At eleven, I am the youngest of eight boys lined up along one row of lock­ers in the oth­er­wise empty men’s room at the swim­ming pool to which the day camp we are attend­ing takes us every other day. Nor­mally, I’d be chang­ing with boys my own age, but a mix-up back at the camp grounds landed me on the bus with these guys, who are all twelve and thir­teen. I turn my back to them to hide the erec­tion that has taken hold of my body and which I am hav­ing dif­fi­culty fit­ting into my bathing suit. Despite my best efforts to remain incon­spic­u­ous, how­ever, my move­ments attract their atten­tion and one of them sneaks up behind me and looks over my shoul­der. “Hey,” his voice rings out metal­li­cally, “look at the size of Newman’s boner!”

Like a pack of dogs that has been thrown a sin­gle piece of meat, the group sur­rounds me in a tight cir­cle, while I stand there not mov­ing, body point­ing me into the air above the mid­dle of the room, wish­ing I could van­ish, that it would van­ish, but no mat­ter how much I will it, the damned thing will not go down.

What are you, a homo!?”

Other guys’ dicks must turn him on!”

Wanna suck mine, queer!?”

The taunts con­tinue for what seems like hours, though it is prob­a­bly only a few min­utes, and then the head coun­selor comes in and ush­ers us all out to the pool. I can’t believe he didn’t hear what the other boys were say­ing, but he acts as if he didn’t, barely look­ing at me as he shows me where the boys in my group have spread their towels.

Later that evening, while I’m get­ting ready for bed, I stand naked before the full-length mir­ror inside my door and tuck my penis out of sight between my legs. I’m not try­ing to imag­ine myself as a girl, but I am intrigued by the pos­si­bil­ity of a body that does not have erections.

///

When I was a teenager, I read in Pent­house mag­a­zine a letter–I think it was in Xavier Hollander’s “Happy Hooker” column–in which a woman described how she and a friend took revenge on a man who’d tried to rape the friend. The writer of the let­ter arranged to meet the man at a disco, invited him to her apart­ment, and seduced him into being tied, spread-eagled, to her bed. Then the woman’s friend, who’d been wait­ing in another room, came in, and the two women teased the man sex­u­ally until he was beg­ging them for release. In response, the women took out a razor and shav­ing cream, telling him that, if he ejac­u­lated while they rubbed his penis, they would shave all the hair from his body. The let­ter went on to describe in great detail first the man’s plead­ing with them not to do it and then his efforts to keep him­self from com­ing while the women took turns mas­tur­bat­ing him. Finally, of course, he came, and the women shaved him, threat­en­ing to slice off his tes­ti­cles if he didn’t lay still.

Now, of course, I under­stand not only that the let­ter might have been, that it most prob­a­bly was, a com­plete fab­ri­ca­tion, even that it might even have been writ­ten by a man, but also, assum­ing for the sake of argu­ment that the events it relates actu­ally hap­pened, the fact that is was pub­lished in Pent­house means that its sole pur­pose was to feed, to shape and even to cre­ate the desires and fan­tasies of the boys and men like me who read the mag­a­zine. At the time, though, I read the let­ter naively, assum­ing it to be true–why, after all, would some­one pub­lish a let­ter that wasn’t?–and so it was clear to me that it described a rape. The woman who osten­si­bly wrote it didn’t present what she and her friend did to the man as any­thing else—except to make clear that it was moti­vated by revenge—and she never implied that he enjoyed it. Nonethe­less, my sex­ual imag­i­na­tion was drawn to the story. For months, for years after­ward, I fan­ta­sized about women tying me to a bed and cre­at­ing in my flesh an arousal so all-encompassing that I too would be will­ing to beg for release. Yet no mat­ter how hard I tried to imag­ine a con­clu­sion other than the one in the let­ter, I always ended up the vic­tim of some ver­sion of the revenge the writer and her friend took, and what I remem­ber most about this now is how fully this end­ing short-circuited the fan­tasy, and when I say “fully short-circuited,” I mean fully and com­pletely. If I was mas­tur­bat­ing, I found it very hard to con­tinue; if I was sim­ply day­dream­ing, I’d have to stop and think of some­thing else, not because I felt and was try­ing to avoid, or deny, the guilty, shame­ful plea­sure that often accom­pa­nies “for­bid­den fan­tasies,” but rather because I was scared. I sim­ply did not trust the women I imag­ined not to turn into the women described in the let­ter. More than that, though, I iden­ti­fied with their victim’s expe­ri­ence of hav­ing the plea­sures of his body turned against him, and the knowl­edge that I could be shamed just as he had been shamed taught me only one thing: my body was always the poten­tial weapon of my own defeat.

///

We’re sit­ting in a cir­cle in a reme­dial com­po­si­tion class that I’m teach­ing. The stu­dents are read­ing aloud and com­ment­ing on fables they’ve writ­ten over the week­end. The prose is awk­ward and ungram­mat­i­cal, though I am impressed with the imag­i­na­tive effort some of my stu­dents have made. There’s a mod­ern­ized ver­sion of Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood, set in an upper class neigh­bor­hood with the most sought-after senior boy in the local high school tak­ing the part of the wolf. There’s also a gender-reversed Sleep­ing Beauty, in which Princess Charm­ing turns out to be the home­less woman who sleeps in the park. I’m about to move on to the next part of the les­son when Wal­ter, who’d announced when we began that he wasn’t going to read what he’d writ­ten, asks whether I’d like to hear his story. Of course I say yes.

Walter’s nar­ra­tive takes place in the future and involves a very pow­er­ful drug dealer whose orga­ni­za­tion has been infil­trated by a top female nar­cotics agent pos­ing as a pros­ti­tute. When the dealer’s lover, who also works for him as a pros­ti­tute, learns that the oper­a­tion has been com­pro­mised, she tells him imme­di­ately. Armed with this infor­ma­tion, the dealer exposes the spy and has her tor­tured slowly and painfully to death. To express his grat­i­tude, he takes his lover to bed, giv­ing her, in Walter’s words, “the lit­eral fuck of her life, pound­ing away until she was no longer breath­ing.” The story ends with a descrip­tion of the lav­ish funeral the dealer gives her.

When Wal­ter fin­ishes read­ing, he looks around the cir­cle with a sar­cas­tic and self-satisfied grin. The rest of the class is silent, no one except me will­ing to meet his eyes, and I’m hop­ing that one of his peers will be the first to speak, con­demn­ing what he’s writ­ten not in the voice of authority—which my voice would inevitably be—but in the voice of his own com­mu­nity. A minute passes before I real­ize that his class­mates don’t intend to respond, and so I call on a few stu­dents by name, male and female, to see if I can draw them out. The men all say that the story is “sick,” while the women tell me they think it’s not even worth respond­ing to. Yet it has to be responded to, and so I ask Wal­ter if he really believes that fuck­ing a woman to death could be an expres­sion of gratitude.

Of course,” he says, “For the woman it’s the ulti­mate ful­fill­ment, and for the man it’s the ulti­mate proof.”

Of what?”

Of man­hood,” he responds, “Women would take tick­ets and stand in line to be with a man pow­er­ful enough to fuck them like that.” He says these words with a con­vic­tion I at first can’t think how to argue with, but then I won­der aloud if he would include his girl­friend or his future wife in that line of women.

I’m not talk­ing,” he says, “about doing this to some­one I love. I’m talk­ing about the pieces of trash you can pick up at the local bar, the sluts who give it away, the hook­ers who do it for money, women who are ask­ing for it.”

Why,” I ask, “do they deserve to be murdered?”

They’re whores,” he responds, “No one cares about them.”

I take a dif­fer­ent tack, ask­ing him if he’s ever killed any­thing other than an insect. When he says no, I ask him if he real­izes that he’s talk­ing about using his own body, his penis specif­i­cally, as a mur­der weapon and that the mur­der he says he would like to com­mit is not sim­ply one in which his vic­tim dies in his arms, but is also one in which he would feel against his own flesh the inter­nal process of her dying.

Yes, I do,” he says.

Try­ing again, I go back to what he said about not want­ing to fuck to death a woman he loves and ask if he makes a dis­tinc­tion between the sex he would have for plea­sure with that woman and the power he says he would like to expe­ri­ence of using sex to kill. Wal­ter looks at me with a mix­ture of pity and con­tempt. “Power,” he says, “is pleasure.”

Class ends. As I’m putting my papers in my brief­case, Wal­ter steps up to my desk. “Now that every­one else is gone,” he says, his voice full of con­spir­a­to­r­ial cama­raderie, “be hon­est. Wouldn’t it feel great to take some slut to a hotel and then meet your bud­dies later and tell them you’d killed her with your dick?”

No,” is all I can think to say.

Sure, maybe now that you’re older and you can’t get it up like you used to–I was in my thirties–but when you were younger, when you were an under­grad­u­ate, wasn’t fuck­ing some­thing you did so you could share it with your bud­dies, and impress them, and wouldn’t they have wor­shipped you if you told them you’d fucked some­one to death?”

I decide that mono­syl­labic answers are the best way to deal with this line of ques­tion­ing. “No,” I tell him again.

Wal­ter waits a few sec­onds for me to say more. When I don’t, he mut­ters some­thing under his breath of which I think I hear the words pathetic and excuse. Then he walks out, and it’s the last I see or hear of him until I get my final ros­ter with a W for with­drawal next to his name. Of course there are many rea­sons why he might have had to with­draw from the class, but it’s hard for me not to think he did so because I wasn’t “man enough” to be his teacher.

///

In an episode of the long-and-deservedly-defunct TV series She-Wolf Of Lon­don, a very old man is brought into the hos­pi­tal dying of unknown causes. The doc­tor on duty believes the old man is either senile or insane because he keeps insist­ing he is actu­ally twenty-seven years old and that he was turned into an old man by a woman. As the doc­tor leaves, he orders a nurse to give the old man a seda­tive. Once the nurse and the old man are alone, how­ever, she unzips her uni­form to reveal black-lace lin­gerie, and the old man rec­og­nizes her as the woman who has aged him—one of what the view­ers will later learn is a group of suc­cubae who have opened an escort ser­vice in England’s cap­i­tal city. As the old man looks on in help­less ter­ror, the suc­cubus begins to climb into the hos­pi­tal bed where he is lay­ing. As she does so, she reminds him in the voice of a preda­tor enjoy­ing the pow­er­less­ness of its prey that all he has to do is not want her and he will be able to live. All he has to do, in other words, is not have an erec­tion and she will not be able to fuck him to death.