Newman Alexander from England
As a kid, I was really into wrestling. Every Saturday afternoon I would sit in front of the TV and watch the fights. I must have already been a bit pudgy by that time because my two favorite wrestlers were these huge guys, Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. They were my heroes.
Starting from when I was thirteen, I went to an all boys boarding school in London. All of us slept in dorms with ten boys in each room. After the lights went out each night, everyone started to masturbate. Every so often, if someone was too loud or too obvious, the rest of the boys would tease them. One time I wasn’t being very discrete and the other boys tipped my bed over.
My obsession with wrestling was so encompassing that from quite early on I would think about wrestling other boys while masturbating. I didn’t masturbate thinking about wrestling the professional wrestlers that I loved, only with my classmates.
Thinking back with a kind of adult lens, the boys school was probably a somewhat homoerotic environment anyways. There was always this sort of sensual violence because boys fight so much. I wrestled all of the time with my friends until puberty hit and a lot of the time it was quite erotic. There was one boy in particular, we would grab each other’s bits, maul each other whenever we would fight. We would wrestle two or three times a day and I would get super turned on and get a hard on. I had such a preteen crush on him that I masturbated thinking about those fights a number of times.
At some point I realized that masturbating while thinking about wrestling boys probably made me gay and I didn’t want to be gay. So just like that, I started masturbating thinking about wrestling women, mainly Madonna. She was the big superstar at the time; quite muscly as well so it wasn’t that much of a switch. She would be wearing a leotard and we would be in a big ring with lots of people watching. I don’t know how much the gender was important in this fantasy; it was mostly the physicality I think. The what was more important than who.
Another thing that had a big impact on the way I saw sex was this letter my dad sent my stepsister and I about his fears with the unfolding AIDs epidemic. He wrote out this incredibly long letter, all neatly typed up, stacked and mailed to my boarding school. My stepsister is five years older than me, so she was already in this age of sexuality but I was only thirteen so it was a little premature for me.
When I got that letter from my dad is scared the daylights out of me. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious thing – I remember consciously thinking it was funny and joking about it with my sister. But unconsciously I think it created fear in me that led to me being tense and tight around sex for a good few years.
My dad was a pharmacist and he educated himself about AIDs as much as he could with the limited information out there. He was convinced that everyone was going to die and he stressed to us how incredibly careful we had to be. There was also this advert on British TV around ’84 or ‘85 that was just the word AIDs in really big letters, looming with a very ominous sound track and a voice pretty much saying, “now you are going to die.”
By the mid 80’s, we in Britain saw the AIDs epidemic rip the US apart. Unlike the American response of pretending like it wasn’t happening, Thatcher and the British government went crazy on educating people as much as they could, which is why we didn’t get hit quite as hard by AIDs.
It’s ironic because now our rates of unprotected sex and teenage pregnancy are the highest in Europe.
At the time no one knew what kind of a virus AIDs was, so they thought maybe it could be passed through day to day contact. They knew it was sexually transmitted but Hepatitis, which is a comparable virus, is super robust so you could put a coin in your mouth that had Hepatitis on it and you could contract the virus. They didn’t find out until later that AIDs is very fragile.
I understand my dad’s position and his reasons for concern but he was heavy handed and obsessed with mortality and danger. For him, it was all about these different ways of protecting yourself and not having contact with people who were high risk. For me though, it was probably too much, too soon, more confusing and worrying than anything else.
This letter was in the back of my head as I became older and started to question if I was bisexual when I was around nineteen. By then, we had figured out a lot more about AIDs and how it spreads but that letter from my dad stuck with me. It didn’t help that my dad was quite homophobic on top of everything else. Not the kind of homophobic that would go out and beat up gays but I think the idea of homosexuality made him uncomfortable. Society is conditioned in so many ways to have this underlying homophobia that if left unquestioned, can take root. It’s there in so many aspects of our lives. Especially as kids, when you wanted to insult someone, you would say they were gay, which I think is pretty common. I tried to fight this conditioning in myself and even though I realized that I am neither gay nor bisexual, I think I have at least overcome any lingering homophobia from my family and from society. Thankfully I was able to figure these things out on my own pretty early instead of letting them solidify in the way I see the world.