When I say “home studies,” I am referring to the (hopefully) vast archive of sexual knowledge, artifacts, and literature that any man has available both in his mind, and at his fingertips, literally, at any given moment.
In my case, I had been working on mine since about the age of eight, after I accidentally gave myself an orgasm in the bathtub. Whatever it was, I thought, the important thing was to figure out how to make more of them, and as regularly as possible. Many great discoveries are accidental, and this one was clearly a find. At almost the same time, I found out that if you took certain books out of the library about, say, Ancient Greece, you could find many interesting illustrations. My core sexual identity was well-formed before anyone else had a chance to influence it, and for that I remain grateful.
As I grew up, I found more things of interest, and in the oddest places. Like many kids, I fancied myself a scientist, and was always engaged in a number of areas of inquiry, and experimentation. I discovered that my parents had a “back massager” able to bear attachments for purposes clearly unrelated to backs, and, after general test runs, this became one of my Great Tools—a tool that would serve me faithfully for a number of years. The first time I hit the power button, a powerful surge shot up my hand, and then through every inch of by body, if not my soul.
For many, many decades preceding, say, the seventies, vibrators were marketed as therapeutic devices, devices used for common ailments like sore muscles, and scalp massage. Surely, there were many who purchased them just for that, unaware of the earth-shattering, Promethean nature of such inventions. Behold, although this is a slightly later model: Vintage Wahl Vibrator
Mind you, I had virtually no knowledge of how intercourse actually worked between people, but now I was now deeply aware of how arousal operated, and that was better, far better, than where I had been before. In the case of the back massager, a sort of madness overcame me ( after all, the thing had a very strong motor, unlike many modern products)—I couldn’t get enough of it! It turned into a mandatory ritual, to be performed as soon as I got home from school.
One dark day, this rite was interrupted by my mother, who opened my bedroom door to see me there, 10 years old, working out with the power tools. This is now even more disturbing to me in retrospect, because I know I was wearing my Cub Scout uniform, pants pulled down, legs all akimbo. I think I had not even bothered to remove the hat. To her credit, she gave me a rather nervous talk about how sex is natural, etc. (I really do not remember the rest of it, being shocked at her presence), but that I should really lay off the vibrator. When my father came home, I witnessed some sort of meeting between them, but dad never said a word to me about it, although from that day and a good while after he gave me some very odd, maybe slightly disgusted looks.
I considered this all a save, until I discovered that my mother thought the encounter a “cute” enough anecdote to share at a great number of dinners and cocktail parties, often in my presence: “Oh, you should have seen his cute little thing, standing straight up!” She continued to plague me socially with this until I was 24—in other words, until her death. My mother was open, natural, and honest, but to my mind also lacking in discretion.
There were few dry spells as far as my research went, as it was relentless. At age ten (thanks to a trip to Barnegat Bay I took with family friends),I found a treasure trove of 1960’s Playboy magazines, including the Jane Mansfield issue—I left for home from that vacation with regret in my heart, thinking of that trunk sitting in the cottage attic.
But there were always sources, if you looked carefully—the backs of detective magazines, lingerie catalogs, whatever you could run into. At one point my mother gave me copies of two books: “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask,” and Philip Roth’s “Portnoy’s Complaint.” Mom was always an open-minded reader who gave little thought to age-appropriateness. These books were, to me, the equivalent of getting a college degree, not only answering lingering questions, but bringing important, cutting-edge data to the forefront—my conceptual tool bag was now greatly expanded.
By the summer of 1969 (when we transferred from New Jersey back to Ohio), I soon became a part of a loose cadre’ of freethinkers such as myself, and to my delight, they all stole porn from their fathers. This porn was kept in a sort of underground lending library, which they had craftily constructed in the backwoods of an old cemetery. After a number of years of this, things tapered down but never stopped completely—we were on to stag films, and relentless acquisitions of the mainstreams such as Playboy and Penthouse, whenever and wherever possible. It is bizarre and taboo how such knowledge is acquired, but make no mistake: it has breadth, and depth. One has only to be intelligent, observant, and discriminating.
As to the Wahl vibrator, it remained integral to my activities up until I was fourteen, although I was becoming less enamored of it because I began to find it too desensitizing. This problem solved itself: I got it out of the closet (my parents still thought they were hiding from me), hit the switch, and it was gone. It is fair to assume I drove it to a premature death, but it lived a very long life—a life of immeasurable contribution to human happiness.