The first time I ever masturbated, I buried my underwear in the backyard. Yes. You heard me correctly. I was eleven the first time “dirty love juice” had ever come out of my … no. No. I couldn’t even say it. Good Catholics did not do this. They did not masturbate. They did not say the word penis outside of a doctor’s office. That shit was vulgar. And at that very moment, as I lay in bed soaked in fluids, I was sure that somewhere in the little town of Bethlehem, baby Jesus was weeping because I had touched myself. I was a dirty, dirty little boy.
And underneath my favorite dinosaur comforter, I hid, expecting to emerge to a room full of disappointed people around my bed. I imagined the mortified expressions on the stern, wrinkled faces of my mostly geriatric church, while my childhood priest, Father Michael, knelt beside the bed, rosary clenched almost as tightly as I clenched my soiled undergarments with fear. This was not part of the game plan for the evening. No. I just wanted to lie in bed naked and stare at my boner. How the hell was I supposed to know stuff comes out of it when you play with it?
I had this thing I would do at that age. For some reason, the idea of lying in bed naked was incredibly arousing to me. I would crawl under the sheets, and slip my clothes off, article by article. On this particular evening, I got down to my briefs before I was greeted by an upright penis. My hand reached down to meet it, and that’s when it happened. A sensation I had never before experienced tingled throughout my being, toes curling and body shuddering under a wave of pleasure. I stopped. How intriguing? I touched myself again. And again. And again. What is this amazing thing I have discovered? I thought to myself. People really ought to know about this. It’s great. But, I knew, deep down, this was wrong. So I told myself I was going to stop – after just a few more touches. I was going to stop until – oh. Oh! OH WHAT THE HELL JUST CAME OUT OF ME? WHAT THE STICKY FUCK?
Shaking underneath my blankets, I panicked for several reasons, one being I exploded all over myself. Another being I had realized what I had masturbated to. Him. I didn’t have a specific “he” in mind, but it was definitely a “he.” And I thought if anybody saw the evidence, they might know the truth about me. That God would know what I was, and He wouldn’t love me anymore. So I threw off my sheets, thankfully welcomed an empty room, and I ran to my closet retrieving plastic bags. I stripped off my underwear and picked them up with two fingers, like I was handling toxic waste. I dropped the evidence in a Hyvee grocery store bag, wrapped that in two additional bags, and stashed it under my bed until the next morning.
I waited until I heard the front door close. My father had left to go hunting early that morning. I retrieved my sin-filled skivvies and poked my head out my bedroom door. Clear. I crept down the stairs, nervously looking side to side, over my shoulder, around the corner to make sure nobody would see me. I ran through the backyard into the woods and stopped at my favorite pine tree on the edge of our property, where I knew nobody would ever find the underwear. Frantically digging, I wondered why I would ever do this. Why I would ever think of a man in that kind of way. Packing the dirt in tightly, I sat beneath the tree and I cried. I cried for the loss of my innocence. For the loss of ever being a normal, heterosexual man.
And it’s terrifying. It’s terrifying to me that we live in a culture that is so ashamed of sex. Where masturbate is a dirty word, and we don’t talk about things like that. A culture where a little boy would be so afraid of his sexuality, he would bury his underwear in the backyard. I thought this story was a secret I would bury with my underwear, but no. I’m going to talk about it, so maybe we can start a real conversation. So maybe my future son will simply throw his underwear in with the wash.
Paul Canada is a poet, storyteller, and producer/host of OUTspoken, Minneapolis’ queer open mic. After a year of service working for the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission through AmeriCorps, he moved to the Twin Cities where he became active in the spoken word community. His work focuses on social stigmas revolving around sexuality, spiritual violence, and gender norms.