Chapter Five: Sex & Home Runs
“Masturbation: the primary sexual activity of mankind. In the nineteenth century, it was a disease; in the twentieth, it’s a cure.”
— Dr. Thomas S. Szasz, Psychiatrist
Almarón discovered his sexuality and sexual pleasure long before he ever found sex with women. As a youngster, he never cared about the jocular, sexual banter of the older boys and teenagers with whom he mingled at school and in his neighborhood. Outside of the educational tutoring he received, most of it from celibate nuns, his upbringing included fencing, martial arts classes, music, cooking, and books. But no sex education. His disciplines prepared him only for the refined life of leisure he would enjoy in between his duties at his father’s law firm. He was no stranger to reading books, having been tutored by his mother on many classic works. Those activities, however, led him only to a smattering of understanding of the subject of sex. Generally, in his parents’ view and era, sex was not a subject for discussion.
On a particular day, when he was twelve years old and visiting relatives outside of his native country, Almarón had the fortune, or misfortune, to watch a young woman, a street urchin, squat on the sidewalk, lift her skirt and play with her uncovered genitals. Watching from an upstairs window, the sight of her masturbating—he didn’t know it was masturbation then since he had never even read or heard the word—mesmerized him. He didn’t understand what he was seeing, nor comprehend the uncomfortable feelings that raced through his body the more he watched. Up to that fateful day, he never had felt the slightest twinge of any sexual sensation, ever. Although his body approached puberty, he had not thought of such things and never had seen female genitalia beyond Saturday-night baths shared with his sister at a much younger age under the supervision of their mother.
The oddity of that moment in time was the silence. Almarón, standing inside his aunt’s home, continued to watch through the upstairs window. The pobrita outside was a flight down from his vantage point. He was aware of her activity, but she was completely unaware that anyone could see or watch her. She played with herself, feeling whatever she felt, while he stood motionless, feeling warm and tingly. Neither would ever know each other, and he would never reveal his voyeurism to another soul. Yet, he would never be the same after the incident. He neither forgot what he saw nor, importantly, the sensations he felt.
Years went by. The sight of that girl masturbating on the street never diminished each time he returned to it in his dreams. Nothing comparable in his mind prepared him to understand what she had been doing, until the day a classmate in seventh grade leaned over and asked, “Do you ever play with it?”
“What? What are you talking about?” he whispered back (so the nun leading the class would not hear him).
“Oh, you know,” and the boy made a circled fist and an up-and-down hand motion that Almarón didn’t grasp at first. When the other student pointed to Almarón’s loins and jerked his fist again, he sort of got the message. He understood the suggested connection, if not the full meaning, and he spent the rest of the day in class wondering what would happen if he did try it.
(Ask a thousand people of either gender how they first learned about their sexuality, and they will most likely tell you a hundred different stories, all beginning with masturbation.)
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