I was pretty excited about missing college graduation to go play on a cruise ship for the next six months because the itinerary included Scandinavia for the summer, the Mediterranean for the fall, and then the Caribbean for the winter before my contract would end before Christmas, when I hoped to eventually move to NYC with my saved money. Besides, I knew Oberlin was going to send my degrees in the mail anyway. Just like I would often leave Judy for college just when things seemed to start heating up or getting good, before I hopped on the cruise ship I started to dating a sophomore I fell for my last semester at Oberlin.
Over the next three years, I would bounce between relationships with the sophomore and Judy. When I would break up with one, I would see the other. I obviously had commitment issues. I was scared of my inability of being sexually consistent, and was afraid of needing newness to consistently be turned on and prove my sexual worth as a man. In my mind, it was never enough just to be a good person or a trustworthy friend. I felt like if I was not consistently a good fuck every time, I was a failure as an intimate partner to girls. My dad always said I put too much pressure on myself and that it wasn’t a big deal, but of course I always wanted to be more man than my dad. And then when I did feel confident as a good lover I would want to dominate the world by sharing these gifts with others.
I had a knack for establishing enough intimacy and emotional sweetness to draw a girl in to like me, and then made myself busy enough to make clear that my career and fleeting desire for “sewing my oats” as a potential “rock star” took priority over developing any officially labeled relationship. When I would be back in the NYC area, where they both ended up living, we often picked up where we left off or started over, even if we had been individually seeing other people. Though they were off and on, those two girls were the two longest relationships I ever had. Each relationship stint with these two girls always, lasting a month or so at a time, felt new and familiar at the same time. It was twisted and selfish but I justified my self-centeredness by the fact that I worked hard and dedicated enough in my career, and was nice and sweet enough, that I earned the right to have and eat my cake too. I just wanted to keep the relationships relaxed and flexible, skewed towards my favor. I was too insecure to commit, and too comfortable to let go.
As you could imagine, the close quarters of working with so many band members, being around many gay dancers and singer, and still never having experienced a consistent sexual relationship with a girl, I found myself insecure about my sexuality, afraid that I still might be gay. I looked forward to hopefully hooking up with female passengers on this cruise ship over the next six months, though Norwegian Cruise Lines rules were pretty strict in prohibiting that. I was successful once with a very petite girl passenger. She was an American who I flirted with along with her sister during one 12-day cruise. I ran into this girl at a club at an “overnight” in Copenhagen. When we went back to the ship I snuck her into my small cabin. My bunkmate, the drummer of the show band, was out doing his thing and wasn’t going to be back for a while. I was pretty confident that I would rock this girl’s world. She was so small I imagined that I might almost break her and enjoy dominating her. I mean I’m fairly average but I just figured she was so short and skinny. She was in the middle of a separation and I knew she was looking for physical affection as much as I was. She was very nice. We climbed up to my bunk.
When the moment of the sex bout began, I was kind of shocked. Her body was so short and skinny I was not sure how this was happening. I felt like a tic tac in a well! Her vagina was huge and I felt embarrassed that I could not match up. She ended up getting on top of me and between my legs with her legs closed to make it feel tighter. It felt so weird to be spreading my legs on the bottom as a man, with someone one top between them even if I was the one doing the penetrating. At that point my drummer bunkmate opened the door, said “sorry” and left. After a few more minutes of awkward ministrations, I eventually came with her but afterwards I made up an excuse that I remembered there was a party going down at the crew bar (restricted from passengers) I had to go to. We got dressed and snuck her back into the passenger halls of the ship. Embarrassed for not “measuring up” in the way I had hoped, I avoided seeing her around the ship the rest of the week of her cruise. It was a sobering lesson relearning that you can never tell about someone’s “equipment” just by the way they look. We all come in different sizes and shapes WITH different sizes and shapes. Some are just compatible while others are not.
A few weeks later, one night I remember falling asleep on my top bunk, only to be awoken groggily to a drunk gay dancer in my cabin tracing his finger on the sleeping erection in my pants. When he saw me open my eyes a little, he said “Oops I just saw a party going on in here”. At first I thought he meant in my tiny cabin and I was confused. He must have just been drinking with my straight drummer roommate, who came out of the bathroom after he said this, and then they both left probably to keep drinking. I was kind of dazed, but when I came to my senses I felt violated, but also worried that maybe I liked it a little. I mean was it so different from my “official” first time, which I enjoyed? It made me think about further about “oh god maybe I’ve been lying to myself”, even though I still jerked off thinking about women every day (only some times into condoms now to get the practice). I called my parents while in Copenhagen another week later freaking out, and my parents said something to the effect of “we figured you would try to see if you liked guys while you were out there”, almost giving me a pass, encouraging me to confront my fear. I was kind of intrigued by the idea, and once again seemed less stressed about whatever I was because my parents seemed so secure with whoever I would end up being.
My best friend on the ship, aside from a piano player from Mexico City named Alejandro, with whom I played many chess games to pass the time, was a featured dancer in the Broadway shows on the ship named Toilever (pronounced “Toliver” like “Oliver” but with a “t” in front of it). Toilever was an amazing dancer/gymnast, ands a decent singer. He looked a little like a throwback from an early 90’s video. He was brown skinned, had very cut lithe muscles, and a long gerry-curlish hair. He had a strong sense of the dramatic. I related to how much of an outsider he seemed to be. Dancers and singers on cruise ships tend to be catty, and he often seemed to be on the outside of certain clicks, so I liked him. We would train together, and run outside on the deck of the ship. He offered exercise tips to me. He taught me very gay showbiz terms like being “pulled” and “snatched”, which I loved. Those words meant that everything was together, tight – the body, the hair, the attitude, the whole package. When you had your whole package as an entertainer and artist together you were “pulled”. “Snatched” seem to be a higher degree than pulled. As much as I would continue to train and workout, he always said that the one thing that kept me from being truly “pulled” and “snatched” was that I did not trim my nose hairs. He always said I really needed to take care of that, which to this day is hard for me to keep up on. He was such a sweet guy. I related to his insecurities, and he would confide in me the latest gossip going on among the dancers and singers while I would tell him what I had heard in the band.
I admired Toilever. He was a good supportive friend. I also envied his athleticism. I envied it to the point if I wondered if I was attracted to it. Because of all my sexual insecurities, I also wondered what he thought of me. He would tell me about messing around with some of the guys on the cruise ship who I thought were strictly straight. I asked him if his “gadar” went off around me and he said it didn’t. However, I wasn’t sure if he told me this because he sensed it was what I wanted to hear, or because he really felt that way. Still I had gotten to a point after a couple of months where I thought I would try to create or be open to a situation open to having a “gay” experience. I trusted Toilever and figured if I were going to have my first gay experience, it might as well be him. Up until then, we had only talked or hung out at lunch or at the crew bar after shows. I never went to his cabin. So during one of our lunches, we had been talking about favorite movies, he mentioned one of his. I said that I was curious about it and he said he had it on video in his cabin. So we made a time to watch it together. I thought, “Fuck it. You know what? Let’s see what happens.” All the times I saw movies with Ethan and hung out with my straight guy friends, let’s really see once and for all if maybe I could free willingly do this with someone I knew who would be an open and willing participant.
There we were, armed with candy and snacks, and Toilever put in his VCR, “Out of Darkness” (1994) a made for television movie starring Diana Ross playing a woman struggling with schizophrenia. Toilever was a huge Diana Ross fan and found her diverse career an inspiration. For 100 minutes, Toilever and I sat side to side in his small bunk bed with our snacks watching the movie with our arms occasionally touching and brushing each other. I tried to figure out if I was turned on, and then not trying to think too much about it and just chill and see what happens, not judging myself or the situation. When the movie was over, we had some simple conversation about the movie and ship gossip. Still, I felt that if my moment then with Toilever were in a movie, it was the definitely the time that if something were going to happen it would start then. I imagined the strange lull in the air could have led to us leaning towards and kissing each other.
I tried to keep my mind open, but eventually my mind screamed out a moment of realization. I was uncomfortable! More than that, I felt like I was about to kiss my dad. I felt as uncomfortable as the moments when I felt like my dad was about to be overly affectionate and accidentally kiss me on the neck or half way on the lips. I realized that as much as I admired him, kissing or starting anything sexual with Toilever was really the last thing I wanted to do. I thought about my other option for the night, and the idea of returning to my bunk and vedging alone seemed really attractive. Toilever and I hugged eachother, said good night for the evening. I went back to my cabin, and turned on the television where I happily discovered Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” playing on one of the crew channels, and vedged happily alone in my cabin the rest of the night. Toilever continued to be a close friend for the rest of our contracts.
While I had first used email in college, I had no concept of how it worked until someone encouraged me to sign up to Hotmail while I went with someone to an Internet café in Kusadasi, Turkey during the Mediterranean run. At that time in 1999, not having email seemed to be the equivalent of someone today not having a cell phone or not having a facebook account. I just could not believe it was for free. Even letters cost money. How could something on computers, which seemed to run on electricity be free? Discovering the joys of my hotmail account, my motivation to get off the ship to go into the various ports of call became more about finding internet café’s than checking out sites. I remember even then feeling guilty for getting addicted to checking my email instead of experiencing culture.
However, I was hardly prepared for what the Internet had to offer when I moved to NYC in 2000. Moving into my Oberlin friend Chris’ apartment in a seedy area Williamsburg, I made the corner of his study my bedroom, which merely consisted of a shelf and a mattress. Within my first week he showed me on the computer of his study/my bedroom my first porn site “Thumbz.com”. I could not believe that all these pictures, hundreds, thousands, dare I say millions of naked pictures of naked girls could be seen on his computer for FREE! As much as I practiced during the day, I felt drawn to log onto his dial up Internet, and would just get lost pleasuring myself looking at all these naked models, amateurs, legal aged teens, etc. while he worked during the day.
This was the start of the time in my life when I could tell how badly I needed to clean my room just by looking at how extensive the cum stains were on the hardwood floor by a computer. While living around Chris’ computer, my lingerie magazines seemed a distant memory and now seemed so tame. When I had roommates I would have to justify why I spent so much time on the Internet. Porn became my daily addiction. How often I would find myself scrambling if I heard the door of the apartment open while I was busy checking some out in my room or in a common area.
When I could not view Internet porn, especially before I got my own computer, I became much bolder in purchasing porn magazines in the airport or at bodegas, especially Penthouse Letters, which had really intriguing stories about cuckolds. I often imagined I’d be the one to do the cuckolding in those stories, to be the forbidden fruit, the one that would steal the girl, the one that would not have to worry about commitment, because I would be the one to always mess it up anyway.
By the time I got my own computer in 2001, and old macbook, I was amazed about how not only were there pictures, but that 10 second videos also could play on a computer! And not just videos of naked girls stripping or posing but having sex! There almost seemed no need to do it myself. I could almost just fantasize I was the guy in the video, a different 10-20 second clips every day.
The one thing I seemed to notice is that if I spent time watching porn – videos and pictures for averages of 1-3 hours a day – my standards both for my own performance and what I expected girls to look and act like also were raised. It was very difficult to duplicate the same performance of porn stars I watched, and I often felt just a little disappointed with some of the sub-porn standard parts of their bodies. I mean usually the excitement of a hooking up with someone for the first time was enough to overcome any disappointment or potential turn off from any natural physical imperfection any woman has. I felt bad that my standards became so high.
I was mad that I was addicted to the pretty fantasy girls inside the screen in the computers in my apartment. When I stayed away from porn, either when I was too busy or depressed, I found that my standards became more realistic. Idle hands. I enjoyed girls in real life, not noticing their imperfections nearly as much, nor did I hold myself as accountable for my own imperfections. Still it was so easy to just log on and look. And by the time Ethernet and the wireless became part of cable television packages to purchase, it was that much faster and easier to escape into my masturbation vice. It was much harder to develop and want to search for unavoidably imperfect female contact, when perfectly edited fantasies were at my disposal with the click of a mouse or button. While Internet porn made finding intimate balance in real life that much harder, I suppose it also enabled me to focus on my work more because I did not have to rely on women as my sole outlets for sexual release. Porn was indeed a double-edged sword that easily could wound me when I got on the wrong end of it. One edge was a healthy release to de-stress. The other edge was an overly accessible addiction that would further warp my expectations of my own sexual control and performance. I really wanted to the abilities of a porn star and much as the abilities and musical recognition of a rock start dancing and playing trombone (and maybe even singing).
My relationship with Internet porn was (and is) somewhat unique. Some times I wonder if without my Internet porn habit, I would ever even attempt to accumulate the same vast collection of sexual images and videos in a more purely analog world. Whether or not in a relationship, I could see myself content with just cycling through a standard stash of say about 5-10 magazines and VHS/DVD’s, possibly, adding a new one here and there every year to spice things up. Compare that to the tens of new “actors and models” and scenarios I could tear through in one SITTING at a computer. I even became frustrated when my Macintosh could only download Quicktime formatted videos, when so many hot videos seemed to be in WMV format. My habit got so bad, that at times I shamefully snuck into my roommate’s room to check out various WMV videos on his PC. He rightfully was angry when he saw what I had done in his cookies history, and almost gave him a computer virus. I was not immune to checking out WMV formatted videos on my parents’ computer when I would return their car after a gig of mine.
Since I only briefly tried pot a few times, tried mushrooms once (which scared the shit out of me), and never really liked drinking, my porn habit truly was my most guilty pleasure. My taste in porn is actually quite tame and “vanilla”. I never got into anything involving animals. At times when I would check in with my heterosexuality, I tried checking out some gay porn just to see if I would get into it. After a few seconds I would realize, “nope, still straight”, and go back to what I would describe as “meat and potatoes” porn. I was not into bondage or any kind of fetish. I liked mostly guy on girl porn where the girl would be in the throes of vocal orgasmic passion. I didn’t like porn where the girl was being hurt, abused or physically assaulted. I only liked watching it as rough as the girl seemed to legitimately like it, without being forced into it. Sometimes I liked watching two guys on a girl, often imagining I was the one that grabbed more of her attention at the moment. I obviously liked two girls and one guy porn. Still, having never experienced a threesome in real life, I was a little wary after of that combination after seeing a movie where a guy lost his girlfriend to the girl that they included in a threesome. In this way, I was suspicious of gay or bi-female competitors too. While lesbian porn was nice, I felt like there was not enough of a male presence to vicariously live through, except when I could imagine myself as the dildo or strap-on in use.
Not surprisingly, what turned me on the most were situations where the guy, regardless of race, was unexpectedly good, or was desirably taboo. Feeling like an outsider for so much of my young life, I wanted to be that unexpectedly desirable forbidden fruit, the other man that would either seduce or steal a girl from someone else. This was kind the attitude and angst I brought with me when I performed at weddings and various “club dates” hidden behind by androgynous and flamboyant dancing. I loved the idea of being “the other guy”. I always felt like the other guy anyway. Pretty much any situation where the guy character could unexpectedly be talented and impress, get and/or steal a girl turned me on. I preferred being the underdog, the other guy, the one without expectation or without commitment. The one that enjoyed being desired up until the point of being trapped in a committed relationship. I never watched porn about committed relationships. I’m not sure if there is a whole lot of porn out there like that anyway.
I always watched porn by myself. Every now and then I might show a friend some downloaded clips of some sexy scenes, but never to the point of whipping it out in front of each other. The only memory of actively watching porn in a group was when I was on tour with a band in Europe a few years after moving to NYC. After checking in late into a hotel, a bunch of the guys agreed to watch some Monty Python videos in one of the band members’ rooms. After watching some Python, the member said he had some porn and there seemed to be a resigned casual consensual approval of the six or seven guys of us there. I think I as the only white guy in the room of mostly black guys. The video that came on was of a blonde girl giving blowjobs to a white guy and a black guy. At that moment the white guy’s penis was bigger than the black guys, which elicited the comment from one of the guys in the room “Man the black guy isn’t representing right now. What’s going on?” I felt a little awkward but also kind of laughed to myself. Meanwhile, nobody was making any motions to whip anything out. We were just watching entertained by what felt like the absurdity of all of us watching porn together. The band member who was hosting of this spontaneous viewing party fast forwarded the video. Now the black guy, apparently now more aroused, had grown bigger than the white guy at which point someone else in the room said “Yeah that’s what I’m talking about.”
I had grown close to a lot of these guys on the tour, and they appreciated my weirdness and outspokenness. Using my scientific nerdy rationalization I said just to defuse any tension of me being white and at the same time sticking up for myself and people who happened to look like me, “Man I don’t sweat the size thing. I know if it came down to it and it was me, I would move so fast that the space I would occupy during my movement would become solid, so I could be as wide and long as I want to be”. Everybody laughed and said I was crazy. A few minutes later, when the vibe got boring and a little awkward, we all seemed to excuse ourselves to retire to our respective hotel rooms.
Porn was not my only outlet for de-stressing. I was also a “foodie”. I would say the bulk of the modest money I earned as a freelance trombonist/dancer/movie and television extra in NYC went to food and eating out. Whenever I either experienced a personal victory performing well at a stressful gig, getting on television, or after an exhausting week or day physical and musical training, the coping mechanisms I treated myself to could pretty much be summed up as “cookies and porn”. I love cookies and baked goods. My favorite cookies include “Sausalito Pepperidge Farms Sausalito, and Milano. I love 72% dark chocolate mixed with anything that I can dip in peanut or almond butter. Meals that I have treated myself to include Buffalo Burgers with side salad and fries at my favorite NYC diner Big Nicks on the Upper West Side, and pizza at Patsy’s with pepperoni, peppers, and sun dried tomatoes. Eating after a gig is my version of drinking, but because I have always been so “type A” about health, I never let it get too out of control unless I think I deserve it. Generally I like to mix some type of protein in the form of red meat or chicken, or an Annie’s organic bean burrito, followed by an indulgence of dunking cookies in milk until I get through a whole bag while watching some late night television. I’m all about A1 sauce and hot sauce. I love vinegar in most things. I hate licorice and grapefruit. I love cranberry juice. At certain times of the year, cookies may be replaced by a pint of ice cream (Vanilla Swiss Almond, Butter Pecan, Caramel Cone, Coffee). Follow or precede that ritual with some porn or sex with a girlfriend and I’m good to go. Actually on second thought precede that ritual with sex. After I eat all that food I usually like to fall asleep.
The fact of the matter is that when it comes to food and enjoying it, I feel like I have earned that right because of all the physical activity I commit myself to. I figure I’ll burn it off, or will burn it off because of the line of work I happen to be in. Between weight training, yoga, and dancing and playing trombone on gigs, I usually am not concerned about gaining weight on account of my eating habits, which are not that unhealthy, but at times arguably excessive. When I stop being so physical in my career, I’m sure I’ll have to change up my eating habits. I actually have found that as I have gotten older, I do not have to eat as much, often skipping breakfast, but that might be because I end up eating before I fall asleep so late at night that the food from the night before is still in me for the first part of the day. I know they say it’s not that healthy but it feels fine for me for now.
I did not have as guilt free a relationship with Internet porn as I have had with food. I did not have as guilt free a relationship with sex in general as I did with food. While food often seemed to be a separate prize from working hard for status, in my mind sex and porn, while as enjoyable, were very much parts of the process of working hard towards status. Besides the guilt associated from being caught masturbating, I often felt guilt for wasting my orgasms on a computer or my imagination instead of using that energy more constructively in my relationships with women.
I had not had a steady relationship aside from my two main off and on ones, and a sprinkling of hookups from gigs in the city and on the road. I did not let myself go, out of fear of losing control, and not being enough of a man. I based most of my sense of self worth on my ability to seduce women and my ability to give orgasms while controlling my own. Just like my performances on trombone and dancing, I wanted to consistently satisfy any attractive woman that would have me. If I failed I would usually end up being upset and especially in those early years, either talk about the first time I ever failed at trying to lose my virginity, or talk about my sister’s death.
I really beat myself up when I would reach my orgasm before the girl would. Even thought now I was consistently enjoying women, and reaching orgasm, for the first years in NYC I wanted to control my own better so that I would not finish before the girl had “gotten hers”. I ended up buying books like The Multi-Orgasmic Man, and ESO, and tried these exercises. I did some of them wrong. (Please use caution when reading the next sentences. They are pretty graphic.) I would practice “PC pullups” with a towel, where you place a towel on your erection and try to lift it by flexing your puboccygeus muscle (or “taint”). I would also practice to see how long I could pleasure myself before I could no longer hold back. When I would practice with Internet porn or when with a girl, I would find myself so adamant to CONTROL myself after reading these books, including scrotal tugs, grabbing the base of the shaft of my penis, that a few times I ended up ejaculating into my bladder, which wasn’t the biggest deal but it started me on the wrong path of micromanaging my sex life just like my training for my career.