Midwest garage stories

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David Kennerly, in this guest blog, vividly recalls childhood freedoms we have lost. As Heretic TOC was unfortunately unable to use the piece at the time first proposed, it was offered by mutual agreement for first publication at the excellent website You Are Your Story. Now it is reproduced here with the approval of webmaster Jay Edson, who has posted here as “Jedson”.

It’s very strange for me to hear today’s parents, and other oddly obsessive adults, nattering on about sexual “acting out” in children, convinced that an external, malign, influence must be responsible. They insist, without any evidence to support their view, that children must necessarily receive some form of social contamination necessary to infect them with an urge to play with each others genitals whether from pornography or possibly the suspicious bachelor down the street.

In their view, kids simply do not possess, on their own, the wherewithal to discover sexuality independently of some corrupt, exogenous and – invariably – adult male force.

I would like to ask them: Have you NO memories of your own childhood? Is it that you NEVER fooled around as a kid? How could you NOT have explored your, and your friends’, bodies?

If one is to believe them (and it’s hard for me to do so) then theirs was a radically different childhood from my own.

The following is a brief excerpt from my own exploratory childhood and my reflections upon it, today. And yes, it is absolutely true.

I performed fellatio, for the first time, on another boy when we were both seven years old one afternoon in my family’s garage, having never heard of it, nor seen it demonstrated, before.

It just seemed like the right thing to do (nearly fifty years ago). And, so it was.

It had been my idea, and Jonathan was game.

At first, my technique left much to be desired and consisted largely of simply “holding” my friend’s penis in my mouth, for a bit. I was, after all, starting from scratch. Like playing “chopsticks” on the piano during ones first lesson.

Soon, however, I would learn of the advantages to be conferred to us both if liberal, and vigorous, application of my tongue were employed.

We suffered a brief impasse when Jonathan suddenly stated, out of the blue, that what he really wanted to do was to “pee” in my mouth.

I quickly removed it from my mouth and, looking up at him, told him emphatically “No!”

That was a deal-breaker for me. At least, in that first encounter.

We did eventually come to an agreement which was mutually satisfying and would, in most cases, save me from the unwelcome taste of urine.

Later, I became aware of other boys also performing oral sex on one another (“what a coincidence!”, I had thought) their having arrived at the practice quite independently of my own brilliant inventiveness.

Most memorably, one such occurrence had been said to have occurred on a neighbor’s front lawn in the middle of the afternoon!

I hadn’t witnessed this with my own eyes but, I knew the boys said to have given this performance and, knowing them to be “wild” – by anyone’s standards – found the account completely credible.

That they would have given the neighborhood such a public performance I thought dangerously stupid. But, apart from it taking place on an elderly couple’s front lawn, it seemed perfectly reasonable – and to be expected – to my seven-year-old self.

Sucking, and other contact with penises not-ones-own were, instinctively, an extension of play, friendship and boy’s adventuring, to our developing minds. And it really was fun, after all!

Sometime during that or the next year, a parental alert went up in the neighborhood with mothers asking their kids if they had encountered a suspicious young man in a Volkswagen offering to “give rides”.

Apparently, one of my more attractive friends (a handsome blonde-haired boy) had taken him up on his offer and was told by the young Volkswagen-driving stranger that he was a student at the local university. Those were the only details provided to me by my mother and, if she knew any more, she wasn’t telling.

I was, of course, properly concerned, not knowing what it was he was up to other than a twisted desire to “kidnap”; the ostensible, and stated, basis for our mothers’ alarm.

This specter of a dangerous male adult, at the time, existed quite separately from my penchant for oral sex which, in any case, continued uninterrupted.

One major difference, of course, between now and then is that my parents, as with many parents of the time, did not articulate the sexual nature of such concerns with strangers to their kids.

So we had the advantage, as children, of not associating the danger of specifically designated “strangers” with our own, emerging, sexuality.

A sexuality, I might add, which we continued to explore in secret, even so and – crucially – away from what would surely have been the disapproving gaze of our parents.

I now realize that our parents gave us both the extraordinary freedom of movement and the hours of unstructured time necessary to conduct our many- and varied – explorations, whether they knew it or not.

All quite different from what kids are given today.
But it’s also true that sex, as a whole, was stigmatized back then and we learned that our parents seemed terribly concerned, in particular, with pre-marital sex (I had a sister who was six years older than me).

But even POST-marital sex was stigmatized, back then. ALL sex was nothing but stigma and something you just didn’t discuss with other people. Perhaps not even between adults having sex with each other, for all we knew.

Oh, about that: I was already aware of the “facts-of-life”, as it were, having received this arcane and simply astounding tidbit of information – not from my parents, of course – but from my older sister.

After I quickly disseminated this improbable, but credible (coming from my teenaged sister) revealed truth to my classmates, it propagated outward like wildfire.

I believe our school’s kindergartners, alone, (perhaps) remained unsophisticated in the ways of human sexual reproduction from that day forward (ah, the scale of lost innocence!).

My mother, having thus been spared the onerous task of any thoroughgoing birds-and-bees discussion in the future (although who knows if she or my father would ever have attempted it?) instead faced the prospect of reprimanding me for my jaw-dropping indiscretions after having been called by another, very irate, mother naming me (in a portent of the future?) as the source of the salacious revelation.

From that day forward, my relationships with other boy’s mothers would never again be comfortable or easy.

That her admonishments to me were as muted and tentative as they were was the only surprise. But then, again, maybe not; it was SEX, after all. If my father knew, he said nothing; also out of character.

Besides sex, it was also true that overly friendly strangers could themselves be stigmatized back then, but they had to actually cruise the streets in cars, in neighborhoods where they were completely unknown, offering rides to boys whom everyone recognized as particularly adorable, to qualify as the kind of “strangers” warranting especial wariness.

So, in my child’s mind, the dual stigmas of sex and preternaturally solicitous strangers existed as entirely separate phenomena; any connection between the two remained blissfully unformed.

I’m sure that this was true for many other kids at that time, as well, and in a way which differs vastly from today’s vigorously regulated, and tightly filtered, childhoods.

Sex was “dirty” – but so was playing in the mud. That didn’t keep boys like me from enjoying either.

But sex, on the other hand, was MUCH easier to hide.

And we knew, instinctively and logically, that what our parents didn’t know of our explorations in the garage, in the woods, in the creek, in the basement, in the YMCA changing room (although probably not on the front lawn) could hurt neither them nor us. They just weren’t to know anything about it. And it was our job to keep it from them.

You see, secrets were an essential part of our childhoods. And that’s the way we wanted it.

And, on some level, I believe that’s the way our parents wanted it, too.

To some extent, we kids lived separate lives from our parents. And that was just fine with us.

 

DAVID KENNERLY WOULD ALSO LIKE TO MAKE A PITCH FOR NAMBLA:

And now my pitch for NAMBLA which I’m working on to try to drum up some support:
“I want to remind everyone in our circle that the organization, radioactive though it may appear and clumsy though it may have been in the past, does perform several essential and vital roles in the world. Without it, many boylovers and – yes – boys who have looked to it for what little hope they possess will be that much more isolated.

NAMBLA publicly asserts our humanity and insists upon the existence of an ethical framework for man/boy love which we urge others to understand and to embrace.

Lastly, there are lots of people, curious about Man/Boy Love as well as our organization, who visit our website to learn about this issue and to make some sense of it, including academics and scholars, civil libertarians, attorneys, students, civil administrators and possibly even future policy makers.

It is essential that our voice – of all voices – be heard in the unfolding and evolving debates which effect our future.

So yes, NAMBLA exists as more than just a recurring trope on Comedy Central, even if it is also that.”

Show me an abnormal mountain

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Is it abnormal for a mountain to be behind schedule? Today’s mountain, promised as a guest blog in The magical age of 10?, is running a bit late, which is my fault entirely, not the author’s. I should also apologise to other guest writers whose work is in the pipeline: be assured, your excellent contributions are not forgotten. Today’s blogger is Jim Hunter, who has a Master of Social Work degree and has spent most of his life working in the mental health field. A number of his articles have appeared in professional journals, mostly related to psychotherapy, and he writes fiction under the pen-name Jay Edson. He manages a web page, You Are Your Story, for minor attracted adults and those wanting to know more about them.

In the novel, A Galaxy of No-stars (pg. 190) a mother writes to her son who lives separately from her. In an effort to help him sort out a confusing mixture of thoughts and feelings about sex, she shares with him her some of her views on the subject:

Everyone’s got a different landscape. And that’s a good way for it to be. Their ain’t no gay nor straight nor pedo nor bi, and certainly no normal or abnormal, no more than you can say about an ocean or a continent, this one here is normal, and that one is abnormal. Each person is just his or her own landscape which like any landscape is a mixture of things. We just find ourselves among all these hills and forests with all the living things within them, and sometimes we find joy in their beauty and other times we tremble at the dangers that might pop out at us at any moment. To always see the beauty while at the same time never forgetting about the possible dangers – that is the way I think we should live. Beautiful and dangerous are useful words. They define real things that happen to us and around us – things we can know and see. But “normal” and “abnormal” – what use are those terms? When I look around me I don’t see no normal or abnormal. I see beautiful and ugly and loving and hateful and helpful and dangerous – but no normal or abnormal. Those are life-killing words. Those are words narrow people use to try to put life in a little box because it’s too big and unruly for them to accept on its own terms. Normal and abnormal? Pah! Show me an abnormal mountain.

The biological sciences were furthered by the development of an overarching taxonomy. Kingdoms were subdivided into phyla and on down the line through classes, orders, families, genera and species. Every critter had its place and, while it may not have known who it was and where it fit, the biologist studying it did. Medicine took things a step further. Not only did it develop a taxonomy of diseases, but it added an additional concept: normal. Some physiological conditions were “normal” and others were “abnormal.” That seemed to produce beneficial results, so it was logical to take a similar approach with regard to human behavior. A person might be a schizoid, borderline, or narcissistic personality, or a sociopath, or a manic depressive, etc. In the sexual sphere the human sciences began with a set of categories (and prejudices) that were common in the popular culture, and refined them. In this case people were defined as homosexuals, bisexuals, pedophiles, sadists, masochists, asexuals etc. This provided us with a taxonomy of human beings, some of whom could be designated as normal, and others abnormal. So why might this effort to bring order to a confusing plethora of data be problematic?

Several reasons.

The first has to do with the taxonomy itself. If one draws a 2X2 table with adult or child across the top and male or female across the side, and then fills in the various boxes in accordance with the strength of the attraction a particular person has in each category, we don’t know whether the results from a large population of people will produce clear cut patterns that actually correspond to any of our ordering schemes. There may be, in effect, as many sexual orientations as there are people. I may find both pubescent children of both sexes, and adult women quite attractive; a friend of mine reports that only men and boys are appealing to him; and someone else is attracted only to girls between the ages of 8 and 13. Are we to create new terms for each of these constellations? Perhaps a limited number of patterns really can be identified. However, at this point we have only limited and inconclusive research on this. Blanchard et al. (Sexual Attraction to Others: A Comparison of Two Models of Alloerotic Responding in Men, Arch Sex Behav., 2012, February; 41(1): 13–29.) have made an interesting beginning, but the most their findings would be able to demonstrate is that some patterns may be more common than others. It is almost as though biologists created its taxonomy as an act of pure reason, and then went out to actually look at the plants and animals they were categorizing. It seems probable that the sort of carelessly tacked together taxonomy of sexual types that we presently have is an impediment rather than an aid to research.

For the non-scientist who is just trying to get on with his or her life, the taxonomy can have an additional problem. To become identified with one’s type – I am a hetero, a gay, an asexual, or whatever – could lock a person into just that, rather than the multifaceted person he or she really is. The expectations of one’s friends as well as one’s own self-expectations can become a cage from which it is difficult to escape.

The second concern is that when we are dealing with people who manifest various human desires and behaviors, we are dealings with continuums – not with discreet entities. We all manifest borderline characteristics to one degree or another. Most, if not all people are capable of at least some degree of sexual attraction to children. One study, for example, showed that “20% of the current subjects self-reported pedophilic interest and 26.5% exhibited penile arousal to pedophilic stimuli that equaled or exceeded arousal to adult stimuli.” (Hall, G.C.N., Hirschman, R., Oliver, L.L., Sexual Arousal and Arousability to Pedophilic Stimuli in a Community Sample of Normal Men, Behavior Therapy, 26:4, Autumn 1995, pp.681–694.) One must assume that some degree of arousal is a common occurrence with a much larger segment of the population. Some more and some less. This is not the case with species. We don’t have a continuum of animals, some of which are more foxy than others. Any particular animal either is or is not a fox. It’s a binary kind of thing. The same is true of actual diseases. A person may have a mild case or a bad case of pneumonia, but one either has it or not. Pneumonia does not gradually blend into measles.

The next two questions concern the word normal. “Normal” is a slippery term. Dictionary definitions include, not deviating from a norm, occurring naturally, characterized by average intelligence or development, free from a mental disorder, and falling within a certain range within a normal distribution curve. The connotation of “undesirable” clings to the term in common usage. Is it undesirable to be unusual or not average? If someone is unusually tall or intelligent, they are not “abnormal,” as the term is usually used. A-sexuality appears to be fairly unusual, yet on what basis can we say that it is abnormal? Certainly it is not appropriate to designate a feature of a person’s personality as pathological simply because it varies from the average. The writers of the DSM manual have struggled with this, but have arrived at no universally accepted, and certainly no objective or scientific, criteria for making such a judgment. Because of the slippery nature of the terms “normal,” and “abnormal” there are many situations where it is far from clear what is actually being said when these words are used.

As the debate in a previous DSM revision about whether homosexuality is normal made clear, the criteria by which something is judged to be abnormal are always value laden, and relative to the cultural assumptions of a particular time and place. When the term “normal” is used in a discussion that purports to be scientific, it is generally loaded with less than explicit political and moral agendas. Indeed, it would seem that the most common uses for the term in both the mental health industry and in general discourse is to suppress, demonize and/or marginalize populations that are, in the popular imagination, undesirable; or to deny some aspect of human nature that is common but not currently valued. The word “normal” is a Trojan horse by which unacknowledged judgments with regard to the disgusting, unacceptable and perhaps immoral nature of the category of people being talked about are smuggled into the dialogue. It is, to be brief, generally a term of repression used to smother the natural diversity of life.

In almost all cases there are other terms that can be used that would allow us to say what we mean without such ambiguity. If we say that something is useless, most people would know what we mean. Likewise with such terms as harmful, or ugly, or illegal or immoral (though these last two terms are sometimes confused.) I would grant that the term “immoral” is subject to a variety of definitions, but at least most people would understand that it refers to a violation of a moral principle of some sort. And while “ugly” may be rather subjective, most people would know what you were saying if you used the term. Not so with abnormal. Only the connotation remains constant through most of its shifting denotations: always, it means undesirable, and perhaps disgusting.

Still, perhaps there are “abnormal mountains.” Perhaps mountain-top-mining produces just such a thing. Certainly this kind of mining produces results that are ugly. Few would deny that this mining technique is destructive. I would go so far as to say it is immoral. But abnormal? Hmm. Perhaps so. Perhaps real abnormality is produced when human beings interfere with natural processes in ill-conceived and intrusive ways.

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