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Friday, 3 May 2013

In real life pert and perky miss the point

It had to happen. After all the discussion online yesterday about pert and perky TV news journalists inspired by a column by a retired journo who probably never expected his words to excite such revulsion among female readers, this morning one woman posted a picture of beefcake on her timeline. And we know it's true; many will remember the Canberra study from a few weeks ago that correlated women's liking images of men with the size of the boys' penises. And anyway, what's not to like about fit and well-muscled young men? Many straight men will fantasize about fellating such a specimen, even if they'd never admit to it, even to their closest and dearest. Sexuality is a private matter, unless it's public, which it can be in novels for example.

Two examples show how older men who write can imagine sex and youth. Kenzaburo Oe, a straight, late-middle-aged Japanese novelist, published Somersault in 2003, to cite one case, in which a middle-aged university art teacher, Kizu, who discovers he has cancer, begins a sexual relationship with a much younger man, the fit and rugged Ikuo. It's a novel about moral and ethical compulsions, and its plot gravitates around a church that is finding its legs following a disastrous abjurement of its principles by the founder, that took place a decade earlier. Oe thrives on detail, and effortlessly dwells on Ikuo's rock-hard penis and the copious amounts of ejaculate he is able to generate compared to Kizu's meagre, discoloured contributions. The vagaries of the erection are also canvassed,  including one episode when Ikuo manages to overcome his reticence and successfully anally penetrate Kizu, who immediately climaxes. Older male writers have often created fantasies about young bodies, as in the case of Patrick White's The Vivisector, where an ageing Hurtle Duffield, the artist, commences a sexual relationship with the schoolgirl Kathy Volkov. White's scenery is not as highly wrought as Oe's, but it's worth keeping in mind that White was gay.

Older people may sometimes have an affair with a younger person, but in these books there's something a bit fantastic about those couplings. In real life there's less attention paid to purely physical attributes, and more concern with such intangibles as humour, kindness, and companionship. In my youth there were two instances where I ended up having sex - of a kind - with men, but in both cases the guy was overweight and very ordinary to look at. Homosexuality had little to do, for me, with perky pecs or ramapant members and everything to do with engaging meaningfully with the world and discovering myself. In those days I was rather callow, with poor communication skills, and I was often very lonely. Confused? Absolutely. Disenchanted and ignorant? You betcha. So when the gentleman who lived in an apartment at the back of the block where my studio unit was located offered to give me some of his amyl nitrate to try, I accepted. The drug was interesting, if not "good"; you feel a surge of exhilaration enfold you just for a few moments and then you return to normalcy. As for the sex, it was even more of a disaster. I couldn't get it up when he tried to fellate me and when he moved his body up the bed to orient his penis above my mouth I quickly rolled away and fled the building.

In fact, there was nothing sexy about the encounter at all. I was just lonely and curious. A few years later something similar happened, this time with a boy closer to my own age. Again, he was friendly and chubby, with a vital sense of humour and a line of comedy that charmed me. We ended up one evening in his flat and he told me stories of his boyfriend with the enormous cock, and how he loved waking up next to it. But when the level of intimacy arrived at its peak I ended up just giving him a handjob, which is quite a boring task and only requires patience from the active participant. As in the first encounter, there was nothing very sexual for me in this episode; I was lonely and he was funny and so we collided in the darkness for one night, never to repeat the thing.

Women may enjoy looking at beefcake snapshots but I think, like in my experience, the male sexual presence is located more within the realm of intangibles than in that of physical appearance. A minimum physical standard might apply, but probably women want to be with men who are kind, generous, gentle, funny, interesting, reliable, and have good job prospects. Talk of pert breasts from men also misses the point, too, I think. Men will be attracted to women who possess a beautiful soul, if they're honest with themselves.

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