by Robin Gorsline
I come to this topic fresh from reading an article in the New York Times, “Sex Talk for Muslim Women,” by Mona Eltahawy. She writes about her decision, at age 29, to throw off the shackles of being told she must wait until marriage to a man to be sexually active. She now writes and speaks publicly in a campaign to help other women, Muslim and not, who are victimized by cultures that seek to control or eliminate women’s sexuality and sexual expression. She is a freedom fighter of the first rank. I am in awe of her absolutely vital work.
My story, as a privileged white male, a gay-identified guy with a few peculiarities in my gender portfolio, is far less inspiring and world-changing. However, I think it does speak to certain important issues. And it is critical for me to tell it, for my own sense of self and for what I hope will help others to remove inhibitions that do not serve one’s physical or mental health.
I had two moments of sexual freedom just three days ago. The first happened Sunday evening while Jonathan and I watched television. I was not wearing pants (it is my custom in the house to go at least pants-free, and wearing less if the temperature cooperates), and I looked down at one point at my penis. As I did, I thought, “You know, you are really cute.”
This may not seem like much to you, but it is a really big deal for me. It represents tremendous progress, I call it liberation. Readers of this space know I have a small penis, and that I have lived my post-puberty life self-conscious about it, actually much of the time not feeling good about it. Usually, like many men, if it is visible I try to get it to look bigger. But on this occasion, I just liked what I saw.
This is a first time for me. Yes, for the first time I have ever, without trying to convince myself, I felt my little guy is just fine the way he is. That is a revolution for me. I feel free—freed from the foreboding that has followed me everywhere for as long as I can remember, freed from the feeling of less-than about something that is not of my doing and I cannot change, freed from the sadness that accompanied me and the anger and resentment that I was dealt a bad hand that underlay it.
This is all new for me, and I am not certain it is sustainable, but I do know this, I feel lighter, happier, more centered in wholeness than I have felt in a long time. This may seem like a big claim, perhaps out of proportion to the issue, but it is nonetheless true for me: I no longer need to carry the burden of feeling like a freak (and I have never said that out loud before, because it is only now that I have a little distance that I can even admit it is how I felt).
Also, I do not think there is any accident that I had another liberating moment later that night. Jonathan and I went to bed that night, and had agreed ahead of time that we would make love. And we did. It was great! We love each other very much, and our lovemaking showed it. We have enjoyed sex with each other for more than 18 years and I expect that to continue until we are no more.
But I was unable to ejaculate. It happens to me fairly frequently, partly to do with age, and partly to do with long-term testosterone replacement therapy (one of the side effects of such therapy is reducing, if not eliminating, the work of the testes which produce both testosterone and semen). I use the testosterone gel in response to abnormally low levels and to help counteract ED (erectile dysfunction). I have not written about this in this space before, and may well say more later, but this condition certainly affects many older guys like me, but also many others, including men in their twenties.
Still, the sex was great. And, I thought maybe with some masturbation I would still ejaculate. So I pleasured myself lying in bed, using my favorite 100% pure organic coconut oil, for a while. It felt good, but I did not achieve orgasm. After a few minutes, I went to sleep.
Then, about 3:30 pm I woke enough to realize my penis was pretty hard. Right away, I wanted to stroke it, and so I did. It felt so good. I looked at Jonathan sleeping by my side, and I felt his body, too. A great feeling of joy came over me, and I lay there masturbating. I did that, off and on, never too vigorously but with a feeling of deep pleasure, for the better part of two hours, drifting off to sleep a little and then waking up enough to enjoy more pleasure.
At some point, I began to feel tears. They were not tears of sadness but gratitude, and happiness. I realized it was the first time I had done this in bed with someone beside me. It felt so freeing. I could not see my penis in the dark, but I knew, now, how beautiful it is and how much I like and enjoy it.
Once again, I felt free, freed from hang-ups about self-pleasuring being something to do furtively and in a hurry, freed again from shame about my penis, freed from worrying about not ejaculating, freed to simply enjoy the waves of pleasure which engulfed me from time to time in the two hours, freed to admit that I not only love Jonathan for all he is but also that he is a sex object for me, a creature whose body I desire to explore and celebrate as I also explore and celebrate my own.
These two instances of sexual freedom are nothing compared to how Mona Eltahaway and Muslim (and other) women struggle to overcome vast, powerful social and religious machinery that denies them sexual agency, nor are they on the scale of those young women and men in this country who are imprisoned by religious authorities who tell them sex is only to be enjoyed only after marriage, nor are they weighted with the heaviness of trans folks and others, including closeted LGB folks, who struggle to find their sexual voices when they are told to keep their bodies silent, nor can they compare to the struggles of African American women and men so often defined by and controlled by sexualized stereotypes in our white privileged culture.
But, still, I am a new person as a result. I am more fully the embodied human being God created, and continues to create, me to be. That’s a big deal, for me, and for everyone else who gets to experience their own liberation.
Sexual freedom for me means to draw upon the gift of human sexuality as we have received it as a fundamental way to be fully human, and to do so without being shamed or controlled by others who are afraid not only of the bodies and sexuality of others but also of their own.
I came of age in the 60s—graduating high school in 1965—but it is only now that I am really claiming the sexual freedom about which so many spoke in those days. Then, I could understand it mentally, philosophically, even theologically, but now I understand it in my body, my whole body. Thank you, God, and thank you to so many who have helped me along the way. I know there may be more in the years ahead.
Who knew it would be like this: I am my most sexually free, so far, as I prepare soon to turn 70. But I am not surprised really; God often chooses the unlikely candidates to let divine truth shine through.
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What do you think? What is your idea of, or relationship with, sexual freedom? Please share below (or at the combined site for Malachi’s and Robin’s personal stories), or write Malachi and/or Robin at the emails listed.