Though most people my age don’t think about what they’ll be doing post-retirement, I know exactly how I’ll be spending my later years in life.
My plan is to open an honest sex-ed clinic for men. The classes held at this clinic won’t cover STDS or make men feel insecure by putting condoms on Ripe South American bananas.
Instead, the focus will be on how difficult and awkward sex can and mostly likely will be for them. There won’t be any fancy medical charts or childbirth videos -- just an honest reminder to ambitious young men raised on impractical porn videos and Calvin Klein ads that they may trip while excitedly ripping off their jeans or have trouble finding their way around in a dark room.
This will be my contribution to the world: a place where men can openly ask, “Should I keep my socks on?” and “What if it’s ‘that time of month’ for a woman?”
It’s this second question that particularly pestered me while growing up. For the average man, a woman’s period is like Jesus to a devout Catholic or Santa Claus to a child; even though we can’t see it, we know it’s real. The difference being that the monthly discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the uterus, which gracefully makes its exit through the vagina, is indisputably factual.
I remember my high school sex-ed teacher breezing over the subject of menstruation, joking that it was only something the ladies in the class needed to understand. I’m not sure if that was proper educational protocol, but the mystery weighed on me more than any other question I had about the opposite sex.
In turn, I grew up terrified of periods. The only real education I ever received was from a friend’s father, who during a sleepover, came into the room to remind us never to trust anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn’t die.
As I got older and began to experience a handful of my own intimate moments with girls, the mainstream consensus remained that periods equaled a no-play zone. Yet, there were some guys out there who refused to let a little blood hold them back.
“You barely notice the blood,” I’ve had friends tell me. “It actually feels better when she has her period.”
I chose to ignore such insight and keep my distance. I’m not a paramedic, so there are zero instances in which I’d voluntarily approach anything bloody. Though, the problem with so diligently trying to avoid something is that the particular thing usually ends up finding its way to you; whether it’s the person you don’t want to see at the mall, traffic when you need to be somewhere or love when you’re enjoying being single.
Looking back, I suppose I was destined to cross paths with period blood. I manifested it into my life. I had tried too hard to evade it and spent too many daydreaming hours questioning its existence.
Like most disastrous sex stories worth sharing, the setting is college. Sex is tricky for men, but college sex presents its own set of issues. There is a moral dilemma in which our bodies tell us it’s OK to lose integrity and gain as much experience as humanly possible, but our minds, realizing for the first time that we’ll one day be adults in the real world, tell us the opposite. In most cases, the body wins this debate.
During one of my first weeks on campus, I met a girl that I’ll call Mary. We’d been flirting from the day we first met outside of my dorm building. Fast-forward one week and there she was in my room, along with my three roommates and three of her girlfriends.
The simple truth is that men, especially the college freshman kind, are pretty much always in pursuit of sex. Especially when they’re with a girl they’re attracted to in a college dorm room late at night. Every smile, joke and touch is part of a makeshift formula designed to lead to sex. Most men fail. Some succeed. Regardless, the overall pursuit is what keeps us going.
When Mary leaned over and whispered, “Let’s f*ck,” into my ear, I unraveled like an old baby blanket. I’d never had a girl just bypass the pursuit.
I still had that one joke I tell to prove that I could be the life of the party. She leaned in again and sighed, “I’m serious,” with a heavy, lingering breath. Within minutes her tongue was tracing up and down my earlobe. My friends watched with growing interest. Her friends didn’t miss a beat from their conversations.
Men love to fantasize about women who skip social foreplay and get right to the point, but when it actually happens outside of daydreams and slow-loading porn clips, it’s terrifying. When a woman throws herself at you as if to say, “Take me and leave me with a moment I will never forget,” the performance bar is immediately set high.
All the available beds in the room were located in the crowded area where everyone was sitting. The problem with the rooms in my dorm building was that they were meant for only two people, yet the school had decided to pack in two sets of bunk beds in order to fit four sweaty, weight-gaining freshman bodies. We didn’t have the luxury of separate bedrooms and a common area like the other buildings. It was like living in an army barracks with barely enough space to stretch your arms to the side.
As Mary’s tongue made its way deeper into the opening of my ear, I knew I had to make a move. I leaned over to her and whispered, “bathroom,” in a desperate attempt to sound confident.
Bathroom sex, no matter whom it’s with, is a lot like a bad episode of "Friends." In the end, it’s something to do and is always slightly enjoyable, though you can’t help but compare it to all the really good episodes you’ve experienced. The toilet is the most distracting part about bathroom sex. It may as well be a third person quietly observing. When Mary sat me down on its cold seat and climbed on top of me, I felt violated and strange.
It wasn’t until a few minutes into it that I noticed the blood trickling down my legs and onto the bathroom floor. “It’s natural,” Mary groaned, forcing her body’s weight onto me. For the first time in my life the mystery that had haunted my pubescent thoughts revealed itself, and I couldn’t help but freak out.
After fighting to wriggle myself free, we found ourselves standing face-to-face, the blood pooled together at our feet.
Then the panic set it and I fled. I imagine the scene in the dorm room looked something like a low-budget horror film. Our friends scattered across the floor and on the edges of the bunk beds, passing around a cheap bottle of rum and joking about the obviousness of the bathroom sex that was occurring only a few feet away. Then suddenly, I come running out yelling, splotches of blood all over my body. In that moment they must have thought I was a murderer. In my mind, I was a victim.
One of my roommates, who was 6'4" and had a hard time convincing anyone he was a college freshman, had no trouble restraining me and pulling me into the corner. He attempted to calm me down while Mary’s friends ran to the bathroom. One of my other roommates headed toward the bathroom as well, and after catching sight of the blood, he vomited instantly.
At some point, somehow, the panic and confusion died down. Our friends were able to calm us enough to function, though the fresh stench of puke let everyone know it was time to go.
There was no way for anyone to even attempt to discuss what had occurred, so nobody did. Instead we all shared robotic goodbyes, shuffling around the small room the way people do at wakes and funerals, making an effort to appear as if being in the same room as a dead body is not at all uncomfortable.
The period blood in the bathroom may as well have been a lifeless, distant cousin we were all related to but didn’t quite know how.
I walked Mary outside, trailing behind her friends and not mentioning a word about what had just taken place.
“I like you,” she finally said.
“Yeah,” I managed to mumble.
“But I don’t want to see you around campus talking to any of these other girls,” she added.
She planted a kiss on my lips and caught up with her friends. I never saw her again.
A bad sex story stays with a man and can make him reevaluate everything he’s done with his life up to that point. My experience made me think about settling down and finding a girl I could really get to know. Perhaps I’d jumped into the whole college sex scene too quickly and the bathroom full of blood was a warning I’d be dumb to ignore.
After a couple of months, I found myself talking more and more to a girl I’d met through a friend at school. She didn’t go to the same college as I did, but she lived in Long Island, close to my hometown. It was an easy train ride from my school’s campus in Queens.
She was a sweet girl as far as I could tell. Shy, seemingly innocent and undeniably cute. Most of all she wasn’t the girl who turned my bathroom into Carrie’s prom.
Perhaps that expedited the falling in love process a bit, but regardless, her understanding of taking things slowly was refreshing. After seeing each other for some time, I decided I wanted to take a step with her I’d never taken before. I decided she’d be the first girl I ever performed oral sex on.
It was my way of moving on from the experience with Mary. A way of convincing myself that I was making some sort of respectable progress in my amateur sex life.
Similar to my fear of periods, I’d always been apprehensive about putting my mouth down there. There’s a general stigma among teenage boys when it comes to lending your mouth to someone else. In the contradictory mind of men, a blowjob, for some reason, is thought to be no big deal, but the reciprocal is something sacred.
Realistically, the notion likely stems from a general fear of underperforming. It only takes one high school sex-ed class to confirm that things are much more complicated between a girl’s legs than a guy’s.
I had the big day all planned out and everything. I even spent an entire week reading up on techniques like spelling out the alphabet with your tongue and paying mind to the clitoris, which sounded a lot more like an herbivorous dinosaur than what it actually was.
When the time came and we were alone in her bedroom, I turned the lights out and dove in headfirst. I went through the alphabet from start to finish before realizing I could spell out anything I wanted. The first thing that came to mind was my name. I finally started to get into a rhythm when I noticed how wet things had gotten.
I wondered if it was always this easy. Perhaps all this time my name was the key to achieving maximum oral pleasure. The dampness began to soak heavily into the bed sheets underneath my face. My teeth became slick and glossy, like the first hour after getting braces removed. After another few minutes, it became too much to handle.
I sat up and asked if everything was all right.
“I’m not sure,” she answered.
I stood up and turned the lights on.
Blood had soaked through most of the white bed sheet and stained her inner thighs. A familiar sense of panic began to take over. Without hesitation, I kicked the door open and ran up the stairs to the only bathroom in her parents' house. I was as furious as I was shocked by the fact I’d been on the receiving end of blood not once, but twice. And not just twice, but twice in a row.
Inside the bathroom, I paced back and forth, pulling at my hair in anger at how wrong the big day had gone and how unlucky I’d been since starting college.
Midway through my animated, internal rant, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. My entire face was stained red, like a child who hasn’t yet understood the mechanics of a Popsicle. I looked like a lunatic. Pink splotches spread across my face like the beard I couldn’t grow, veins popped out of my head and my hair pointed in all directions. I flashed a maniacal grin, bloodstained teeth and all, and couldn’t help but laugh.
That was the first time I had the idea of a class for men, where sex could be talked about openly and honestly. At that time I pictured a support group setting. I examined my drying red stains more closely and imagined what I would say to a group of men equally blindsided by how different sex could be compared to what they had imagined.
It would have to be something equal parts affirming and melodramatic, perhaps along the lines of, “Life will bloody you up way more than a failed attempt at sex can, so laugh it off, clean yourself up and get right back out there.”
At that moment I could hear her family start setting the dinner table in the kitchen, which happened to be directly outside the bathroom I was in. I listened as chairs were pulled out and her sisters and parents settled in to eat. I grabbed a towel, ran it under hot water, and began scrubbing my face as hard as I could.