Love, sex and interminable pop-culture references

Category: Personal (Page 1 of 2)

ILB’s personal posts

Evangelism

In the early weeks of December I was well aware that I was truly in the twilight of my employment. I was holding out a little hope – although very little indeed – that I wouldn’t have to leave (and I’m still having dreams, including those of last night, in which I’m either still employed or have managed to inveigle my way back in), but realistically, I was leaving, and I knew it.

I told myself that I wouldn’t be too cavalier in my approach to work, even in those final days, if I wanted to either continue in the career I had started to forge or stand any chance of getting back there. And so, for the most part, I didn’t.

For the most part.

Part of my daily duty involved finding a computer and using it to log my activities (on the assumption that they’d be read. I’m not sure they were.); computers were in plentiful supply on the top floor, but that involved effort. I’d go to the break room, get myself a cup of tea and use the one computer in there. Occasionally there were biscuits, so you can see where my priority lies.

At that point in the day, the break room was usually populated by middle-aged women who came in a little early before starting the late shift. We were always cordial, despite not really crossing paths at any point during the day; there was, however, some amount of camaraderie going on. I hardly ever joined in with their conversations, though, as I can’t really identify with discussions of how many children one has.

Until, one day in the week before my final, the topic of sex toys came up.

I don’t know who broached the subject, but I’m fairly certain that it was another colleague of mine – a tall, sporty black dude whose main job was to stand outside (and he did so, too, even in winter, which commands a certain amount of respect on his own!). He has, like all of us, his filter, but seemingly feels it loosen when nobody else is listening.

Even to my untrained ears, the conversation was grating. Ann Summers was being frequently named, as were the unspecified term “vibrator” and the agonisingly vague “rabbit”. Somebody had to say something.

“What you WANT to be using,” I said in a loud, clear voice, “is SOMETHING called DOXY. It’s doing a lot of trade and is VERY well-regarded.”
Everyone looked at me.
“What was that?” asked one of the middle-aged women, while the sporty guy flashed a full-beam smile in my direction.
“Doxy,” I said clearly. “D – O – X – Y. It’s a personal massager, which…”
“It’s a what?”
“It’s a sex toy, it’s a sex toy,” I acquiesced. “It’s not exactly the market leader, but according to everyone I’ve talked to it’s by far the best…” Not to mention there’s one on my bedside table. But I’m not going to add that.
“How do you know about this?”

For once, I had an answer ready.

“Because I know the guy who runs the company,” I shrugged, which is technically true. I’ve met him. He’s the one the Doxy on my bedside table is from (although, again, it’s actually my girlfriend’s Doxy, even if I’m usually the one wielding it). He seems really nice. And it seemed to be a satisfying enough answer.
“Mmmmmm,” said someone. “That’s good advice. I’ll make sure to be asking you again if you know about this sort of thing.”

Dangerous territory. Evidently I do know about this sort of thing. I just can’t let conversations about this go unnoticed. So I chose the immediate course of evasive action, steering this Doxy-shaped boat out of the shark-infested waters.

“You’re welcome to ask me,” I said, “but it’ll have to be quick. I’m leaving at the end of next week.”
“You’re leaving?” everyone said at the same time.
“Unfortunately, it’s true,” I said, with a small, sad smile. “Contractual, though. Nothing to do with me.”

I got up to wash my teacup, it being a truth universally acknowledged that my end of day usually followed said action.

It was on my way out of the door that I heard my name being called. Of course, said the voice in my head, this is the point where someone genuinely tells you that they are going to miss you. Of all the people you’ve told, everyone’s been very professional. Maybe one of these ladies will actually say that.

I turned around.

“What was the name of that toy again?”

2020 #orgasmcount (aka: “What, He’s Still Doing This?”)

Let’s address the issue without flinching. Plenty of people have had a terrible 2020. A mismanaged global pandemic and xenophobic union severance don’t make for a good combination in an uncertain world. There have been deaths, job losses and mass cancellation of things all and sundry.

I, myself, haven’t suffered too much. I had a difficult time earlier in the year when Eroticon was cancelled at the eleventh hour; the annual musical event I attend was also then shelved, and this included the only chance I’d get to play an instrument live in the whole year, so I had problems dealing with that, as well. In the summer, my girlfriend lost their job; in the autumn, I did. My last day at work was on the 17th.

And, before you ask, this is a bad thing. Practically every dream I’ve had since has been set at work, thus roundly mocking me for something I enjoyed, but ultimately had no control over.

But overall, my year wasn’t too bad (apart from losing my job, which I may need therapy about). My friends and family are all safe. The only death in my family has been of a very distant relative who I’ve only met once or twice. I was, at the very least, employed for the entire year and didn’t need to work from home for more than a couple of months. I even managed to arrange a relatively satisfying Christmas, albeit stuck in a tiny flat with one other person.

And then there are orgasms.

Last year I had 134 orgasms. I was curious, when the COVID-19 outbreak took hold, how that would affect sexual activity globally – realistically, if more people are staying at home, how much more wanking is there? I can’t speak for anyone else, not even my girlfriend who bought themselves a porn subscription recently… but I can, at least, give a fair approximation of what I’ve been up to.

113 – the number of orgasms I’ve had this year (as denoted by a ★ in my WHSmith mid-year diary)

Less than last year. That’s a surprise.

30.9% – the number of orgasms in a year, compared to the number of days in a year, expressed as a percentage

I mean, that’s almost a third. Is that good? That’s good, right…? Right?

22/6 to 03/07 – a period of time in which I didn’t have any orgasms at all (as denoted by “NJO” in my diary – you can work out what that stands for by yourself)

I wrote about this, although I’m still not quite sure exactly I did so. I just didn’t feel particularly sexy during that period. Interestingly enough, I didn’t mark the orgasm I had on the fourth of July as particularly potent, so whatever I did on that day, it must have been fairly average… insofar as an orgasm can, of course, be average.

25/05, 14/10 and 18/12 – dates on which I had notably powerful, effective or satisfying orgasms (as denoted by ! or even ☺ (once) in my diary)

Nothing to say here, really, except… DAMN IT, JANET! WHY AREN’T THEY ALL LIKE THIS?!

18/12 (again) – the one date on which I had more than one orgasm (as denoted by “x2”) in my diary

I apparently did this three times last year, as opposed to in my late teens or early twenties when I’d do that several times a day… nevertheless, this was a day when I was particularly horny and… [rustle of paper as ILB checks his notes] …was over a week since I’d last had one.

And I’d just lost my job, so, y’know.

04/06, 09/07, and 18/10difficult, disappointing or frustrating orgasms (as denoted by ? in my diary, or occasionally a comment)

Le sigh.

04/06 – I wrote “Too much effort, too little result!” about this. It’s the worst kind of orgasm, isn’t it – when you’re very horny and up for it, but then it doesn’t happen for far too long?
09/07 – I wrote the single word “watery” afterwards. Eww.
18/10 – there’s a single ? here. I actually remember this one – I wasn’t sure whether it warranted a ★ as, although I ejaculated, I barely felt a thing. But I put one down anyway. Because I’m a rascal.

This is, of course, my last post in 2020. I fully intend to continue in 2021, at least in some form. Probably exactly the same form, to be honest.

Because otherwise… well, you wouldn’t be reading, would you?

Grotski

I’ve spent the past few days trying to convince my girlfriend that I don’t have COVID-19. This is, of course, despite all evidence to the contrary – I have been off work slacking working from home for the past week, for example, due to a positive case of COVID-19 in the team I work with.

This might not be so alarming were it not for the fact that my body has been in open rebellion for about as long. I didn’t even have any COVID symptoms until yesterday, when I started coughing increasingly throatily. Last night I started shivering in the middle of the night, before I got up to cough up bile and vomit spectacularly into the toilet. Today I slept until 1.

Talking is painful. Breathing hurts. And I’m so, so cold.

I’m not overly concerned, because I’ve had these symptoms before – I went through the entirety of Eroticon 2018 with bronchitis and once battled through half an hour of work with norovirus, and this feels like one (or both) of them. It’s not the first time I’ve been susceptible. I have, of course, ordered a home test in case this is a coronavirus, but it doesn’t feel like it is.

Not that it feels particularly good, either.

Whatever this is, it boils down to “ILB is not well.” And it’s getting worse. I don’t think I’ll be going back to work next week, really.

Being sick does odd things to my sex life. Being unable to sleep, but throaty and coughing like Tecwen Whittock, means that I am staying up later than usual (and not going to work means that that doesn’t knock out my concentration as much as it otherwise would). And – as the later it is, the hornier I get – I’m sitting at my computer, my lower half stiffening, my upper half screaming, making me feeling not just grotski, but torn.

In half.

And so I’ve been living this sort of confused half-existence (once my girlfriend has gone to bed; she has been an excellent nurse the rest of the time) for these past few nights.

On Wednesday, I found myself scrolling through porn for no real purpose other than the fact that I could.
On Thursday, I lurked in a Chaturbate model’s livestream listening to the 80s synthpop she was playing since I didn’t have the energy to cue any up myself.
On Friday, I stayed up until well past midnight chatting informally to a friend while she was casually cybering three girls in separate windows.
On Saturday, once I had determined the fact that I wasn’t going to get any sleep, I swaddled myself in my dressing gown and sat in the lounge reading sci-fi until 3am. And I was still turned on.

But I haven’t been touching myself. I don’t trust myself to. Taking clothes off means being cold, and being cold is something I’m trying my hardest to avoid. When I orgasm, I cough, and coughing currently leads to pain, or retching, or worse. Coupled with the fact that my IBS has been active recently, this all means that I’m a General Mess, and we should always say no to GM.

[Pause while ILB waits for the laughter and applause.]

But here we are on Sunday evening and I have had enough. I’ve got Halls Soothers, soluble paracetamol, and a bottle of Benylin all on hand. My mum brought me a massive box of teabags. I mean, I’ve even got lemon juice and honey from Bee if I want to go all in with the traditional home remedies. If I knuckle down on this, I can fight it. It may be painful, and it may be making me sick, and – even if I don’t think it is – it may end up being COVID-19 after all.

But if I can get through this, I can get my sexy back.

And so…

INTO THE TEETH OF THE STORM!

An Open Letter

Dear God,

I’m writing this to you just before All Souls Day because I feel that’s the right time. I don’t feel qualified to speak for all souls, because after all I am only one, but if you would listen to this one soul, maybe you can consider all of us as well. I’m also aware, before the commenters start coming in, that the point of the day itself is to pray for the souls of the dead, but bear with me here.

God, everyone is scared. I’m not so scared, not as much as a lot of people I know, but everyone is. There are so many things going wrong right now and sometimes, even for someone with the patience of a saint, things can be too much. Since you’re omniscient, you probably know that. But it helps to vocalise this.

We are in the throes of a much-expected second (or third) wave of a global pandemic. People have died from this disease; people are also dying by the second from hunger or diarrhoea or malaria of AIDS, but this disease is killing white people, so it’s getting all the press. It’s also a new and unpredicted threat, so the media are all over it. I’m not one of the groups at risk, being in my 30s and relatively healthy, but a lot of people are, and that is scary.

There is a nasty undercurrent throughout the world – your world – rumbling just beyond the horizon of conscience. There are those who crave, and are grasping for, power, but once in possession of it, seemingly have no idea how to lead. God, you are probably aware of the two people I am talking about here, but there are also those in authoritative positions – bosses, landlords, council people – who have the power but lack the compassion that they should, by all rights, have.

Those in power are not handling things well and they know it. Their institutions are under threat, and rather than backing down or changing their ways, they are becoming more threatening, dictatorial and almost autocratic in their ways. They are trying to retain power through terror, and that is scary too.

God, there are people who think the same way as me, those who are trying to make a difference. I’ve been trying to make the world a better place in the very limited way I can. But, as I said, I am only one soul and I have my own issues too – issues with my health which means I have very little energy, with my body which means I no longer have the use of my left arm, and even my job (which I managed to hold onto; God, you know how many people have lost theirs) is being threatened.

I am losing money and I am losing control. I have had moments recently wherein I feel like I am losing myself. I am adrift, sometimes, because there is nothing to cling to. It is easier to shut down, from the point of view of someone who wants to do good for the world, but ultimately lacks the drive.

Having said all that, God, this isn’t a letter to you bemoaning the entire state of the world, because in all good faith I can’t really do that. I don’t believe it, because I have more faith in humanity than many people who have just read my above words would expect. I’m not a positive person by design, as you know – and I find optimism very difficult, even when there isn’t a global pandemic or dangerous people in charge – but I do have some hope.

Hope is a valuable commodity, God. People are losing hope; they are screaming and crying and dying, and even coming together to protest, but they are beginning to suffer from a lack of hope. The one I love tells me every day how she has lost all hope – everything continues to get worse, she says, and just when you think it can’t, it will, and the world will end soon.

I am more optimistic than she is, God, but when she continuously tells me the same thing, it is difficult to ignore her despair. Occasionally I wish she believed in you, so she could have the outlet that I do, but she does not. Many doubt you are listening, but I feel you are.

I see good people around me every day (and, anyway, I believe everyone is intrinsically good, but I mean, people doing good things). There are people doing good at work, and in the streets and the shops, and on the internet, and all the places I go. Occasionally there are people who are belligerent – the man on the bus who started an argument about young people and discipline, or the lady who shouted at me for wearing a “YES to the EU” badge on election day. But mostly I see people who have their heads down, wanting to get their business done and move on, and those are the people for whom I have my greatest hope.

We have done unspeakable things to the world you designed, but life moves on, and upon those people moving along – even though they are a faceless mass to me – I ask your blessing. Because every single one of them is another soul, as much as I am, and right now all they – we – need to do is wait, and keep moving, and keep hoping, and keep loving, as we are all able to do.

My hope is for the future. People say to me that this won’t pass. But it will. History tells us that things change, and they will change again. We may never reach Utopia, but we can lay the bricks.

My hope is for the future, whether it’s ten minutes from now, or an hour, a day, a month, a year, a decade… whenever. With hope, people can move. With hope, people can change. And with hope, people can realise there is a better world ahead.

It isn’t easy, God.

But it is possible.

“It’s Not a Him, It’s an It.”

When I was a very small child, I was cosmically in tune with the universe, insofar as I had a genuine belief that everything – even obviously inanimate objects – was alive, and both conscious and sapient. (I still hold the same opinion about non-human animals.) I did the schoolwork in Year 3 which suggested the opposite, but I didn’t believe it.

My mother helped shape my beliefs by using the word “hurt” as a synonym for “damage”.
“You’ll hurt it,” she’d say. “Don’t do it like…” (and then whatever I was doing wrong, likely to cause damage, like trying to shove one of my plastic dinosaurs into an electric plug to “power him up”.)
In time, I adopted this figure of speech, except for the pronoun, which I substituted for a gendered one every time (“Stop doing that! You’ll hurt him!”).
“It’s not a him, it’s an it,” my mother would say in a tired way. “And you can’t hurt it.”
“But I’m just using your phraseology,” I said, “and the message is clear, so why should it matter what pronoun I’m using?”

Only I didn’t say that.

Today is International Pronouns Day, which aims to raise awareness that people have different pronouns. There are multitudes of pronouns out there, and if you don’t like them, you can just make one up. My pronouns, in case you’re wondering, are he / him / his; I chose these pronouns when I chose my gender, and while I don’t like the connotations, they are easy pronouns to use. So I use them.

For a while – and I won’t say when, exactly, but for a while – I occasionally taught English to foreign students. It wasn’t a fantastic way to make income, but it was a way to both instruct people in the ways of language and indoctrinate them politically, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to do that. (I wrote “UKIP” on the board once and added synonyms: evil, bad, beware, that sort of thing.) One of the things we discussed, of course, was the use of pronouns:

I am
You are
He is
She is
We are
They are
It is (…not a him, it’s an it.)

And, perhaps not surprisingly, none of the students knew of any gendered pronouns other than he and she. Because why would they? They hadn’t been taught them. Quite why they hadn’t been taught them was beyond me, but in 100% of cases, none of the students asked. And none of them mentioned any third gender, or genderfluidity, or trans identity, or agender, or… well, anything other than male or female, really.

Until of them them did.

A young female student (she/her, cisgender) asked, at one point, what to call a trans person. She had seen a news article about Chelsea Manning on the way in, and she was confused by the use of a female “she” pronoun to describe someone who was born, and still biologically was, male. Suddenly, the ball was in my court. I had the opportunity to give a speech about the fact that gender is a concept (which it is), not an identity (unless you make it so), and doesn’t need to stay the way it was when you were assigned it at birth (because, well, you can change it).

But that would have taken the whole three hours. As her teacher, I had been asked a specific question, and I needed to give a specific answer.

I spent a while writing third-gender pronouns on the board – they/them, he, xe, xhe, zhe, ze, hir… maybe a few more as well, this was years ago – and was pleased to see that she was, indeed, noting these all down.
“There are so many of them,” she said eventually. “What do you do – ask everyone what their pronouns are when you meet?”
I couldn’t, in all truthfulness, say that I did that. I didn’t like to assume – I still don’t – but it wasn’t my usual conversation opener.

[That right there is the sort of thing that International Pronouns Day is trying to normalise. A noble aim and something we, as a sex-positive community, should be striving for.]

Fortunately, I had an answer.

“If you’re not sure,” I said carefully, “you might be able to just use the gender-neutral pronoun they, until you find out. But I’ve found most people don’t mind being asked.”
“What about animals? You call them it, right?”
“Oh, no, no, no,” I said hurriedly. “An animal, any animal, including a human, is a he or a she or a they or a…” (and here I indicated the board and its list of pronouns) “…a plant, or an object, is an it.”
“But I’ve heard people use the word it to describe an animal!”

And we spent the whole three hours talking about that.


The Wisdom of Memories

Q: What do you do when you don’t feel inspired?
A: I think about what the 15-year-old version of me needed. And I write about that. It’s a writing prompt that always works for me.

Rupi Kaur

Dear fifteen-year-old me,

It’s now twenty years later and, although I’m aware you don’t think you’ll live this long, I can assure you that you are very much still alive and in your mid-30s. There have, in the past couple of decades, been at least three global pandemics, all of which you’ll survive, despite being frontline medical staff at the height of one of them. I have some advice to give you, which I hope you can pass on to your future self, so keep this letter safe.

First and foremost, it is all right to be interested in sex. Most people are, at your age. While I respect the fact that you don’t masturbate (although I can assure you that you will), I also need to assure you that the ways your sexual identity is manifesting are not odd, unhygienic, or perverse. It’s also not illegal to be watching soft porn, although you think it is.

I’m not going to say something nebulous like “embrace the fact that you are a sexual being”, but you should at least accept it. Your sexuality will become a big part of your identity in the future, but if you’re not comfortable about it now, that’s fine. Be more chill about the whole thing.

You are never going to get over the crush you have now. Not really. You will fall in love again, faster and harder and more desperately than you have ever thought possible. Sometimes these people will reciprocate. Nevertheless, the way this crush pans out will hang over you, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake. I’m so sorry about how it happens, but for the record, maybe it’s best not to ask her out.

When you are sixteen, someone you have only spoken to once will add you as a friend on MSN. She did this because she fancies you. You need to appear approachable and available beyond a vague “oh yes, I remember you.” If you figure out how to do this, let me know.

At your age, most girls want “a boyfriend”, and it doesn’t matter who it is. Your weird friend whose name is evocative of lights in the sky will be dating soon, and everyone will wonder how or why. You will pine, but never take a chance, given how your current crush is going to play out. Future girlfriends are going to tell you how attentive and considerate you are. It’s hard to take a compliment, but however you approach things now, try to be a good boyfriend. You probably will.

Your first kiss will be awkward and messy, and take you completely by surprise. The first time you have sex, you will hardly feel a thing, and it’s only during your second time that you realise how good it feels.

You will never feel closer to death than the first time you get your heart broken. It will happen again, and again, and every time it tears you into little pieces. Nobody else really understands how much of yourself you invest in romantic relationships, and how much it hurts when they pull away. You’ll be told, over and over again, that none of this is your fault, but you’ll always feel like it is. Even at thirty-five, you’re still trying to puzzle out what you did wrong.

You will take some risks, but much less than you’d like. When you’re seventeen, you’ll go to a community event you like so much that you’ll still be a part of that community for over a decade. At eighteen, go to Africa. It seems foolhardy to do so, but you’ll look back years later and be glad you did. When you’re nineteen, you’ll find solace in music and the companionship of an organisation you’re already in. Embrace every second. DON’T GO HOME EARLY – you’ll feel like you’ve missed something.

I have some advice for the future you that you may wish to remember, as well.

At seventeen, you will have a happy holiday that ends in catastrophe. Don’t do anything stupid, don’t assume everything is fine because sleep is a cure-all. But, most importantly, if some accusations against you are false, don’t say they are true because it’s easy to do so. You are never going to recover from this if you just lie back and take it.

At eighteen, you will figure out that your girlfriend is cheating on you months before she tells you. Ask her directly. Keeping it aside on the idea that she will realise she really loves you will not help at all.

At nineteen, you will wave happily to the girl you fancy at university for the last time. You will never see her again. You’ll never know where she went or what happened to her. Ask her for her MSN address.

At twenty-five, don’t ask your girlfriend to marry you by presenting her with a ring. She is under the impression that you get engaged and then go and buy a ring. You’ve never heard this of concept before, but that’s the concept she has. Never mind that you went to Bath specifically to buy it for her. Don’t do it.

At twenty-seven, you will start to question your deeply-held belief that love solves everything, even relationships that have turned sour. Tell someone something, sooner rather than later. Talk to Lady Pandorah, even. The girl who broke your heart at sixteen will also give you some sage advice. Listen to her.

At thirty-three, you will have a large accident. Use the resulting time off to re-evaluate what you really want. Working towards it will eventually yield rewards, even if it seems fruitless initially.

But finally, fifteen-year-old me, I have something very important to say, and I want you to listen.

You are under the impression, now, that you are hated. You have often felt worthless and under-appreciated – an older child eclipsed by a younger sibling, an accessory friend who’s part of the group but not really needed, an easy target for mockery and ridicule at school but not really a person in your own right. Even in your later years, you will think about yourself in such a way. You’re coming home to cry every day and you’re beginning to wonder if suicide is the end point. You don’t know how to do it painlessly, but you’re starting to think about it.

In the end, you won’t do it, and your one attempt won’t work. In fact, you know it’s not going to work before you try. It’s mostly for show, and nobody sees you anyway.

In some says, you will never achieve true self-acceptance. But if you take this advice that I’ve given you above, maybe there will be less “what-ifs” and crippling self-doubt in you as you grow. If you don’t do what I did – even though I know that you will – then there will be other memories. Maybe some good, maybe some bad. But perhaps even more exciting ones. You are waiting, constantly, for something huge to happen; every day you are disappointed that it doesn’t.

But you can be the catalyst for that change. I know you don’t know how. But start by learning to play the guitar, at least.

And I’d like you to do something for thirty-five-year-old me.

You are currently aware of the name of a soft porn sex comedy, possibly French, that regularly airs on Exotica Erotica. It’s got a major-general in it and a butler named Albert. You’ve never seen it in its entirety, but you know the one I’m talking about.

Write its name down. It’s driving the older you crazy trying to remember.

Tonic

I wish, and I say this with earnest sincerity, that I could bottle the feelings I have in my less lucid moments, for voracious consumption when fully awake and actually aware that I want to have sex.

It’s probably not as cut-and-dry as that; nor is it particularly practicable, I am aware. Both the sleepy daytime dreams and cosy quasi-wakefulness betwixt sleep and death probably warrant lustful feelings precisely because I’m not entirely in control of my body, and devolving somewhat into something more primal. I’m fairly certain that there’s even some amount of credence to the idea that my sexual desires, buried as they are in my unconscious during the day, find their outlet when I’m not wrestling them back.

It’s frustrating, then, that I have feelings like I did during yesterday’s rest (wherein I hit upon the idea of sex as a sanitary, clean, purely recreational activity with no ramifications whatsoever – stemming from idle thoughts of a social media friend and ending up, as ever, with the message pervasive in Emmanuelle), resulting almost invariably in RAGING HORN plus glorious visions and imaginings, that have all but vanished by the time I actually attempt to act upon them (as I also did yesterday).

[Check me out, English graduate over here, writing the previous paragraph as one complete sentence, including parenthetical remarks (twice) and unwarranted tense change.]

These feelings – and the visions that come with them, that also act as an aide-de-camp to arousal (I had a particularly vivid sensory hallucination recently, so much so that I could feel the vaginal walls contracting around my cock) – would be of a lot more use if they could be bottled, preserved, and used during masturbation, or even sex itself. They’re the perfect blend of lust, whimsy, and the like of laissez-faire attitude that makes for fun and fancy free sex.

Unfortunately, I’m fairly sure that a major component of these semi-fantasies is that they involve being very sleepy, and as much fun as sleepy sex can be, I probably wouldn’t be a fan of dropping off during (although it does happen!).

But if I could just, as I said above, bottle those feelings, and keep them for when they are needed… why, if I could do that, I’d own this town.

ILB and Gender: a flailing study thereof.

[CW: Body and/or gender identity dysphoria. I’ve never done a content warning before, but this one seemed like an important enough topic to mention.]

I’m a boy. I’m a boy now and I always have been a boy, and I’m both comfortable with and aware of the fact that I am, and was, and will be, a boy. I’m still not entirely au fait with the identity, and the connotations of, “man” – but I am one… or, at the very least, a boy.

This may not be a surprise to you, especially if you’ve read this blog for the past thirteen years and have noticed that it’s called “Innocent Loverboy” and that my abbreviation of ILB makes reference to me also being a boy. But, go back a couple of decades, and it would be a surprise to me.

It was a surprise to my parents. They were expecting a girl, initially, who they were going to name Lucy (a name that ended up unused, as my sister got their second girl name choice instead – it suits her, actually). I was both the first born in their marriage and the first grandchild to my mother’s parents, so I got a fair amount of attention for the first four and a half years of my life until my sister arrived in 1989 and I suddenly became yesterday’s news. I had started school about a year beforehand and, up until then, I just assumed that all the stuff I did was boy stuff, because I was a boy.

One of the taunts I endured throughout primary school concerned the fact that I was, in fact, a girl instead. Other boys in primary school were doing other boy stuff that seemed radically alien to me – they were pretending to fight (and fighting’s wrong!), talking about Teenage Mutant NInja Turtles (which is a violent programme! they shouldn’t be watching it!), making mentions of wrestling (which is an awful practice!) and – worst of all – playing football. I mean, football. I didn’t see the appeal.

I still don’t, and never will. Football – really?

For a while, then, around about year 3 or 4, I rationalised that, because I didn’t do the institutionalised boy stuff, I may not have been a boy after all. With the exception of Robinson, all my friends were girls, and I played ‘girl games’ in the playground with them which involved getting boyfriends and the like. I even got termed a ‘girl’ by one of the teachers who subdivided the playground into boys (football) and girls (everyone else).

As far as I was aware, I was a boy – but feeling like I shouldn’t be. I felt like I should be a girl. I remember telling Robinson that, on my planet, everyone was half boy and half girl, including me. I knew the term ‘tomboy’ and asked my mother if there was such a thing as a ‘tomgirl’ (a term used in year 7 by Lightsinthesky, until Spanner corrected him and added that the term was ‘Sally’. I’ve never heard that used again.).

According to my bullies, I fitted the brief (until year 7, when a whole new set of bullies decided that I was more suited to being gay, and thus came a whole host of new taunts, including an insult that isn’t really an insult).

After about a few months, however, I decided that I was indeed a boy and it didn’t matter if I liked girlish things – in fact, I wasn’t really, at all. I liked ‘me’ things – fantasy and adventure stuff, magpie collectables like Smartians and Orangey-Tangs, Saturday morning television, Super Mario games and playing the violin. I’d watch Knightmare and go to Woodcraft on Friday evenings, and I’d go to church on Sunday. I’d play on my SNES every day and do as well as I could at school.

I was me and I liked me things. At that age, I thought to myself, does it really matter if I’m a boy or a girl? I’m me. I knew, even then, that if I didn’t want to be a boy, I could change. I just needed to ask my mum and she’d arrange it. By year 6, I was fully entrenched in my gender identity, and when I stood up in assembly and said loudly and clearly, “I’m a boy, and I don’t play football”, I got a round of applause.

It’s an identity I carry to this day. I’m a boy, and I don’t play football.

Fast-forward to 2020 and now I’m much more aware of the idea of toxic gender identity assumptions. Gender, a social construct which is bollocks even if you accept the fact that there are more than two identities, is a fluid, shifting idea the size of a universe, and even if I’m confident in what suits me, I’m aware that there are many people who were assigned one that doesn’t suit them. That’s fine too.

But the world still hasn’t moved on, even with this new knowledge. Shops still do ‘for him’ and ‘for her’ sections. Toxic masculinity makes me feel uncomfortable with my chosen gender, and hyperbolic misandry makes me feel attacked. These things that people think – girls like fashion and gossip and Disney Channel movies; boys like sports and fighting and Batman – only go to reinforce these ideas. (Enbys don’t even get stereotypical things, because they don’t exist.)

We all know they’re wrong. We do. So why does it still happen?

Those of you who have read my erotica may have noticed that I have almost always written from a cisgender female point of view. I find it easier to write that way, and the novel(la/ette) that I’m (meant to be (not)) writing is entirely narrated by my female protagonist Melissa – and that’s fine, I’m not pretending to be a girl, I’m just writing fiction from the point of view as one.

I think that’s okay. It doesn’t make me a girl. It’s just fiction…

…is what I would think if it mattered.

But it doesn’t matter, and it shouldn’t matter, and it never should have mattered. If I wanted to be a girl when I was 9, then sure. That’s how I felt at the time. I changed my mind later on, because I’m allowed to do that.

I’m a boy, because I chose to be a boy, and no matter what my genitals are, that was my decision.

IT’S NOT A DIFFICULT CONCEPT!

Go play some video games…

In my early-to-mid teens, my sexuality had a tendency – and I can’t be the only one – to manifest itself in strange and unusual ways, which left me feeling frightened and victimised, specifically since I was utterly convinced at the age of 12 that I did not like sex and never would be interested. (There’s a blog post to be written about that, but this… isn’t it).

As time goes on, and Age™ begins to show its multiple, increasingly grey heads, my understanding of sex begins to show in more unconscious ways – less frequently, I will admit (pretty much every 14-year-old boy will walk around school with an erection about 75% of the time), but with more intensity. Some of these things are similar to the incidences of my youth – I’ll become aware of the mere existence of sex, and then I’ll realise that I’m aroused. Some are, now that I’ve had sex a few times and know what it’s like, more explicit and detailed.

And some are just straight-up random.

I had a nap this afternoon (because I, the typical lazy millennial, was out all morning following a night of almost zero sleep – so sue me!) with the full knowledge that I’m much more likely to have sex dreams during afternoon naps. I have a few overnight – some that I remember, some that I don’t, many of them involving public nudity… but, if I want to dream about sex, the much lighter sleep I get in the middle of the day is The Time To Do So. And so the dream I had, while not overtly sexual, was a combination of the situation, the fact that my daily reading is full of sexually confident women talking about wanking, and (this is the link to my youth) thirty or so years of playing video games.

For my dream was nothing more than a framing device. Dreamy ILB was playing a video game that Real ILB is fairly sure doesn’t exist. The graphics were reminiscent of Magical Starsign and Pokémon Sapphire (presumably Ruby as well, but since I haven’t played that), and the gameplay had some sort of top-down action puzzle element, like Indiana Jones Desktop Adventures (and if you remember that, you win a prize!). The main (male) character…

…and I need to point this out: the main character of the game had to be male. Given the choice of gender, I will always choose to play as a female character, often with the name Serra. Since I was playing the game, the main character had to be default male…

…was an archaeologist (maybe it’s Tomb Raider? No, that would be a bit too action-y.) The female NPCs were all part of the same team, and the puzzly bits were necessary to open doors leading to different parts of the game. I remember, quite clearly, the puzzle Dreamy ILB was playing; he had to navigate the balloon holding the bomb from Earthworm Jim 2 with the correct collection of food (cherries and bread) through some underground passageways that looked like the mines from Donkey Kong Country. At the end of the passageway was the (female) lead archaeologist, who would open the door through to the next level if you did this successfully.

Dreamy ILB did this on his second try. Lead female archaeologist NPC went mad with joy and was represented by a constantly jumping sprite. At this point, Dreamy ILB decided to talk to the other (female) NPCs before moving on. Any gamer out there knows that NPCs should always be talked to.

It was at this point that Dreamy ILB recalled that this was, in fact, a highly sexual game. All the archaeologists were sexually liberated and talked freely about sex. Real ILB can’t recall if the main character was at all involved, but all the female NPCs would constantly mention it. Flirtatious NPC #1 had brought her sister, Flirtatious NPC #2, who said something like, “I wish I was in your team!”. But it was Flirtatious NPC #3 who had the biggest impact.

“I’m afraid I can’t come with you,” she said, “but I was thinking about going to masturbate on the beach.” (The in-game map, part of the HUD, helpfully indicated where the beach was at this point). “What do you think?” At which point, a [yes/no] menu popped up. I chose yes, obviously.

“All right!” she said chirpily. “Let’s do it!”

At which point the screen went completely blank. My GBA had reset itself, but upon opening the game again, I found I could pick up where I’d left off. The masturbation scene, presumably, happened offscreen, and restarting the GBA was the way to show it.

Is my guess, anyway.

Real ILB woke up at this point and he had perhaps the largest and most throbbing erection he has had in many weeks. Several hours later, I’m still not sure exactly why. I’m no stranger to the concept of female masturbation and I’m also slowly coming round to the concept of it being thrown casually into conversation – although maybe not by archaeologists in video games. Early Teenage ILB would have been turned on by this, of course, but then again, Teenage ILB was in a relationship with a picture, so that’s not much of a surprise.

But, for what it’s worth, I’m very glad that it did happen.

Video games are amazing.

Sing a song of sixpence…

Though I don’t think I’m ever going to achieve my life ambition, I’ve been on stage a couple of times. Chekhov, Beaumarchais, Plautus, Wilde, that sort of thing. I even got to sing a couple of times, which seems like decades ago now. That may be because it was, but nevertheless.

At the age of 23 I appeared in a fringe production of Forget-Me-Not Lane by Peter Nichols, which turned out to be the last ever play the company I was in performed. I wasn’t, initially, cast – which is understandable, given the fact that practically everyone else who turned up to the audition was a lot more talented than me – but in the end I filled a rôle that I knew nobody else would have been cast in.

I didn’t even need to go to rehearsal much. My memory tells me that I went to two of them, maybe three. I also didn’t need to go to every performance – I went to two out of four, in fact – on account of the fact that my character appeared in a recording. (I engineered the recording, which is how I got into the play. Don’t judge.) There was even a song involved.

The main problem with Forget-Me-Not Lane is that it’s not very good. I knew this, and I knew my director wasn’t directing it particularly well. I did put up a little poster in the staff room at work (“if anyone wants to hear my four lines in this, ask me for a ticket!”), and I took my parents and dear friend H along to see it, but overall, I wasn’t really expecting anyone to enjoy it.

Shortly before seeing the opening night, I had recently managed – through what probably involved a lot of pleading – to get a girlfriend. My parents were pleasantly bemused by my enthusiasm for the whole thing, and H was delighted. Once I’d assured her that my new relationship involved sex, lots of sex, and that it was fantastic sex to boot, she was even more satisfied. My girlfriend didn’t actually come to see Forget-Me-Not Lane – it’s not something I wanted to subject her to in the first few days of a nascent relationship – but nevertheless, she was on my mind all the way through it.

Probably a good thing I didn’t have to be on the stage, really.

“How did it go?” her cheery text went as we drove home from Camden.
“Went well, thanks,” I lied. “Almost a full house, which was good for opening night. My parents hated it…”

I paused for a while to listen to my parents bitching about how bad the production was.

“…but it could have been worse. How are you?”
“I’m good! It’s a shame you’re not letting me come to see it!” She followed this up with a number of kisses, which assuaged my immediate worry that not wanting her to see the badly-written, poorly-directed play I was in was grounds for being dumped.

There’s something in that. Realistically this is going to be our last production. I mean, I’m going to do some other things. I’m sure I’ll do some other things. But if this is something I’m going to do, she should at least see the bit I’m in. Oh, hang on…

“I’ll send you the recording of the bit I’m in,” I texted back. “When I get home.”
“You’ve got that?”

She was slightly more impressed that I also appeared in An Education, to be honest. But I didn’t talk about that much.

Well, not too much.

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