Alex from Italy
I was born in the mid 70s, it seems so far away now. I grew up in a small town and was an only male child. Also, I was, ok maybe still am, super geeky. As early as primary school I was way too much on the geeky side without a lot of social understanding.
My parents are quite open and accepting, nothing was taboo. There was also a lot of easy nakedness around the house. Generally the bathroom door was open and it wasn’t a big deal. My parents at one point had to start yelling at me that I had to at least close the door when I was pooping and when there were guests.
Around middle school, it started being clear to me though that people thought a naked male was gross and that I shouldn’t show myself naked anymore.
My parents were also always honest with me. Always in an age appropriate way, but they didn’t try to hide things. They never told me that storks delivered babies or that babies appear in cabbage patches. They showed me the first video about where children come from when I was three. I really wish I was the kind of snarky child who would have asked something like, “oh so the father puts the seed in the mother but how does the seed get there?”
I wasn’t though.
Since I knew I could ask my parents anything, I wasn’t really aware that there were things you shouldn’t ask until much later. In school, we have a class called Epics, where we studied mythological stories like the Iliad and Odyssey. It was a one or two hour class every week for three years. I remember asking the teacher at some point why all goddesses were either virgin mothers or sluts? I didn’t use the word sluts but something that means very promiscuous and she told me, “you don’t ask these things!” Many years later I realized that was a quite deep archetype of women called the Madonna-whore complex.
Like many curious kids, by first grade I was interested in playing doctor with my classmates. Though I suspect I was either too inquisitive or too pushy. It wasn’t sexual for me, I was just intrigued. I asked a few times and mostly got a no, though a couple of time it did actually happen. Once you see there is not much interest, you stop asking. I probably wasn’t very fun to play doctor with. I’m not sure I was always the most socially calibrated.
I was still really curious about female bodies though so I asked my parents to buy me Barbies. The first time I asked my parents to buy me a Barbie I was five. My mom said to my dad, “you always said that you wouldn’t have any problem if your son was one of those, now you can show it.” Many years later I realized, oh, they thought I was gay.
I would play with the Barbies but in ways that I now recognize as somewhat related to BDSM. I would often tie the Barbies up and have the hero come in and save her. There was a lot of this idea of the damsel in distress. Even looking at something like Wonder Woman, she is always tying people up or being tied up. You can find a lot of these vague influences if you look. I never played out sex scenes, it was just exploring and seeing naked bodies, even though Barbies are not exactly anatomically correct.
Playing with the Barbies was particularly annoying though because I had Barbies and male figures from Master of the Universe. I found Ken insufferable; he wasn’t interesting. For me, the guy had to be manly somehow. The Master of the Universe figures were completely the wrong size though. They were about 30% shorter than the Barbies and quite a bit wider.
The BDSM and tying people up thing is something that stuck with me. I once read about a concept called perversion fuel. It’s a common thing where children get one image or idea and then use that to explore their sexuality. For me, my fuel was somehow BDSMish. I also experimented a few times with putting heavy things on top of myself. I liked the feeling of compression and being blocked. In my fantasies, there was often some element of proving myself- going through some kind of pain to get to my reward. I had to work for it like the heroes I saw in the movies.
Then, around nine or ten, I discovered masturbation. I did it whenever and wherever I could. Probably five to ten times a day. I remember once, I was hiking in a forest with my parents and I found a spot and I decided to masturbate. For my family, hiking was mostly to go and collect wild mushrooms or asparagus, so my parents would generally trust me to stay around and come back when they called. I would also get bored easily and be annoying, so they were ok with me being off on my own. The forest was full of huge mosquitos though, and of course, they bit me where they shouldn’t have. My parents were very confused about how the mosquitos managed to bite me through the jeans.
I probably had one or two years of masturbating to orgasm without ejaculation and it was fantastic. I knew the theory behind ejaculation but no one had explained that it would happen to me. It was really shocking once it happened. I thought, oh my god, I did something wrong, I broke it. The emotional reaction was really strong and unpleasant. Even when I accepted it and realized ejaculation was normal, it was still uncomfortable. Sperm is sticky and it smells. Masturbation had to move to under the blankets with Kleenex or the toilet. I even learned really early how to remove sperm from bed sheets because I didn’t want my mom to know. I’m sure I left some somewhere though. I mean, I was eight, not exactly the most careful.
It’s interesting because I had all of the information, I just didn’t apply it to myself. No one ever tells you directly. I was told that puberty meant my voice would change and I would start growing more hair but sperm and ejaculation was somehow implicit. I learned how to masturbate and there wasn’t sperm, so that was my reality. For a while, I thought sperm only came out during sex or when you were trying to make a child. I mean, that makes more sense. That would be great if I could switch it on and off.
Maybe I should have put the two together because around one year earlier, I had gone to a summer camp and for some reason they put me with the older boys. They were thirteen or older and I was eight or nine. They would spend the night doing group masturbation and I remember this distinct smell. I developed a really bad connotation with ejaculation and male masturbation because these boys were obnoxious, dirty bullies. Of course since I was so much younger, they also picked on me a lot. So when I started ejaculating, it was really connected to that bad, partially traumatizing, experience.
When I got to the age where it was becoming possible to be sexual with others, I had a really hard time, largely in part due to my upbringing. I was raised by what I half jokingly refer to as feral feminists. I was also reading a lot of the wrong feminist texts when I was still a virgin. A lot of these texts blamed men for not caring about women. It was aimed at older men but I internalized this over correction even though as a young, nerdy virgin, I was not their target audience. I grew up terrified that women didn’t like penetration or that at least most women don’t come from penetration. There were a lot of feminist texts from the 70s like this. I was reading a lot and was really curious about sexuality, so I found a lot of these kinds of books.
From a really young age I was also often a part of political discourse. As the only child of two very leftist and politically involved parents who didn’t have money for a babysitter, I would be taken everywhere they went. I was a very non-obnoxious child who fit well with adults but I would overhear things. For example, I heard that male sexuality was rapey and dangerous. I heard slogans like, “a dead man doesn’t rape.” There was one feminist song that said, “with a finger the orgasm is guaranteed, with a dick is a different story.”
A friend explained many years later that this song actually meant with fingers, a woman is sure she will come and with penetration, it’s not guaranteed but when it works well, penetration is more fulfilling. That was a very different way of hearing it and not at all what I understood. I understood with a dick, women don’t come, period.
Because of all of this, I was also really uncomfortable receiving blowjobs well into adulthood because I heard so often about how sperm in your mouth is horrible and how most women didn’t like doing it. The few girlfriends that I had who really liked giving blow jobs took months or years of convincing me that they really wanted it and it was ok.
It’s taken a long time to relearn some of these things about sexuality. I am sure some things I still haven’t fully come to terms with either. It’s really difficult to replace the information and feelings that you get in your head during your developmental period.