“Sex is like bridge; if you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand.” — Mae West
THIS JUST IN: ORGASM IS “INTERESTING”
Perhaps the best story I’ve ever read in the Indiana Daily Student appeared Friday. The story, I tell you, makes living in a college town all the more worthwhile.
It’s here, after all, that people actually investigate things like the origin of the universe, the inner workings of the cell, the psychological underpinnings of economics, and — even more intellectually compelling than those topics — the human orgasm.
Debra Herbenick — who, I’ve since learned, is a semi-regular visitor to Soma Coffee — is a research scientist and a director of IU’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion. She has released a study indicating that a significant percentage of women who work out at your local gym actually experience orgasm while they’re panting.
One of the Boys of Soma, Real Estate John, works part-time at the Monroe County YMCA. He usually pulls the Friday night shift. I pointed out the story to him. He read it with great interest. He turned to another Soma Boy who regularly works out at the Y on Friday nights and who also read the piece. Real Estate John said, “I have the perfect candidate.” he mentioned the name of a woman they both were acquainted with.
“Oh yeah!” the other guy said. “No wonder she always has an ecstatic look on her face.”
The woman, the fellows explained, is generally attached to the spinning bike.
That device, according to Herbenick, is one of the exercise machines that lends itself nicely to stimulating certain locales of the female anatomy. “[W]omen,” Herbenick told the IDS, “are moving their genitals in the bike seat.”
Spinning classes are awfully popular with women. Now I may know why. It occurs to me I’ve not met many men who take spinning classes. I wonder if this study will inspire more men to get into that regimen.
“Phew. I Need A Cigarette.”
Anyway, Herbenick said her study, which indicated that a shade more than one third of women canvassed have experienced the Big O while working out, “reminds people how interesting orgasm is.”
Can’t argue with that.
SPIES IN THE CLASSROOM OF LOVE
Most of what I learned early on about sex came from a fellow named Dr. David Reuben.
He wrote a gigantic bestseller in 1969 entitled “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask).” It’s estimated some 150 million inquiring minds have read it.
At the age of 14, mine was the most inquiring of minds. Especially about sex.
The book had somehow found its way into our house. I know I didn’t buy it; if I had, it would have been safely stashed in my room somewhere. Under the bed, next to the old liver sausage sandwich, probably — it’s true, for several months there was a liver sausage sandwich under my bed. I recall having made it late one night and, after bringing it back to my room, had promptly fallen asleep without eating it. It wound up under the bed.
Hey, I was 14 — leaving sandwiches under the bed and devouring all printed material pertaining to sex were defining characteristics of the age.
I know Dad didn’t bring the book into the house. My sisters had flown the coop ten years before and my brother was away at college so it couldn’t have been them. Process of elimination left Ma as the likely culprit.
The women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution were in full swing. Now, Ma wasn’t a practicing libber, nor did she sample the pleasures afforded by the newly relaxed attitudes toward sex. She was Ma, after all.
She was, though, eager to be seen as “up on things.” If either Gloria Steinem or Xaviera Hollander, for instance, was to appear on, say, Dick Cavett’s show on a given night, you can bet Ma’d be parked on the sofa, watching. She bought bestsellers like “Love Story,” “Portnoy’s Complaint,” and, I assume, Dr. Reuben’s book.
Man, as soon as she finished that thing, I snapped it up and started memorizing it.
Reuben described female topography in terms I’d never heard before. He revealed techniques and practices I could only dream of trying out. My time wouldn’t come for another five or six years, though.
Until then, I considered myself the sexual theoretician of my circle. “It says in David Reuben’s book that a man should…,” I’d begin whenever some sexual topic had arisen.
My pals listened raptly. None of them had the slightest patience to read a book — even one about sex — but they still were curious about the purported expertise Reuben offered.
One day I told Tough Marc about Reuben’s assertion that women know secret methods of masturbation in public. Reuben reported that many women liked to cross their legs and squeeze their inner thigh muscles repeatedly, often bringing themselves to orgasm.
“Oh My God, Is She? Do You Think?”
Now, Tough Marc was a gearhead and he packed a punch that could have been confused with the blow from a sledgehammer, but he was smarter than the rest of my neighborhood pals. He’d confessed he was almost tempted to forgo his long-lasting embargo on books and buy Reuben’s.
Such a concession made him, among my peers, an intellectual. Still, he was able to resist the urge. Last I heard, Tough Marc owned a car wash on the northwest side of Chicago.
Anyway, Tough Marc was fascinated by the revelation that women had ways to stimulate themselves under the table, as it were.
They’d do this on the bus, in the office, in the movie theater, and even standing in line waiting for the next bank teller. The impartial observer, Reuben revealed, could tell when a woman was hard at work in this manner by the swinging of her leg (if she were sitting) and the dreamy look on her face. Tough Marc and I pledged to monitor the legs and face of every woman we might encounter.
In the summer of 1971 both Tough Marc and I found ourselves in summer school taking a make-up course in algebra.
One of our classmates was a girl named Kathy Masterton. We noticed on the first day of class that Kathy Masterton was a champion leg swinger. You couldn’t walk down her aisle for fear of getting kicked in the shin or knee.
Kathy Masterton, too, often stared off into space, her eyes glazed.
Tough Marc and I looked at each other and nodded. After class on that first day we compared notes.
Leg kicks — check. Dreamy look on her face — yup.
Yeah, we concluded, Kathy Masterton confirmed Dr. Reuben’s assertion.
A couple of days later, Tough Marc said he’d come up with a new name for our leg-swinging classmate. “Kathy Masturbant,” he proclaimed, triumphantly. I congratulated him profusely.
As the summer school semester passed, we became transfixed by Kathy Masturbant. We maintained surveillance of her from the bell that signaled the start of class to the one that ended it. She kept up a rhythm with her swinging leg that can only be described as heroic.
Miss Fritz, the algebra teacher, wrote formulas from one end of the blackboard to another but we took no notice of them. Pythagoras, balanced equations, polynomials — none of them meant anything to us. Our focus was on Kathy Masturbant.
“Huh? What? I Dunno.”
Kathy noticed us staring at her. I became concerned she might suspect we were on to her. Nevertheless, she kept swinging her leg.
Kathy smiled at me one day and I smiled back. Tough Marc and I conferred about this development immediately after class. It was decided I should chat her up and, if I was lucky, get the inside dope on this leg-swinging business. “Good luck,” Tough Marc said, solemnly.
It’s important to note that we didn’t hatch this plan just to embarrass her. Nor was our aim to somehow get sex from her. We were still too far away from that Holy Grail to consider it a reasonable possibility.
No, our goal was knowledge. We wanted to know if Dr. Reuben’s leg-swinging theory could be proved. Ours was a scientific quest.
Oh, on second thought, the idea of having sex with Kathy Masturbant must have crossed my mind. I can’t imagine being 15 and certain a girl I knew was masturbating in public and not think it conceivable she might have sex with me.
Then again, Kathy Masturbant was an exceedingly plain-looking girl, which is a nice way of saying she was a gargoyle. In fact, Tough Marc and I cursed our luck that the most likely public masturbator we’d yet found was so homely.
So, we gamely carried out our scientific pursuit.
The next day during class break, I approached Kathy Masturbant in the school parking lot. She was busy lighting one cigarette off another. We exchanged greetings and engaged in a bit of small talk. She seemed easy enough to talk to, although it must be admitted I was scared to ask her about her swinging leg.
“Go On, Man. Talk To Her.”
I glanced over at Tough Marc, who was eying us from several cars away. He could sense my resolve was fading. He mouthed the words “Ask her!” at me.
I screwed up my courage and spoke up. “So, uh, y’know, I see you’re always, like, swingin’ your leg. Know what I mean?”
“I do?” she said.
“Um, yeah. You do.”
“Oh,” she said.
“So, uh, what’s that all about?”
Kathy shrugged. “I dunno. I’m nervous I guess. What’s the big deal about it?”
“No big deal,” I said. “I’m just interested.”
Oops. Wrong choice of words. Kathy interpreted that to mean I was interested in her.
Which I wasn’t. I still had a teenaged boy’s arrogance that made me think she was not attractive enough for me.
Kathy became giddy. She started telling me all about her family and friends. She suggested we go to see the movie “Patton” someday soon. I let it slip that I was a Cubs fan and she jumped on that, saying we had to go to a game that weekend. Next thing I knew, she’d invited me over for dinner that coming Friday.
“Y’mean, Like A Date?”
I hadn’t the heart to turn her down. Plus, there was that little part of me that hoped she, the public masturbator, might let me have sex with her.
That Friday I showed up at her family’s apartment at dinner time. She and her mother had laid out a fancy spread. Clearly, my presence made the affair a special occasion.
After we ate, Kathy’s mother said, “You and your boyfriend go in the living room and watch TV. I’ll do the dishes.”
Boyfriend. My hair stood on end (yes, I had hair.)
We watched “The Brady Bunch” (which I loathed), “Nanny and the Professor” (not only bad, but boring), and “The Partridge Family” (now, that was a good show; Susan Dey inhabited every heterosexual boy’s nocturnal fantasies). For her part, Kathy loved “The Brady Bunch” and was in heaven when “Nanny” came on. “The Partridge Family,” she could take or leave.
Throughout the hour and a half, Kathy’s leg never stopped swinging. At eight-thirty, her Mom came into the living room and said we’d better call it a night. By that time, Kathy had scootched so close to me that I was squeezed into the corner of the sofa.
Kathy put her arm in mine and walked me to the door. I thanked her Mom for the delicious dinner and was about to say goodbye to Kathy when she ushered me onto the front porch and closed the door behind us. She launched into an itinerary that included “Patton” and the Cubs game and four or five other engagements for the two of us over the next couple of weeks. She held my hand as I leaned toward the front steps — swear to god, had she let go, I’d have fallen down the stairs.
Again, I didn’t have the heart to turn her down (nor did I wish to pass up the chance, however negligible, that she’d let me have sex with her.)
Funny thing was, we had a lot of fun over the next couple of weeks. The next Friday night when we walked home from the Tivoli Theater, we took our shoes off because we fancied ourselves sorta-but-not-quite hippies. When we went to the Cubs game, we sat in the very top row of the upper deck and looked out over the city and Lake Michigan and pointed out landmarks to each other. We went to hear Styx at the high school gym and danced until we were soaked in sweat.
C’mon, Go Easy On Me — I Was A Teenager, Okay?
One day in class, Kathy stopped swinging her leg long enough to inform me that her mother would be out that evening. I should come over, she suggested, so we could listen to her new “Shaft” album.
When I told Tough Marc about this, it was his turn to congratulate me profusely. And again, he said solemnly, “Good luck.”
“Shaft” was a double album — total running time, 68:50. Oh, the things we could do in that time frame!
I was beginning to like Kathy. And, truth be told, she wasn’t that bad looking really, as long as I ignored her horn-rimmed glasses and slight case of acne. Only now am I strong enough to admit she had to ignore the same things on me.
We were laying on the living room floor, kissing deeply, by the time Track 4, Side 1 came on. “Ellie’s Love Theme.” Kathy’d said, “I’ll show you how to French kiss.” I thought I might pass out.
By the time Side 2 fell onto the turntable, Kathy pushed me away. “Look here, buster,” she said. “We can do this all night long if you want.”
I nodded enthusiastically; unfortunately there was more.
“But I want to tell you something. I’m a virgin and I’m gonna stay that way! Capeesh?”
I’d never been so relieved in my life. I’d only just learned how to French kiss moments before. Despite reading Dr. David Reuben’s book from cover to cover several times over, I still had no idea what was expected of me had she said tonight’s the night.
Kathy’s Mom came home around 10:30. She looked at us suspiciously. Kathy said, “Mom, we didn’t do anything. We just listened to albums.”
Her Mom looked skeptical. “I don’t want anything going on around here,” she warned.
“Oh no!” I said quickly. “No, no, no, no. Nothing.”
With that I said good night to Kathy and told her Mom how very nice it was to see her again. She nodded but her eyes were narrowed.
Kathy and I lasted about another two weeks, which constituted a committed, long-term relationship at our age. A cosuin had introduced her to a boy who, Kathy told me apologetically, had bedroom eyes. The unspoken question being How could she not start dating him.
I began walking home certain I’d kill myself that night. By the time I’d hit the back door, though, I was over Kathy.
I never did find out if Kathy Masturbant was, well, masturbating when she swung her leg so heroically. In retrospect, I realize I was never cut out to be as accomplished a sex researcher as Debra Herbenick.
THEME FROM SHAFT
Any song off this double album still makes my legs weak.