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Sex, Love and Marriage

Growing up in a strict religious family can do strange things to a young boy’s concept of sex and sexuality. In this moving personal reflection, Sean offers a powerfully candid account of his sexual development through adolescence and into adulthood. Now a husband and a father, his story raises some difficult questions about relationships, religion and the institution of marriage.

It was never mentioned. Period. Sex transcended taboo in my upbringing. My earliest recollections of sexuality are being introduced by my marginally older cousin to OzBike magazines at his local paper shop, and finding Hustler magazines and a pornographic novel under my eldest brother’s bed. I recall that the Hustler magazines were encountered in my third year of school, when I was roughly eight years of age. The OzBike magazines predated this by perhaps twelve months at most.

Ever since I saw the tattooed, large breasted, high-heel booted biker models draped provocatively over Harleys in OzBike, I developed an instant and lasting fixation. Not for motorbikes, mind you. I was preoccupied by these goddesses and my thoughts were often consumed—with scant capacity left for more wholesome stimulation. Almost every afternoon we would visit the shopping centre on the same block as my school. Why we were there so often escapes me now, but every couple of days would find my mother, middle brother and I at the news agent where mum spent what at the time seemed like forever browsing, or being attended at the counter. This freed me to beetle off to the back section, where OzBike and other ‘adult’ magazines were kept. I would furtively, extremely furtively, riffle through magazines looking for stocking-clad legs, leather-bound bottoms and creamy white boobs. The thrill was intense and the risk palpable. Terrifying, yet delectable. People would come into the aisle with little warning and I was under the unshakable belief that they were ‘onto me’. Unaware as I was, the foundations underpinning a prominent, confusing and often debilitating pillar of my life were being laid.

The thrill was intense and the risk palpable. Terrifying, yet delectable.

Once, and I think only once, the lady behind the counter at the news agency called out to me from the counter in a shocked or affronted tone stating something along the lines that I shouldn’t be looking at those magazines. I downed whatever it was I was ogling and ran. No repercussions followed me. You must understand, being the moral flagship that I misguidedly thought I ought to at least attempt to be, that my ‘furtive’ and ‘ran’ are not to be imagined in the Dickensian, Artful Dodger sense. Rather, they were polite, dignified and at the same time nonchalant. The kind of attitude you wish to slap out of anyone arrogant enough to think they’re better than you. Reflecting now, I can only assume it highly likely that my mother was alerted to my infraction. It was never mentioned. I believe with every confidence that the truth would not even now, twenty years later, be divulged–even if pressed at length. Conveniently selective amnesia is endemic in my family.

The magazines under my eldest brother’s bed (he is ten years older than me), which he swore then and still swore when last I asked as an adult, belonged to a teenager (someone who tragically died when the rescue chopper he was a paramedic on crashed off the coast of North Queensland en route to a rescue several years ago) who visited from Tasmania with an ex-neighborhood friend. The magazines were, naturally, quite graphic. I know now, without question, that there was no penetrative sex depicted in those magazines. But at the time, and in my memory, I must have filled in the blanks. The farmyard barn loft setting featured a cowboy-booted stud and a basket-laden, seemingly innocent, and I assume devoutly Christian (if not explicitly Amish) country girl. During the photo-shoot she progressed from initial meeting to wildly uninhibited clandestine congress, aided by a sex-swing apparatus. I’m not sure why a barn loft would contain a sex-swing, but I could almost taste the arousal which I was sure coated the lucky bales of hay upon which the girl was spread.

I revisited the manilla folder, hidden behind the dusty second row of shoes under my brother’s bed, on every permitting occasion. The thrill of the situation held me captive. Thrilling in no small part due to the household telephone (pre-cordless) being located directly outside my brother’s bedroom door. I would lie wide-eyed and breathless among the shoes under his bed while my parents or other siblings talked on the phone just metres away. The material in the folder was new to me–the pornographic novel especially. It made prolific use of filthy language and had a ‘plot’ which contained (I hope among more literary elements–erotic fiction is still fiction, after all) a dominant aggressive male spanking a submissive wife or partner with a breadboard. I remember this novel disturbed me somewhat. I had an overactive imagination and this foreign swearing and liberal use of as yet unreferenced euphemisms was a touch more than my innocence could rationalise without mental torment. Then, as now, it was words which I found more graphic than pictures.

After some weeks, and for reasons now unknown (though which I can only assume are based on guilt), I deemed it necessary to introduce this manilla folder to my mother. Thankfully I can’t remember details of the pithy, manipulative offering that I made to escape personal incrimination. Nothing ever came of any aspect of this. A black hole enveloped the whole episode. When, some time later, I did eventually ask my brother what happened, he asserted and maintained the folder belonged to the previously mentioned friend of a friend. Perhaps, to escape discipline, he had ‘pulled a swifty’, although discipline was evidently something whoever did buy that novel had a bit of a thing for.

These events didn’t happen in a vacuum, naturally. My next older brother (I’m the youngest of four–three boys and our eldest sister who was twelve when I was born), only sixteen months my senior, had a scarcely concealed infatuation with cross-dressing. We used to filch clothes from those given to mum by neighbours to take to the charity bins at school, or wear our sister’s or mother’s own clothes, dressing up underneath the house. It is still vivid in my memory and ever pleasurable to recall that whenever I put on pantyhose I would get an erection, deliciously outside of my control. I loved the innocently sensual feelings that I experienced as I saw the reflection of my pre-pubescent and hairless legs encased in cheap sheer nylon pantyhose in the mirror. I didn’t know what sheer meant–I only referenced it as a Blyton-esque adjective of emphasis. Both definitions still apply in my mind.

Our mother was at the time involved in some fringe capacity with the Avon cosmetics company. My brother often appropriated lipstick and makeup samples which we both experimented with. For me, though, these didn’t approach anywhere near the allure of pantyhose (imagine my later delight upon discovering fine denier silk cuban-heeled stockings with back seams and garter belts). Not to mention gloriously stretchy and clinging Lycra swimsuits and some particularly pleasing knee-high mid-heel zip-sided boots. Well used, these latter had, seemingly then and even more now, the most heady, erotic aroma of feet and cigarettes. I’m not sure whose boots these were, and I’m sure if I was to ever find out I would be mortified and probably turned off. Anonymity is alluring. Though, I must say, no less alluring have been my covert indulgences where the identity of the owner of the objects of my paraphilia was known to me.

Such has been my life. Hidden fantasy and, whenever possible, prompted olfactory arousal from sources which are generally considered unappealing, if not outright pathological. Considered as such by me too—if only for the sake of my guilt-provoked conformist and misleading public facade. I really am a psychoanalyst’s wet dream.

My fixation with fantasy, pornography, pornographic association and sexual ideation before the age of ten was broadly developed despite, and quite possibly because of, sex being absent in my life. It’s not that we weren’t to know of it, at least so I think. It’s just that it was never discussed. Ever. Not even to say that it mustn’t be discussed. It wasn’t an elephant in any room–it just didn’t exist. This common ‘healthy’ repression did what it does best–it enabled and encouraged my ignorant and innocent, yet rampant and indulgent hidden deviation.

On a different, but related timeline, when I was nine it was discovered that my foreskin was closing over the glans of my penis. This discovery was made in the aftermath of the allegation of my poor aim for the toilet bowl. The reality was that my stream, regardless of aim, was effectively random in direction. Apparently there was no alternative to corrective surgery so I was booked in to be seen by a surgeon, one known to our family through religious association (a fact displeasing to me now) for a ‘partial’ circumcision. It is as painful to imagine as it was to endure. I do not, even now, understand why partial butchery was done (I know with certainty it was not performed for religious reasons) instead of a complete and appropriate surgical procedure.

The partial cut never worked. My puberty was spent with my foreskin, either surgically or naturally still, adhered to my glans, where the frenulum should be and was, just hidden under the foreskin. When I had an erection (which was all the time, or so it felt) it pulled forcefully on the skin of the shaft of my penis which was still firmly connected to the glans. My scarcely more modern than bronze age procedure effectively locked the underside of my penis to a slightly longer than flaccid length, while the topside of my penis extended more or less freely to its average length while erect. I say ‘freely’ because the ‘partial’ circumcision meant that my butchered foreskin was physically never free to fully expose the glans–it was stitched to the rearward portion of my glans for some unknown reason. It was often very painful and a permanent source of silent shame throughout that tender age for bodily acceptance and development of confidence. I had no internal ability or external support to counter the belief that my predicament was ‘punishment’ for my sexual infractions (looking at boobs and dressing up in girls’ clothes) against an omniscient ‘loving heavenly Father’. I never spoke to anyone about it, but I did keep a razor blade, scissors and pins in my bedroom, and I nicked and sliced this skin bridge. I punctured and pierced it. I mutilated my own penis, painfully and irreparably, because of this botched ‘semi’ circumcision and the deep shame enabled by the inculcated ignorance of my devout upbringing.

When I was twenty, after about eighteen months of increasing discomfort, it became virtually impossible to urinate. It took anywhere from three to five minutes to void my bladder and there was not enough pressure to achieve this in a standing position. The problem had started nearly five years earlier, perhaps more, but I had never mentioned it to anyone. Still in the vice-like grip of my untempered literal interpretations of creed, my earlier thoughts of ordained punishment had evolved into a belief that my symptoms were the result of an incurable problem, perhaps even prostate cancer, which I had caused by my own bodily mistreatment. I was paranoid that a doctor would find out what I’d done to myself and never felt able to tell even my parents about my physical troubles, let alone emotional ones. I feared rejection, ridicule, spiritual and often even literal death for my ‘sins’.

Eventually, I saw a urologist who visibly blanched at the sight of my penis and shook his head in remorse at what had happened. In his books, a ‘partial’ procedure didn’t actually exist and was certainly was not aided in any way by my own surgical efforts. At almost twenty-one years of age, my frenulum was finally, and with indescribable and uniquely difficult to imagine intensities of pain, freed, and a plastic surgeon did his best to repair my penis. My urethra had a stricture caused by scar tissue growing up from the site of my self-mutilation, if not from the first circumcision itself. This was the cause of my urination difficulties. It was removed by laser, and tested negative for any malignancy. The surgeon cautioned me that it is highly likely that another stricture will form again from scar tissue. I do not look forward to future urethral invasions by particles and/or waves, coherent or otherwise. To me, my penis is now bitterly ugly, disfigured and a shameful abomination to my already savage body image.

With that despicable yet important to understand recount complete, I can continue with my central narrative.

I was repressed. I was wildly deviant. I hated my penis. I experienced, as every boy does, the seemingly endless erections of puberty and I felt lust–how I felt lust–but I never masturbated. I never ejaculated, except for several times in my sleep and once in a manner most ghastly, off-putting and confusing, when I was cutting my penis with a razor blade. I can only think that a nerve in the frenulum was stimulated such that it caused a small, surprising, though sensationless ejaculation. I remember feeling shocked as the mostly clear fluid mixed with my blood. I shook for some time.

What I had pursued and now continued along the path of was almost prescriptively, if unknowingly, a Freudian psychosexual development. I arrived at the next stage a decade later than most, and I got stuck there. It feels sometimes like I am still stuck there, to varying degrees–the instances are decreasing with age, but the intensity of the urge is stronger. I am talking of course about the ‘anal’ stage. From the age of eleven it occurred to me, as it quite normally does (I wish desperately that someone could have told me it was normal–we didn’t have Google yet), to put a finger inside my bottom. I loved baths and had one every night. Naturally it was in the bath that I first tried to put my finger in my bottom. It wouldn’t go in so I ‘lubed up’ with whatever soap was in the dish. My finger went in all right and I enjoyed it briefly, before the soap burned my rectum nastily. I washed it out as best I could and fell asleep that night with a warm feeling inside, both in my rectum and in my heart, and plans for tomorrow’s bath.

It became, for a long time, an almost daily indulgence to insert things into my rectum.

It became, for a long time, an almost daily indulgence to insert things into my rectum. I quickly discovered lip gloss worked as a satisfactory lubricant and I would insert my finger, pencils, screwdrivers (exceedingly dangerous, I was well aware even at the time). Anything that would go up there and many things that wouldn’t. At bath time, sometimes just in my room—I did it when and wherever I could. I would see an object, and a rush would come over me. I would contrive, often patiently and strategically and somewhat less often, opportunistically, to procure the object to press into use. It was perhaps for the best that the opportunist moments were more rare. My experiment with dad’s air compressor and the resulting instant, excruciating and potentially lethal insufflation of my colon is now amusing, but on reflection it is a sober example of how lucky I was that my ignorance never killed me. There are many similar moments–too many to recount. Largely more considered, though yet still not ipso facto any safer, were my strategic procurements. One such memorable object that occupied my bath-times for months was a Berocca tin. If you think of a Berocca tin being wedged up your eleven year old bottom, you’ll probably flinch. So you should. They are blunt-ended, and force an immediate opening of the anus to a fair diameter. It took me some time, but I did it. And I loved it.

In the cupboard under the bathroom basin I found a bottle of Avon moisturiser which had an appealingly insertable lid–rounded and smooth, not too large. The fluid itself was of a wonderful viscosity and I soon found that I loved using that as a lubricant. I can still easily recall the coconut scent. It didn’t take long until I was putting two or three fingers in my bottom. I began to look at the bottle of moisturiser itself, rather than just its lid. The bottle was about two inches across, with a rounded shoulder up to the lid, which was an inch in diameter. It was near the end of grade eight by the time I managed to get the entire girth of the bottle inside me. I was so proud of it, though I had no-one with whom I could share my pride.

At the time and ever since, I have felt almost constant guilt and shame about so many of these things. I feel, though too often weakly or without conviction, that I’m a good person and that it’s okay to have pride in what I’ve done—to have enjoyed it. I can barely manage that conviction in my most private of thoughts. To the very limited extent which that aspect of me becomes publicly exposed, I berate myself. I feel obliged to be not proud of who I am and what I’ve done, though I desperately want to be and believe deep in my heart that I should be able to be. My daily battle for internal validation involving mostly self reassurance and assuaging rationalisation in the face of ravaging protective mechanisms is tiring, and won less often than is required to make life seem like anything other than a painful and confusing dichotomy most of the time.

In high school my family took on two boarders who lived in the ‘granny flat’ attached to our house. The year before had seen my older pair of siblings move out of home; my brother married, my sister just moved out. Escaped perhaps. Both boarders were known to us by religious association. My entire upbringing was defined exclusively by religious association. My parents have recently expressed to me that the opposite of this outcome was the considered aim of my upbringing. This raises painful questions, perhaps to be considered another time.

One boarder, I ascertained, had an extensive and, as it turned out, quite wonderful, pornographic magazine collection. Swank magazines. Leg Action and others I can’t recall the names of. These were X-rated, but still not quite penetrative. Nearly, but not quite. I loved these magazines. It took me weeks to persuade the boarder to let me look at them. We had just migrated from the world of a monochrome Intel 8088XT chipset with a 2400 baud connection to my sister’s university and its associated bulletin board services to a colour Intel 386 with a 14.4kbps dial-up internet connection at home. Hey, back then it was news. And back then you also needed to understand how to manually open and execute TCP/IP sessions to access your ISP before you could get online. I did, and I traded my knowledge as the opportunity for our computer-illiterate boarder to access the online world of porn in exchange for a glimpse of his magazines. More importantly, I discovered where he kept them. After that I used to steal them and smuggle them up to my no longer shared bedroom to pore over. One would assume I would have masturbated with such provocative material in hand but, despite the painfully throbbing turgid erections and palpable lust I experienced, it never occurred to me. I took them to school and shared them with a secret few of my horny eighth grade friends. We never got caught with them at school. However, all of them moved schools for ninth grade. Perhaps they got caught with the magazines at home? I don’t know. In many ways it was a wonderful time.

My only real sexual developments throughout high school were that a deep and lasting fixation with internet porn flourished (on a 14.4kbps connection that is dedication) and I discovered a fascination for making my own increasingly complex sex toys out of household items. I suppose what triggered this inventive streak was a simple fact of life. When you put your finger up your bum, you find poo. It’s not rocket science. In a bath, when you are playing with fingers and bums, you get little bits of poo floating around in the bath with you. It’s a bit gross to the uninitiated, but hard to avoid. One day I discovered enemas, courtesy of the very early days of online video. “Ah!” I thought, “If I wash out my bottom, I won’t get the floaty poo problem.” Besides, the deviant in me felt that emulating the anal fountains I had seen online sounded like great fun.

Of course, being fourteen, one hadn’t access to one’s own credit or Visa debit card to make an adequately anonymous online purchase. One couldn’t simply nip down to the chemist to buy an enema bag and nozzle without risking repercussions. One could, however, improvise. In ninth grade I participated in a circus sports activity–as a more bearable alternative to the sweaty physical exertion traditionally undertaken on a Wednesday afternoon–and had learned to make a limited range of mostly demented balloon animals. To this end I had been permitted to buy a bag of pure latex balloons. What fortune. I correctly imagined that these balloons could be fitted over a bath spout. As it turned out, not without a great deal of trouble. I was determined, patient and ultimately successful at what is perhaps best described as rolling a one tenth scale condom onto a sharp metal bath spout. At home we kept fish as pets, so there was aquarium air tubing available also. With these two materials and after experiments with various types of tape (electrical tape worked best) I cobbled together a pipe which hooked up to the bath tap to provide some semblance of an enema. It could only take low pressure, but I had to be quiet so that was fine.

It would have taken longer than the duration of an unsuspicious bath to fill a colon at the volume of water my contraption was capable of supplying without bursting its balloon coupling, but it was nevertheless extremely pleasant to feel water running into my bottom and slowly filling my rectal cavity. Even bitingly cold water, chosen due to my fear of scalding my colon with the unpredictable hot water pressure our house was possessed of. It was so exciting to expel this water back into the bath at the highest attainable velocity. The next fifteen minutes were inevitably spent cleaning off the little pieces of poo from the tiles, and worse–the grout–which surrounded the bath. Par for the course, it seems, though it would be advisable to avoid golf-related metaphors in this arena.

Enemas have remained in my life as something pseudo-sexual. I irrepressibly crave them when I want to wash away delusional guilt. That’s not hard to understand, given my psycho-sexual history. They’re more of a yearly occurrence than a daily one now though. I must be making some progress.

Orgasm was next on the sexual agenda. My nineteenth birthday found me living on the Gold Coast, sharing a unit with a school friend. We both possessed perhaps slightly higher than average intelligence and were (I sense quite unrelated to our intelligence) both extremely randy. We lived within a hundred feet of the beach and greatly enjoyed spending the last light of the day in the ocean before coming home to spend the evenings listening to Groove Armada and Ministry Of Sound style chillout music with dimmed lights, lava lamps and rose and sandalwood essential oils diffusing in candle-lit oil burners. All very relaxing, of course, and we weren’t unaware of the purported aphrodisiac qualities of the oils either.

One night, I think in April, our conversation turned to orgasm, where I disclosed to my friend’s profound disbelief that I had never masturbated, certainly never to the point of orgasm. My friend asserted that he could achieve orgasm in under a minute and promptly retired to his room to prove the fact. When he returned he wanted me to go and masturbate and said if I did he would buy me a sex doll–something he knew I was curious about. I was too shy to play that game. That night, though, as I was laying in bed I began to play with my penis (this was almost two years before reconstructive surgery). It felt unusually pleasant and so I began to do what I assumed masturbation required. An appropriate while later an immense backlog of what I could have been busy producing for a decade veritably exploded. Everywhere. I really mean everywhere. I had to shower and my friend had a good laugh at my repainted bedroom. He had, I recall, a black-light in his bedroom. Perhaps it is for the better that we didn’t think to operate it in my bedroom at that point. I think, excluding self-or-otherwise enforced breaks, that I have had at least one orgasm a day since and often more.

My friend’s promise of a sex doll held, despite my late arrival. This created the opportunity for the first of many expeditions to adult shops. My friend and I discovered that sex dolls cost large amounts of money and didn’t seem to offer much in return. After subsequent relaxed discussion, this time about bottoms and toys (which wasn’t noticeably awkward–the topic seemed natural enough at that point), my friend decided that he would spend the dollar value of a sex doll on a selection of sex toys. It amounted to something like a $300 budget. The voice of experience interjects that $300 is not a lot when it comes to quality toys. Not to be deterred, I found a cheap website and picked about eight items that tickled my fancy. My friend assembled a similar shopping basket. $600 of sex toys. I was ecstatic when our parcel was delivered. Anal beads. Butt plugs. I can’t even remember what they all were. All I know is they were all too big, and they all hurt. They were phthalate-oozing, trashy, ill-considered adult novelties. I loved them anyway, if more for the fantasy rather than the reality.

About that time I moved back home from the Gold Coast, as did my friend. Over the next couple of years I worked intermittently. I contrived, as a priority, to obtain my very own Visa debit card. Hooray–I could now buy items online. Online now meant high speed cable and ease of use. Due to my largely undiscovered, as yet undiagnosed and mostly unexplored psychological irregularities I was often without employment. Unsurprisingly, I frequently had no money to spend. When I did earn, the majority of my earnings were compulsively blown on sex toys, lingerie, latex clothing and wigs (embarrassingly, I discovered that my mother was a previous client of that particular online wig shop when my $380, sexy yet sophisticated, shoulder length light-brunette wig was shipped in her name. Awkward, but the black hole engulfed the irregularity with no words spoken). I also began to amass shoes and a wardrobe of fashionable and not inexpensive women’s attire. I had bought a car in a moment of glorious (and employed) optimism, but I neglected its payments and upkeep in favour of pursuing my sexual obsession.

I would manically buy, steal or connive to obtain my objects of sexual infatuation.

Distressingly, due to mental turmoil, I would binge and purge in this behavior. I would manically buy, steal or connive to obtain my objects of sexual infatuation. I managed to persuade, under the guise of a dare, an occasional acquaintance and relative stranger who is now married to one of my childhood friends to send me a lace g-string. I assume she remembers, and also that her husband knows. We don’t talk about it. I spent thousands, not all my own, on collecting sex in every way except in reality. Every six months or so I would crash and, riddled with depression and guilt, would hurl my entire collection in the bin. My senses of delusion were heightened. I would quadruple bag toys. Disguise everything so no-one could see it in the bin. I was convinced that the bin collector and the entire dump staff would save our bin (impossible–the rubbish went in with everyone else’s, the bin stayed on the footpath) to look through and laugh at what I had collected. I truly felt they would tell my parents and religious elders, despite being fully aware of the impossibility of that outcome.

My friend strove to reach my fullest highs and trudged through all but the loneliest of lows with me. For some reason he kept me supplied with sex toys and paraphernalia whenever I was without money. When I was convinced that I was of female gender, he expressed what could only have been a confusing and vulnerable thought that I might become a person with whom he could have a relationship. I unfeelingly abused him. I selfishly accepted his financial gestures, dismissed his emotional offerings and in return offered a reserved, difficult and often begrudging friendship. Even on the rare occasions when I was aware of this, I didn’t have the capacity to bare my heart and ask for his help or compassion. I just pushed him further away.

The years of young adulthood were filled with sex. Morbid, abusive, depraved sex–with myself, of course. Effectively, those years of repression weren’t wasted. No-one who knew me, unless family (and even they had/have no encompassing comprehension of the source of my misery) could identify any sort of malaise beyond an ‘intelligently’ (an oddly pejorative word in my world) irresponsible reluctance to grow up and get a job. And it isn’t that I couldn’t have had sexual partners. As far as that went, I got to third base. I was not without charisma and certainly had no genuine shortage of admirers at whatever level. But I took the high and mightily misguided moral ground. “I will not have sex before I’m married”, I would chant proudly to any suitor (who all naturally soon found action elsewhere), all the while abusing my anus with toys and enemas. I would regularly and compulsively dress in women’s clothing, wearing stockings and g-strings in public places—to work, family functions, and even church. Depravedly gorging on internet porn with hand glued to penis. Occasionally sniffing the dirty underwear of chosen female friends when opportunity presented, almost every moment spent thinking about or acting out sexual impetuousness. And nearly every other moment I felt miserable—a fraud. Ashamed. Soaring to the manic heights of illicit elation and crashing, hard, into the guilt and unmitigated shame of knowing that what I was doing was incompatible with my position in life and that I could never admit it to or share it positively with anyone.

I’ve been married for six years now, and have been deep in love with my wife for over seven. I rarely want sex anymore. I do want sex, but not the sex I can have. It’s not simply that I have preconceived notions which make ‘ordinary’ sex unappealing because I look at internet porn. I do of course, and it is unappealing to my more imaginative sexuality, but I’m not so dense as to think that the world is at an end because my wife won’t dress up in latex and pound me with a strap on dildo, though I often wish she would (I stopped asking long ago). But then again, maybe I have matured somewhat and perhaps that isn’t my real wish. My love and respect for my wife exists outside sex, though not mutually exclusive of it. I suppose if I’m perfectly honest, I don’t want my wife to engage in my deviant sexuality. I would warmly embrace her change of attitude if she chose to make it, but I accept that my views are altogether different and prove too challenging for her sense of self. That doesn’t mean our sex life is entirely dysfunctional. Nor, though, does it mean that I am not intensely turned on by the imagination of being anally dominated by a trans-gendered fetishist while simultaneously worshipping the turgid cock of a male. It feels a step too far to desire to engage with that reality, but deep down the curiosity is analogous to a Berocca tin, or moisturiser bottle.

I love my wife dearly, and that stands alone, but the inseparable fact remains that my gender identity is not static, and neither am I entirely convinced that my sexual orientation is exactly what I have so far clung to it being. What that actually means is shrouded in the hesitant and uneasy clouds of future discovery.

It’s certainly true that I had only unrealistic and probably unhealthy notions about marital sex. I never discovered my parents having sex, and I encountered pornography well before having knowledge of the possibility of my parents having sex. We had no television and saw no movies which might have educated me. In fact, movies, like television, radio, music and anything ‘worldly’, were forbidden. The glaringly obvious contradictions there were ‘explained’ as ‘necessary evils’. At any rate I recall seeing (while on holidays with the same cousin who introduced me to OzBike), the movie Action Jackson on television late one night. I think my Uncle was watching it. It had a scene where there was hypodermic administration of illicit drugs into the veins of a noticeably bare-breasted female entwined with the act of ‘making love’. Much like my earlier discovery of the pornographic novel, this was more than I could cope with. I felt violated—physically sick—viewing this, and I hid in the toilet, praying that God might forgive me for having been witness to such evil. This only fed the flame which tortured me regarding my urethral stricture. How was I to form any sort of valid idea about sex?

It is important to state that I don’t make this point in support of censorship, or to blame any social or psychological ill on creative expression. No, my violation and lonely misunderstanding of what I experienced is unavoidably a result of devout dogmatism and its inability (in my case, though I believe generally) to satisfactorily equip or prepare a child for the rigours of the reality which is human existence.

I knew the basic facts of where I came from, and how it happened. I knew that to have sex before marriage was something our congregation called fornication. Even within our local congregation I knew of several couples who had children born less than nine months after marriage. It wasn’t ever discussed–or at least discussion was of it was never permitted. We were allowed to attend sex education classes in late primary and high school but they weren’t discussed either. How was I to know anything real? All I had were pornographic magazines and internet chat rooms. I pretended, as I think perhaps did many of my generation, to be older (older than fourteen anyway), female and promiscuous. Possessing an above average literary inclination I did quite well in this arena. Besides a few other sources, in books and on the early vestiges of the internet, I had nothing at all on which to base any notion of a healthy sexual relationship.

I thought sex would be something amazing. Something fun. Something intimate. Something passionate. Something instant and insatiable. Something emotional that at times felt risky. Something fulfilling. I tasted hints of this with various girlfriends throughout high school and in the few years following. The sense of buildup was tempestuous, the anticipation intense. Unlike my wife, who engaged in an appropriate amount of healthy premarital sex, I remained a virgin. I didn’t know any different. I badly wanted something different, and deeply desired a sexual life, but a literal fear of God intervening in my life restrained me. With such intense expectation and emotion and almost absolute naiveté, it should be no surprise that from the first night of marriage (by that time we were both exhausted and I was almost beside myself with desperation–not exactly the ideal situation), sex was disappointing. It just wasn’t anything like I expected. I didn’t actually realise I had expectations until much later. I wanted of marital sex a connection that I presently don’t feel, have rarely felt, and in my more distressing moments despair that I may never satisfactorily achieve in any lasting sense.

Sex, in its absence, defined my pre-marital life, or at least three quarters of it. I had never known any different. To now be in a relationship where sex is treated as a grown up function is hard. I want it to be fun. Wild. Rough. Soft. Loud. Tender. Deviant. Enthralling. Never reserved, restricted or prohibited. I want love to be able to be present in sex, but I also want the capacity for sex to exist for its own and pleasure’s sake.

I love my wife and son without reservation. Despite episodes where the opposite feels more true, I love my life too. A sex-challenged relationship is hard on all parties–I’m led to believe this is true across the board. My relationship with my wife is strong, but I have to believe for reasons other than sex. And incomplete because of this fact? Perhaps it’s fair to wonder. Sex, for me, for my marriage, feels impossible to navigate or fully appreciate within the confines of that most dreaded word: institution. My desire is for sexuality to exist as it does naturally for individuals irrespective of institution and all that it implies. Where those worlds collide, so much more the pleasure to be found in a loving relationship. And if they never collide, I desire to not inhibit or impede the operation of either the relationship or its individual sexualities. I don’t automatically pose wanton hedonism as a viable alternative to institutionalised monogamous marriage, although I also don’t reject it as just that. Solemnly though, to bound sexuality within marriage by hacking off what falls outside the relationship is hard for me to bear. But bear it I must, for my love makes this compromise. Itchingly–and I fear unable to be scratched–it is compromise. In my marriage it is argued that it’s an equal compromise, but to me, the cards are stacked. ◾

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