i was poking around in the graphic novels at Pages today, on this Glorious Glorious spring day, and happened across an older work by Chester Brown, entitled "The Playboy".
do i need another book to add to my to-read list? of course not. so i put aside "the Life of Pi" (Bloody Fantastic, thoughts reserved 'til i finish it), purchased "The Playboy" (i know), and finished that book on the spot.
okay, half an hour later, over peppermint tea at the jet fuel.
let me take a moment, dear reader(s), to tell you about it.
actually, bear with me for a moment of digression, before i get to the juicy stuff this post-heading promises.
now, a while back i read "Blankets" by Craig Thompson, a weighty tome of a graphic novel about a guy growing up in a small town under religious fundamentalist parents. and what it was like to be in love with a girl with that righteous shadow hanging over him. and how to feel okay about wanting to be intimate, wanting to be sexual, hell, wanting to be in Love, and to bring sex into the equation without being ashamed about it, or considering sexual propositions to be twisted, perverse or just plain Evil.
later on, about a year and a half ago, i was very fortunate to be in a car ride with two male acquaintances, one of whom was (no doubt still is) an eccentric sort. out of nowhere he started up this Immensely candid discussion about sex, and what it was like to be a male teenager. He talked about reaching puberty and having Utterly No Concept that a girl might even Want to have sex with him at the time, since human coitus is really, let's face it, a bizarre kind of physical union. like, who thought of it? the mechanics of sex. stick A into B = mutual bliss and satisfaction. who knew?!?!
and the idea that a girl might be into any of this action was Completely Unheard Of (in the words of this guy, as i sat in the back of the car listening) , and how disempowering that doubt was to him at the time.
of course the guy who started the conversation made the other guy almost Immediately and IMMENSELY uncomfortable, and it Certainly can't have been helpful to have a girl sitting in the back like a secret agent taking notes, so the conversation didn't last long.
This, dear reader(s), was one of the first times, yes a mere year and a half ago, at the age of 29, that i was given even a Clue that guys (well, some guys) actually worried about this kind of stuff. strange, disconcerting, but True. honesty of this sort is so Unbelievably hard to come by, that the conversation still resounds in my brain to this day.
anyhow, back to "Blankets". Craig Thompson is straight up, unassuming, and Above all, Not so Bloody Fucking macho. forgive me, dear males who may read this, i am unflinchingly dedicated to your gender, but macho is like this strange seething virus that no doubt Our Very Mothers are guilty of propagating. it makes some guys incapable of admitting vulnerability, doubt, or any kind of dissatisfaction with themselves or their world. and it has made some communication, in times now gone, hours ago, years ago, lifetimes ago, well nigh impossible.
now i DON'T think this is the sole responsibility of the male part of our species. in fact, we girls are just as guilty for not being sensitive to the fact that guys might share our own anxiety or self-consciousness.
not to mention the added burden guys have of years of conditioning to keep that stuff under their belts (so to speak).
back to The Playboy. The Playboy is about Chester Brown's relationship to porn, from the age of 15 and onwards. it's short, it's pithy, and it's Completely and Utterly Honest. He revisits himself as a teenager, how he biked across town 'coz he was too embarrassed to buy a playboy where anyone might see him, how he got addicted to them, how he started preferring masturbating to real sex, and was subsequently forced to imagine playboy chickeys when he was in bed with his real girlfriends... if he was going to keep things, how shall we say, Perpendicular.
and, may i say, as a girl who's been known to be quite fond of Perpendicular... WHO KNEW. i mean read the above again. WHO KNEW?!? no one tells us, dear gentlemen, that somehow you've been forced into such a corner with your sexuality, and Definitely no one tells us that it might affect our very relationships with you all, years? months? hours? lifetimes? later.
it seems to me that guys have been forced to downplay their sexuality pretty much across the board, and it becomes this covert, pervasive and troubling secret.
as a result of this imposed modesty, may i say, many girls also end up not understanding how it all works themselves.
the popular conclusions seem to be:
a) that somehow male sexuality is evil and agressive and to be avoided at all costs, in favour of some eunuch librarian true-love charming prince (uh, not so much), or
b), go for the tiger, ladies, but if things don't go right in the sack it's probably your fault.
in fact, there are Many things that some of us girls (read: me) had to find out by proxy, and what a drag that was to our (my) delicate sense of self-esteem.
this idea that an excess of alcohol can be debilitating in the sack? pshaw. i was a 21 year old WRECK (that's right) before that was cleared up and catalogued in the "things not to worry about" category of getting laid.
that the solo porn experience can be preferable for obliterating the confusion and anxiety of another person's presence? didn't know that either. and let me tell you. the mystery was MISERY.
this stuff and more may be old (so to speak) hat to me now, but i'll Never forget the value of finding this stuff out, and what a relief it was to be, even just a little, off the proverbial hook.
so. thank you gay male (and progressive male) confidantes, thank you Dan Savage, and, as i've just discovered today, thank you Chester Brown.
NO thank you to whatever force out there (including us intimidating females?) that has kept guys storing this stuff in the bottoms of their drawers, under their bed, in the inaccessible areas of their own conjecture.
in conclusion, this is my announcement to the world, blessed humble blogger that i may be.
boys, there's MORE THAN ONE OF YOU not filling us in on the machinations of your unmentionables. and it's capable of making our sex lives and self esteem HELL.
girls, there's MORE THAN ONE OF YOU not getting the skinny (or somehow discouraging said skinny) from being discussed, and rendering both parties uncomfortable and anxiously worried about their own sexuality.
as i ponder all of this i can't even imagine how many questions about girls remain unanswered for guys, whether we be teenagers or twenty-somethings or thirty-somethings.
(chuckle) or maybe no one is confused and curious except for me, sitting here with Far too many books and too much solitary time on a sunday night to think about it all.
and, just to top things off, my downstairs neighbours have just started having sex. which, if you have ever seen either of my downstairs neighbours, is the Greatest mystery of all. (shiver).
although their timing is impeccable.