After my hopes of having sex with my lesbian friends were dashed, there was a lot of talk about how exactly I would catch and transport my sperm to them for insemination. A month ago I would have simply assumed that all this would be done in a medical facility under the watchful eye of a nurse who specialized in these things. We’d have adjoining rooms – me and my penis in one, and Calyssa and Sam in the other. In my room there would be all kinds of pornographic material, a little soft lighting, maybe some candles to help get me in the mood. The nurse would leave me with a contraption for catching my sperm (surely they have such things, I thought). When I was done, I’d ring a bell or flip a switch, and they’d come collect “The Deposit,” as the three of us had come to start calling it. Then they’d rush it down the hallway, carrying it in that antiseptically indifferent way most medical folks have, while at the same time yelling things like “Stat!” or “Biohazard,” or whatever one would yell when carrying sperm from one place to another. I’d relax and proudly smoke a cigarette while the rest of the medical team did whatever it was they planned on doing in Calyssa and Sam’s room.
In reality,I’ve come to understand that none of this is going to take place in a medical facility, and there will never be a team of doctors carrying my sperm around like it’s the Holy Grail. Nor will there be any soft music, or even alcohol. In some ways, I feel slighted. Like this whole thing should have a bit more pomp and circumstance to it all. It doesn’t seem right for me to just ejaculate into a cup and bring it to my friend’s house. But that’s exactly what I am going to do.
It’s four in the morning and I’m sitting in front of my computer trying to jerk off into a disposable plastic container. We have to start early because Sam needs to be at work by seven and I have plans for later in the evening; although I’m an early riser, this hour is a bit much even for me. There are precious few ovulation days in a woman’s cycle, I’ve learned. So it’s important we that make a deposit every day when the time is right. I’ve also learned that, other than a condom, there is no such thing as a receptacle for catching one’s sperm. And the scheming capitalist in me wants to invent one. Then I figure there probably isn’t that big a market for it, or else some mega-corporation would have already designed one. Besides, I’m not so sure I want to be known as the guy who invented the Sperm-Catcher 3000, or the Jizz Whiz, or whatever it would be called. Now all I have is this plastic container, roughly the size of a sugar bowl, and I’m concerned about the mechanics of getting my semen from one place to the other in an efficient manner. But I don’t dwell on it, telling myself I’m more innovative under pressure.
Despite my best efforts, I’m nervous and not at all sure that I’ll be able to get an erection and finish things in time for everyone to get to work as planned. I’m not used to deadlines with this kind of thing. I am not accustomed to morning masturbatory sessions anymore, either. Haven’t been since college. All through my teens and early twenties I was a twice-a-day man—once in the morning, once at night—and strangely, I was never embarrassed to admit this to my male friends. If there’s one thing I’ve been able to glean from locker room talk, it’s that no matter how often you do it, most men consider masturbation to be nature’s greatest gift: equal parts time-waster, anti-depressant and natural sedative. Men’s Health Magazine also says it’s a great way of exercising your prostate gland. I’m not sure why one would want a limber prostate gland in the first place. Nor am I even clear on exactly how or why it’s beneficial to my body to have one. But who am I to argue? It’s not often something that feels good is also good for you. The sad thing is how the older I get, the less I appreciate actual sex, and the more I appreciate a good masturbation session. Perhaps it’s because the only long-term relationship I’ve been successful at has been with my right hand. And I’ve somehow convinced myself that this is preferable to real human contact. Or maybe it’s just laziness on my part. When you’re a single man, finding a sex partner often takes a fair amount of alcohol, and an unfair amount of useless conversation. Two things I am able to do without a lot of the time. But self-gratification is almost always easy to achieve, all things considered. There’s little prep work, and even less social interaction. And I am hoping it will be easy today, too. Promises have been made. And the last thing I want to have to do is explain the reasons for not being able to deliver. Especially to two women who, I suspect, are uneasy with penis issues in the first place.
Somewhat surprisingly, I’m able to achieve full erection in less than a minute, despite the ridiculous hour, and thanks to the Internet pornography I downloaded the night before. For the briefest of seconds I try to remember what it was like before online porn exploded into America’s household, which I’ve come to think of as the real sexual revolution. Images of crinkled magazine pages and grainy 1970s VHS tapes where the women are all slightly overweight and have too much pubic hair by today’s standards come to mind. Before these thoughts can take hold, the computer screen is awash in flesh tones and motion. Soon my hand is a blur of activity. On the screen, a mostly naked woman is servicing a man who appears to be her boss, or some other authority figure in her life. I’m sure there is a male-dominated plot here, but I have the sound turned down. I’ve also skipped right to the sex parts, which is something I suspect most guys do. Pornographic storylines are about as useless as my small toe, and likely to be just as interesting. And even though I have other things on my mind right now, on some level I’m disgusted. The actors in this scene are not attractive to me, other than on a purely animalistic level. Yet here I am staring at them and holding my dick like a schoolboy. The hand motions I am so familiar with pick up speed. For some reason I fixate on the actress’ tattoo. It’s gigantic on her lower back—an obscene statement of sexuality. I wonder when she decided to have it done, and for what reason other than her porn career.
I start thinking how most men my age probably find large tattoos unattractive, yet somewhat exotic. And in a weird moment of clarity I come to understand how these over-the-top sex tattoos represent something much more than a counter-culture lifestyle. They are in-your-face permission-givers, a way of dehumanizing this woman further so it’s okay to satisfy yourself to her body and its on-screen actions. Middle-class men need these things that they don’t want their wives and girlfriends to have. For these women who make their money fucking on camera, it’s a uniform. An accessory that says it’s OK to dehumanize me. Watch me take a cock in my ass, or my mouth, or both if that’s your thing. You can do whatever you want to me and feel no guilt over it, because good girls—your girls, the girls in your lives—would never do this kind of thing. As my hand moves and I start getting down to business, I think even more on this tattoo. It gives me permission to be bad, and think sex thoughts about women, but not all women—only the ones who want it and tell me they want it by adorning their bodies with things most other women won’t.
Soon the rational thoughts start to fade and I let go of this woman and her tattoo. She means nothing to me now, a tool to help get me off and nothing more. The movie is barely in focus and my mind is racing from one sexual encounter to the next. I close my eyes, turning my back on the scene that brought me here, preferring to see something from my own head.I am close to finishing. In these final moments, the line between reality and fantasy is blurred. Some other part of me takes over entirely, and I surrender to it, embrace it, am lost in the feeling of it all. My head rolls back and my body tenses, and it’s almost too late when I remember that this is no ordinary jerk off session. With my left hand, I reach for the Walmart receptacle, pleased with myself for having the foresight to take the cap off first. Then it happens, and I feel like a fool trying to catch my own semen. It’s harder than I thought it would be, but I manage. In an instant, I seal the lid using just my left hand. Only then do I sit back and allow a physical sigh. By now it’s close to four-thirty, and there is no time for guilty afterglow. I click off the movie and consider deleting it altogether. Then I remember it’s only the first day of ovulation, and I’ll probably need it again.
Within minutes I have made myself presentable enough to drive my own ejaculate to Calyssa and Sam’s house. It’s dark out and the car windows are fogged over. Beside me is the receptacle filled with sperm. Only now am I upset with myself for getting a clear container. It’s embarrassing and I should have thought of that earlier. I turn on the interior light and peer through the thick plastic, looking at a much smaller amount of fluid than I expected. Calyssa and Sam live conveniently close, and I call them from my cell phone at the end of my street. “I’m on my way,” I say. I want to say something else, something clever or meaningful or witty, something to make it all feel less weird, and maybe a little more human. But the words won’t come, so I don’t say anything.
Halfway there I turn on the radio just to have some noise. The news people are talking about the Middle East. More dead, more wounded. I start wondering if the world deserves this future-child. Surely he or she will be kind, caring, and compassionate, but that doesn’t seem to be where things are going these days. Instead, there is fighting, partisanship and greed—all those things that have brought the world to such a sorry state. Am I doing the right thing helping to bring someone into this intolerant world in such an unorthodox way? But this is dangerous thinking, akin to throwing in the towel on humanity. And I won’t allow it to take root. I need to be distracted, so I put Bob Dylan’s latest in the disc changer, preferring instead to wonder if this future-child will go through a Dylan phase. Without realizing it, I take solace in the arts once again. Dylan’s craggy voice soothes me. The band is tight, melodically dancing in and out of the lines only he could write. I am in the groove now, and I reach over and pat the container on my front seat. It’s an odd thing to do, but I feel better for having done it.
Eventually, I pull in the driveway and walk to the front door, deposit in hand. I take a last look in the container, and can’t help but notice how watery it’s become. I am wondering if this is normal when Calyssa greets me at the door. She smiles and asks how it went, and I force myself to look in her eyes and tell her it went fine, no problems, nothing to worry about. I feel stupid and proud at the same time. Stupid for holding a cup of my own sperm, and for over-thinking the whole thing leading up to this point. Even stupider for not having the foresight to put the container in a paper bag or something. Yet I am proud that I have produced this life-giving substance and am willingly giving it to a friend. I hand over the container and turn to leave. It’s awkward, and something needs to be said, so I look back and shrug. “It was thicker when it first came out,” I say. On the ride home I wish I’d said something else. But for the life of me I can’t imagine what.