aaaaaaa

Cris Mazza is the author of more than 17 books, including Various Men Who Knew Us as Girls, Waterbaby, Trickle-Down Timeline, and Is It Sexual Harassment Yet? Her first novel, How to Leave a Country, won the PEN/Nelson Algren Award for book-length fiction. Mazza has co-edited three anthologies, including Men Undressed: Women Writers on the Male Sexual Experience. In addition to fiction, Mazza has authored a collection of personal essays, Indigenous: Growing Up Californian. Currently living 50 miles west of Chicago, she is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Her recent memoir, Something Wrong With Her, told in real time, is about Mazza’s experience with sexual dysfunction and her evolution in coming to understand it. Mazza recently reached out to Los Angeles writer Ashley Perez after Perez wrote an essay regarding sexual pain and bondage. The two women discovered they had a lot in common, sat down, and talked very candidly about what they thought they were supposed to feel in terms of sexuality, masturbation, sexual expectations in life and in literature, and the feeling deep down that something is wrong.

kirn_splash

Walter Kirn’s newest book, Blood Will Out: The True Story of Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, is a riveting, chilling, and sometimes funny real-life psychological thriller about Kirn’s fifteen-year friendship with a man whose life story eerily parallels Tom Ripley’s in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Kirn is a witty, sharp observer who will flay himself with the same X-Acto knife precision that he uses to flay his characters. I couldn’t stop reading Blood Will Out—it made me want to dig through my bookshelves, pluck out and reread everything Kirn has ever written.

First, in the late ‘70s, when I was about 7 years old, my mother presented me with a picture book called How Babies Are Made. One section of the book showed paper cut-outs of cocker spaniels  frolicking in a field of dandelions. Suddenly, one dog was on top of the other dog, and then both dogs looked traumatized. The final section of the book showed a white man in bed, lying on top of a white woman who had her eyes closed, and they both just looked like they were sleeping.

When Secretary Sebelius says that Plan B could pose health risks for teens, is she really thinking straight?  After all, Dr. Megan Evans, in RH Reality Check, writes, “Tylenol is over-the-counter and far more dangerous with far more potential for adverse outcomes. Oh, and pregnancy in a ten- to 11-year-olds also has far more adverse outcomes than a small, but effective dose of Plan B.”  Wise words.  In fact, according to the Guardian, for every 100,000 American women who give birth to live babies, 16.7 of them die.  And that’s not to mention the damage that post-natal depression can cause.

Evans’s grounded, intelligent point will doubtless be ignored by many.  Witness that since news of the Plan B decision broke, parents have been stating how brokenhearted they’d be if their own daughter didn’t ask their advice before taking Plan B.  This, they argue, supports Sebelius’s decision.  But the ruling isn’t just about parents who adore their kids.  It is also about young people who come from abusive families and are afraid to turn to their guardians for support.  It’s about those who live in the middle of nowhere and can’t drive themselves to the doctor.  It’s about those who have been date-raped and can barely think straight.

And it’s also about all of us, regardless of sex, gender and age, because when you control human sexuality, you control intimacy, life and the body itself.

I’d be surprised if that wasn’t a power trip.

Given these recent events, my political fantasy world has gone wild.  I mean, what if young people felt so afraid of pregnancy that they decided to stop screwing the opposite sex, but decided, instead, to all start having same-sex relationships.  “Don’t risk pregnancy,” they’d shout, “be gay!  There are fewer risks!”  I bet parents and politicians would be hitting the roof, showing their true homophobia, and Plan B would be in the bubblegum aisle sooner than you could say FDA.

Or what about if all the heterosexual under-seventeens who live in states where sex toys are illegal each ordered a vibrating rubber duck from Good Vibes, figuring this was safer than partnered sex without Plan B?  This could prompt the Vibrating Duck Revolution of 2012.  Fifteen year-olds throughout America would be sinking into their bubble baths, pledging their virginity to their rubber ducks.  And what would the police do?  Storm into these bathrooms and arrest these young rebels?  I’m not being entirely ironic when I say they might. I’m sure families, religious leaders and politicians would go nuts.  There’d be complaints about police pocketing ducks that weren’t theirs to pocket and there’d be anti-masturbation posters everywhere.  “We do not have evidence to prove that vibrating ducks are safe for under-seventeen’s,” the politicians would announce.  “Further testing is needed.”

See the mad place this is sending me to?

If Plan B is safer for an eleven year-old than Tylenol and they can also buy condoms in the bubblegum aisle, then the decision on Plan B is definitely a political one.

So.  What’s Plan C?

 

 

A Final Note:  This is the final installment of Hot Topic.   I have so enjoyed writing at TNB and receiving all your wonderful comments.  Thank you all so much for reading!  I will still see you all on the TNB site, as part of the community.  In the meantime, please do keep up with me.  I blog, most days, at www.lanafox.com.

Be safe, be proud, be you.

-LF

 

Shannon Cain’s The Necessity of Certain Behaviors was the winner of the Drue Heinz Literary Prize for 2011, showcasing a collection of short stories that speaks to us about love, need, and irreversible actions. What is necessary, what behaviors do we implore when seeking freedom, family or peace? When you are in love with a man and a woman, how do you decide between the two, amidst puppies and wives and a bed filled with the ghosts of your lovemaking? Would you be willing to deal drugs, to sell a large quantity of pot in order to keep your family intact, to chase that plastic package into a dark river, riddled with fear? A mother caught in a steam room masturbating her way into another world, another life, the one she wishes she had lived, cannot overshadow her own daughter’s questionable love for a teacher, a coach, an older man. Lost in the jungle, one woman finds that her sexuality knows no boundaries, instead captivated by the slick dark flesh of men and women alike, trying hard to leave behind the civilized world, in order to embrace her true self. A queer zoo, Bob Barker, and a AAA travel guide eager to get off the beaten path, round out this body of work, the stories in this slim bound volume heartbreaking, alluring, exotic, and lush.

You

By Zoe Brock

Movies

YOU are a woman.

You might not have been a woman before you started reading, but for now, you most certainly are. Have fun with it, you slut.

You are a woman.

“Chris Turner,” Candace admitted. “He was the most popular dude in school. He was a jock. All the girls wanted him. So, one night I got drunk and let him have it.”

“Just because he was popular?” Jennifer asked.

“Yeah. Of course. Why not? I fucked guys with a lot less than popularity and looks!”

“Oh, god.”

We went back to our food and our drinks. Images of Mandy’s naked body flashed before me.

“My first time was the worst,” Jennifer said, taking a sip of her martini. “All that romantic business went out the door as soon as it went in. God, I can still smell his cologne to this day. It was that peppery musky crap. How did we get on this topic anyhow?”

“The song,” I said. “The stroke me tune. I heard it on my way down here.”

The song I was referring to was Billy Squier’s “The Stroke”—a rocking tune that’s loaded with sexual imagery. It also served as the background music when I lost my virginity.

Stroke me, stroke me/Could be a winner boy you move quite well

Over the years I’ve found that stories of people losing their virginity came in two varieties. The difference usually depends on gender. For women it was usually a so-so encounter and for men—even if it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be (like in my case)—there was a sense of achievement. Or, at the very least, knowing that you finally did it.

“I crossed over,” a friend told me after he fell into bed with some stranger after a night full of wine coolers and cheap Mexican weed.

I’ve also heard stories of skies breaking, the sun shining sweet sex light on what was up until then an ugly dull life of household chores, high school, and sharing a bedroom with a sister that not only talked too much but farted like a man.

“I hated my life until I got laid,” one of my girlfriends told me. “I hated my parents and my sister. Especially, my sister. She couldn’t keep her mouth shut. And that bitch had rot ass! And she was totally popular, too. The cheerleader. You know that bitch I’m talking about? That bitch. If only people knew how much of a stinky twat she was. I hated her. I still do. Then I got laid! All of a sudden they were of no concern to me. My folks were suddenly invisible. When Kim talked all I saw was her stupid mouth moving. I did my chores in a daze. School was a breeze. My grades even improved. On the weekends me and Danny would hop in his dad’s car and screw. It was cool. He’s dead now. Hunting accident.”

My first time was with a girl named Mandy.

Mandy Quick.

We were in 7th grade.

I told Candace and Jennifer that it happened like a business transaction. It all happened after I accidentally bumped into Mandy at school. We looked at each other, liked what we saw, and made plans to meet at the park. At the time Dolphin shorts were popular. All the girls in the desert were squeezing their bodies into them. I remember looking at the way they hugged Mandy’s girl bits. Tight. Snug. A small mound slowly dipping down.

It was a wonderful sight.

I wanted her.

I wanted in.

But Mandy wasn’t a virgin. She lost her virginity two weeks before to some dude in high school. She was hooked and wanted some more. I was to provide her more. After a few sloppy kisses where she darted her komodo-dragon-like tongue into my mouth we decided to walk to her friend’s house for beer, pot, and a bed. I walked into a roomful of stoners. They were all high school kids wearing black rock band T-shirts. I took a couple of hits from a bong and cracked open a beer. Billy Squier was blasting through the speakers. The pot and beer hit me immediately. I was spinning like a top.

“Let’s go to the room, Reno,” she said.

I followed her down the hall, my stomach fluttering with the knowledge that I was going to get laid.

Put your left foot out, keep it all in place/Work your way right into my face/First you try to bed me you make my backbone slide

We made out some more and then Mandy pulled off her shorts revealing a full-grown pitch-black bush. This posed a small problem. See, by nature I’m not a hairy man. Just not in the follicle cards I guess. I can’t grow a full beard or a thick Pancho Villa moustache and have seen women that have hairier arms than me. So you could imagine how hairless I was in 7th grade. No need for man-scaping here. I don’t even understand that whole dude shaving shit and don’t care to.

So there’s Mandy with her giant muff and there I am with a dash of hair resembling some balding heads I’ve seen through the years. But I wanted to get laid so I mounted her and started moving my hips the way I figured it worked. The problem was that I didn’t know what it was to orgasm. It hadn’t happened by that time. No wet dreams yet. And I didn’t jack off like my friends did. Or like my cousin Johnnie who claimed to beat his dick on a daily basis.

“It’s great, Reno,” he told me once, his ugly scarred face smiling from ear to ear. “You need to try it.”

His face didn’t make it appetizing. Not at all. I don’t know why I didn’t jack off. I think it was because of Jesus. In those years I was still a Christian and was told that dude was always watching my every move and I didn’t want him to see me turning Japanese. I didn’t want to take the chance. It wouldn’t have looked good on my resume.

So I ended up banging poor Mandy for what seemed like three tragic hours. While I pumped away she provided me with a hickey the size of a Red Delicious apple. After we were done I went into the bathroom. That’s when I saw the hickey. My stomach dropped. It was sex-maroon and looked like someone slammed an end of a baseball bat in my neck. It was bad. I was fucked. Literally.

I walked home and went straight to the bathroom and covered the hickey with some of my little sister’s Flintstones Band-Aids. It was a bust. It was over. My mom called me into the kitchen.

“What’s on your neck? She asked, giving me the look that said: You pulled some shit and we’re going to get to the bottom of it now.

“Nothing.”

“Okay, well, you’re lying,” she said looking at the stain on my neck. “So we’ll make this easy. If you ever show up with that bullshit on your neck ever again you’re going to hate your life. I’ll make sure of that. You’re lucky your father is out of town. So go to your room and stay there. And whoever this dirty vampire is you tell her to suck on someone else’s damn neck. Understand? Do you? Good. Bye.”

“That story is hilarious,” Candace said laughing. “A giant 80’s muff! A Red Delicious apple!”

“When was the next time you got some?” Jennifer asked.

“Around two months later. My next door neighbor. Classic butterface. A face maybe a mother could love. Maybe. But her body was built for speed.”

“So you didn’t learn your lesson!”

“No, I did. I just told what’s-her-face no hickeys. I came that time. After that I had it bad.”

Don’t you take no chances, keep your eye on top/Do your fancy dances you can’t stop you just stroke me, stroke me

I live with a roommate, her three kids, and their two dogs. One pooch is a shy husky and the other is a squirrely black pit bull mix. Both of them are sweethearts. The kids are in their teens. Two dudes, one chick. Total count: Five human beings and two dogs. It’s a full-house. I’ve never lived with this many people. I maxed out at four people back when I lived at home. Being an extremely private person this has taken some getting used to. Bodies thumping down the hallway. Voices laughing and arguing. Doors opening and shutting.

I hole myself up in my room, open up a book, and dive in between the pages. Or I’ll flick on the TV and watch A&E, the History Channel, ESPN. Tune in the Travel Channel for a sarcastic dose of Anthony Bourdain; the Biography Channel to look into the mad life of Ted Kaczynski. Or I’ll attempt to write something, push out a poem; take on a snappy bout with some flash fiction. Take out my guitar and see if she wants to play with me.

I was watching The Darjeeling Limited when my phone rang. It was Kim my roommate.

“Don’t be mad at me,” she said, in a gentle voice.

“What is it?”

“I’m bringing home two puppies. They’re cute, Reno. Are you mad?”

“Why would I be mad?” I said, my mind seeing cluttered images and calculating the math. Five human beings and four dogs. Nine beasts total. “Hey, no problem.”

And it wasn’t a problem. The puppies weren’t mine. They were gifts for the two oldest kids. The dogs were their responsibility. They were the ones who had to deal with the ups and downs of puppy rearing. All I knew is those little fuckers wouldn’t be pissing and shitting in my room. This I knew. Around ten minutes later Kim pulled up. I heard the puppies running around the house. Immediately after, I heard the typical demands that comes with bringing puppies into your life. Through the walls I found out their names.

“Hey! No! Stop that! Charlie!”

“Ziggy! No! Come lay down, baby! Ziggy!”

Damn, I thought. Here we go.

Then I heard shuffling and sniffing at my door. It was the husky and the pit bull. Chance and Tazz. They wanted nothing to do with the puppies and wanted in. I opened the door and they took their respective spots with agitated looks on their faces.

“What happened, fellas? Yeah, I know. This is how it works, brothers. Out with the old and in with the new. Hear me out now. I’m giving you pearls.”

Chance is as soft as they come. All he wants is pets, gourmet meals, and to sleep on the biggest fluffiest bed in the house. He’s a husky, but could give a damn about snow, the outdoors, Siberia. He has no interest in such things. He likes watching TV and staring at the refrigerator. Tazz, on the other hand, is nuts. I love his energy. He huffs and puffs, chases squirrels and lizards, makes wild sounds when he yawns and is always looking to mix it up. There’s a goat that lives behind us and Tazz is all up in its business. When I let him out he bolts to the fence and gawks at it, his amber eyes ablaze with animal desire.

“You wanna poke that goat, huh?” I asked him when we were alone. “I see that. Well, don’t worry, bro, I ain’t saying shit. Your secrets are safe with me.”

He looked at me with yes and thank you all over his mug.

After a week into the puppies keeping their owners up all night and dropping turds and leaving puddles of piss in their rooms the honeymoon was all but over. Reality set in.

“Charlie! No! You can’t have that! Charlie!

“Oh, no, Ziggy! I just took you outside! Really?”

I told Kim that we might have to call the Dog Whisperer. Give that oddball (I actually think he’s pretty cool) a ring and have him do his magic. I told Kim our conversation would go something like this:

“Hi, my name is Cesar…”

“Yeah, I know who you are. See those two babies, Millan? Good. Fix them. Their owners can’t handle them. They bark, sniff, fart, play grabass. You’ve heard this story before. OK, so I’m gonna go to the bar and get my drink on if you know what I mean. So do your thing. There’s wine and frozen taquitos in the fridge. Help yourself. You have my cell number. Call me when they’re cured.”

Kim was rolling.

“You crazy ass.”

My father always brought animals home. Be it a neurotic cat, a blind dog, or a chicken that had no visible legs. One day he brought a chicken home. He named her Henny. I called her Linda No Legs. He found her on the side of the road in the middle of the desert. She was just sitting in the sand and watching the traffic pass by. My father saw her, threw a U-turn, and brought her home.

Linda No Legs was injured and couldn’t stand, her legs tucked into her belly. He would pick her up and place her wherever he saw fit. Sometimes she’d be in the living room relaxing in a milk crate. Other times when he felt she could use some fresh air he’d put her in the backyard. She was like a duffel bag. Our two dogs were in utter confusion. They didn’t know what the fuck to think looking at a chicken sitting in front of a bowl of feed and a bowl of water. They were mystified.

I don’t know how long the picking up and laying down of Linda No legs lasted, but one day we looked out in the backyard and there she was strolling around pecking at the dirt and stretching out her wings. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. It was a miracle! The dogs were in a complete state of shock. Not only was Linda No Legs walking, but her newfound mobility cranked up her confidence and she immediately took charge of the backyard. It was hers and she let it be known. She scratched the ground with gumption, walked in and out of the dogs’ house, jumped on top of it, flexed her wings, sprinted across the yard like Carl Lewis, and corralled the dogs to the corner of the yard. It was crazy.

“Jesus,” I told my mom. “I’ve seen it all now.”

My father also brought home a blind poodle which cottoned to my mom, relieving him of the responsibilities of dealing with a dog with a major handicap.

He did pawn off two animals on me because over time he found them to be his nemeses. One was a chihuahua named Buster. I called him Boohea. He was a good-looking dog with a barrel chest and big brown eyes. But Boohea had a problem: he was a sex addict and was always sucking himself off or fucking our labrador. He’d blow himself into a frenzy and his crayon would scream out of his body throbbing under the hot desert sun. It was foul. It disgusted the whole household. And when he wasn’t in the mood to give himself a hummer he’d nip at Jet’s hind legs until he would lay down. Boohea would then mount one of his hind legs and do his thing. This also disgusted the whole household. No matter how many times we yelled and pleaded with Boohea to stop sucking his dick or to quit banging Jet he wouldn’t.

He needed therapy.

He was sick.

And he was mine.

This went on for years.

Then there was a neurotic cat named Maxine. I called her Muga. Or Muga the Sooka. My father brought Muga home for my sister who was a little girl at the time. He got her from his sister who was a crazy pill-popping, beer drinking bitch that had three equally jacked up kids. They all lived under the same roof. Muga was screwed from day one. Anybody or anything living in the droopy frazzled shadow of my aunt was doomed to a life of substance abuse, paranoia, and full-blown depression. I can’t say Muga swallowed benzos or reds or licked booze on the quiet, but she had a thing for rubber dishwashing gloves. After the first taste she was hooked and was always pawing at the cupboards for another fix.

“Why does she eat my gloves?” my mom inquired, examining some gloves that had the fingers ripped off of them.

“She was born into a dysfunctional home, mom, and there’s not a damn thing we can do,” I said reflectively. “We just have to ride it out.”

But Muga soon became my cat when she started shitting in the living room. She was particularly fond of dropping a deuce behind my father’s beloved La-Z-Boy chair. I don’t know what got into her. We always kept her crapper clean. We never neglected her. She all of a sudden went through these spurts when laying down a few dumps around the house was the thing to do. It was like a hobby of sorts. At the time my father was working graveyard and I’d hear him get up (he always woke up pissed off), thud around the house sniffing deeply, trying to locate Muga’s latest steamer. He always announced his discoveries and ended his rants by calling out my name so I could get Muga before he ended her life right then and there.

“Shit! Son of a bitch! Fuckin’, Muga! Shitass cat! Reno! Reno! Come and get your damn cat before I kill her!”

She, too, needed therapy.

She, too, was sick.

And like Boohea she was also mine.

This also went on for years.

I hope that neither Charlie nor Ziggy have a thing for their own peckers or rubber dishwashing gloves. Or acquire any hang-up for that matter. I wish for them to grow up as normal as possible. There’s a touch of craziness rattling through this house and I hope they look beyond this and move into the future with ease. I also hope that none of them gets a wild hair up their ass and think they can nip at Tazz and mount one of his legs. He already told me that he won’t play that shit.

Wanking, as many of you may know, is Brit slang for masturbating – a verb that can also be used as an insult. In our teens, my friend would defend herself against the cruel boys by calling them wankers. “A bastard is tough and manly,” she’d explain, “but a wanker sounds weak.” She had a point. I once called an angry ex a wanker and almost got a sock in the eye.

Truth is, whether we’re wanking or tossing or beating the bishop, none of it sounds pretty. And the technical term is almost as bad. If I didn’t know better I’d assume masturbation was rather a boring activity, like unclogging a drain. How sad, considering the act itself can help us understand our sexual needs and even become more talented, imaginative lovers. Touching ourselves is nurturing – a form of self-love.

But as a term masturbation sucks. Like many long, depersonalized words it has its roots in Latin. Historically, this was the language of posh intellectuals, whereas your everyday Anglo Saxon (bless him) brought us tit, prick, arse etc. As an author of erotic fiction, I steer away from the technical term, favoring the more sensual touched herself. In a discussion, however, I tend to use solo-sex because I believe masturbation is indeed a type of sex; and maybe when we actually view it that way, the pride can’t help but spread.

Of course, the fact that terms like wanker and tosser double as insults speaks to how little our society respects solo-sex. When was the last time you heard someone walk into a bar and brag, “I had sex with myself last night and woah, was it hot!”? Which reminds me, when Woody Allen jokes that masturbation is “sex with someone you love,” the reason it’s funny is because loving ourselves sexually is so often seen as perverse. And yet notice how peaceful a climax can make us feel. Imagine a world where we all took care of our sexual selves – might there be less aggression? But that’s a topic for a later discussion.

Right. So here’s my 10 point, language-driven plan for encouraging folks to love themselves and promote self-pleasure:

1. Come up with sexier verbs for solo-sex. Like russing, perhaps. Heaven knows why that popped into my head: maybe I’m marrying the sibilance of pussy with the animal glory of rutting? “Last night, I was russing, and damn was it good.” That sort of thing. But better.

2. Make female self-touch sound as hot as possible – terms that suggest you have a vagina seem to be rare, which perhaps speaks to our society’s repression.  In Britain, we have jillying. I believe it comes from Jilly Cooper, a famous Brit writer of hot novels.  God love her and all that, but who wants to jilly? Holy heck.

3. Start counting solo-sex as a type of sex. Note: If we all did this, any of those social networking surveys that say, “People who use such-and-such-a-product get more action,” would be scoffed at, and rightly so.

4. Try dropping solo-sex into a conversation in a cool, thoughtful manner. e.g. “Yes, I own a pair of gorgeous leather handcuffs. But sometimes, dammit, I only need the one.”

5. Buy products from sex shops, such as vibrators, lube, body paint, and use them ourselves. I recently went shopping with a group of trusted friends, and it was great fun. There’s something sweet about your pal spotting a certain kind of vibrator and saying, quite thoughtfully, “This wouldn’t work for me, but it would be perfect for you.”

6. Support a great cause that articulates the importance of solo-sex, such as podcasts like In Bed, With Susie Bright or activism sites like Our Porn Ourselves.

7. Foster vivid fantasies in which solo-sex plays a titillating role. In Donna George Storey’s “The Big O” for instance, a woman learns to control her muscles through solo-sex with delicious results. You can find “The Big O” in Orgasmic: Erotica for Women, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. If porn is more your thing, check out Violet Blue who is THE expert on sex and the web.

8. If you’re single or have recently come out of a relationship, and someone asks whether you’re sleeping with anyone yet, reply, “Well yes, actually. I’m sleeping with myself and loving every moment.”

9. Question folks when they call us wankers. What exactly are they saying? Most of us are wankers. Aren’t they?

10. Refuse to be silenced about the benefits of solo-sex. For more information, including statistics, check out the recent National Survey of Sex and Behavior from Indiana University.

The photo on the Main Page & Archives Page is by Flickr photographer TheAlieness GiselaGiardino.

Dear Geoff,
I’m not sure why I thought it would work
there in my parent’s bedroom
the child lock released from the back
of the satellite tv box
my fever ablaze and coughing
hand crammed into the tight v between my thighs
too ashamed to actually touch my own skin
yet rubbing one out for the fifth time that morning.
I believed that if I could scrub
the hundreds of dirty hopes
out of my red raw crotch
they would be gone for good.
If I could simply compel my body to rise and fall
enough at the sight of those impossible role models
so ready to moan for my redemption
I would be healed.
The best part of staying home sick from school
was this false church.
Looking back, I can ask why
I might have wanted to be free of my own desires.
Looking back, I can see how
I took to the moan like a new secretary
eager to please and thorough.
I tell you this now
because the lies are half true,
because the body is half yours.

MY BETTER NATURE: So what drew you to discuss your teen age masturbation practice at such length?

ME:  Well, when you put it like that, I sound like a perv, but that is how I thought of myself at that age. I thought I was just this overly horny person and what I was doing was completely abnormal. No one ever explained what masturbation was or that is might be a healthy part of adolescent development. I always felt very dirty and shameful about it and I figure, I’m probably not the only one. So I write about it in the hopes that I can be a little less ashamed or at least find some other people like me, and then we can all be shamed together.


Where do you think this shame comes from? Isn’t sex ubiquitous?

Sex is, but its taboo to discuss it. Especially with young people. We’ve decided that sex is the purview of adults and to imply that young people try these things out for themselves give young people agency and action as adults, even if we don’t trust them to use that agency responsibly. Its all very fraught, but the culture of silence around it doesn’t help.


Were there things that helped you at that time? Other than sick days and Red Shoe Diaries?

Finding other writers, both of fiction and songwriters, who talked about their own experiences really helped. Its one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer. I also sought refuge amongst a group of guy friends all of whom talked about masturbation and stupid sex stuff WAY too much, as teenage boys are apt to do. I related to them, but cultivated a healthy air of misogyny in the process.


How did you get past that?

College. It took going to college and meeting other cool, smart women for me to believe they existed. Not that there weren’t smart women in my high school, there just wasn’t a whole lot of openness. I went to Berkeley for my undergrad, so open sexual exploration was the name of the game.


What’s the most valuable thing you learned there?

How to pee just about anywhere. It was very liberating. Also, biochemistry.


What attracts you to poetry?

I love the economy of it. It’s a whole world that you can carry around in your pocket, especially if you take the time to memorize a poem you particularly love. Its writing in concentrate form.


What themes or topics do you see recurring regularly in your work?

I was counting and I now have 5 or more poems about sex, porn or masturbation, so I suppose that’s a theme. I write a lot about death, not in the morose, gloom-cookie kind of way that romanticizes it, but rather I find myself writing about people who have died and to what extent they shaped their own end. I feel like I write about love with the same kind of approach, sort of this disbelieving “why me?” awe for the whole subject, grounding in perhaps an unhealthy degree pf pragmatism.


What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The pay. No, wait… the respect? No… Maybe its that its just an easy mode of expression to engage in any time and at any age. I can’t imagine being a dancer and knowing that at some point my body would no longer be able to move the way it once did, or being a musician and finding myself on a train or bus, longing to play my upright bass or piano and having no recourse. I think writing is also a pretty easy art form to share with others, especially in the digital age.


How do you think living in the digital age has affected your writing?

It’s a little hard to say, since it’s the only “age” in which I find myself developing as a writer, so I don’t have a lot to compare to.  I think the ease with which writing can be published and shared has certainly made it easier for folks like me to pursue publication without devoting an entire career to it. It’s easy to send out several submissions on your lunch break over email. I can’t imaging I’d manage the same volume of effort if I needed to print, stamp and address each one. I think that having an online community of writers is also pretty cool in that you aren’t as likely to get locked into whatever artistic sensibility pervades your local scene. You can get feedback from folks in Chicago, Seattle and LA with the same or greater ease than you can by attending a workshop in person.


Have there been any negative affects?

The Facebook and Twitter culture of posting on every banality of you existence I find incredibly lame and self indulgent.  Subsequently, I get hyper-conscious that I’m duplicating that behavior in my own writing. That’s certainly a hang-up that keeps me from chasing after some ideas as a writer that might be really worthwhile. But I just have this shitty little voice in the back of my head that says, “No one cares about your little life.”


How do you deal with that?

Xanax and booze. But now that I’m pregnant, I’m substituting with misanthropy and gnashing of teeth.



“The human imagination is inexhaustible, and why should we expect the creative vision that invented astronaut ice cream and God to settle for standard penis/vagina fare? Once you have the basics down, you’ll find there’s a whole world of erotic variations for you to explore–all it takes is an open mind and a junior-high-school (or equivalent) education.

Take fetishes, for example–sexuality’s big tent. Show a man with a shoe fetish a woman in high heels, and he will drop to his knees to kiss the patent leather. Remove the shoe, and a foot fetishist will jump in to worship every little piggy on that most intoxicating of extremities. Remove the foot and an acrotomophile stands ready to play tribute to that heavenly absence, the amputation. In fact, there isn’t a body part, inanimate object, or idea that someone hasn’t found a way to eroticize–one person’s excuse to park in the handicapped spot is another person’s masturbatory temple.”–Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk by the Association for the Betterment of Sex (Scott Jacobson, Todd Levin, Jason Roeder, Mike Sacks and Ted Travelstead), p.126

After months of delays, interruptions and mis-schedulings, I was finally about to drop off my second sample at the urologist’s.  This was the big one – the verdict.  The “go/no-go” on my sterility.  And, praise Jesus, it was a “go”. Or “no-go”, depending on the goal.  Regardless, it was confirmed: the baby factory was now defunct.
 
That, of course, is the short version.  The Cliff Notes.  Like saying, “World War Two was a bunch of guys fighting.  The Italians lost interest, the French lost face, the Brits lost their empire, the Germans and Japanese lost the war and the Americans and Russians lost their minds.”  While factually – mostly – correct, it doesn’t really convey the epic struggle that resulted in the ultimate victory.  There is more to the tale.
 
I’ll cut to the chase, in case you’re in a hurry and/or afraid I’ll slip in some surgical details: kids are nature’s own anti-orgasm devices. Anything else you may read below is for entertainment purposes only.  At my expense, of course.
 
At the time of this adventure, my wife was laid up with a broken foot.  The soft cast had that sort of sexy, knee-high Goth thing going… kinda… if you squinted… and were already really horny… but you’d be surprised how often the outside edge of your sex partner’s foot bumps into things in just about any position.  And while some screaming and dirty-talk can be really hot during sex, shrieks of agony incorporating various conjugations of profanities can be a little bit of a mood killer for all parties involved.  I decided to go this one alone. 
 
Sounds easy, right?  I mean, I’m a guy, right?  And it’s not like this is my first rodeo.  And – hey! – my netbook arrived the very weekend prior so I could do some private surfing for – ahem – inspiration.
 
I decided to be discrete as ever and wait until my wife was in the shower and my kids were safely engrossed in… well, whatever the hell kids do when left to their own devices in a room full of toys and crafts.

“Guys,” I called out, “Daddy has to go, um, potty for a little while.  Do you need anything before I go inside?”
 
“No, Dad,” from my daughter.
 
“Gabababum,” from my son.  It’s okay – he was barely over a year old at the time.  He’s a bit more eloquent now.
 
So I was ready.  Let’s do this thing.  Into the bathroom the netbook and I went, off to find some – let’s call a spade a spade here – raunchy, hardcore porn. 
 
Failure number one: I am not a porn connoisseur and, while it’s easy to Google porn-related terms, not all sites are created equal.  Or are free.  It took a little while but I eventually did come across a particularly diverse site with enough variety that, if I couldn’t find something suited to my tastes, I had far bigger issues than sterility.
 
Failure number two: technology.  Fucking technology.  I had configured this new netbook for maximum battery life – which meant that both browsing time and video resolution suffer.  Especially when streaming movies.  Especially large movies.  After a few selections that led more to drumming fingers than stroking hands, I tried to only peruse the less-than-three-minute selections.  Equally terrible.  It was like watching someone make a flip book of stills cut from a Penthouse magazine.
 
Of course, this soon became irrelevant.  Failure number three was on its way.  To wit, children.
 
“Dad!” My daughter, right outside the bathroom door. “He keeps taking my dinosaurs!”
 
“Sweetie, you have forty different dinosaurs. Let him have one.”
 
“I diiiiiid,” she whined back, “but he keeps taking whatever one IIIII have!”
 
Sigh. “That’s because you’re his big sister so he wants to be just like you. Look – give him one, distract him, then play with something else.”
 
“I don’t want to play – “
 
“I’M IN THE FREAKING BATHROOM, sweetie. Give me, like, ten minutes, okay?!?”  Chafing had become the least of my concerns.
 
Sulking two-step, twelve seconds of silence, a mumbled, “Okay.”
 
Alright, where was I beside half-limp?  Oh.  Right.  Strobe-light sex. 
 
“Daddy?” Again, right outside.
 
Jesus.  “What?!?”
 
Pause.  “Please don’t be mad at me.”
 
Oh, fuck me.
 
“Sweetie,” doing my best to not sound like I was gritting my teeth, “It’s okay.  I’m not mad.  I’m just busy.  Okay?  I’ll be right out.  But I’m not mad.  Okay?  I promise.  Now go inside.”
 
I was hoping to hear her stomping away but instead I heard the zombie shuffle of tinier feet heading towards the door. 
 
“Gah?”
 
Oh, please, no.
 
“Gah!” a tiny fist pounded on the door and my daughter shouted his name.
 
“No!” She defended. “Leave Daddy alone!  He’s busy.  Right, Dad?”
 
“Yes,” I mumbled, hoping they didn’t actually ask what I was doing that was taking so long.  No big loss, though – I don’t think I’d gotten past first base with myself.  Yay. 
 
“Gah!  Gah!” By now, my son sounded quite happy for having invented such a fun game with Daddy.  Fun enough, of course, for my daughter to start giggling.  And smacking on the door herself.
 
I shouted her name and she replied with, “It wasn’t me, it was – ” and she blamed her brother.  While giggling.
 
“No, it was NOT – ” And he then he made a liar out of me by smacking the door gleefully, shrieking, “Gah!  Gah!  Gah!  Gah!”
 
Out of the shower and alarmed by the racket, my wife then joined in from upstairs, “Honey?  Is everything alright?”
 
I cracked open the bathroom door and bellowed, “YES, SWEETIE!  JUST PEACHY!  I’M TRYING TO ‘GET A SAMPLE’!”
 
Snickers from the stairwell.  Yeah.  Ha fucking ha, gimpy.  Did I laugh when you demanded that epidural?  By now, my son had wedged his fourteen month old fingers into the door crack while my daughter tried to shove her face through the same space.  And then… the dreaded questions:  “Why do you have the computer in there?  What are those people doing?”
 
I will remember that moment.  There will be vengeance and much cock-blockage when they reach puberty.  But, just then, my defenses were limited and I settled for snapping, “GO INSIDE AND TAKE YOUR BROTHER! NOW!!”
 
This, of course, resulted in my daughter weeping, “Mm. Mmmm…. Mmmwwwaaaahhh!!!!  Please don’t yell at mmeeeeee!!!” 
 
As Thomas Jefferson wrote, reproductive freedom is never free and the tree of sexual liberty must from time to time be watered with the tears of nosy children who can’t give their dad just a few goddamned minutes of peace and privacy.  Or something like that.  Surrounded, beleaguered and cut off from resupply, my only choice was to counterattack.  I shoved their tiny, tear-and-booger-painted fingers back out the door and closed it.  And locked it.  And braced one foot against it.
 
I suppose it speaks to my inner horn-doggedness that I could even maintain a modicum (if you’ll pardon the term) of focus through this barrage of buzzkill but c’est moi.  I killed the browser session, eschewing technology for old-fashioned, low-tech “happy thoughts”, begrudgingly got the goddamned sample and stormed out of the bathroom.
 
Failure number four: I now had a sample cup with no discrete method of transporting it.  Crap.  It was too big (the jar, not the sample – stress is counterproductive to, well, production) to stick in my pocket so, obviously, I needed a simple paper bag. 
 
I had no paper bags.  I had plastic ones that were all nearly translucent and were actually too big to be discrete.  I finally found a fairly smallish, solid white one.  And, of course, it had “Wal-Mart” emblazoned on the side.
 
So… there I stood. Frustrated, mortified, avoiding the gaze of my sniffling children, with my jizz jar in a freaking Wal-Mart bag.  I kept thinking of phrases like “discount ejaculation” and “cheap fuck”.  The really warped part of my brain thought it would be amusing to see if I was asked for a receipt if I approached the customer service desk but I really wasn’t in much of a mood for such frivolity.  Beside, any misuse of the jar might result in my having to do this again.
 
I left for the interminably slow drive to the doctor’s office and recounted the tale while Nurse Helga searched for signs of life under the microscope.  Finally, the verdict. 
 
Clear. 
 
No survivors.  No more kids.  No more deferred intimacy.  No more condoms.  No more gut-wrenching “I thought you were supposed to buy them!” moments.  And, most importantly, no more “gathering samples”.   Well… not alone, anyway.  Or into a jar.  And definitely not if the kids are awake.


I am not Keith Richards. This undeniably true fact annoys me considerably.

What’s more, I am not in any way handsome or musically talented. This means that I am not, never have been and never will be a rock god. All I ever wanted to do is lounge around in villas in the south of France drinking wine, soaking up the sun and recording a bit of a classic rock album when I get bored of just being cool.

I imagine I’m not alone. Everyone wants to be something/somewhere different. People from London dream of New York and vice versa, people with straight hair wish it was curly and curly haired folk long only for straightness. I’m lucky; I have the worst of both worlds.

I am not cool; in trying to be cool I only become less cool. It’s 2010, and flared jeans are no longer cool. So now I’m just the quite short weirdo in flares with bad hair and the hallmark of British dentistry: a mouth that appears to have been designed by MC Escher and constructed from broken chalk and the nightmares of small children.

I am not cool, and this is why the only time I don’t sleep alone is when I fall asleep reading. It’s tragic, it really is. If only girls really liked quite short skinny weird looking guys in flares— especially ones with bad teeth and a long, wild bouquet of pubes for a hairstyle. If only there were a guy like me in the media to relate too… but TV is for cool people, and if you’re not cool then you at least have the decency to be good looking.

But I don’t begrudge the pretty people on television and the warm comfort they provide night after lonely night. Without pretty people on television masturbation is even more futile and drepressing than it is already…

I wrote a novel last year, and the second chapter I wrote was something of a cross between autobiography and prediction for the future:

”Brad Hannigan sat slumped back on the twenty five year old wingback chair in his claustrophobic grey cubicle. His mind drifted from thought to thought, never really focusing on one image long enough to process it and engage with it.

Most of the images in Brad’s mind were of topless young women he used to look at on computer screens when he was a student of English Literature at Pearford College. They were images burned onto his mind long ago, repetitively pleasuring himself to the same dirty Latina maids, first time anal virgins and nubile co-eds. Brad thought he was very clever; by only ever searching for ‘Latin’ ‘co-ed’ and ‘non-alcoholic cocktails’ anyone who happened to glance his search history would think he was a simply curious about ancient languages and healthy alternatives to mojitos.

It is said that pornography is the hardest addiction to give up due to it’s visual nature; you will eventually forget how good beer tastes, how sweet cigarettes once were, but once you’ve seen a poor German hitchhiker ‘stuffed in every hole’ because she didn’t have money for gas then you’ll see her poor, red sweaty face and hear her flesh muffled screaming forever…”

In the story Brad Hannigan is a journalist in the near future, as print journalism is dying out. His existence is pretty futile. He is totally uncool.

That’s me: uncool. And what’s worse is now I have to scrap the second paragraph because someone invented InPrivate browsing. The advert says it’s so you can buy secret gifts online, but I doubt that anyone ever uses it for that purpose and instead uses it either for hacking into partners e-mails/social network accounts or, more likely, wanking with wild abandon with no worry of the fact seeping into the hard drive forever the effluence of a wet dream seeping through the sheets and into mattress.

‘You’re funny though’ people say. Sometimes— usually quantifying this statement with ‘sometimes’ or ‘quite.’

This is true. One of the proudest moments of my life is the time my scriptwriting tutor told me he thought I had talent for comedy. Normally this would be quite pleasant, but this guy was in The Life of Brian, worked with Monty Python on other occasions and also worked with Douglas Adams. That… that was pretty cool.

And that’s all I’ve got really— the brief moments when being funny equates to coolness. It’s rare, but it happens.

But I don’t want that. I want to be in my villa abusing heroin, groupies and vintage guitars. If classic rock and television has taught me anything it’s that girls like guys with bad attitudes, awesome boots and excessively large belt buckles. Also: alcohol abuse. Yeah, alcohol is cool.

Except when I drink too much I am not cool. Except one time when we had to go to a fancy dress totally in character. I went as Keith Richards, stole two bottles of wine, farted loudly in front of everyone and fell asleep on the stairs when I got home.

That was kind of borderline— it’s both cool and uncool. On the one hand someone said I was an impressive method actor, on the other a girl in a wheelchair recoiled in horror when I opened my gruesomely-toothed mouth to speak.

Mostly though ‘rock and roll drinking’ ends with me asleep in the hallway, outside my bedroom door or on my bedroom floor; the girl in the next room thought I died once because she heard me stumble up the stairs, open the door and then, after a brief pause, a loud thud as a body hit the floor. She stopped worrying once I started to snore.

I want desperately to be cool. I want to be able to swagger around like a rock star and snort cocaine off silver platters and whatever else elegantly wasted rockers do besides making awesome music. I want girls to be impressed by my existence.

I made a film recently, for part of my university course. I left it until the very last minute. Even then I still found time to go to London and a birthday party where I ‘drank like a rock star.’ I made it with a lot of help from my friend Sam in one night. It was then edited the next day whilst watching National Treasure 2.

I had to show the film on a large screen to the rest of my class. It went down incredibly well— lots of laughs and an amazing round of applause. A lot of people came to talk to me afterwards. People were quoting from a film I’d made at five o’clock in the morning two days before.

People were impressed— girls were impressed.

And really, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? I mean Keith and me. And Jesus, look at his teeth back in the day… Keith was never trying to be cool (this is the only instance where trying already means you’re failing) he was just using all the talents at his disposal to get some satisfaction.*

I’ve been going about it all wrong the whole time. Sure, the villa in France and sunshine and shagging supermodels/actresses/both is way more fun than sitting in a dark room writing pages of shit like this in the vague hope that eventually you’ll strike comedy gold, but it amounts to the same thing in the end.

 We’re alike me and Keith, we just want some girls.**







*I know, I’m better than this.

**So, so much better than this…

Some of you may have become familiar with Storm Large when she was a contestant (and finalist) for lead singer on 2006’s Rockstar Supernova, which, according to Wikipedia, was “a reality television-formed supergroup consisting of drummer Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe), bassist Jason Newsted (Voivod and ex-Metallica), and guitarist Gilby Clarke (ex-Guns N’ Roses).” As many of you know, Storm has continued to build a name for herself as an independent musician, stage performer, and, soon, as a novelist. Storm’s 2009 one-woman show, Crazy Enough, which featured the song “8 Miles Wide,” was a smash hit, with all shows sold out.

On April 30, 2010, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Storm Large and TNB contributor Quenby Moone at a local taco joint here in Portland. Storm, who showed up in a pair of jeans and a well-worn white hoodie, sans makeup, was gorgeous, gregarious, generous of spirit, foul mouthed like a long-haul trucker, well-spoken, and hilarious. Storm gave me over an hour of her time, answering any question I asked with tremendous honesty peppered with frequent F-bombs. We discussed her music, sex, her recovery from a heroin addiction, growing up with a mentally ill mom, her book, the future of the publishing industry, sexism in the music industry, boob jobs, an amazingly simple recipe for pot candy, and so much more.