The Penis Papers, Part 4

With all these virile guys telling us about Viagra, you get to be proud of the fact you can't get it up! Ain't life grand?

Published May 16, 2003 7:12PM (EDT)

Virile guys and Viagra

Lennie is an automobile salesman. He is 61 years old.

Years ago, you wouldn't admit to not being able to get it up. It was shameful. But now, with Viagra, and with those ads that show Bob Dole and the race car driver, virile guys telling you about Viagra, it's all changed. In some respects, I guess, you get to be proud of the fact that you can't get it up!

I had had some pretty difficult troubles. It would come and go. And when it came, it really didn't come up all the way. Sometimes it would. But it wouldn't stay that way. Or it would stay, but only halfway. And lately, it had gotten to be that sometimes it wouldn't come up at all.

This is a problem. Because most of the women with whom I've had the opportunity to be intimate lately (I mean, I'm not talking about dozens or anything. Just a couple of nice women who wanted to have a companion and wanted to have a nice sex life) want to be active. Just because you're 60 and a woman doesn't mean that life's come to an end. I mean, these are real women!

But I haven't been able to, and I was really ashamed of myself. Mad at myself. It was as though I just didn't care. That's how I thought of it. I'd just given up somehow, even though I wanted a nice sex life, too. So I stopped going out because I didn't want to have that level of embarrassment. And I didn't want them to be embarrassed. Because I've had women ask me if it's them that's the problem. "Is there something I'm not doing?" That kind of thing.

But now there's Viagra.

So I was in my bathroom the other night with Barbara, a woman I've been going out with. She's 52. We're both a little overweight. Our skin could have a little better tone. But we bathed together and then we stood in front of the mirror. My butt's mottled. Some skin tags here and there. Moles. A couple of glasses of wine on the counter. But you know, she took me into her hand and gave me a great big hard-on. It was the nicest thing. And even better, it stayed that way for quite a while. Barbara stood behind me and held me in her hand, kind of waving me, maybe, for the mirror.

"Has it always been this way with you?" she asked me.

I told her it hadn't. I explained the situation.

"Well ... so just look at you now!" she said, her hand reaching around in front of me as we looked at ourselves in the mirror. "So grand." She glanced up at me in the mirror. "So grand!"

I've never had a hard-on

Tak is a Japanese-American homosexual who lives in Malibu Beach. He is the personal chef for the CEO of a Hollywood-based talent agency and his family. He is 29.

At first it wasn't a problem. I was the only Japanese kid in my high school, and I didn't go out all that much. I suppose I wasn't expected to get it up.

But when I got to the culinary academy in San Francisco, it was different. I started asking girls out. We'd hang at the clubs South of Market. Actually I got to be very social, and I became much more avant-garde in my appearance. Blue hair. Earrings. Scarves. I'd go shopping with the girls, and I really liked it, especially in the second-hand shops on Valencia, the sound of all those hangers tingling on and off the racks. I love that sound.

I still was pretty shy, though, and I didn't really get involved with anyone until I'd been at the academy for a couple of years. It was then that I found that I couldn't really get an erection. I just wasn't turned on, although I wanted to be. I just wasn't. It was embarrassing, because the two girls that I tried to make love to were, uh, receptive. A pastry chef from Hollywood, and a sous-chef from San Francisco. Emma and Susan -- both white girls. Both pretty far out when it came to personal appearance and the things they'd talk about.

Emma especially wanted to talk about penises, and when it didn't work out between us, she -- well, she didn't get offended, like Susan did. She just wanted to know if it had been something about her that had turned me off, or was there a physical issue or something. I told her that I didn't know. I just didn't know. I was more upset about it than she was, because I really did want to be her lover -- I thought.

Then one night, when Emma and I were having a drink together at Julie's Supper Club, I met Brad, who was beautiful. He was a day trader. He didn't have a job. He was on the computer all day, buying and selling stocks, and he was extremely clean-looking. Very precise. He only wore Levi's and sport shirts. But they were always ironed. In fact, Brad looked like an ad, one of those building-sized posters that you see on the sides of huge edifices downtown, with people like Shaquille O'Neal, for sport stuff and the latest in underwear.

I asked Brad to go to the movies with me, and we did the following night. We went to his place that night also, and I was just amazed at how wonderful he was. But then, the same thing happened with Brad that had happened with Susan and Emma. Brad lay there in bed, big and full, so gorgeous. But I was like an old sock! We tried all kinds of things. I mean, Brad tried all sorts of things, bless him. But I began as a sock and remained a sock.

I've looked for help with this from doctors, psychiatrists. But nothing seems to help much. Viagra, maybe, but I haven't tried that yet. This is the saddest thing I've ever had to deal with. It's made me feel that I'm the same way inside -- motionless, dead. The black I feel inside is like death. I weep sometimes. But at least the weeping shows that I have feelings. It's like mourning. We know that the dead person has gone elsewhere. But what are we left with here? You know, the fact is I've never had a hard-on. I don't know what it's like.

Monday: Feeling alive

By Terence Clarke

Terence Clarke is a novelist and screenwriter in San Francisco.

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