Masturbation is the first refuge of the hack. If your life isn’t sexually adventurous enough, throw your readers a knuckleball with a description of your character, or yourself, making the scene with a magazine. It’s not the last sexual taboo, but it remains a personal and private one that retains the ability to shock, or, more often, annoy. A jerk-off scene marks a moment of vulnerability, perversion, selfishness, loneliness, or boredom. Done poorly, it’s a cheap plot device; done well, it’s still just another guy marking time with his flesh. That said, you’re not going to get your onanism fix here. Just letting you know in case any of you accuse me of building things up to an unbearable degree, then stopping before reaching the climax.
Why, this blog just writes itself, doesn’t it?
My wife and I have tried to get (her) pregnant for a year now. Before we had our son Nate we spent two years trying before she saw her OB-GYN. A small chemical adjustment was made. This led to two instances of insemination. The first ended in a miscarriage within the first trimester, the second resulted in our son Nate. We decided to give it another whirl a while back, hoping to complete the set with a girl, though I’d appreciate another lad around the house to help me open jars.
No matter how much we tried, however, no zygote. The solution seemed obvious (to me) since we’d had this problem before, but Mike’s doc wanted us to try, try again before she issued any scrips. Finally, after a year, she agreed to prescribe what Mike took before (no, it’s not a fertility drug—we have no desire to be octo-parents), but she also wanted me to have a semen analysis performed. That meant a trip to to fertility clinic. Which meant I’d have to go to a room to be alone with my thoughts. And penis.
In regards to my virility, I’m not defensive. The evidence speaks, runs, and giggles for itself, in any event. Nearing my mid-40s, everything is still working, thank you, and without the aid of little blue pills. Even so, getting my juice checked seemed odd. But I can’t say I wasn’t intrigued. That’s intrigued, not aroused.
I set up the appointment after a round of calls to the clinic and my provider to ensure my session would be covered. The fertility clinic was only a mile or so from the office, and I happily would have walked the distance except the heat had reached skin-scraping degrees. I hailed a cab—as it turned out I hailed the only cab without air conditioning. I know heat puts some folks in the mood for love, but not me. I baked as I pondered what-all was about to happen.
I had a pretty good idea. I’ve seen all the sitcoms, and I knew all the hilarious possibilities inherent in a fertility clinic visit. Not being easily embarrassed I felt very matter-of-fact about it all. Raised Catholic I’m supposed to feel instantaneous shame about masturbation, but I don’t. Without getting into how often or how many gallons or what have you, I don’t recall ever feeling bad about beating the bishop. At my most religious I couldn’t see the sin. Even as a sin of intention, it was purely theoretical. Bible nerds will quote Matthew 5:27-30 as evidence of Christ’s edict against whacking off.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
I’ve always been a southpaw.
That chapter and verse always sounded a little nuts and vicious to me; something added by an aesthetic church father who lived naked in the desert, eating locusts and mortifying his wicked, wicked flesh. Despite the cliche of Catholic masturbation terror, I don’t remember it coming up in class or mass or even the big sex talk for the boys and girls (separate rooms, of course) delivered by a cherubic priest. The talk consisted of Fr. So-and-So asking us, “So, does everybody know how sex works?” to which Steve S., our resident 12-year-old man of the world, said haltingly,
“Uh… the man puts his penis… in the woman’s… vagina?” (I’d learned this on a Boy Scout camping trip a year before, incidentally.)
“Good talk!” said Fr. Tony, clapping his hands together. “Okay, let’s move on.”
I prefer to remember it this way, but I swear Fr. Tony asked that question, and it was Steve who delivered the forbidden fruit.
Doing a little Internet research beforehand, I was not surprised that my “partner” would be a plastic cup rather than a Real Doll or Nurse Nancy, Extraction Specialist. What I found comical were the alternatives to pulling one off for men whose fragile egos or religious beliefs wouldn’t allow them to take advantage of themselves. My favorite was the “collector condom,” which works exactly the way you’d think. Since it prevents issue into your wife-vessel, however I can’t imagine how it clears the diktats of the Catholic Church. How does a good Catholic boy provide a sample then? Taping the cup to his willy and praying for a random encounter with Kate Beckinsale and a bombpop?
Fortunately, as I said, I had no such scruples. Also, I am a perpetual lech. As the cab drove down Michigan Avenue I couldn’t help feeling more attuned to the wimmens on Michigan Avenue. Body and mind became quite goal-oriented.
The clinic, to my delight, is housed in the old Montgomery Ward catalog building. I used to work at Wards, albeit in the merchandise building on the southwest corner of Chicago and Larrabee. I worked at Wards in 1990 for about a year before I was axed. I came back as a freelancer months later, and was let go after another year. It was a bad place to work. Excellent if you were publishing a zine, fronting a band, promoting your artwork, or doing similar projects that required access to photocopiers, computers, phones, and easily fooled bosses; bad if you wanted any sort of stability, or the feeling that you weren’t wasting your time. I crowed when they went under. Now I returned the conquering hero.
My appointment didn’t come up in the computer at first, which led me to fear they might mistake me for a fertility clinic fetishist or, perhaps, a guy too cheap to pay for his own porn. But soon everything was cleared up, and after I filled out a stack of paperwork, I was led to a room marked, unsurprisingly, “PRIVATE.”
“When you’re done, just seal the container and bring it over to the lab over there,” said the nurse, gesturing to a room filled with technology. I was told not to use lubricants, since they killed sperm dead. No problem, I didn’t have any on me, which made me wonder how many men out there are toting around vials of lanolin or KY jelly for such occasions. Before I closed the door, I noted a big, creepy photo mural of babies on the wall opposite the PRIVATE door, letting me know what I was striving for, I guess. Think motile thoughts, Mr. Dan Kelly.
The room was small, one corner occupied by a large and comfy recliner that, if it possessed consciousness, would curse the God that made it. A small table offered tissues and several pads of examination table paper, the use of which I comprehended immediately.
Against one wall stood the standard cabinet every doctor’s office has to store stethoscopes, swabs, gauze, syringes, thermometers, and more. Most of the drawers were empty or locked. A TV set hanging from the ceiling told me that pornographic films were present, and after opening a few cabinets I found a stack of unmarked VHS tapes—save one, American Booty. While porn and VHS go together like peanut butter and jelly—at least in my mind (my first porn film was Candy Stripers, starring “Montana” and presented through glorious VHS technology)—I was a little surprised the clinic hadn’t caught up with DVDs. I understood why they wouldn’t provide a laptop with a wifi connection, though I’d be very curious to see that Internet history. I wondered how many guys who passed through that room bothered to set up a flick. The thought of kicking back in the comfy chair to watch American Booty, pants around my ankles, while a lab geek toiled only yards away seemed exceedingly undignified.
A magazine rack hung from the far wall, containing six titles. Before I went to the clinic I figured the mags would be fairly vanilla; young plastic lovelies from the pages of Playboy. I was close. Playboy publications included Playboy’s Blondes, Brunette, & Redheads and Playboy’s Vixens, but that was it for Hef’s Empire. Voluptuous and Finally Legal (in case you need more reassurance than Barely Legal can give you, I suppose) were two alternatives to Playboy’s PhotoShopped nymphs.
Before I went to the clinic I posed this question on Twitter: Who buys the magazines? Let me follow that with another question: what strictures do they operate under when they purchase the mags? The lack of Playboys makes perfect sense because Playboy really isn’t a porn mag. It’s a periodical with pictures of naked women sandwiched between interviews, feature articles, and product reviews touting a freewheeling douche lifestyle. As Nick the bartender said in the “Mirror, Mirror” universe of It’s a Wonderful Life, “…we serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast…” Likewise, while doing one’s business, one doesn’t wish to be distracted by a John Mayer profile. Curiously, the Playboy mags looked as if they’d been put through the heaviest workout. Hm.
What made me suspect that a single individual was in charge of purchasing the magazines (none of them more than three years old) was the consistency of certain titles:
I sense a trend.
Perhaps it was an embarrassed nurse, or a rushed doctor passing by a newsstand on her way to the clinic, who pointed at the farthest part of the booth and said, “Uh, gimme those. Keep the change.” before grabbing the plain brown paper bag and scampering off. But the possibility of a janitor or similar workaday stiff being called up to the front desk appeared before my eyes and ears.
“Hey, Bill, come here for a minute. Nah, don’t worry about mopping up the PRIVATE room. I need you to do something for the clinic.”
“Sure thing. What can I do?”
“Well, take this $20 from petty cash, and muzzr mumphmumph murmuffitynuff.”
“Take the twenty and… Go somewhere to…” the doctor/nurse/whomever makes oblique gestures. “Pick up some… purnuffgrivee…”
“Sorry, it must be my ears. I operate the floor waxer all day. What? Pick up what?”
“Pornuffgrizee…. You know,” more meaningless gestures. “Prunoffgrappy.”
“Yes! Yes!” the doctor/nurse touches his/her nose and points at Bill. “You know, the kind men like… to read.”
“Okay,” Bill pauses. “Like Playboy? Hustler? Penthouse? Genesis? Oui?”
“Too literary. Maybe a little sexier than that. More… pornier, you know?”
“Barely Legal? Juggs? Over50? Leg Show?”
“Well, if you suppose that would…”
“Buttman? Blacktail? Big Black Butts?”
“Footsuckers? Snakestuffers? Anal Pear Quarterly? Grannybugger? Screamy Preemies?”
“Jesus Christ, Bill. You’re fired.”
What surprised me was the presence of two fine art prints tacked up on the walls: Henri Matisse’s Bathers with a Turtle and Diego Rivera’s Nude with Calla Lilies. Undeniably erotic, yes, but it seemed unlikely that anyone who passed through the PRIVATE room used them for inspiration (Mike suggested they might be there for the occasional snooty liberal arts professor). They were the homiest touch to the whole experience—whose home I cannot say.
So, attending to the business at hand.
I’m not providing a detailed account. If you’re a guy you know the basic moves, and if you’re a woman you’ve likely seen the process with your own eyes—hopefully by choice. Still, I suppose I can share little bits and pieces. I leave it to history to judge me.
So… I layered the chair with the exam paper and sat down—and no it didn’t freak me out that many hairy-bottomed men before me worshiped Onan in that very spot. I’ve used public toilets and my fear of cooties and gay germs got left back in high school. I sat back. Way back. Way, way back. The comfy chair became too comfy, and figuring out the logistics of holding cup, mag, and candle seemed daunting. The threat of spillage seemed likely. Getting up and discarding the paper, I chose to petite mort standing up rather than live lying down.
I looked at every mag beforehand—because I owe it to you as a reporter. I’m curious as to how much thought my predecessors put into choosing a partner. The covers of the Playboy ones, as I said, were well-worn, which seemed odd because I couldn’t comprehend what kind of wear and tear they’d experience in there. The room wasn’t a truck stop john or a teenage boy’s closet, so how to explain the faded pallor of the covers? The fetish stuff (i.e., the leg, breasts, and bogus Lolita periodicals) looked newer, leading me to wonder if the average dude was too cowed to break away from the Playboy-ordered strictures of big hair, siliconed hooters, depilated crotches, and pore-free skin. Lacking multiculturalism, the models were mostly white, followed by Asians, and one black woman. Naked men were rare. The only penises present being serviced by the women, their possessor’s heads clipped off by the magazine’s edge. I wasn’t looking for a copy of Honcho or Inches, but what were my gay brothers in arms supposed to do with these?
I proceeded. Yes, dammit, I proceeded.
A mood-killer occurred to me as I pondered whether or not I was looking at a junkie Ukrainian slave, fresh off the loading dock and posed and made up so the bruises didn’t show. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
I supposed I could admire the Bette Page exhibitionist in Leg Show, who appeared happy as hell to remove her period snaps and stays for the crowds. I didn’t. Cute though she was the whole retro/burlesque/stag magazine is goofy to me. In fact, have you ever seen vintage porn? It’s not pretty. I don’t think most of the models ever heard of a sit-up back then. You also run the risk of seeing your mom. Not my mom. YOUR mom.
Concentrate, Dan, concentrate.
I figured I wasn’t making Gloria Steinem or Andrea Dworkin happy then. I promise you I wasn’t imagining making them happy. Gradually I got caught up.
What, you want details? Fine.
I used the Bogomolov technique, a regimen of short, sharp, fretting and bottle-necking astriction to stimulate my oscillating hyoid. Giggling madly I nervously perambulated the philtrum, inciting a shuddering aftershock ecstasy that rippled through my dangling click clacks. So close to fulfillment, I enveloped the totemic contrivance, gave with a thrust, and performed the 32 fouettés en tournant in a celebratory panic of orgiastic palpitations and slathering miasmas of mucilage. Moistly prepared, I praised Baphomet and all his incubi and assiduously tortured the paradise bologna, smack-dabbing it into a flatworm of decadent obeisance. So close, so close… Manifestations of starry-eyed goon-swatting cherubim and flickering ocular migraine fleshbats filled my vision. At once, with a primal scream, the hideous music of the spheres soared through my skull.
I bellowed, blowing holes into the drop ceiling’s acoustical tile with Howitzer cannon blasts of vanilla-basted banana blancmange. In the throes of a soul-condemning thrumgasm, I shouted YOUR NAME HERE. That’s right, YOUR NAME HERE. You were a pony.
Then I woke up.
The results? It was determined that I have semen, and in the right amount. However, some of the boys were a little misshapen, and my white blood cell levels were too high (which tends to misshape the sperm). This turns up in about 10 to 15 percent of all men, and is sometimes the reason there’s no conception. Not to worry, I was told. Keep trying, but return in a month and a half to see if anything changes.
I’ll be ready.
I’ve had practice.