worst humiliation of my young life when one day on a school trip, dozens of my classmates started calling me a slut. I had never touched a penis with my hand. A kid who played the trumpet threw a quarter at me and said, “How far can I get on a quarter, Katie?” I was in 8th grade. I tried not to respond, not to give them the satisfaction. And when the trip was over, I reported what happened to my teachers. One of them said, “If it’s not true, then why is everybody saying it?”

I know this figures into my sexual landscape because it was something that happened to me that was out of my control. It defined me sexually before I had any idea who I was in that way. It was something I tried not to think about. And despite subsequent experiences that mirrored that one, refracting through my adolescence and early adulthood, none of it tarnished my enjoyment of sex — something I have always looked forward to and anticipated and enjoyed, body and mind. It’s only ever afterwards that there may be regrets — and fewer and fewer of those as I get older and understand myself more.

But back around the age of 18, even with explicit fantasies leading up to arousal before masturbation (reading smut and drawing dirty pictures), the things I saw as I got myself off had nothing to do with the impetus that got me going. It was a deliberate decision to start masturbating to scenarios and erotic ideas. It took effort to think about what made me excited. My fantasies were more about words and sensation than visuals, and that’s still the case. Orders surfaced in every scenario. There were commands and degrading threats. I imagined my body was the one with the cock and that my mind was the pleaser of it. Then I’d switch. My mouth would move with the words in my mind, lip-synched orders from one part of me to another.

These thoughts developed further when I got my first vibrator at the age of 20. I used to put a wig over it, so I could more easily imagine a head between my legs. I remember the porno shop — on a dirty and dark corner straddling Downtown and the South End of Louisville. There were video booths in the back, racks of VHS tapes, blow-up dolls, and a wall of smutty magazines and books. My friend and I laughed at the array of items: the huge horse-cock, the rubber fist, the novelty-sized bagel-width butt plug. I went for a sparkly purple dick of moderate size. At home, I had some thrift store wigs lying around. After I got the hang of how the batteries worked, how the rubber felt and how much spit it would need, I draped a wig over it and my hand.

When I was 25, I watched pornography with the intention of masturbating to it for the first time. It was a VHS tape given to me by the wildest sex partner I’ve ever had (A.). It contained more than four hours’ worth of smut, mostly late ’80s, early ’90s stuff with names like Debi Diamond, TT Boy, and Peter North. There was a warning at the beginning: some scenes were filmed before condom use had become a law. (Wait, that was a law?) At the end of the two-plus hours of smutty individual scenes, there was a feature entitled “Chameleons — Not the Sequel.” (A favorite scene from the first part included Peter North as a patient in a hospital getting a thorough going-over by two nurses. When he comes at the end, he yells out, “This fuckin’ hospital is too much! Oh, yeah!” On subsequent involuntary commitments to the state hospital, when the graveyard shift nurses would get loud at their station and wake me out of a drug-induced slumber [very loud, in other words], I would sometimes yell that out to let them know they woke me up. I’d go overboard with the “Ohhhhh, yeaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” They usually shut up for a couple minutes after that.)

“Chameleons: Not the Sequel” was incredible. It starred Ashlyn Gere and both Deirdre Holland and Rocco Siffredi as a shape-shifting sex fiend — or shape-shifting sex fiends. The movie opens when Ashlyn Gere demands that her hot friend with enormous tits fuck a man in the hallway of (what we discover is) a sex club by way of punishment for his mouthing off. It was totally absurd and totally hot: the idiocy of the situation, the orders, the public nature of it, the compliance, and especially the way the friend gets sicced on a stranger like a dog. On one hand, she’s an “aggressor” and on the other hand, she’s following orders and being watched.

The club is full of people fucking, and Holland sets her sights on Gere, cornering her in a bathroom, and that’s where things get even more interesting because Holland shakes her head in a sci-fi way and transforms into Rocco Siffredi. In the process of shape shifting, the person being copied loses energy while it’s happening. There’s a non-consensual power dynamic that charges up the action of the scenes because someone off-screen (and sometimes on it) is suffering.

The gender bending weirdness of this movie spoke to something in me that I hadn’t put into words. While my fantasies had transformed into sexual ones by this time, and I often imagined being a man (straight or gay), I hadn’t heard anyone talk about this, much less show it. The closest I knew of something like this in real life was a gay friend’s story about the time he walked into a hook-up in a hotel room to be confronted with a middle-aged stranger with a hole cut into the back of a pair of pantyhose who spread his cheeks and demanded, “Fuck me in my man pussy!” He’d run away, oddly terrified, and unsure if he’d done the right thing. Sex with a person moving from woman to man was just not a concept I ever saw in the world.

As wild and promiscuous as I had been, I was sheltered. It was at this time that I was starting to really understand that I was a masochist. It’s not like I ever had any trouble getting off with regular sex, it was just that I had stumbled into a relationship with a man who, the first morning we woke up together, wrangled me over his knees, pulled up my slip, and took one of his massive hands and spanked my ass until it was swollen, and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I was very embarrassed to discover that he had a roommate and that roommate was home listening to the loud smacks and my delighted squeals through a sheet that separated their rooms — another layer to the maze I was running.

A. and I didn’t talk about what we were doing, and I now realize that he assumed I’d had at least some experience in the realm of SM. I was confused and alone. I’d show the leopard-print looking bite marks on my ass to friends in a drunken exhibitionistic spree and regret it the next day. It’s not like I was hiding it, but I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it who actually got it. And being a masochist was shameful to me at times. I would feel proud of what I could take in a scene and often feel lost and confused about it afterwards.

There was an internet. I just didn’t know how to use it. And when I looked in my college’s library to try to do some reading, I was dismayed to discover that it wasn’t only my mind that was all messed up (I’d been told a bi-polar diagnosis was a life-long condition that would have to be forever managed with medication), but that my sexual desires were a pathology, too. I bet that if I hadn’t been afraid of seeming stupid, I could have gotten some talks going with A., but I didn’t want to discourage the ever more extreme progression our encounters were going in, and I didn’t want to tell him that I’d never done any of it before. In fact, I assumed he knew what I was going through, for some reason, without ever telling him that.

There was no protocol, there were no terms of address, no safe words, no discussion — just the rules he made up in our scenes that were dropped the moment they were over and a general understanding that he was the boss. We didn’t talk about anything: comfort, boundaries, limits, consent. And all I wanted to do was see him again to see what happened next.

I watched that porno tape so many times. But the disconnect between my sex life and my fantasy life was still intact. It still is. Thinking about pain did (and still does) almost nothing for me, while pain itself is an experience that I could replace sex with (if I had to choose. I hope I never have to make that choice, but still). Something in me is sated with a sound beating that sex alone can never touch.

After A. and I split, I knew something about myself that I hadn’t known before and was powerless to take back. And I was alone again.

I started going to porno shops to see what I could see. Maybe there were articles in those mags I’d seen. What I ended up with was mostly pictures. You couldn’t open the cellophane-wrapped magazines to check them out before buying them. After I bought them, I’d look at them without feeling any particular way. They didn’t turn me on. They didn’t make me feel less alone. There were a lot of nearly perfect bodies and rubber encased bodies and a fashion ideal of SM. I never saw a stripe or a bruise or any blood. And they were too fucking expensive to be so vapid. I put them in a drawer and didn’t look at them anymore. It played to a vanity I didn’t feel and have never connected with during any good SM experiences as a top or a bottom.

I found some reading on the internet, but mostly odd posts here and there without context — or maybe I just couldn’t navigate the net very well. I didn’t have a computer until 2005, and it wasn’t until 2007 that I got internet in my home.

Then I found Laura Antoniou‘s Marketplace series, about slaves selling themselves into servitude. I was captivated. After I bought the first book, I went back every time I could spare some money and grabbed more. I had never read something so hot in my life, and the thoughts of the characters as they struggled to serve, to be “real” slaves, the way they changed their identities, fulfilled roles, were analyzed and trained, the way they fucked, the way they thought about fucking: I had never found reassurance in such a way before. I’d jerk it to a scene and just keep on reading, needing to know what would happen next. Even though the covers were neutral–a black and white photograph of a building with purple lettering–I made paper covers for them so I could take them around and read them whenever I wanted to without feeling worried or weird about it. The sexual realities of the characters showed me that the way my mind was going on its own wasn’t something unique or freakish at all.

I think that helped me be truer to myself. But it’s a fine line when porno (especially visual, especially video) enters your life. I wonder about how kids now are exposed to porn — how it molds their desires before they’ve had a chance to shift and change on their own. Guy friends of mine beat off to Sears catalogues and Playboys and Playgirls if they were lucky. The women I know don’t say they looked at porn when they were young. Porn was a novelty you hoarded and memorized and processed into fantasy. If I were 12 now, surely I’d have seen porn, and I wonder how that might have changed my sexual landscape.

As it stands, I’ve played and fucked as a boy and found that the resulting hatred I have for my own body, when I decide that I’m male, is just too much self-loathing to withstand. Maybe there will come a day when I can disregard my genitals in that sort of play, but as a bottom, it somehow hasn’t worked for me, meaning once the scene is over, I despise and am so disgusted by my body and especially my crotch and breasts, and that I find it so acutely painful with effects that linger for such a long time, that it’s not worth it. I can’t get out of my body, and I don’t want to. It’s not healthy for me, that cultivated dissonance with my gender. I realize I’m lucky to have the choice, though. Personally, I just want to move toward accepting and resolving who I am, how I feel, and the body that I’m in. It might be different for me as a top.

And now? Well, now I’m a lazy wanker who’s taken advantage of free internet porn ever since I could stream it. But I think I’m going to start living in my head a little more when I masturbate, now that I’ve written this. It’s good to check in with what’s going on there to know myself.

*

This post is the first of the Sex Writing Challenge. This challenge is more to myself than anyone else, but it’s also an invitation. Want to write about how sex goes in your own life? Comment on any post here with your own.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2012 12:05 pm

    This is tremendous, Kate, and well thought out, and takes us along and well, it’s just you. Thanks for letting us in. I wonder if other people will join in. I might… When I’m 80.

  2. December 29, 2012 6:53 pm

    I’d say you are unique – and freakish only in the best way. I do hope you come to an arrangement with your body/fantasies/activities – and that you continue writing about them.
    Laura Antoniou
    PS: Thanks for the shout-out. I read John Preston in very much the same way you report reading me. I’m honored.

    • December 29, 2012 6:57 pm

      I think I’m going to have a heart attack! I could never imagine you reading me. Thank you for everything (especially the encouragement) and now it looks like I have some reading to do. 🙂

  3. Julie Schwietert Collazo permalink
    January 2, 2013 10:55 pm

    Oh, Kate. You’re just tremendous. You know I think you’re so brave for this and I suspect it’s going to lead to a whole lot more than getting to know yourself even better.

    • January 2, 2013 11:58 pm

      Thanks, Julie. I really appreciate the comment and support! I guess I can only get pervier from here. 🙂

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