"Then your penis feels like it's going to throw up."
I was twelve, and my friend John, the guy with the Slip N' Slide, was explaining to me how to masturbate. Seemed like he met every puberty milestone before I did. He'd experienced his first ejaculation some weeks before, and he was like one of your friends with a new outdoor grill. You know the guy who has a twenty minute conversation with you about how the grill works? How you light it, check the temperature, warm it up, cool it down. How to add the mesquite flavor. Where to put your beer while you're doing it. That was John talking about masturbation.
"Your penis feels like it's going to throw up?" I thought. "And this is supposed to be an enjoyable experience?"
"What happens then?" I said.
"Sticky stuff squirts out, and then you feel like falling asleep."
When I found out from Myra Breckinridge about all the pleasure receptors I'd lost to circumcision, I thought back to that conversation that I'd had with John all those years before, and I thought about how surprised I'd felt the first time I ever masturbated, because that experience had been so different from what John had described to me.
I thought "Was that why masturbation felt different for me? Was it because John had all those pleasure receptors in his foreskin? The ones that I'd lost?"
John had described masturbation as an experience he'd had with his penis, but to me masturbation had always been something that happened to my whole body. It brought me a heightened sense of touch throughout my body and a hyperawareness of my body's natural rhythms: breathing, heartbeat, blood flow, everything. And it brought an overall feeling of euphoria.
And it felt great. It felt wonderful. And later having those experiences with a partner felt even more wonderful. It felt like a symphony playing out all over our bodies, with crescendos and diminuendos, a minuet here, an adagio there, all building to a moving finale.
Now, at age 19, for the first time in my life, I thought "Is there part of the symphony I'm not hearing? Am I missing part of the symphony?"
And if I was missing part of the symphony, how much was I missing? Which parts? A couple piccolos? Half the percussion? The whole violin section?
I've spent thirty years trying to answer that question, and I haven't yet. I don't know if I ever will.
I think I might have to accept that the answer to that question is part of what I'm missing.