What drives us to be excited by the things that turn us on? Is it something we learn or something we are born with? In this post I'll explore some of my very early recollections of sexual excitement, which when they happened were both incredibly exciting and confusing all at the same time. When did you first notice your arousal? I'm sure I am not alone!
Erick and I have a very interesting friendship. We used to work together; in fact I was once his boss. He's about twelve years younger than me, and our careers have taken quite different paths since we first met almost fifteen years ago. Let me first say that I have never been sexual with him, and don't intend to ever be. But our frank and honest discussions about sex have made me think a lot; about some ideas I'll share with you.
That day fifteen years ago at my first day on a new job, I walked around the office to meet all of the many people who now worked for me. I was managing the technical support center for a large professional services company, and I suddenly had more than 60 people in my charge, more than two thirds of them young men under the age of 25. While some were married, most were not, and I found myself wearing hats other than that of 'Boss' with some from time to time, giving needed (and sometimes unwelcome) guidance on topics like how to dress for work, how to plan a career, how to save for retirement and even how to get out of trouble with credit card bills they had rung up.
A few of my guys came to me with very personal problems as well. As you may have concluded yourself from my writing, many consider me to be a very sensitive, introspective and personally insightful guy. I place a lot of value in feelings and emotions, and appreciate the fact that people who are happy do better work and are more reliable. I pride myself on being approachable and easy to talk to. And thus, people who needed someone safe to talk to when they needed help sometimes sought me out to talk.
For example, I correctly guessed when one fellow had developed a drug addiction that sorely needed treatment, understood another's problems with recovering from alcoholism, and dealt with the sad case of a fellow who got in serious trouble for storing pornography on his office computer. Several guys had real social problems when traveling on business, often finding trouble related to alcohol and females. One fellow had his personal website linked to his on-line resume, a site that contained all sorts of unprofessional information about his head-banging Goth-influenced personal life. Another young guy kept falling asleep at his desk, and taking him aside I correctly surmised that he was spending time till all hours of the night in sex chat rooms. (Especially easy to guess when I had once done so much of this myself).
But meeting Erick was especially intriguing to me. He was in his early twenties but easily looked younger than 18. He was an unbelievably innocent looking baby-faced boy of Swedish decent, to me strongly resembling the kid on the label of the Dutch Boy paint can (but with a shorter haircut). I'll admit I was somewhat attracted to him, though I sensed immediately that he was 100% heterosexual by simply observing his consistent behavior near women. There were few girls who passed him by that he didn't stop his work to look after.
Socially, he and I were interested in many of the same hobbies. But since I was his boss, I was careful not to spend too much time with him in the office for fear of giving others the impression that I favored him. And, while I may have harbored some mild but benign sexual fantasies about him, I kept them well under control by any measure. On my own time I helped him with his income taxes and in setting up a personal retirement account, and talked with him about his career, as he was very smart and capable but lacked a college degree to help him get ahead as fast as he might have with one. Our conversations at work often spilled over into the evening, as we'd go out for a beer or he'd call me at home to ask my advice on some personal matter, and we'd talk long after the immediate problem had been solved.
My wife noticed my doting behavior, and was annoyed. 'That child has a father,' she'd complain derisively referring to Erick. 'He should be asking HIM those questions, not you.' She was probably right, but I had learned from talking with Erick that his relationship with his father was strained and cold. Erick obviously craved his dad's attention, and it was clear that he had substituted me into that role, at least just a little. Sometimes I'd get sort of sappy talking with Erick privately, calling him the sort of affectionate pet nicknames that a dad might use when talking to his ten year old son. But calling him 'little dude' and 'pup' and other affectionately inappropriate monikers didn't seem to phase Erick one bit; He never raised so much as raised an eyebrow when I referred to him in that way.
We both loved cars and computers, and like me, Erick had an old hot rod that he had lovingly restored to look like new, a hobby that fewer and fewer young guys seemed to be into these days. We hung around sometimes on weekends, going to car shows or swap meets and one Saturday afternoon I found myself at his house... actually his parents' house where he still lived, up in his bedroom, which was the same one he had occupied there since he was a small boy. The walls were still adorned with rock group posters and other clutter that abounded that reeked strongly of High School. Erick was happy still being a boy... albeit a 24-year-old one. As I sat in his well-worn swivel chair at his bedroom desk he proudly showed me his computer that he had built himself with spare bits and pieces. Flying through long directories of files on the screen he showed my how fast it ran and how much storage it contained.
But when he left the room for a minute to answer his mother's call, I returned to inspect one of those directories that had caught my eye. It was full of digital images, I could tell from the file names. And the titles of the images hinted that they were not from Sesame Street or the Disney Channel. The titles were all related to bondage and S&M. I didn't open any, but when he came back into the room, I didn't waste any time asking him.
'Tell me, are you into leather and bondage stuff, Erick?' I asked. 'Please, you can tell me, I don't mind.' He and I had talked frankly about so many subjects that this wasn't too much of a stretch from other topics we had touched on. But still it shocked him.
Erick blushed bright red and began to stammer looking for words. He realized that I had guessed what was undoubtedly his most shameful secret, one he most certainly never had intended to share with people from his public world, let alone sharing it with his BOSS. But he didn't deny it. 'Yes, I am', he admitted honestly.
The rest of the afternoon was an outpouring of honesty between us. I shared with him my sexual orientation, and the fact that I had just recently come to accept it myself as I am. He wasn't shocked or put off in the least, and he told me about his fascination with S&M and how the thought of beautiful women restrained by straps of leather was somehow, unexplainably an unbelievable turn-on in his mind.
I asked him when he first knew that he was turned on by this subject matter, images of restraint and punishment and even pain-it was all so hard for me to understand. 'Always,' Erick answered quickly. When I pressed him for specifics he told me the story of being a small child in elementary school and having a powerful erection when he had played a neighborhood game that had involved the loser being tied up with a rope and put under a pile of raked leaves. He confessed that after experiencing these new feelings that day, he had eagerly sought out others to play games like this with, and as the initiator he would experience wonderful sexual excitement when he-or others-were restrained with straps or ropes. Erick told me that as an adult he preferred silk cords the most, as they didn't leave any marks. As he grew, he graduated fantasizing over catalogs filled with pictures of paraphernalia, which led to finding girls whom he could coax to allow themselves to be tied up-or would tie him up, sometimes right there in his own bedroom where we sat and talked that very day. Turning to look at his bed, I imagined Erick's slim, five foot six, 140 pound body tied to it by his hands and feet, naked and sexually aroused, and the scene that appeared in my head was truly exciting to me. Looking at slight, small blond blue eyed Erick sitting near me; it was difficult to reconcile the image of this innocent-appearing little guy doing such taboo things and himself being turned on by them.
I willingly in turn confessed to him my own unexplainable attraction to other boys as a child, especially my childhood attraction to teenagers, telling him that I realized even as a small boy that my excitement was shamefully wrong and must not ever be shared openly with anyone else. He and I traded life experience after experience with each other that afternoon, quickly realizing that we were kindred spirits, separated perhaps by several towns and a decade of time, but both knowing that from an early age that we were different from other boys and were driven by strong, forbidden and sometimes overpowering sexual desires. From an early age, Erick masturbated frequently, and his accompanying fantasies were monopolized by images of bound and restrained women, just as mine were with visions of naked swimmers and wrestlers from the school teams.
I began to wonder like never before where these odd attractions that live in our subconscious and drive our desires come from, and how much of what we are aroused by is pre-programmed into the circuits of our brains before birth. I don't claim to have the answers, but just as Erick remembered very clearly his confusing, pre-adolescent childhood arousal by the game with the rope and the leaves, I began to recall from my own childhood my own confusing awakening experiences that at the time, I couldn't begin to explain.
I remember the tall awkward teenaged boy next door named Paul who played basketball in his driveway wearing his black high tops and black-framed glasses. It was 1966 or so, and I was only about five, but I wanted to know more about Paul. I wanted to watch him and sit near him and have him talk to me. I hoped he would know my name. I would peek out my bedroom window when I heard the basketball bouncing on his driveway, then go out and sit on the wall and watch him from twenty feet away. I never talked to him, except once when I meekly ran up to him and said 'Hello Paul' and then turned and ran away in shame. I was ashamed because of the curious affection I felt for Paul, because I knew even as a tiny boy that I wanted to be near Paul in a way that other people wouldn't understand. Even then I knew that the warm tickly feeling I felt in the bottom of my stomach when I saw Paul was somehow wrong and bad.
I couldn't have been older than six. I remember tuning in the old black and white TV in the basement to watch Flipper. I watched Flipper not because I liked dolphins, but because I liked Sandy, the fair and freckled teenaged older brother who was tan and shirtless in every show. I watched in the basement to be alone so no one would disturb me in my shameful solitude. As I watched, the parts that featured Sandy captured my attention and I found it felt soothing to put my hand into the front of my trousers play with my little willy to make him stiff and hard while I watched. I felt so pleasant inside, sitting all alone and tingling with contented warm happiness, fondling myself gently as I watched Sandy swim and run, imagining how nice it would be if he could come to play and just be alone with me at my house.
I was especially drawn to sit close to slim quiet fair boys in my first grade class. I didn't know why, but I just felt really good inside when I was near them. I recall one morning in First Grade when the class from across the hall came to visit our classroom to read stories that they had written. I sat in the front row, and a boy whom I saw on the playground and wished I could know better was waiting his turn to read. As he knelt on the floor at the front of the room, his back to me, with his book on the chalk ledge of the blackboard, I caught glimpses of just the top inch of his little round bottom and its cleft as he fidgeted around. I could not unglue my eyes from this beautiful sight and I recall the feeling of electricity that ran through me for the first time ever-that I had a sudden erection that was unexplainable, curious and uncomfortable - but wonderful. Nearly forty years later and I still remember this moment; obviously a significant event, though I had no real idea at the time why.
As I rode the school bus home one afternoon when in the third grade (which would have made me eight years old), commotion erupted behind me in the back of the bus. I was seated towards the bus's middle, and had to turn around to see what was going on. Freddy, one of the big fifth grade boys, had been dared by the others to expose his penis right there while riding on the bus. Freddy was not a clever boy, and in fact he was one of the biggest bullies in the school, always teasing my friend Scott and often making him cry. Freddy indeed had promised to 'whip it out' as he called it, but said that if he did that when he did 'no one else can look'. The other fifth grade boys scoffed at this notion, claiming that if no one looked, no one would be able to verify that Freddy had done the deed. The argument continued, punctuated by Freddy saying, 'OK, here goes...' and then the others would laugh. I couldn't see anything from where I sat, but I remember what happened to my little body at that moment. Straining my neck to see the back of the bus, I felt my groin tingle, and suddenly found my tiny penis sticking straight up and stiff as a ten-penny nail. I had had little boners before, frequently in fact, and they never concerned me, but I didn't usually associate them with any specific cause. But this boner had clearly been caused by what was happening in the back of the bus at that moment with Freddy!
There had to be some sort of connection, but I couldn't fathom what it was. The fact was that the stupid boy had allowed himself to be goaded into a compromising position in a public situation, and unexplainably his predicament had made my little penis stand at rigid attention. Why?
'Turn around, you stupid baby!' Freddy shouted angrily in my direction, spying my little face straining to peer over the seats into the rear of the bus. 'There's nothing for you to see here, you little crybaby!' he shouted, his own face flushed red with frustrated embarrassment. I quickly spun back around in my seat, frightened, and a little confused by what had happened... but I felt strangely warm and happy too. I was careful to avoid Freddy for a while after that.
About the same time, maybe just a few months later in the early summer, I was playing in the neighborhood park. It was the mid 1960's and kids my age were allowed to play unsupervised in a manner that seems to have vanished for young children today. Word spread over to the jungle gym where I hung upside down by my knees that, nearby, at brook just past the trees into the woods, Danny was going to show his penis to the other boys. Upon hearing this news, I couldn't climb down from my rusty iron perch fast enough. I accepted the fact that little boys like me did silly things like show their penises to each other but Danny was probably 11, practically a man! I wanted to see Danny show off his penis so badly that I ran as fast as I could into the woods to see if the story might be true. Coming to the top of the hill, I looked down and saw a small crowd of boys gathered around facing Danny. I scampered down the hill towards them, but found that the small stream that ran through at the bottom of the clearing blocked my way. They were all standing on the other side of the water; I didn't know how to get across, and I dashed frantically back and forth with Danny's back facing me, searching in desperately silent frustration for a way to cross the stream without falling into the water. I heard Danny say, 'Here it is, take a look and see. It's really just a little nose cone' and the other boys stared and laughed. I couldn't see a thing, and I was so frustrated that I was such a baby who couldn't cross the stream when these other boys had surely figured out how to do it. 'Please! I want to see too!' I cried out in frustration, but the mostly older boys just laughed and walked away.
I recall a fifth grade science lesson on the human body where we were told to put our hand on our neighbor's chest to feel his heart beating. I thought I was going to faint as Ronnie, a slim athletic blond boy I worshipped more than any other turned to me with his shoulders pushed back and I realized he expected me to touch his chest. The blood rose fast in my neck and my cheeks and ears burned. I gently put my hand on Ronnie's bony chest and felt how warm he was and felt him breathing and his heart beating. I suddenly could not catch my breath.
'Do you feel it?' he said.
I certainly did feel it. I felt something that he couldn't have imagined I was feeling and I would have died right there if he knew. But at the same time I was flying in heaven, I was also deeply, profoundly sad. I was sad because I strongly suspected that Ronnie didn't feel the same way about this science experiment as I did. To him, it was following the teacher's instructions. To me it was magic.
'Ohmygod is your heart beating fast' Ronnie chirped as he in turn put his hand on my chest. I was so embarrassed; the room was spinning and black and I felt my heart would pound right through my shirt as I felt his warm hand on my chest. I didn't want him to take his hand away. This was all so happily wonderful and glorious and beautiful yet so sad and bad and terribly wrong all at once.
At 11 I joined the Boy Scouts. Relatively unsupervised, the boys in our troop acted like a pack of wild animals, preying on the weaknesses of the younger scouts, myself included. Worse for me, being a Boy Scout was an experience that I had been looking forward to so much. I looked forward to camping in a tent with older boys, sitting around a fire in the dark; special time alone with other boys where I imagined we would tell each other our secrets. I longed to find someone else like me who was older and who would know that everything was going to be all right. I would furtively gaze into the eyes of the older, taller boys, some as old as 18. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be with them. I wanted to BE them.
My first camping trip started wonderfully. I met an 18-year-old Eagle Scout named Jim who was everything I dreamed of. He sat with me and taught me the safe way to use a pocketknife, we sat close to each other at the fire, and he messed up my hair and called me 'tiger'. My first thought on waking the next morning was to go find Jim and be with him again. I was so happy there were not words to describe how I felt inside. I knew that Jim accepted me, and I knew I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
Unfortunately, the other boys noticed my loving gazes and the way I leaned my head on Jim's shoulder and closed my eyes at the campfire. They called me a queer, a homo and other things I didn't understand. They asked me if I would give them blow jobs (whatever that was) and they physically pushed me. I realized with a sudden shock of horror that I had finally betrayed myself; I thought that I would die.... This toxic thing that somehow felt so perfectly wonderful when it was on the inside of me had finally leaked to the outside and was burning its way to destroying my life just as I feared would happen. For the next year every weekly Scout meeting was a nightmare... boys whispering in my ear asking me to suck their dicks and calling me a homo.
At a later scout camping trip a game of strip poker broke out, and I watched. As one of my 'favorites' lost, and would have been forced to remove his undershorts, the other boys started to back off.
'Just down to my skivvies, please!' he pleaded.
'No!' I spoke up suddenly. 'You have to take it all off. That's the rules.'
Everyone turned and looked at me. The younger boy beaten, they had been prepared to mercifully stop the game there.... Why was this casual observer suddenly so adamant that the losing boy get naked? My cheeks burned again as my little cock stood stiff in my shorts; I had betrayed myself once more. I soon quit Scouts for good... I could not handle the emotions (of what I later would identify as sexual tension) I felt whenever I was that physically close to a group of roughhousing boys.
Beginning Junior High, things stared to rush very quickly into awful, terrible focus. Things that would have never caused a second thought to 'normal' boys or their parents to me were anxiety filled situations. Gym class was the most brutal example. Let me paint the picture this way: Imagine that you, as a straight boy, were just starting to feel your sexual desires rising as the hormones started to course through your veins. Imagine that your little crushes on girls were becoming the powerful pre-teenage pulls of lust, felt for the first time. You might have just learned to masturbate-and your frequent private moments of climax were always accompanied by provocative and sensual mental images of the young girls you adored. Now imagine that your public school system puts you into a shower room with all these girls of your fantasy-and you all strip naked together standing inches from each other, close enough to see everything you ever imagined. Today's activity is wrestling... Brad, you wrestle with Kim and then Christine. Then you must strip and shower together after you have been rolling on the ground nose to nose, close enough to taste each others' breath and have another's sweat ground into your skin. Everyone has to shower- that's the rule.
If this really happened as I describe it, there would be a scandal. People would lose their jobs and be arrested and it would be on the evening news. Experts would decry the brutal damage and abuse being done to young, impressionable developing minds. But this 'scandal' was my daily reality.
So now, if you can, imagine you are no longer heterosexual; replace 'Kim and Christine' in the story with Bobby and Jeff. I stared, I gawked, I was on overload. I couldn't get enough. So, in retrospect, while other gay boys I have talked to in the years that have followed loathed gym class, I couldn't wait for Tuesdays to come around. That first September day in class as we sat in rows, I would look around the room and map out the alphabet in my head, imagining who I would have my locker next to and who I would get to see naked up-close at least two dozen times that year.
Getting back to Erick, we don't work together or see each other very much anymore, though we talk sometimes on the telephone. He will still willingly discuss his fetish, and has shared some stories with me that alarmed me slightly... that he had joined a private club in the city where members all have the same proclivities and take turns being tied up naked while others watch and have sex around them. He told me that recently it was his turn to be the 'guest of honor', tied up naked and put helplessly prone on display, and shared with me some of the things that happened that night in the room. I had to admit being worried about him. I feel a special affection for Erick, maybe because we both have secrets that are so shameful. I don't want anyone to harm him, and I fear that he is heading down a path that could come to a bad ending. But, I admit feeling some excitement too, as I envision his public arousal surrounded by other like-minded people, and even feel a little envy that he has been able to connect with others like him.
Erick hasn't married, and has had a tough time finding a stable and lasting relationship. He says that once girls find out what he is 'into' it makes it difficult to continue the relationship. He shrugs and says he doesn't mind, but I sense some loneliness whenever I talk to him that I just wish I could help ease. I just want Erick to have the same happiness and peace that I have found.