Monday, February 21, 2011

Celibacy. It's Easy.

It was while studying at Claremont Graduate School in California that the struggle between the two choices my sexual narrative allowed to me was played out.  If a life of celibacy seemed easy to me, writing about this time in my life isn't. For one thing I feel it requires more discretion that my other posts and for another the stress and anxiety experienced in making that life choice was the second highest I've experienced in my life; the highest being when the path I ended choosing didn't work out. Although I was supposed to be heading to Yale for graduate school, something now identified as "dyscalculia" got in the way. I had almost failed second grade because I couldn't pass arithmetic. In high school I had to take geometry twice to arrive at a D+. In college I was saved by the fact that logic, which didn't involve dreaded numbers, met the course requirement for mathematics. To get into Yale I had to take the Graduate Record Exams, which had qualitative and quantitative sections. In the former I placed in one of the highest possible centiles and in the latter one of the lowest. As there was an automatic cut off point below a certain average, I was refused admission.

Claremont and the Ford Foundation were more interested in that disparity than turned off by it and offered me a fellowship in an experimental, multi-disciplinary graduate programme they were developing. As I have described previously, there was a small Benedictine Priory, St. Andrew's, in the high desert just across the mountains from Claremont. It was a beautiful location on an oasis where there had been a ranch, facing the San Gabriel Mountains on one side and the expanse of the Sierra Nevada on the other. The majority of the monks were either European or Chinese as the Priory was established in China before being expelled by the Communists.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sex. More of None.

At college there was only one person, I believe his name was Steven, who lived in my dormitory,  and whom everyone identified as being gay, though, as far as I know, he was too withdrawn to either confirm or deny it.  I never heard direct, homophobic remarks made about him and don't believe he was bullied.  He was more shunned and spoken of with a  tone of derision.  As he was the room mate for at least two years of Dave, a fraternity bother and college track star, I was from time to time in their room.  I remember almost nothing about the gay guy except that he was faun-like, nice, very quiet.  I felt nervous around him, as I imagine most other students did, though he must have somehow managed dorm life, including things like communal showers.  I have no ideal what became of him and I'd like to know more about how he survived. When our dormitory closed for the summer, I bunked with Dave at the fraternity house and have a very sharp memory of lying in the bottom bed one evening while he was on the top. There were a few other fraternity brothers in the room and one asked Dave how he could share his dorm room with a queer.  He replied without any hesitation that his room mate gave very good head, was available whenever he was horny and it sure beat masturbating.  I was amazed at how matter of fact and casual he was with that response and the way in which everyone present seemed to accept it as perfectly understandable. Yeah, what's not to like about that?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sex: It's Important. Even in Denial.

I recently read an article in the New York Times, written by a well known psychiatrist, questioning the therapeutic value of self-knowledge.  He described how some of his clients, having come to understand how they developed their problems, felt worse, rather than better.  What interested me most about the article was the supposition that a person can definitively know how they came to be who they are.  In addition, as a sometimes narrative therapist I would suggest that if a client arrived at an understanding of his life that made him feel worse, it would be productive to help the client construct a different narrative.

It is an indication of the power of the narrative I constructed of my sexual self that I would make a transition from being relatively untroubled about my active sexual life with adolescent peers to the decision to no longer act on same sex attractions.  As I indicated in my last posting, there were core beliefs that I'd picked up in my rather furtive research at the town library and from such authoritative sources as the Reader's Digest that influenced that transition.  One was that homosexual behaviour was common, even normal,  during adolescence and was often just a stage of sexual development.  So, not to worry.  Just move on.  And so I did, from the age of seventeen to thirty-one not having a single gay experience.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sex. It's Important. First Part

When you are part of a minority within a majority culture,  your difference is highlighted in your awareness and becomes an important part of your personal narrative.  Just as color is a salient characteristic for visible minorities and religion for religious minorities,  so sex is for sexual minorities.

I want to thank the Boy Scouts of America for introducing me to gay sex.  When I was at scout camp at the age of twelve or thirteen I was lucky enough to be in a tent with four boys one of whom was sexually precocious and had a great imagination.  He introduced after taps sex games to our tent.  We all eagerly joined in and that provided my initiation into masturbation.  I wasn't sure what was going to happen,  at first I was afraid I was going to pee, but I kept at it and was pleased with the results,  even though it was evident this was my first time at self-abuse.  In the fifties you had the advantage of not being suspected of being gay unless you were quite swish.  That was a sad reality for those who were seen as stereotypically "faggy" (many of whom weren't even gay), but was a good cover for boys who wanted to play with boys. And many boys did.  Perhaps the BSA's prohibition on gay scouts will provide a similar cover.  If you're a scout, then you must not be gay, so sex with another scout won't make you queer.