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PORN!


TIME Magazine has published two feature articles on pornography separated in time by 40 years. The first article came out on April 5, 1976. The second appeared shortly after Easter, 2016. In between is my life. Or most of it. The porn-viewing part at least. You see, I was born in 1973. But if, as philosopher and author of Tides of Mind David Gelernter points out, for the first 3 years we are less individuals and more like so many sponges soaking up experience, then I became me around the publication of TIME'S first piece on porn, which would have been around the time of my earliest memory. I don't remember. Perhaps because I couldn't read.

I do however remember reading both articles, which happened just last week. And it struck me that the tone of these eminently readable pieces is one of furrow-browed concern if not outright trepidation. The authors write the way you'd expect coast guards to warn beachgoers of a possible shark attack. Whether the attack is happening is uncertain. But one thing is sure: we've been bitten. Many experts call pornography addictive and put it in a league with street drugs, alcohol, even junk food and gambling. They say it plays on the characteristically male urge for novelty. This is known as the Coolidge effect, and it is seen not just in humans but in all mammals. Basically the time to ejaculation increases when a person has sex with the same partner, but both males and females are much quicker to become aroused if given the opportunity to have sex with someone new. Having sex with several partners in a single day is a real turn-on, like having sex with the same partner over multiple days. And this is what carriers of pocket porn (the smartphone showing any one of numerous free porn sites) are able to do. You can have virtual encounters with as many partners in 10 minutes as our hunter-gatherer ancestors encountered in as many lifetimes, notes biologist Gary Wilson, author of Your Brain on Porn. 

I say that the dangers of porn are its strengths and we should enjoy porn because it provides pleasure without the side effects, illegality or cost involved with other stimulants. And that by introducing novelty into an otherwise monogamous relationship it can be the glue (or in this case give rise to a substance as sticky) that keeps a marriage together. By being with more hot babes in 10 minutes than our ancestors could have coupled with in lifetimes (our "porn harem") we can remain with our partners and enjoy the emotional connection that comes with a lifetime of cohabitation. In theory this is in the best interests of both husband and wife as well as the kids, who so like to see mommy and daddy get along. Provided porn isn't overused. Which it often us. How much is too much is the issue's crux. I like the word, crux.

Experts argue that the characteristic atmosphere in which the porn user immerses himself - alone and in the dark, with multiple tabs open and constant clicking back and forth within and between scenes - is a sign of compulsion. But this behavior is characteristic of web surfing in general, whether you're watching YouTube cat videos or browsing Wikipedia entries. The Internet may be addictive, but the content is incidental.

Cries of porn's "oppressing and degrading women" abound, as if the starlets were made to perform sex acts at gunpoint. Is gay porn demeaning to men? But aren't men the ones enjoying it? It makes one wonder where these naysayers, who call the age of porn a warzone, are getting their inspiration. What movies have you been watching, ladies? Surely not films from porn's sensual Golden Age. I urge you to give these a try. Like they say, once you go hairy, you never go Nairy. In one letter to the editor in response to TIME's more recent (2016) piece, a reader expressed her thanks that the magazine was so "brave as to start what will hopefully be an ongoing conversation," about porn's damaging effect on "the most important sex organ: the brain." I agree. So, let's have the discussion. Let's talk about sex.

To embark on my exploration of such a salacious topic, I've had to dig into my past, unearth my first exposures to porn, both the soft and hard core varieties, and analyze my masturbatory habits as well as my physical encounters with females. The industry has changed. In 1976 it was about individual movie viewers (TIME doesn't even mention VHS because its popularity didn't peak until years later). When I hit puberty in the mid '80s VHS was all the rage, and soon made way for DVD and Cable TV. I didn't discover Internet porn until 1999 when I was 26. This is twice the age that the child of today is exposed to explicit images. It is hard to find even a ten year old who has not already been exposed to some form of pornography. Initially I'd get month-long memberships to one or another porn site and survey its rather limited inventory until my trial ran out. Only in my mid-30s, after reading a GQ article mentioning YouPorn, did I realize that online porn could be had without a membership fee. That was a good if exhausting day. 

Though viewing porn is conventionally held to be a solitary pursuit, my romantic relationships have been colored by sex flicks. The way my partner and I approach sex, the way we interact, have been influenced by adult entertainment, which shows us the ropes. Even those few times I've videotaped me and a gal have been inspired by what I'd seen in movies. I too have a sex tape or two stashed somewhere. And in my adult life I've been comfortable with long stints on my own, knowing that I can always fly solo and if push comes to shove and I am "jonesing" I can find a virtual Betty to be with for the night or five minutes.

TIME's more recent story treats the concern that porn may cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED) in young men, 40 percent of whom report some amount of difficulty achieving an erection. I don't think this is the case. Like many prescription drugs Viagra is obtainable without a script and for off-label uses, such as enjoying marathon sex sessions with your steady. ED may be the symptom males complain of to obtain the drug by prescription, just as you can get marijuana by complaining of headaches or insomnia. Proving you have these symptoms is not required. The few who still enjoy sex without the blue pill are simply not as hard for as long. And more porn means more masturbation, which decreases frequency and quality of erection. Not to mention the availability never before seen of marijuana (which has feminizing effects) and junk food (which causes weight gain, and fat cells produce more estrogen, which lowers testosterone). All the time sitting indoors can't be good for a person's libido either. 

But if used in moderation porn can benefit both the wallflower and the committed partner. It is instantly available and free. It provides novelty without the risk of pregnancy or STD. It can get you in the mood quickly, and watching with your significant other can be a bonding experience. Not to mention the fact that skin flicks double as sex ed. When I was growing up parents didn't talk to their kids about the birds and bees. Sex just wasn't addressed. And schools largely ignored the subject too. Times have not changed. Today fewer than half of our nation's states require public schools to educate kids about intercourse. A recent CDC study showed that nearly 80 percent of teens aged 15 to 17 who have had sex did not receive any formal sex education before they lost their virginity. The average age that kids first have sex is around 17. I was 17 the first time I did it. So was my girlfriend. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The problem with porn is when the habit gets out of hand and obsession or compulsion sets in. When viewing porn becomes an addiction. But this is the case with any habit gone wild. Food. Substances. Gambling. Gaming. Even exercise and work, if taken to the extreme. What I hope you'll get from my justification of the judicious use of porn is freedom from guilt and the necessary know-how to keep your habit from controlling you. You may just become a better lover too.


*

Buddha once said he would not have achieved Nirvana had there existed a greater sense pleasure than sex. And he had a wife. Imagine if back in Buddha's time some 2,500 years ago, there had been porn. Porn is a pretty modern invention. Sure you can Google images of geishas having sex with hounds and millennia-old statues depicting men with unrealistically huge penises humping horses, exposing themselves to each other and sodomizing women, but the word itself, pornography, only came into use in the 19th century. It derives from the Greek word for prostitute (porne) and graphein, which means write. And indeed the first pornographic materials were literary marvels. Just words on the page. The reader was left to the rather old-fashioned device of using his imagination to envision the scenarios enacted therein. In its earliest manifestations the term pornography was used to denote classic works of literature. As recently as a half a century ago modern classics including James Joyce's Ulysses and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover were labelled obscene and burned. These literary masterpieces are hardly what we modern patrons of liquor store trashy romances would call arousing.

The French aristocrat Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) was a master provocateur and is still renowned for his titillating depictions of sex. Indeed the word sadism, or the "tendency to derive sexual gratification from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on others" comes from his name. (As the word masochism is taken from the name of one Austrian novelist who portrayed it.) De Sade's prose is so ornate that a modern day reader of even one of his shorter, simpler works - say, the novella Justine - would be hard-pressed to comprehend the material without a dictionary in hand, let alone get off on the subject matter. John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, published in 1748, was the first original English prose pornography, as well as the first pornography to use the form of the novel. Fanny Hill, as it was also called (after its heroine), was one of the most banned books in history, roundly considered prurient. Today's reader would likely read even the most risque passages without so much as batting an eyelash. Nowadays there are more evocative encounters on HBO. If you disbelieve, watch Girls.

These days porn is more explicit, in your face, visual rather than verbal. And it has a much broader definition. In addition to explicit books of yore, films and other materials (dildos, anal plugs, leather whips) now exist to sexually arouse a person, which is porn's purpose. And judging by its population, porn serves us well. From the hundreds of X-rated American movie theaters which proliferated in the 70s and spawned an aggressive $2 billion-a-year growth enterprise run by the mob, to topless bars and massage parlors as well as drug store girlie mags - now all but nonexistent, having given way to around-the-clock online videos, which will some day be replaced by virtual reality, if the makers of headsets have their way - we are inundated in smut. 

When I was in grade school I had a friend from Thailand named Pornipat. We called him Porn for short without even cracking a smile. Nobody teased him about his name, because porn was not yet a household word. The year was 1983 and we were 10. But right now, as Belinda Luscombe writes for TIME, "the Internet is like a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant that serves every type of sex snack" to anyone with an appetite. And that includes most people, who judging by the statistics are ravenous. So porn is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and often as a midnight snack. Its name is as common as apple pie was before the low-carb craze.

In the 10 years since the first explicit-video-sharing site launched in 2006, the total number of monthly U.S. visitors to adult sites has increased from around 60 million to nearly 110 million. Of the 260 million Americans who use the Internet, 1 in every 2.5 people, or 40% of the connected population, watches Internet porn. Most of them are males. A national sample study of 10- to 17-year-olds found that roughly half of those who use the Internet had been exposed to online porn in the last year. Men aged 18 to 39 are three times more likely than women to view porn. And up until the age of 50, the older guys get, the more porn they watch. The 35- to 49-year-old demographic enjoys more porn than anyone else. If instead of using smartphones and surfing the web for cumshots and a swallow scene these viewers were reading Playboy, we could say it was a good thing for our country's literacy. But as of 2015, Playboy, whose articles could be intellectually stimulating and were always accompanied by zesty visual aids, no longer features full frontal nudity. Gone are pube shots, and with them the average reader's attention span. 

In all, we as a planet spend 12 million hours a day on Pornhub, one of the most popular porn sites. Nine out of ten male college students watch porn in any given year, and a third of girls, likely because they are made to by their boyfriends. Pointers are to be learned. If you are looking for a name for our youngest generation, Generation XXX would seem to fit. Porn is nothing if not controversial. Many see it as black or white. Either you are in favor and a fan, or you are staunchly opposed and like over one-third of all women wish to see it banned for everyone. Many of these women are probably distraught wives not getting it because their sex-starved hubbies spend evening hours getting a lap dance from their laptops. I'm kidding. Not many. But some. I know at least one. My high school friend saw his porn addiction, which he called a sex addiction, kill his marriage. The lovely couple liked to do drugs together, and afterwards my friend, who was a medical doctor before his license was revoked, would mosey into the other room and surf explicit chat rooms, leaving his sweetheart conversing on the couch with me. He invited me into their bedroom, such was the degree of his love of novelty. But I declined. Been there done that, I told them. I'd probably break up their marriage. So we kept it strictly platonic, and their relationship ended anyway. But my friend's is an extreme case. Though there are exceptions, the majority of porn users watch a scene or two to get aroused, possibly to climax, and then go ahead with their day. Whether they do so guilty, relieved, or something in between, is probably a matter of how each was brought up and what their girlfriends say, if they have girlfriends. And most girlfriends, like our wives, don't like you viewing too much porn. The actresses are many and made-up, ever ready, and willing to try anything. Competition that cannot be beat.

The restrictive Puritanism that once banned novels which today are assigned in grade school,  sometimes even by nuns (the sisters at my school had us read The Outsiders), has given way to an avalanche of porn, but at the same time a vague sense of guilt by the user and an anxiety of whether this "victimless crime" is a crime and if so, what harm is done to the viewer, and how to minimize it. But despite all the anti-porn websites (such as NoFap, fap being the onomatopoeic expression for masturbation), porn is here to stay. The 1st Amendment will see to that. Porn is part of mainstream American life. Where once we had peep show minimovie machines where customers could purchase two minutes of porn for 25 cents, now we have pocket porn courtesy of streaming websites that deliver around the clock entertainment on our smartphones. 

So rather than try and ban it, complain about it or find our way around it, we should accept porn and use it for the tool it is. Because if used correctly porn can serve as "innocent escapism, a healthy device for fantasizing, a safety valve for dangerous impulses, a useful antidote to Puritan attitudes," which in 1976 TIME recognized despite its rather sinister-sounding title, The Porno Plague. Porn is also an informal part of our country's sexual education program, a way "the American culture prepares people for sexuality." 

But other experts have held different views. UCLA Psychiatrist Robert J. Stoller once argued that hostility is the essential dynamic of all pornography. A lot of the newer stuff, featuring 'roided out males with their artificially enlarged penises fornicating with surgically-enhanced females faking pleasure does seem hostile - to the viewer. It offends one's sensibility. We watch these gruntingly muscular men as they pound away while we stare at her tramp stamp back tattoo and we wonder whether she is victim or just bad actor. Before we go soft. We look for something new and try S&M, which I don't go in much for myself. But it sure beats horse porn.

Some authors have tried hard to establish a causative relationship between the advance of pornography and the decline of society, noting that in ancient Rome pornography was clearly associated with the empire's decline. But this was as a consequence of the breakdown of society and the resultant disinhibitions which occur when the rein is released and the horses run free, to borrow an expression from Prince. Keep a dog fenced up long enough and when allowed to roam it will flee home for good, after first biting you. In ancient Greece, where porn was common, it did no harm to the culture whatever. Indeed open sexuality is more a sign of freedom, of overcoming temptations so much as to allow for their continued presence, than it is a symptom of wanton libido self-destructing.

But we live in a Judeo-Christian culture and though the Bible has nothing to say against self-stimulation or spectator sex, these practices (PMO, or porn, masturbation, orgasm, in today's phraseology) go against the grain of traditional beliefs. Where culture and commerce collide you get nothing if not a good time. Contrary to what some believe, the porn impulse is not insatiable. It ends with ejaculation, which may or may not come in the company of another. Whether you choose to do it with someone is where things get interesting.
*
The summer before my freshman year of high school was the summer I discovered porn. The year was 1987. I was 14. It was the best summer of my life. That's not really true. I made the baseball All-Star team and played like crap. My grade school girlfriend and I broke up. So I was lonely. But the skin flicks were great. I should probably take it a few steps farther back. To, say, my infancy. When I was under a year old my parents took a trip to India and left me with one of my father's clients, who happened to be a director of adult films. At 9 months old I was too young to remember whether he fondled me, but my father swears that Mr. Reardon spent all his time in my parents' bedroom drinking whisky and watching TV. No X-rated stuff. We didn't have cable. 

Like most boys, my earliest sexual experiences predated even the presence of another. It was Marvin Gaye who awakened the urge within me with his chart-topping smash Sexual Healing, which stormed the airwaves in 1982. I was 9. At this point simply looking at a pretty girl was enough to give me a boner. In 5th grade home room I'd find myself imagining scenarios involving me and my teacher, Ms. Wynne. And I didn't even find her attractive. My penis would grow hard even without any prompting, and often at the most inconvenient of times, as when I had to go to the black board to elucidate a particular grammar point. At these times I'd wedge my boner beneath the elastic waistband of my skivvies. It worked every time.

It was around my 10th year on the planet that I caught my first glimpse of such girlie magazines as Playboy, Penthouse, Oui, and Hustler, courtesy of my father. Not that dad owned these magazines. He lived an abstemious existence and raised us in accordance with the five human values. Lust is not one of them. But dear ole dad’s friends and clients (he’s an attorney) were loyal subscribers, and when we’d visit their houses for parties his married male friends would leave these magazines by the toilet, not bothering to conceal them. Apparently they felt no guilt or shame about advertising their love of the female form to anyone who came over. Once at a party I locked myself in Larry Himes’ bathroom with a particularly salacious issue of Hustler. It featured the familiar teacher-student scenario. Mustached man, blonde co-ed. Ruler. Tight clothes. Bulges everywhere. No clothes. Private tutorial first at the desk, then in a bubble bath. Etc. Studying these images I felt my loins stir and become blood engorged, and not because I had to pee. I was turned on. My heart began to palpitate and my cheeks grew flushed and wet with perspiration. This was before I knew how to masturbate so I couldn’t achieve immediate release, and thus the dreaded blue-balls ensued. Ah, the pangs of youth! My mother eventually knocked on the door but I came up with some excuse, tummy upset I think, to buy myself a bit more time. The next time we visited the Himes’ home I made my way to the guest bath and managed to snatch a particularly titillating shot of a guy performing cunnilingus on a girl – at least his head was in her nether regions. Eighties mags left precious much to the imagination. Before the days of the close-up. Charming, those times. My mother, who I am now sure made it a habit to root through my desk, confiscated my prized possession and threatened to make me return it, which was enough to ensure I’d never pilfer pictures again. 

The first time I saw a porno was again courtesy of my father’s client, whose name was Louis. While the guests were outside eating barbecue I asked to remain in the living room watching baseball on TV. From the couch I caught sight of Louis’ impressive collection of VHS videos (this was 1984). I popped a particularly interesting title in and pressed play. While I watched a peeping Tom spy on a couple doing the deed in their bedroom, my whole body stiffened as a surge of adrenaline shot through me like a bolt of lightning. Of course I had to watch with one eye on the hallway leading to the room, in case my parents came to check on me. You can guess what I did when I got home.

By this time I had learned to masturbate from of all people my little brother. He used to sit in front of the TV with his pants off, employing a sawing motion against his sex with the pinkie side of one hand. I tried the same while watching baseball (so no one would guess my intentions), my hand working feverishly beneath the bed covers. With a bit of practice I was able to achieve the desired effect. That same year my brothers and I spent an afternoon in a Jacuzzi at the home of yet another of my father’s friends. We got the idea to press our private parts against the air jets. About a minute of this and I felt a surge in my loins and the release of a lifetime, or what would have been the release of a lifetime had my brother Justin not thought to obstruct my pleasure by grabbing my penis and tugging on it really hard, his nails digging into my scrotum. He laughed hysterically, as if he knew he had just ruined my first high. A chance at greatness. My first orgasm cruelly interrupted. I think I’m still chasing the perfect one. This happened just before my 11th birthday.

I didn’t start ejaculating until I had been masturbating regularly for a couple months. Before that I’d experience the penile paroxysms so familiar to a young man, but nothing would issue forth. In common parlance, I’d dry heave or shoot blanks. Then, after borrowing my mother’s massage device (she used the vibrator to massage away a double chin, or so she said) and placing it to my swollen sex, I experienced a blissful sensation and what appeared was a curious white substance not unlike sputum. I dabbed my finger and put it to my tongue. Slimy, slightly sweet, quite salty. Not the last time I tasted my own semen. When I was thirteen I learned that my good friend had come down with mononucleosis and among the ways of contracting the viral infection – other than French kissing a water fountain and “licking your palms” (who would do such a thing?) – was masturbating too much. Seeking to avoid depleting my sperm count I tried to drink my jizm (such a crude term!) but ended up dry-heaving, this time for real. I don’t know how girls do it. (But I am thankful for it.) 

From the sixth grade until I began medical school, that is for all of my teens and twenties, I masturbated an average of once a day. Sometimes I'd ejaculate twice, and on a rare occasion three times, but these occasions were so rare that I remember both of them (the night before ninth grade after my first summer watching porn, and the night I lost my virginity). But by the third ejaculation I had a pretty bad case of rubber dick. In my 30s and through the first third of my forties, taking us up to around the present, it's been more like 2 or 3 times a week, whether with or without a girlfriend. This practice conforms to the medical advice of anti-aging experts including Dr. Norman Shealy, for whom ejaculation's benefits are proven and real. Who'd have thought taking care of your health could feel so damned good! If I am having sex, I toss off less, more if I fly solo. Sometimes I ejaculate not at all for weeks, even months, just for a change.

But in my teens, rare did a day go by that I did not masturbate. It was relaxing, a destressor, something to look forward to. Like dessert without the calories. Usually I'd have abstinence thrust upon me if I couldn't get the bathroom alone for 10 minutes. Which in a family of five, including four males who take frequent dumps, happens enough to be an inconvenience. Also, for many years I shared a room with my brother, and self-consciousness can keep a shy boy's pecker in his pants. If I had a moment alone, it was off to the races, and the finish was always speedy.

My willpower grew as I got older. By age 14 I was able to abstain for 40 days; by 18 I managed 5 months without self-stimulating (as I took to calling it), although during this time I did ejaculate a half a dozen or so times during sex with a couple girls. Though not at the same time, darn it. Testosterone levels peak at around age 20, then decline, precipitously for the first decade (the 20s), then gradually from age 30 onward. With a reduction in testosterone comes a decrease in sex drive, making abstaining from masturbation (and for that matter sex) ever easier. When I was 41 I went a year without having sex, and didn't masturbate for 8 months, breaking my previous personal best. Nevertheless the body may have a physiological need to ejaculate at least on occasion. During this period of celibacy I had two episodes of nocturnal emission. Wet dreams as they are called hadn’t occurred since I was in my early teens with my hormones on the rise.

But masturbation always left me feeling guilty. We were told as Catholic school-children that as a form of premarital sex, “spanking the monkey” is a mortal sin (punishable with an eternity in hell, unless of course you confess your deed to the local priest, and who in their right mind does that!). A wet dream achieves the end of masturbation (the release) but since it is not intentional there is no guilt. And it feels pretty amazing to be awakened from sleep by an orgasm. You fall right back to sleep and in the morning deal with the clean-up, making sure not to sleep in the wet spot.

But abstaining from masturbating all those months made my sex drive very shall we say excitable. Either I didn't think about it, or if given a stimulus, say a picture of a naked girl or a sex scene in an R-rated movie, my hormones would go berserk. Pleasuring oneself regularly is like keeping the monkey in the cage, keeping the libido in check. Or else I probably would have had sex a lot younger than 17, because I did have many chances, not to toot my own horn. Even in the course of dating girls I'd propose abstaining from sex to hit the refresh button, but I'd be accused of falling out of love or seeing someone else and so it was back to the habit shared by all twenty-something sweethearts, and that's sex at least once a day.

In elementary school my sixth grade teacher, Sister Francis Mary, told us about a king in England whose countless sexual encounters had driven to an early grave. She proposed a number of ejaculations a man may enjoy before he dies. It may have been 10,000 but I’m not sure so don’t quote me. This was in biology class so I assumed the statement held scientific truth. Back then 10,000 seemed like such an astronomical figure. But doable. To my 12-year-old brain climaxing every day for 30 years sounded like something I could manage. I calculated that if I persisted in my daily habit I’d be dead by the time I hit 40. I'm 43 and alive to say it.

Because the truth is not so scary. Spermatogenesis (the synthesis of sperm) occurs continuously throughout a guy's reproductive life, from puberty until senescence. Often until a man's dying day. The world's oldest dad fathered a son at the age of 96. The testes produce 128 million sperm per day and sperm require 64 days to mature. The average guy typically ejaculates between 2 and 5 milliliters of semen, which is on average about a teaspoon. In each ml there are normally about 100 million sperm, so each "load" contains roughly 350 million. Now, if only a third as many sperm (128 million) mature per day as are in the average-sized load, the risk of depleting your stores by daily ejaculation seems to be a real one. But the continuous production ensures that it is impossible to fully deplete sperm. And even if you did tap yourself out, tomorrow is a new day, and new "baby batter" gets made.

Ninety percent of the volume of semen is composed of the combined secretions of the male accessory sex glands (prostate gland, seminal vesicles). These secretions reduce the acidity of the vagina and contain nutrients and sugars to feed the little swimmers. Which wankers needn't worry about. Sperm itself comprises only about 10 percent of semen. Of course temporary reductions will occur if you ejaculate several times per day, which is not uncommon for teenagers. But come often enough and you shoot blanks, or dry heave. There is that term again! When the concentration falls below 20 million sperm per milliliter there can be trouble getting a girl pregnant. This is why, when evaluating a guy's semen, a fertility clinic will ask that he abstain from ejaculation for a few days to get an accurate assessment of baseline. A few days' time-out is a good thing now and then. As your load's size increases, the pleasure does too. Once ejaculated sperm don't survive long at all, from a few minutes in masturbation to a few hours in a woman's vagina. If the little swimmers make their way into a lady's fallopian tube, however, they can thrive for several days in the warm, moist, non-acidic environment. If allowed to remain in the testicles, that is to say if you do not ejaculate, sperm live for a little over two months. After about 75 days, they die and are reabsorbed by the body. This sounds like a case of use them or lose them, though your body is able to recycle the cellular components in sperm for reuse in making new sperm and other cells.

The refractory period, or time between orgasms, increases with age and the more you come. A 20-year-old can get it up again after 5 minutes, while someone twice that age may require as many hours. I can manage in around 30 minutes if I'm really randy. But I'm usually not. Which may also be a function of age. And the firmness of the subsequent hard-on decreases as ejaculation frequency increases. Proving that each time is never as good as the first time. But every day is a new one, or every three days if like me you're approaching middle age.

 But the guilt factor gave rise to early attempts to curtail my masturbatory efforts. At the end of the school year I tried to go 2 weeks without shooting my wad, just to show how badly I wanted to make the baseball All-Star team. It was my deal with God. If He answered my prayers I’d offer him my celibacy. But I couldn’t make it through the week. I still made the All-Star team however. And I played like shit. I struck out more times than I care to recall, got caught stealing third base (a first and only for me); I even think a ball went through my legs. If you're not a baseball fan, Google Bill Buckner to get a taste of the fan reaction. I was public enemy #1 that season.

Maybe it would have been better had I not played at all. I could have spent the extra time on my new newfound habit. That summer my teammate and best friend, Jason - who didn't make the All-Stars but should have over me because he played better than I did during the season, but he never made a big deal of this oversight, just like a real best friend - and I liked to stay up late watching cable. Channels that were off limits were scrambled. After turning to one such channel, the image would blur. But only after a couple seconds. And the sound came in clear. So we'd switch back and forth between these channels to see if we could glimpse which holes the actors were probing. It was more frustrating than fun. 

After one such frustrating evening I went over our friend DJ's house and told him about watching these soft-core movies. I asked him whether he ever did such a thing. DJ was what you might call precocious. He had lost his virginity at 13 and reached his adult height of 6'1'' around the same time. He smoked cigarettes and marijuana, and like me was an All-Star baseball player, only DJ was the star of the whole team. He later got drafted by the Dodgers. When I asked DJ about soft porn, he chuckled as though this were child's play. "I'll show you something," he said, as he led me into the family room. 

The family room at DJ's had been the site of many late-night movie-viewing experiences. Two summers before we had watched the R-rated comedy Bachelor Party like a dozen times one weekend. In the film Hanks and his buddies try to watch a porno but the video is edited by his bride-to-be and her friends, who spoil their good time by expurgating the film. The porno abruptly cuts off just as a guy is about to be pleasured by two girls, and begins again as the girls, now-fully clothed, are ready to leave. A real downer. But Bachelor Party did include a scene of the beautiful actress, Penthouse Pet Monique Gabrielle, who sat with her perky breasts naked atop a bed waiting for Hanks to appear. The scene ended before anything happened. But the adolescent mind could do the rest. In the bathroom after the movie I enjoyed an extended yanking session without lotion and rubbed the top layers off the underside of my penis. It hurt to pee for like a week. But that was when I was 12. Now at 14 I had come a long way. I had learned how to choke the chicken rather than merely saw its underside with my fingers. And in lieu of oil soap is an adequate stand-in, though be sure to moisturize afterwards, or else your skin becomes dry and flaky. 

Anyway, I seated myself on the couch as DJ popped a VHS into the VCR player and pressed play. What appeared was what I came to call the greatest hits mix of porno scenes from the late 70s and early 80s. Included was the Traci Lords classic New Wave Hookers. This was hard-core, X-rated porn, stuff I hadn't even imagined. My favorite pictures from those girlie mags had come alive and began penetrating each other, in time to music. I watched as one guy made his girlfriend prove her love by giving him oral sex. It was a real turn-on. Me and Deej watched about a half hour of these scenes. Sailor gets pleasured by lady stranded at sea. Boss's wife is caught having sex with his bodyguards. DJ watched me watching the movie. He was living through me, or reliving his first high.

In the kitchen over oranges, my friend asked me what I thought about what I had just seen. I replied that it was so explicit I was having a hard time enjoying my fruit. The soft wet flesh reminded me of what I saw actors licking, only in the movie it was pasted with pubic hair. "You think it's gross now," said DJ with a knowing nod, "but you'll come to love it, just you watch."

I didn't want to seem overzealous so I neglected to mention how the video was a dream come true for me. Just the year before, my mother had taken me and my brothers to Odyssey Video Rental and as we were waiting in the check-out line I happened to see the film Anal Angel stashed in the discount rack. How I wished to stuff the film into a G-rated cover and smuggle it into my mother's Disney selections, only the clerks always checked the insides so I knew I'd get caught. And now any time I went over DJ's I could pop in the greatest hits tape, including once when DJ's mom walked in and though she didn't say anything clearly knew what I was about to do. Note to self: make better use of mute. The legendary tape itself was made by an older kid, Daron, who was friends with DJ until DJ caught him breaking into his bedroom and called the cops. Daron actually had to do time at juvenile. He came out of jail with a real rage problem. Though maybe that was his usual temperament. But he sure had good taste in sex scenes. You can't go wrong with Right Between the Cheeks. There was this one scene, from New Wave Hookers, involving Peter North as an Arab wearing a fez (I'm not kidding) and stroking himself in a desert tent. Two hookers visit him in his bedroom and he does them both. Each gal is on all fours and he goes from the one to the other. North was in his twenties and looking sharp. A real athlete's body. I saw myself in him, the guy I hoped I'd become, tan, hairless and well-muscled - once I started lifting weights and shaving my chest.

There were no "facts of life" talks at the Dave residence. Nor did the Catholic schools I went to from 5th to 11th grades have any Sexual Education course. My dad would get really uncomfortable if a movie had a sex scene in it, but ultra-violent films like Road Warrior were somehow okay, in a fun for the whole family way. Sex is a necessary part of life, unlike violent bloodshed, unless you count childbirth. Of course it was my dad who rented us the horror film Ghost Story (1981). It was filled with sex scenes and he didn't watch it with us, perhaps because he knew this. Though he let us stay up all night hitting the rewind button. Which I also did with American Werewolf in London, which has a good sex scene if you're eleven and sex-starved. As does Terminator, when Linda Hamilton's breasts get kneaded and pinched by Reese. And Purple Rain, when Prince massages Apollonia's crotch. And Body Heat, when Kathleen Turner was hot. Kentucky Fried Movie was fun too. And let's not forget Risky Business, which was before the days when Tom Cruise began requesting his movies have less sex (Top Gun).

So porn was my teacher. I learned by observation how to go down on a girl, some of the go-to positions to enjoy, how to hold a girl's hair when she was pleasing me. Anal. The hours I spent viewing porn - not many perhaps 50 between the age of 14 and 17 when I lost my virginity - paid dividends with my girlfriend Nina, who was my first. Nina swore I had been with someone before her, probably because the moment we decided to do it I flipped her into the dog and went to town. She remarked on my experience as though it were a good thing. She had already been with like 10 guys and didn't need me to be tender. But my next girlfriend, Linda, who said she was a virgin, didn't take too kindly to the fact that I went straight into the all-fours position as I had done with Nina. Linda complained that I objectified her, wasn't tender enough. It got all over school. In my defense, I will say that I didn't believe she was a virgin. She practically pulled me into her, and the year before she dated an older guy, Karl something or other, and they had been together for a while and he was definitely, shall we say, sexperienced. Besides, after me, she told her next first guy, Jeff, she had yet to be deflowered, and I know I stuck it in.

But I get ahead of myself. So I go back to Jason telling him what I saw over at DJs. He got DJ to show him the tape too, and before long it had made its way around to all the guys on our team, who'd get together on DJ's sofa and sometimes watch all night long. Soon Jay and I were getting one of our old coaches, Michael Knight, to rent us X-rated films. Michael was a real-estate friend of Jason's mom, Hedda. A black man in his 30s, he was very approachable and generous with his time. He was also gay. Jay and I knew this even though we'd never been around a gay guy before. But Michael was okay about renting us the movies we desired, and even paying for them. He'd watch a few minutes of them with us on the floor in Jason's parent's room when his folks weren't home; but we couldn't wait for Coach Knight to leave and he probably sensed it. When he was gone Jay and I started the tape over and made a study of every scene. Jay had summer school at Beverly and when he was in class each morning for like a week I'd sit in front of the TV watching sex scenes with the TV tilted so the family housekeeper couldn't see what I was watching, though she probably did. We're never as smart as we think we are.

There was a great scene involving "siblings." I don't have a sister nor would I want to have sex with her if I did, but imagining incest was a real turn-on. It probably helped that the two actors looked nothing alike. This movie was from the Golden Age of porn, films from the early 70s to the mid 80s. Natural-looking women with hairy vaginas and tan lines and feathered hair who could have been so many girls next door. Really these gals looked like they had just walked in from the beach. They hardly wore any make-up. The men were more recognizable, because there were fewer of them. It must be hard to perform. I read an interview with Peter North who is known for his huge loads and shlong. Though heterosexual, he's had anal sex with guys and for that matter rock-hard sex with girls he's not attracted to. He once told an interviewer how much intense attention and mind control this requires. The male porn star gives the levitating yogis of the East a run for their money. Also, porn sex is really athletic. It involves many positions in a protracted bout that can include multiple orgasms and exceed an hour in a room filmed to look as if the couple is alone but really is peopled with like a dozen members of cast and crew. Just watch Boogie Nights if you don't believe me. So these dudes earn their cash, and they don't make much.

But Golden Age sex is tender and real, with kissing. The dicks aren't all inflated and the women surgically enhanced. It's the kind of sex I'd want when it is my time to enjoy it, I found myself saying. And the acting isn't half bad. Whenever I watch a pornographic scene now it's to the Golden Age that I return. The era began with films like Debbie Does Dallas and Deep Throat. Both of which my parents saw. These viewings were big events, at the home theaters of friends attended by dozens of people. Porn no longer gets such fanfare, because the movies, many made by amateurs, are a dime a dozen. Less. They're free. And the stigma once associated with porn is now pretty much nonexistent. You can even tweet your favorite scenes and share them with friends on social media. Not so when I was in high school. There was still something naughty attached with viewing porn on one's own, so it became just another way to bond.

On spring break my senior year of high school my friends and I went to Las Vegas for the weekend. While my buddies were out drinking 40s and chasing tail and hitting the black jack tables (we were 18 but looked 25 with our scruff, so they let us play and probably would have anyway) I stayed in to watch the erotic classic The Masseuse on demand. I didn't need strip clubs. Strip teases are just that. Teases. A recipe for blue balls. Why bother when I could score with a gorgeous brunette in the privacy of my own hotel room? I didn't tell my friends this. I just said I was tired. Years later I bought the movie and enjoyed a walk or stroke or two down memory lane but have since thrown it away. In the 10 or so years after high school that I did purchase videos I'd never allow myself to own more than 2 at a time. Where would I put them? I was not some collector. I wasn't a sex addict. That wasn't me. So I'd cut the tape and toss the VHS in the recycling bin the moment I updated the collection which never grew. And I'd never pay over $9.99. Any more seemed too self-indulgent, what with the starving kids in Africa and all. Buying rather than renting allowed me to forego having to return said videos, anything to avoid that walk of shame. Most places do have drop boxes, but still. 

Around this time, in 1999, Internet porn became more available and by 2004 I was a regular visitor to a few choice sites. Well, one. For my 5 years of medical school and residency I'd spring for the occasional month membership to the European site WhatBoysWant, all amateur. Then I read about YouPorn in GQ, free porn, and that's what has sufficed ever since.

Gandhi used to sleep with naked teenage girls to keep his testosterone up, or at least my father likes to believe, to justify going to strip clubs himself in his hoary years. He says it's entertainment. Why blow $100 at a Lakers game in parking and crappy food to sit in a crowded arena watching players you don't recognize since you stopped following the team when Magic retired, when the same amount will get you a couple lap dances, maybe with a happy ending, give or take the empty conversation that leads up to this? I've attended strip clubs, and had sex with hookers, patronized massage parlors - it's called being a twenty-something male - but I always knew the chicks read dollar sign on my forehead. To women for hire I'm just a John, though I have wound up dating a couple dancers who wouldn't let me see them dance. They needed to keep their work lives separate. Didn't want to be objectified. Or for me to see what they did with other guys.

Porn bolsters a user's fantasy life without the hassle of going to a joint that smells like a sickening mixture of Lysol and Marlboro to sip overpriced watered down beer and watch girls who aren't as cute as Golden Age girls strut their stuff with a bunch of other guys who are thugs. And then your car gets towed because you parked in the 30-minute parking in the McDonald's lot thinking you wouldn't get caught even though the security guard was staring at you the whole way to Body Shop. This happened to a friend of mine. I, er, he, made myself walk 3 miles home rather than take a cab at 4 am in tight-fitting dress shoes to punish myself for being such a nincompoop. I've become such a minimalist since turning 40 that even porn itself is superfluous. That's what an imagination is for. And sometimes porn can get in the way. 

I have a cousin who I have long since lost contact with. Not a blood relative. More like a second cousin once removed. It's pretty confusing but I'll see if I can explain. My mom and Allison's dad were first cousins, their fathers being brothers. But Allison's dad wasn't her real father. He and his wife, who was her mother's sister, had adopted Allison when she was a little girl after her parents had both died in some tragedy. So if we'd been real cousins we'd have been second cousins, our parents being first cousins. But the fact of her adoption makes the "removed" part seem applicable, though I realize it's a misnomer. I just always wanted to write second cousin once removed, so there it is. But we weren't really related, I want to stress this. But even had she been a blood relative, it wouldn't have stopped me had I been Einstein who married his second cousin. Or Hamilton. Or Jefferson. Anyway Allison came into my life when I was 15 and she was 16 and we fooled around off and on until she got married when I was 22. She was the prettiest girl I had ever seen, and my entire baseball team fell in love with her. She came to one of our games and we gave up like 8 runs in the final frame and lost 12-11, all because we were so distracted by her huge boobs, round behind, and flat tummy. Man, was she a fox. But I didn't lose my virginity to Allison, although I could have. We stayed up all night necking in my brother's room; but kissing her felt like kissing my sister. She kind of looked like my mom, even though they weren't related.
It didn't work out between Allison and her husband, and she went back to school to get her fashion degree. To pay her way through FIDM she started dancing in Las Vegas from Thursday through Sunday. At the club she met a frequenter, one director of pornographic films. They started dating. It wasn't long before Allison was cast to appear in his explicit movies. I met her new boyfriend Adam at her graduation. As fate would have it, I had been friendly with his sister, unironically named Eve. Eve had been a trainer at Gold's Gym, where I worked out in college. We almost dated, planned to, but I stood her up and she told me to lose her number and grow up. Adam had made a name for himself by filming reality-TV scenes with porn starlets, often having sex with them while behind the camera. Allison came to Christmas that year bearing copies of her latest release. My family was shocked and my mom promptly disowned her, meaning stopped inviting her over to fool around with me. One sultry summer day after a couple whiskeys I put in one of my cousin who was not a cousin's films thinking I'd get my rocks off. Instead I was disgusted by the film's gaping holes and overacting. Guys spitting in yawning anuses. Girls grunting like they were bulls in heat. Can bulls be in heat? What's a female bull? A cow? Just a cow? This film was no turn-on, even if it weren't my cousin who is not a blood relative. 

Allison and her porn director have since gone separate ways. Last I heard she had quit the film business and was working the counter at Equinox gym. But not before becoming famous in her own right. She won best anal more than once and in 2012 was elected to the AVN Hall of Fame taking her place along such vixens as Jenna Jameson, Samantha Fox, and my favorite, the starlet from The Masseuse, Hyapatia Lee, who if you Google her now bears no resemblance to her former sultry self and is not exactly a hard-on waiting to happen. Ah the ravages of time. Allison even got to have sex with Ron Jeremy. Dubious distinction though this is. And she still has legions of fans, if you cruise chat rooms on the subject, which I don't do because as I said I'm no fan of gussied up vixens on drugs having butt-sex with shaved biker guys who are also on drugs. But a quick browse of video-sharing sites suffices to prove that this brand of porn, the modern stuff, is what viewers are tuning into. I don't get it. Or maybe I do. I used to play video games and loved the original Nintendo but quit once the controls got too complicated. Too much concentrating. Fun should not be so hard. Porn is like many other stimuli - processed food, drugs, drink, adventure races. Initially it is a free-for-all but after a while the novelty wears off and limits are naturally set. It's better than other stimuli because it's free, safe, and there is no hangover or risk of chemical addiction you get by combining alcohol and codeine and eating a burger while high before you die.

In college I didn't date much. I lived at home, which means my social life was nil. I went to a large school (UCLA; population 40,000) and my weekday consisted of going to class and going home, with a stop at the gym if I was into pumping iron that particular month, and I went through my muscle-head phase. I looked like the guy who appears in the porn I don't watch, minus the tattoos and pumped-up penis. But I did used to have frosted tips. At Gold's I met a guy who became a workout buddy. Ira was older than me and always had a pornographic film playing in the background at his house. He'd loan me his films and I'd watch them while pleasuring myself with the scented lotion an old flame had gifted me. Ira liked to tell me about the wild sex he had with gals who were not his girlfriend, while other guys watched. Once he accidentally shot his load in another guy's hair, "and I think he liked it!" Ira bragged. And maybe I could join in for his next threesome? Another friend, Kelly, suggested that on ejaculation I stick my finger up my own ass. Uninhibited, these guys. I did neither.

After college I moved in with some buddies from high school and we rigged the cable to provide us with the adult channels Adam & Eve and Spice. My friends would go out drinking and carousing and often came back with females - after footing the bill for dozens of overpriced vodkas at rowdy clubs blaring technopop which always made my ears ring. I'd enjoy some sonnets from Shakespeare in my back house bedroom and then mosey inside for a scene or two of free TV before heading back to my room with my fantasies and a Kleenex or two. My relationship with free cable worked. I didn't want the hassle of having a girlfriend or even a steady lay. What if I didn't feel like making out on a given day? And I'm not much of a talker anyway. 

In college I didn't date much. I lived at home, which means my social life was nil. I went to a large school (UCLA; population 40,000) and my weekday consisted of going to class and going home, with a stop at the gym if I was into pumping iron that particular month, and I went through my muscle-head phase. I looked like the guy who appears in the porn I don't watch, minus the tattoos and pumped-up penis. But I did used to have frosted tips. At Gold's I met a guy who became a workout buddy. Ira was older than me and always had a pornographic film playing in the background at his house. He'd loan me his films and I'd watch them while pleasuring myself with the scented lotion an old flame had gifted me. Ira liked to tell me about the wild sex he had with gals who were not his girlfriend, while other guys watched. Once he accidentally shot his load in another guy's hair, "and I think he liked it!" Ira bragged. And maybe I could join in for his next threesome? Another friend, Kelly, suggested that on ejaculation I stick my finger up my own ass. Uninhibited, these guys. I did neither.

After college I moved in with some buddies from high school and we rigged the cable to provide us with the adult channels Adam & Eve and Spice. My friends would go out drinking and carousing and often came back with females - after footing the bill for dozens of overpriced vodkas at rowdy clubs blaring technopop which always made my ears ring. I'd enjoy some sonnets from Shakespeare in my back house bedroom and then mosey inside for a scene or two of free TV before heading back to my room with my fantasies and a Kleenex or two. My relationship with free cable worked. I didn't want the hassle of having a girlfriend or even a steady lay. What if I didn't feel like making out on a given day? And I'm not much of a talker anyway. 

Nevertheless, in my twenties and thirties I racked up an impressive list of conquests. Over a decade was spent in a series of more or less casual relationships in which sex played a pretty central part. I got it into my mind to be with as many girls as my age in years - I don't know where this desire came from, perhaps it was the poet in me - and since I had only carnally known seven or eight women by my college graduation I had some catching up to do if I wanted to hit 40 at 40. Most of the relationships were stormy, many were brief, some the outcome of chance encounters at the car wash or market, some of the girls I had met online (long before Internet dating was even a thing). Some girls were classmates and coworkers, even though they say that you should never "shit where you eat," pardon the vulgarity. And I am no longer in contact with any of my former lays. Hey, they could say the same about me, who am also a notch on their belts. 

However I did manage to fulfill my girl-per-year quota (that sounds so cheap!), dated a girl for practically every letter of the alphabet - Zane and I didn't do it, though we could have - all the zodiac signs, different races, cultures and creeds. But one thing was invariably true: Every sex-fueled dalliance ended with some degree of disappointment if not downright disaster. When the sex is stormy, so is the denouement. Call me intense. Some can love 'em and leave 'em. Like my former housemate Jonah, who as a member of the UCLA basketball team swore that he had been with at least 200 chicks. I wouldn't even want to boast such a high number. Much too messy. I on the other hand had a rather irksome capability to turn one-night stands into two-week honeymoons, replete with wine by the beach, long drives in the hills, and drawn-out sleepovers involving overcooked pasta and smothered farts. That's getting to know somebody. The Catholic schoolboy in me still felt that premarital sex was a sin, and so if I did it with a girl, even casually, I had to make like we were married, at least for a time. And this is how we get herpes. Which I won't go into except to say that I could have contracted the pesky virus for which there is no cure either from my girlfriend at the time, or a prostitute I happened to sleep with this other time, or a waitress that I actually considered running away with to Vegas to marry, or possibly a stripper I had one such two-week romantic stint that left me with regret, and blisters.

But I did have girlfriends, and porn influenced our relations. With Serena, the Brazilian beauty I dated the six months I lived in Rio writing a novel I never could sell, we went into the bedroom shared by her mother and her mother's boyfriend to find some hot Latin porn which we watched side by side like kids on a field trip to the museum. Serena was only 18 and the tutorial did her good. Gale, my significant other from down under, liked to go down on me while a pornographic film (which she owned, not me) played on the widescreen. And without my even asking her to. She was 7 years older than me, and more experienced. Perhaps this was something an old boyfriend liked to do. My European galpal introduced me to some German porn.  Judging from their films, the Krauts are free, uninhibited, like it in every orifice, often in nature. To date it's the particular breed of more modern adult entertainment that best suits me. This girlfriend believed porn killed intimacy, I think because I sometimes preferred masturbating to a video over a romp in the hay with her.

I had my reasons. Sex has benefits over masturbating, sure. Kissing is nice. As is the touch of another's skin. But it is messy, sweaty, the sheets are dirtied and body fluids get exchanged. This is how we get herpes. Besides the accommodating lover waits until his partner orgasms before he does, which with most women can be a bloody long time. There is nothing like the concentration required to keep yourself on the brink of climax without falling off the ledge and spilling onto the other side, or on her backside. It's a job. Ask North. And it's not always enjoyable. The appeal of sex if you're a guy is really the ejaculation part, and the sooner a dude can reach it the better because he can then continue about his day, even if that includes more masturbation. But girls take longer to get aroused, and one wrong move can make them need to start over again. I like marathons. I've run a few. I just don't want one after a big dinner and a few beers in bed on a Friday late at night when I'm already tired. And so, I am often alone, with my porn harem only a click away. And there awaits the girl next door type, a sweet no name having tender sex in a scenario that is ripped straight out of a teenager's wet dream - nurse, librarian, cop, cowgirl, housemaid. Yesteryear's films leave a lot to the imagination. And don't go in too much for close-ups. The Big Lebowski got it right: "the mind is the biggest erogenous zone." 

One girlfriend learned to give head by watching the famous Jenna Jamison give tutorials to more than one willing partner, often at the same time. But no girl can be as practiced as a porn star, because nobody else has as much practice. Though it doesn't stop the laygirl from trying. So many facial expressions, groans of ecstasy, and contortionist positions - all of which are typical of even the most average women of today - are more becoming of the prostitute. They don't do it for me. I don't want to have sex with a pornstar, maybe just watch one from time to time. 

Because sex is really just a bodily function. Watching others do it is like watching celebrities cook and eat food, play sports, interact with other blonde bombshell wives. And we watch food porn all the time. The transition from tapes to DVDs to streaming just makes it easier to watch what you want, when you want. Like having your favorite songs on iTunes, or your favorite blockbusters on Netflix. The viewer can go straight to his movie of choice and from there proceed straight to the money shot, if that's his desire. Let's just skip all the foreplay and get to the part where they make like people making babies. It cuts way down on the time required to achieve the desired effect. But watching porn makes more of an event of something that can be done in a few swift strokes with the aid of memory - say of the girl you saw that morning walking her dog, or that college co-ed you were lucky enough to score with back in the day.

The vast majority of kids discover their genitals and the pleasure they can bring by age 6. I didn't touch myself until aged 10. That my sexual awakening coincided with the onset of puberty is common to most young men. Many boys and girls masturbate by the age of 13. But there are those who do not discover the pleasures inherent in self-stimulation until they are in their 30s, and they often regret all the lost time. There are even a few percent in every poll that say they've never made themselves come. Impossible though this may seem. It's like resisting a persistent itch. Almost everyone eventually scratches. Most develop quite a love affair with themselves, as I did from 13 to 30. A little alone time in the bathroom, the applied science of manual dexterity, the benefit of an erotic image or two, and voila the crazed monkey of sexual desire stays in its cage rather than make you run out and hump a random's leg.

Men tend to masturbate more than women. A recent study conducted by the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found that around one third of women in their twenties had not masturbated in the last year, while around 85 percent of guys that age had. Put another way, girls are twice as likely not to masturbate as guys. And guys masturbate more often, with 20 percent of twenty-year-olds doing it more than four times per week, compared to only around 5 percent of same-aged females. So an average guy is four times as likely as his girlfriend to masturbate a ton. Many sex experts believe that if women masturbated as much as men, they'd be more sexually satisfied, more self-satisfied. It seems that women wait for sexual gratification in the arms of their partner, looking to their mates to satisfy their needs (by mating with them); whereas the hairy partner often crawls into bed with belly half full, to use the figure of speech, courtesy of a solitary stroking session in the shower. Just remember to leave the drain open.

Why should we masturbate in and out of relationships, whether with or without porn? That's like asking why we should treat ourselves to dessert, or enjoy an afternoon daydreaming under the shade of a breeze-caressed tree. Because it's breezy. The body releases a plethora of chemicals during ejaculation. These include adrenaline, which dilates blood vessels, makes your heart pound and gives that feeling of exhilaration associated with sexual stimulation; phenylethylamine triggers dopamine release in the pleasure centers of the brain, overwhelming you with bliss, attraction and excitement; testosterone, which is responsible for that rush of confidence that comes after sex; serotonin, a natural anti-depressant, makes you feel cheerful, hopeful, emotionally balanced and content – if a bit sleepy. The body is a natural pharmacy waiting to dispense substances which are otherwise only obtainable through drugs, gambling, sky-diving, and other risk-taking behaviors. All you have to do is press the fleshy magic button. It’s not against the law (like drugs and gambling), nor is it life-threatening (like extreme sports), unless you have a pre-existing heart condition – as did my grandfather, who died in the act of coitus. You can argue that there is no better way to exit this world than with a literal bang.

Indeed so powerful are the endorphins flooding the body during ejaculation that once when I injured my back playing soccer and decided to masturbate, during the several seconds of climax and minutes thereafter I was able to move my torso side to side and back and forth (movements so necessary to the rhythmic thrusting motion of the pelvis) without so much as a twinge of discomfort. Sexual healing. I was making Marvin Gaye proud.

This is not to say that masturbation should replace intercourse entirely, though it can and often does. Masturbation can supplement sex so that the partner, usually the male, places fewer demands on his mate. Intercourse has all sorts of benefits for men - including reductions in blood pressure and maintenance of cardiovascular health which masturbation does not provide. It seems there is always a place for holding and being held. Indeed there are those who confine displays of affection to the nonsexual realm, foregoing penetration and leaving ejaculation either for masturbation or oral sex. These couples - not all of whom are gay, though many homosexuals fall in this category - report feeling supremely fulfilled by their pseudo-platonic relationships, having less jealousy, fewer secrets. And they kiss and cuddle more than those whose intimacy revolves around the sexual act itself. Also these celibate couples have fewer babies or none at all, since abstinence is the perfect birth control pill. Those couples who do have sex get nasty about 60 times per year, or roughly once a week. That's infrequent enough that you almost wouldn't miss the sex if it were gone. Of course younger couples get more hot and heavy more often, with twenty-somethings having sex about once every 3 days, or twice a week. Frequency drops around 20 percent per decade as couples age and, as they say, mellow out. But around one in five couples has sex just 10 times per year, or roughly once a month. These couples are probably going to town on themselves enough to rival members of the singles set.

It is also worth mentioning that the same feel-good compounds as are released in orgasm also flood your body with laughter, which may be the best remedy, less complicated, and certainly less messy. And in meditation, where by closing the eyes, controlling the breathing and quieting the mind, you can achieve the same sense of peace and even elation that leads so many adolescents to click on clips of blow job afficionado Heather Brooke. All it takes is fifteen minutes and a quiet place to sit. You don't even have to lock the door. Mindfulness is something you can be proud to do. Ask Maharishi Manesh Yogi, who founded dozens of transcendental meditation schools in the latter half of the 20th century. Actually you can't, because the Hindu sage left his body in 2008. But you can give it a Google if you can tear yourself away from xHamster for like 5 minutes. Come on, fellas!

At this point I take meditation over masturbation, and masturbation over mating. Because the lessons I've learned in the laboratory that has been my love life have taught me that romance can be more trouble than it's worth, as along the way I got a girl pregnant, became engaged to another, lived with a third. And for all the romantic dinners and days at the beach there was often more frustration than frivolity. I used to fantasize about having a wife, not to have someone to share my dreams with, or to be the mother of my kids, but whose panties would be in my bedroom hamper for me to sniff at any time. Now there's a guy who has no business getting hitched, or maybe that's the only really good reason.

As the years went by sex happened sooner and sooner (often on the first date), and became more and more casual and less fulfilling. Indeed the best sex was probably with Cindy. I recently found out she became a lesbian. Speaking of lesbians, the closest I’ve ever come to being strictly friends with a woman, to proving untrue the adage that man and woman cannot be just friends, came in a relationship I had with a lesbian. But I didn’t know Marianne was “that way” when we started hanging out, and we even kissed a few times before she let on that she was more interested in girls than I or me. And the time we spent together, often at girl bars, could be characterized as my drawn out attempt to make her fall for me. It didn’t work. She got a girlfriend. I got a girlfriend. We no longer speak. 

And that’s just the thing. Friendships are defined by what friends do together. With my guy friends it has always been about doing guy stuff - playing video games or sports, pursuing girls, lifting weights. But what do a guy and a girl do when they get together? They have sex. Sure, it’s nice to talk, but to me talk is cheap, and I tire of conversation rather quickly. If I want words, I pick up a book, or write one myself. But the thing is, the older I get, the more comfortable I am spending time alone, and the fewer the activities I engage in which require the company of another. I run, a solitary pursuit. I read and write, also best done alone. And as they say conversation is the enemy of good food, so out the door go romantic dinners. If I am seized by the desire to ejaculate, Rosy Palm is at my beck and call. And these days I’d just as soon refrain. Besides, some schools view ejaculation as depleting one’s life force and thereby explain the fact that women (who unlike men do not lose their seed with orgasm but only once a month, with menstruation) outlive men by over five years. I'm not convinced that more frequent ejaculation makes a person weaker or diminishes longevity. A few hundred million may seem like a lot, but your body has 70 billion cells. Each cell type, be it kidney or liver or blood or sperm, has its specific term, after which it gets replaced. Red blood cells, for example, live 120 days, after which, like other blood cells, the white cells and platelets, they are replaced by new cells. So whether you ejaculate or not, your body loses hundreds of millions of cells every day, and there is nothing you can do about it. Death is part of life. If the loss of a bunch of cells meant a diminishment of your life force, it would be a struggle to get through even one hour. But it's not (hopefully), because the body releases 180-million new red blood cells into the circulation every hour. The same happens with cells of your intestinal tract and skin and yes, your sperm, which are just another cell type, however uniquely-shaped. I've tested this theory, training for and competing in marathons while ejaculating thrice weekly and while abstaining from sex and masturbation altogether. My weekly mileage was the same (about 60 or 70 miles per week) and my finish times were exactly the same: 2 hours, 49 minutes. In fact, some weeks I run more when I masturbate more, though this may be some sort of compensatory behavior, as is the case with the night prowler who after a bender makes himself get up out of bed and slog through five miles. Also, I haven't seen any difference in my literary output or mood whether I masturbate or have sex or keep it in my pants. And self-experiments are the ones I trust the most. Even the guilt I still sometimes struggle with after masturbating does not mean that the habit is somehow bad. I feel guilty when I take a day off from exercising, though I know my body needs the extra rest and I always feel extra energy the following morning.

Even so, abstaining from sex can’t hurt and might extend your life, albeit one in which you are alone and asexual, which to some is not a life worth living. But browse Internet discussions about PMO and NoFap and you hear the same story repeated in endless renditions: abstaining from ejaculation is a worthy endeavor. It can bring mental clarity, increased energy and even enliven one's romantic relationship. Even a few days or weeks is enough to replenish stores and hit the refresh button on your mojo. If you're alone that means taking a whacking holiday. If you're in a relationship, you gal needs to be on board. To convince her, you can offer her the services of your tongue. But really, even taking a masturbation holiday is just another form of novelty. It replaces the novel sex scenes you are prohibiting yourself for however many days or weeks and all the while you feel a sense of accomplishment, a refreshing euphoria. Finally something new. But beware the rebound. After going a year without sex or much masturbation I found myself jerking off a couple times a day for an entire month. I wasn't working out, so many tossing off doubled as my work-out for the day, but life seeks balance and after self-imposed celibacy I was experiencing the other extreme.

It is said that sex brings a couple closer, but it can also drive a wedge in real intimacy, when it takes the place of heart-to-hearts and other displays of affection. Like kissing. By the end of my most recent “serious” relationship, which lasted nearly four years, one of which was spent living together, we both agreed that if we never spoke after breaking up it would be because we had had sex. You can say your partner is your best friend, but best friends don’t break up (probably because they don’t have sex?). Have sex with someone and you can assure it will be stormy and you will be strangers when it's over. If you’re lucky. You might wind up hating each other. But friends? That’s consistency. My ex had many gay boyfriends who predated our relationship and I knew would outlive it, if for no other reason than they had never gotten naked and penetrated. If things never get too hot, they can never boil over. Things just stay a slow, steady flame. But you could argue that all associations need not be permanent, that if sex shortens the lifespan of a friendship, but is fun while it’s done, then the ride is worth the fall and new friends are easy to find. Just don't let kids be the product of these flings. Or do, if you want to make life interesting if exhausting. Because we all know the divorcees who despise each other or at least refuse to speak, and when you’re looking where to place the blame sex is an easy target. But there is no ignoring the fact that sex offers the opportunity to get to know someone inside and out and every square inch. And that opportunity, perhaps because it is so rare and surely because it is quite pleasurable, entices to no end. No sport other than sex do you play naked, the partner’s body being the playing field. God that’s exciting. And not a sport I'd want to play with my guy friends.

Maybe I haven’t met the one. All I can offer you on that is a shrug. I have me. Fall in love with your self and you can be assured that your love will always be returned. In the book Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, which I read on a trip to the library seeking book report material when I was 12, the author argues that some people prefer masturbation to intercourse. Maybe I’m one of those people. Maybe I’m better off alone. Maybe you too. I did not choose the book for my report, but the message still rings true.

What is it that makes us human? What separates you and me from the rest of the animal kingdom? Is it our opposable thumbs? Our capacity to love (and to hate)? Our brutality and bellicosity? Ask this question of the next person you meet on the street. If he has given a little thought to the matter (and maybe read the same books as me) he will likely say the twin capacities of reason and reflection are what most distinguish us from our beastly cousins. 

That is, to think deeply or carefully about something (reflect), especially past events in order to learn from experiences and avoid future mistakes. Which is why we study history. It is also the essence of wisdom. And to reason is to use logic in order to problem solve, whether about what to have for dinner or merely to contemplate the nature of the universe. The latter is abstract reasoning, the territory of philosophers, physicists and the street corner crazy person, whereas food is just fun to think about. 

But when it comes to reason and reflection animals are often underestimated. Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows that they learn from past experiences. I've thrown my dog in the pool just to watch him dog paddle, and now he knows not to get too close to the water. Unless of course it's a really hot day, in which case he doesn't mind taking a dip, provided that after drying off he gets a treat. That's reflection at work. And scientists put rats through mazes all the time. We watch them scurry after food or evade the electric cage to showcase their problem-solving abilities, while engaging in a little bit of animal torture. Are these experiments inhumane? To justify such treatment we say it's a dog eat dog world. We are more like our pets after all. And we thought we were special!

But we are. This is why I nominate two other characteristics which, unlike logic and learning from prior mistakes, are unique to homo sapiens. I mean suicide and masturbation, because I'm pretty sure no species of animal other than our own kills itself or makes itself come. I do not include the bees who dive into the swimming pool in the heat of summer and wind up belly up in the filter. They're just trying to cool off and didn't reason their actions out. Nor do I count as suicides those little buzzers who have lost their stingers and know that they are dying already, only slowly, so in an effort to hasten their demise crawl over the ledge into the chlorine. They do this over and over again, despite my efforts to save them. Nor do I include in our select group the pooch that humps its owner's leg until the friction of penis to belly causes inadvertent ejaculation. I don't think simply getting its rocks off was the animal's aim, though maybe it was. I can't enter the canine's mind. When I want to masturbate, I position myself with some oil in a cozy corner in the dark, with candlelight if I'm feeling romantic, and maybe some Sade. Just me and my disposable thumbs. And Sade. I don't mount my neighbor. Which if you ask me bespeaks a desire to spread one's seed, or it's just being cocky. But while animals don't intentionally off themselves or for that matter get their rocks off, humans do both all the time.

Take Sigmund Freud, who with his psychoanalysis and writings exhaustively demonstrated the powers of reason and reflection both in himself and in his patients. Freud, who used cocaine, was also a long-time tobacco smoker, which is a form of slow suicide. Indeed he was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, surely due to the several cigars per day habit he developed in his twenties. The doctors who treated Freud concealed the severity of his condition for fear that the shrink might despair and take his own life. He didn't kill himself, and wound up living with his condition for over a decade. He did however continue to smoke against his physician's advice. He was hooked on tobacco, believing it enhanced his productivity. In fact Freud told one colleague that all addictions were merely substitutes for masturbation, "the one great habit." 

It seems reasonable to conclude from this that as with suicide, Freud was no stranger to choking the chicken and beating the meat, though these and other euphemisms bandied back and forth by high school boys everywhere these days were unheard of during the doctor's time. But addictions are all forms of masturbation, smoking, drinking and gambling merely ways for the user to gratify his urges alone, though to achieve fulfillment without a partner, the sex addict must get creative, as in by cutting out cantaloupes, or else making use of porn. 

And I think suicide, which is already the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and on the rise, would disappear altogether if the would-be self-murderer just busted a nut before committing the act. (Ladies you'll have to excuse me, I don't know of a catchy phrase for a female orgasm. If you do, please share. I'll be in my bedroom - with oil.) Because most guys just fall asleep after said nut has been busted. The suicide-to-be probably would too, and awaken to a new outlook if not a new day. 
Just don't try masturbation and suffocation at the same time. This is known as auto-erotic asphyxiation, which purportedly did in INXS lead singer, Michael Hutchence, and self-titled martial arts evangelist David Carradine. Proving what I've always believed: that it's not wise to attempt two things at once, whether reasoning or rubbing one out. Because you'll do neither one very well and you might wind up dead.


*

This past Easter a family friend introduced me to Bumble. Bumble is an app like Tinder that allows you to meet single people in your area. Unlike Tinder the girls initiate the contact, so the male goes into the interaction with guaranteed success. In theory. On the Y chromosome is at least one gene for idiocy and I've known many a guy who can screw up the surest thing, so as not to get screwed.

My friend, let's call him Taylor, proceeded to show me how the app works. He scrolled down an impressive list of females who had already expressed interest by "liking" his photo. And these girls weren't too shabby. Just the other night he had battled bumper-to-bumper traffic on the I-405 for like an hour just so he could hook up with one liker, and as we made our way to the restaurant he tried to put her on the phone with me. She didn't answer.

"Why don't you Bumble?" he asked me. I told him I don't have a smartphone. "It's just as well," he said. "Most of the girls on here have kids."

Seated next to him at brunch I had no choice but to continue the discussion, since two unemployed dudes a decade apart (he is 30) have little to talk about other than sports and girls, and I have no idea who's playing. The fact that he had erectile dysfunction somehow came up. Not in these words, per se. Taylor is not the medical type. But something to the effect that Mr. T's mini T has trouble getting up. But only sometimes, he stressed. I learned this after Taylor told me he's had carnal knowledge of around 400 women. Surely his problem is new, I surmised. And it's not uncommon either. Support groups are popping up all over the place to address what concerned people with PhDs are calling porn-induced erectile dysfunction, or PIED. It wouldn't be a movement without a catchword.

More and more young adults are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged due to excessive pornography-induced stimulation in adolescence. Taylor is probably one such former adolescent. Most guys his age are. He's also the type to take Viagra, because most guys his age and older have tried it, present company excepted. Not out of any real need for the drug, at least not initially, but simply to prolong the sex act long after it would normally have culminated in orgasm. Because that's what porn stars do! The male mind believes that having a day-long hard-on makes their manliness shine. The truth is anyone who has ever consumed a six-pack before coitus knows that beer-induced rubber dick produces the same effect, delaying ejaculation sometimes to an uncomfortable, only the erection is not as stiff as it's purported to be after you pop the little blue pill. 

Which I think is what young guys are really complaining about when they go to their doctors convinced they have ED. They are unable to maintain a rock-hard boner for hours on end without Viagra, which is the new normal, so something must be wrong and "can I have a prescription please?" The increase in ED complaints in young men may merely be the result of more young dudes trying to obtain Viagra to meet the demands of more women in this sexually liberated age, because with more gay guys, there are also fewer heterosexual males. But few websites or articles go so far as to define what erectile dysfunction really is, so let's briefly do so now. 

Broadly, ED is the inability to get or keep an erection while having sex. But all men have problems with erections at some point in their lives, notes the Mayo Clinic. And for young men who are expected to be at the ready and perform at a moment's notice, the stakes and the pressure are higher than for the 50-something happily married grandfather-to-be gearing up for the weekly hook-up with his missus. That is if said grandpa doesn't have plaques in his arteries. More on that in a second. And the maturity level in 20- and 30-somethings, while higher then the frat boy's, is still a work in progress. Young dudes are, in the words of the Dude himself, who used it to describe an older dude, "fragile." Making it more likely that when a guy is expected to "stand" at attention he may cave under pressure. Call it stage fright. A term also used when you're standing next to a bruiser at the urinal with a line 5 deep behind you anxiously awaiting their turn and you suddenly can't muster a dribble.

To grow soft after ejaculation is not ED. It is simply nature's way of saying enough for now. As is the inability to get it up in the first 30 or so minutes after orgasm (at least). But the most common cause of erectile dysfunction or delayed orgasm in animals? Having sex with the same partner over and over again. No novelty there. But what's good for the species does suck for the individual if he is a porn viewer, who becomes the alpha male of his own bedroom by having virtual sex with a dozen hot porn stars a session when in reality he can't find a girl who will even let him munch her rug. I am convinced that ED in young pornophiles is if not a myth then at least overstated or mistaken for something else (anxiety, monotony). Or it is simply a case of crying wolf (to get Viagra). Or all of these.

There are of course factors that contribute to genuine erectile dysfunction. These include excessive alcohol consumption, which we've already covered. Overweight, since fat cells secret estrogen which can lower the level of the virile hormone testosterone - since testosterone is used to make estrogen. Also marijuana use, which has feminizing effects and by acting as an appetite stimulant can make you fat, pushing estrogen even higher.

The most common cause of ED, however, is atherosclerosis. In males it is one of the early indicators of heart disease, but these males are generally middle-aged fellas with barrels for bellies, not the youngsters who are spending ten hours a day on porn, masturbating as many times. Who else has the energy and time? But if you couple a junk food addiction to your yen for voyeurism then those plaques can come a lot earlier. And then yes, ED is a reality. But it is not related to porn, at least not directly. To you I say, eat fruit. It may seem strange, but fruit will lower your risk for erectile dysfunction, and if consumed in place of animal products fruit will help normalize your testosterone, which carries with it benefits that can't be found in any pill, blue or otherwise. These include lowering your risk of prostate cancer and hair loss. Fruit will also help to moderate your sex drive so you won't even have to worry about watching too much porn anymore. I know fruit sounds like a panacea, but it really is, and there are studies to prove it.


 *

In the ancient world, as far back as the 4th millennium B.C., depictions of males and females masturbating are common. Nevertheless some African groups lack a word for the act and are confused by a description. There seems to be less of a place for masturbation in a culture in which the average woman bears 2 or 3 times as many children as women of the West. But masturbation is generally accepted as normal and commonplace (by everyone but the Catholic Church, which is notoriously slow to come around, just ask Bruce Jenner).

Are their benefits we haven't covered? Yes. The more often men ejaculate between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to suffer prostate cancer later in life. Especially if you ejaculate once daily in your 20s, which makes you a third less likely to get the disease when you're old. Frequent ejaculation may help flush out carcinogens that build up when seminal fluid remains in the prostatic ducts. A search on the Web reveals tons of claims about masturbation, from the reasonable - self-stimulating as much as 3 to 5 times per week manages premature ejaculation, helps prevent erectile dysfunction, improves sperm motility and increases sexual stamina - to the bizarre, like reducing nasal congestion. Who thought cleaning one's pipes meant those pipes? Ejaculation may help manage stress and depression through the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. It can bolster your immunity and improve your mood through, though not always. And since the endorphins released in ejaculation are a natural pain-reliever, the excuse "I can't I have a headache" can be answered with "you can and you should." 

And of course masturbation is the most effective method of contraception that also happens to be STD free. But the words of one urologist give us pause. The optimal frequency of masturbation, says this expert, is the frequency in which wet dreams occur. Since many men don't have a wet dream but once in a decade, there is little need for ejaculation. When I refrained from masturbating I didn't have a nocturnal emission for several months. Which is an argument for masturbating three times a year, rather than as many times in a day. Either way, do it or not, testosterone levels remain about the same. That's one of the points on which there is some consensus. One of the few points.

There is some evidence that too much ejaculation can cause lingering physiological changes. When men ejaculated an average of 2.4 times per day for 10 days, their sperm output remained low for nearly half a year.  Many men are now recording unwanted symptoms post-ejaculation. One psychiatrist noted that the neurochemical changes after orgasm mimic those observed in depression and anxiety. Which may mean that today's emphasis on frequent ejaculation could be churning out a generation of basket cases. But remember Peter North, who has appeared in over 2500 adult films, ejaculating probably three times in each, not to mention in whatever social life he has on the side. North still looks pretty sharp - he has no gray hair, and in interviews is always smiling - although looks can be deceiving.

Too much or not enough of a good thing seems to be the million dollar question. Wherever you happen to reside on the sperm-release spectrum, it is up to you to find your happy medium. Maybe this book has helped you. And how you choose to ejaculate, with whom, watching what, is a matter of personal preference. Criteria used to evaluate dependence, normally used in reference to substances like drugs and alcohol, do not apply very well to masturbation. How to measure tolerance to masturbation? A need for a markedly increased number of strokes to achieve orgasm? Diminished intensity with ejaculation? Can you experience withdrawal from a habit as you would a drug? I never have. But I drank alcohol daily for a dozen years and quit cold turkey without a single shake. If you need to masturbate more often over time, despite a persistent desire and unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control yourself, if you spend a great deal of time getting aroused or in procuring methods of arousal, such as porn; if important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced due to your habit, or if you continue to masturbate despite recognizing that relationship problems are caused or worsened by your habit, then you may be watching too much porn, masturbating too much or doing too much of both. Only you can decide. Be suspicious of anyone, expert or not, who says you might have a problem. Unless of course you feel you do. If so, cut back or abstain altogether, for a time or forever. It's not rocket science, although the penis is shaped to look like a space-age invention. If you want to cut down but are still plagued by the uncontrollable urge to touch yourself, remember the dietary advice and eat less meat. The reduction in testosterone (meat being the major dietary source) will decrease your sex drive, not to mention your risk for prostate cancer and hair loss, which we've covered but it deserves reiterating. I have yet to meet a sex addict who is vegan.

So where does this leave us? I'll tell you where it leaves me. After three decades of masturbating I have learned less to live with the guilt  and more to manage it first and then eradicate it by uncovering its cause. Despite what religion says, premarital sex is not wrong, and masturbation is fine. Nowhere in the Bible is masturbation mentioned, so Jesus didn't speak against it; rather it is the institution that developed around the spiritual leader. Christ's message was love. Masturbation can be a form of self-love. It is after all like a back rub, only you can't really reach your back to dig in real good. Buying porn made me feel dirty probably because the other guys I saw buying it were literally dirty. Disheveled, scruffy and bleary-eyed. But most taxi-drivers fit this description, which doesn't stop me from taking cabs.

Nevertheless, watching too much pornography can be considered a glorification of our animal nature. Like dining in a banquet hall. We take a simple act of obtaining nutrition and adulterate the food with heavy sauces, overcook it, consume it with intoxicating liquors and taint it with banal conversation. So the result is not good for us; it merely hastens our demise. After all, conversation is the enemy of good food. This occurs even with the natural act of running in nature. We market expensive shoes for it, wear stylish headphones blaring synthetic sounds while doing it, develop races around it, replenish energies with fancy gels, publish overpriced magazines and call it running. In the end the pursuit itself bears little resemblance to the natural activity which was its inspiration, the activity that kids engage in all the time, or as much as their parents will allow: running around in the grass, free as birds. And parents are letting their kids do this much less, which is lamentable.

It's the same with too much porn. You take a simple act of masturbation and create an event around it, protract it, spend an undue amount of time doing what you could achieve with a few strokes instantly and for free. Making an event of a simple animal act. Maybe it was better when to catch your favorite scene you had to travel to the video store and buy or rent a movie. It's easy to exercise willpower when a lapse involves traffic on Wilshire Blvd and the guy behind the counter you've seen so many times last week that he knows your driver's license number by heart. But I'd rather work on my willpower than be deprived of my freedom. I like living in  free world, and believe you do too. Things get tricky now that you can walk around with porn in your pocket, access explicit scenes at stop lights and over coffee, not just hunched in the corner of your friend's family room with the lights out and the door locked, thinking the maid won't see but knowing deep down that she does. In other words, me in 1987. Don't be that me.

Porn will become increasingly available until we are desensitized altogether or around the clock obsessed. Your choice. Pick somewhere in the middle by just being aware. Be aware of how often you view porn, how long each time, how many times a day or week you masturbate. Be aware of the dreams and thoughts you have on days you do view porn versus when you do not. Be aware of the way you look at girls. Do you regard them as objects of sexual satisfaction or is your sex drive kept so in line by all that ejaculating that you treat them like buddies? 

Is it possible to be truly addicted to what at bottom is a necessary bodily function? The jury is still out. But this much is true: Addiction ends in awareness. In viewing yourself objectively, which if you believe men like Sigmund Freud, is the essence of genius - and Freud himself was a genius. Awareness is also where life really begins. So stop watching porn and go live. Porn will be here when you get back. If you come back.

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