Winter 1966, age 15
Freed from the shackles of Catholicism, I could do anything I wanted; if only that were true! My inner prison—restrictions and hesitations—was as confining as ever and I was locked in a tiny cell with my omnipresent obsession: sex.
Other than feeling miserably self-conscious, the worse thing about being 15 was sexual urgency. A hormonal switch had flipped and now it was permanently stuck in the on position: a constant prickling in my genitals and a preoccupation with the rounded parts of female anatomy. Sexual fantasies invaded my waking thoughts and nightly dreams. Each morning my erection had to be carefully camouflaged as I hobbled to the bathroom.
Worst of all, at any time and any place, I might be seized by an overwhelming urge to masturbate—in a public toilet, on a bus, in a bookshop looking at a sexy magazine—and most often, I couldn’t resist.
Not that I knew much about sex except what I read in the Encyclopedia Britannica and the few ‘dirty books’ on our bookshelves: autobiographies of Casanova and Frank Harris, Myra Breckinridge and Candy. Dad didn’t mention sex—except for that one time when I was very young.
John had hauled me out of bed with thrilling news, “Moey you’ve got to come. Daddy just told me how babies are made!” He hustled me into the main bedroom where Daddy was sitting alone in the double bed.
“Go on Daddy, tell him. The boy pees into the girl’s bottom; that’s right, isn’t it?” John had it absolutely clear in his eight-year-old mind. Dad half nodded and laughed. I thought the whole thing gross and silly.
Now at 15 it wasn’t so gross and silly. My only hope—one I desperately clung to—was that if I had sex with a girl, it would somehow cure my obsession.
But girls were terrifying. They hurt you, rejected you or cut you to the bone with a few well-chosen words like my sisters. My first crush when I was eight, Susan Madigan, humiliated me in front of her friends—and giggled as I walked away in tears. I never forgot the sick pain in my chest and the sense of betrayal. Girls were treacherous, to be approached with extreme caution—but they were absolutely fascinating. Even raw terror could not keep my sexual desires at bay.
I’d do anything to meet a girl—so one Saturday evening I allowed John to drag me off to the local teen disco. In a dark cavernous room with flashing lights, blaring music and an incoherent disc jockey—there were girls. The shadowy figures stood around the edge of the dance floor gossiping with friends. Even John looked intimidated at first. I stood frozen in fear, desperately trying to disappear.
Eventually John braved the shadows to invite one of the alien beings to dance. Tucked into an invisible corner, I watched as he jigged around to songs by the Beatles and Little Stevie Wonder. During a break, he came over and pulled on my arm, “Cmon. It’s great! There’s a girl over there wants to meet you.”
No way! I pulled my arm away and shuffled back into my corner, feeling awkward and foolish. John went back to dance and when no one was looking, I snuck home.
Soon John collected a group of friends, so he didn’t need me for disco nights—to my relief and disappointment. In my fantasies, when I went next time, I’d be relaxed and confident, dance up a storm as the girls looked on admiringly. It was all so easy and comfortable—in my dreams! In reality, I spent every evening alone in my room doing homework or reading.
One boring Friday, John popped his head around my bedroom door to bother me.
“Do you want to come out with me and my friends?” John had his inviting smile plastered in place. “We’re going over to a teacher’s house.”
“Nah, I want to finish my book.” This was my usual gambit in our game of invitation and resistance.
“C’mon. It’ll be fun. He’s got tons of books and music—and all this free drink, even brandy and vodka. We’ll have a great time. Don’t be a drag.” John was tenacious when he wanted something.
The promise of alcohol was a mixed incentive. I desperately needed to feel loose and euphoric, take a vacation from looking over my own shoulder. Drink did that to you. But then there were the memories of Mummy with her glass of gin and orange, bright red lipstick imprinted on the rim; memories of Mummy yelling incoherently, swaying side to side; memories of Dilly and I heaving Mummy off the floor into bed.
Maybe Vodka was different, not like gin. John said the teacher had interesting books—what the Hell, I might even enjoy myself. “Oh alright John, but I can’t stay out too late.”
We caught the electric trolleybus down into town, changed buses at the bus station and heading out to some distant suburb. On the long and intricate bus-ride, John filled me in.
“This teacher guy—Mr. Hughes I think his name is—I don’t know him, but the guys say he lets them drink as much as they want. They say maybe he’s a queer.” John smirked.
I’d heard about men who had sex with other men; it sounded icky and peculiar.
“Is he a weirdo?” I asked, feeling tense.
“Nah, he’s harmless. Anyway, there’ll be a bunch of us, so what can he do?” He had that gleeful look, wringing the last thrilling ounce out of every situation.
We got off the bus and climbed a stairway to a modern-looking flat. The door was opened by one of John’s friends, a Greek boy called Spiro. I heard dated pop music in the background and noticed three or four boys wandering around drinking and chatting. Once inside, an ordinary-looking man in his thirties with a soft round face, wire-rim glasses and thinning brown hair came out of the kitchen. He said hello in a friendly way.
Ushering us into the living room, the man asked in a gentle Welsh accent, “What would you like to drink.” John said something about vodka. Mr. Hughes, or whatever his name was, poured from a fancy-looking bottle and handed each of us a tall glass of orangey liquid. I sat down on a low sofa nearest the door and took a swallow; it tasted vaguely medicinal.
The flat was clean and modern with lots of wood accents. One wall was covered with perfectly arranged books and audiotapes above an expensive-looking sound system. The place was far too neat to live in.
Ten minutes after we arrived, Mr. What’s-his-name announced: “I need to pop down to the pub. I’ll be back in a bit. Help yourself to snacks and drinks.” He put on a coat and went out.
What’s going on? Is he crazy? He just left a bunch of drunken teenagers in his home. He must be out of his mind!
As soon as the door closed, the atmosphere in the room sizzled, everyone talking over each other, making wilder and wilder suggestions. With a grin, John emptied the dregs of a Vodka bottle into my glass. I took a big gulp, prepared for the worst.
John started rifling through a collection of reel-to-reel music tapes. He took a random spool of tape, threaded it through a tape-recorder and pressed play. A track from the Sound of Music wafted through the room accompanied by laughter and jeering: “Turn it off. I can’t stand it. It makes me puke!”
“Hey, listen to this.” John started pushing random buttons—forward-reverse, fast-slow, deep-rumble, high-squeak; the music distorted weirdly. Screams of laughter added to the bedlam
Woozy and on edge, I tried to tell John to stop, but the racket was too loud. Abruptly, the machine flipped and miles of magnetic tape spewed across the room in a wild brown tangle. More hilarity and drunken efforts to get twisted tape back onto the reel.
Eventually, John got frustrated: “Ah, fuck it,” he said, taking hold of the shiny bronze ribbon. He ripped a giant handful off the machine.
“The music was horrible. He’ll never miss it,” he muttered as he stuffed what looked like a mound of damp seaweed under the sofa. There was a burst of nervous laughter. I sat stunned and unsteady.
The room chilled. A couple of the boys made excuses to leave. Everything was blurry and my head felt like lead; gravity kept pulling me over into a slump.
The front door opened and Mr. Whoever came in carrying an armful of paper bags. John instantly looked cool and collected. He had a short conversation with the man and without a word to me, slipped out the door. The others left soon after. When I peered around the reeling room, I was all alone.
Mr. Hughes dumped the bags and busied himself picking up glasses and cleaning up the mess. He asked if I wanted coffee. I nodded, and he went into the kitchen.
A hazy thought struck me: Should I be worried? I’m stuck here with a weird stranger. He could attack me! Wrapped in a soft wooly blanket of alcohol, I couldn’t scream for help even if I wanted to. I couldn’t even talk—my fat tongue kept getting in the way. The hazy thought slipped away.
Mr. Hughes came back with two mugs of instant black coffee. “You better drink this,” he said, handing me one of the mugs. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Owen,” I mumbled. “I came with my brudder, John.” Some words were harder to say than others.
“So Owen, where do you live?”
“One hundred, sixty six… Whitchurch road.” I smiled, pleased with myself. That came out better than I expected.
“I suppose I should drive you home. It’s late to get a bus—and you seem a little worse for wear.”
He was so nice and considerate and it was such a relief to get a lift, especially as I had no idea how to find a bus. The bitter coffee cleared my head a little and I got to my feet, swaying in rhythm with the room. I sat down again with a plunk.
“Steady,” he said and took my arm and helped me up. “Do you think you can make it down the stairs?” With assistance from the railing, I carefully navigated each step to the street. The cold damp air hit like a wet towel and things began to steady.
We got into his Ford Escort and set off. He asked me about school and what I liked to read. We chatted about science fiction and it felt like a real conversation—such a nice change.
The car stopped and he turned off the ignition. I looked outside and there were only a few streetlights and I didn’t recognize the street. It wasn’t Whitchurch road. Fear nibbled at my stomach.
The streetlights glinted off his eyeglasses as he turned to me. “Owen, this has been great. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you. We should do this again. How about next Saturday?” It sounded inviting but an uneasy feeling was growing. Why was he interested in me? What’s in it for him? I mumbled something noncommittal.
He leant toward me and said in a soft voice, “You know you’re a very good-looking boy.” It sounded so silly, I almost giggled—but I didn’t want to be rude.
I felt a warm hand on my upper thigh. I thought it was a mistake, but then the hand started moving upward. A jolt of clarity pierced the last of the alcoholic fumes. Without thinking, or hesitation, I reached down, shoved his hand away and spoke fiercely, “Don’t do that!”
He pulled back startled and sat up in his seat. Even I was shocked by my fierceness. After an uncomfortable moment, he started the car and we drove silently to Whitchurch Road. I remembered my manners, thanked him for the ride and got out of the car.
Late the next morning I woke with a throbbing head. I lay in bed ruminating over the events of the evening: Has I done anything wrong? Did I make a fool of myself? Just like John to dump me!
I found John in the dining room drinking coffee and smoking.
“You left me there!” I yelled. “What were you thinking?”
John smiled and sipped his coffee. “He didn’t do anything to you, did he?” There was a mocking gleam in his eye.
“Of course not.” I was not going to tell him about the creeping hand. “He drove me home.”
“Well, there you are then. It’s a good thing I left.”
No use talking to John—words flowed off him like rain off an umbrella. I had to admit the evening had been interesting: It’s a pity Mr. Hughes is a homo; I’d liked to have chatted with him some more. But that hand—it was creepy. Where did the fierce voice come from? It wasn’t me—more like something speaking through me. I’m not weird like him, am I? I only want to have sex with girls!
Inevitably, John caught me again. “I got this great idea to get some girls. You’ll love this one. Next time we’ll pretend we have the same names as the Beatles. I’ll be John and you can be Paul. The girls will really go for it!”
I had no idea what he was talking about. There had been no first time and what’s with the pretending? I had to get my hands on a girl and whatever the crazy idea, it was better than nothing.
“But where are we going to meet these girls? I’m not going to the disco.”
“I was thinking about the swimming pool. There’re always tons of girls parading around in their bikinis. We’ll dress up. I’ll wear denims and you do your Mod thing—just like John and Paul.”
“But I don’t have any money.”
“Don’t worry about it.” John was already half out the door.
The idea of impersonating John Lennon and Paul McCartney was not totally ludicrous. My dark hair was cut in the Beatle style: down to the collar and straight across in the front. And I did look a little like a young Paul McCartney when dressed in my one-and-only trendy outfit of striped bellbottoms and light blue shirt. Dressed in his jean jacket and Levis, John had the personality to carry off a John Lennon impersonation. Should we practice Liverpool accents?
Dressed up, towel-wrapped swimming trunks tucked under our arms, John and I hopped onto the purple trolleybus as it drew to the curb. We climbed the metal spiral-stairs to grab the front seats. Up there, we looked down on the world and smoked our cigarettes in peace.
Near our destination, we clattered down the stairs, hung on the silver pole at the back of the platform and jumped off just before we reached the stop. In the distance, the harmonies of thousands of rugby fans singing Welsh songs in Cardiff Arms Park stadium filled the air, making the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
The entrance to the Empire Pool, a massive glass-fronted building, was awash with children and teenagers. John hustled me around the crowd and into a door marked Men without paying. The changing room was pungent with the sharp smell of chlorine. Muted screams, splashes and whistles sounded through the pool door.
John and I came out of the changing rooms and stopped short, slammed by the racket echoing off the cavernous glass ceiling. The shallow end of the enormous pool was crammed with writhing semi-naked bodies. At the deep end, older boys jackknifed off the diving board, flexing their muscles and splashing the girls—who squealed and pretended not to notice. A couple of lifeguards on high seats blew whistles and pointed accusingly at offenders. It was bedlam.
I didn’t know what to do with myself. Mounds of female flesh tugged at my eyes, made me want to gape and look away at the same time.
“Let’s swim around a bit,” John said
He dove in to the middle of the pool. I hesitated on the edge and tried for a perfect dive in case any girl was watching. After the shock of cool water, I swam back to the side and pulled myself out to sit beside John. He was scanning the crowd looking for suitable game.
Tapping me on the shoulder he shouted, “What do you think of those two?” He pointed towards a couple of brown girls on the far side of the pool; they were bobbing up and down and laughing. It was hard to make out their features but one had sizable breasts.
“I don’t know. You check them out while I have a swim.”
We slid back into the water and I swam around while John set off across the pool. I saw him make first contact with ritual splashing and funny remarks; all three were laughing. He waved me over. The pool felt endless as I did my best attempt at the crawl, conscious of their eyes on me. I arrived breathless and clung to the handrail.
John did the fake introductions, “This is my brother Paul. Paul, this is Jamillah and this is May, her sister.”
“Hello,” I said, trying not to stare at the flesh flowing out of Jamillah’s skimpy yellow bikini top. She said, “Hi,” flashed me an inviting smile, and thrust out her chest, oozing golden brown sensuality.
I could hardly make out May’s soft hello. She was younger and darker in a blue one-piece bathing suit. She smiled timidly before she looked away and I noticed she had disappointingly small breast buds and an odd-shaped nose. The end was flattened, with a midline furrow. Jamillah was the trophy while May was definitely the runner-up. John had first pick and I would have to make do with leftovers.
John and Jamillah immediately created their own special world—joking, splashing and wrestling. Left to our own devices, May and I clung to the side of the pool making stilted conversation. May’s shyness helped. Compared with her, I felt confident, especially hidden behind my assumed name, Paul.
“Do you come to the pool much?”
“No, not much,” she said in a quiet voice.
“Can you swim?”
“Just a little. I’m not very good in the water.”
“Where do you go to school?”
“Fitzalan High. It’s over the bridge from here.”
“Do you like it?”
That used up my conservational strategies, and we lapsed into silence pretending to be fascinated by John and Jamillah’s antics.
“They seem to be having fun,” I commented. She smiled back as if we shared some kind of secret.
I got up my courage and asked, “Would you like to come for coffee after?”
“Yes… if Jamillah says it’s OK.” That uncertain smile again—it was rather appealing.
John signaled and we went in to shower and dress. John and I waited in the snack bar while the girls took their time doing whatever girls do. Eventually Jamillah and May came out. I almost didn’t recognize them: both sisters looked attractive with thick black wavy hair that set off big brown eyes and chocolate skin.
We shared watery coffee and chocolate biscuits while Jamillah chatted about their background. Their family came from Algeria. Jamillah constantly fought with their strict father (they called him Baba); he forbade her to go out on dates, but she did anyway. May was the quiet one who stayed home and studied. John and I had found our mirror images.
“How would you like to come to our house?” John asked. “We could watch TV or something. It’s not that far.” He was charming—and devious.
Jamillah’s eyes gleamed. “Yeh, let’s go. We have nothing else to do.” She gave John a big smile.
“I don’t know,” said May softly. “What if Baba finds out? He’ll kill us.” She looked at me, for encouragement.
“Come on, it’ll be fun. He’ll never know.”
“OK then, but only for a little while.” Three of us against one—May’s resistance collapsed.
The trolleybus ride to our house was endless. “How far is it from here?” May asked after ten minutes, her eyes wide with anxiety. “We shouldn’t stay out too long.”
“Just up Whitchurch Road—not far now.” Feeling her tension, my body hummed with shared anxiety. Would our rundown house put her off? No one was at home, so at least she wouldn’t meet the rest of the family.
We got off at our stop and crossed the road. Once through the front door, pretense fell away. John took Jamillah by the hand and led her laughing up to his bedroom. I asked May if she would like to see mine. Her eyes got large but she didn’t say no.
Upstairs, May and I sat down together on my bed. I put my arm around her and we kissed an uneasy tense kiss. Sounds of giggling and squeaky bedsprings came through the wall from John’s room. I was competing with John and not doing a good job.
“It’s OK, just relax,” I said and helped her lie back onto the bed. Then I set to work relieving her of her clothing without her noticing. She allowed me to open her blouse but shook her head side to side when I tried to unhook her bra. I tried to stroke her small breasts through the material but she screwed up her eyes and flinched. Obviously, the schoolyard version of foreplay was horribly wrong: touch a girl’s nipples and she melts; stroke her thigh and her legs open. None of it worked.
I kissed her a few more times and she seemed to like it. At least she did not resist as I pushed up her skirt and managed to wriggle her panties off. Even with all the fumbling, I was firmly aroused, so I sat up and rolled the condom onto my penis. May looked at me with frightened brown eyes as she lay there on the bed with her skirt around her waist.
I tried to get between her legs. May let her legs relax but as she did, she gave a quiet moan and her eyes filled with tears.
“Please don’t hurt me,” she whispered. “I never done this before. I told Jamillah I did, but I didn’t.” Teardrops trickled down each side her flattened nose. I felt ice water flow through my body.
That can’t be right; she must be lying. “You mean you’ve never been with a boy before?” I asked, shocked.
“Just kissing,” she said in a tiny voice.
We were both virgins! I’d assumed she’d had sex and I was the beginner.
“Are you sure?” I asked. Uncomplicated sex was slipping away—leaving a terrible burden of responsibility. Taking a girl’s virginity, her purity and innocence, that was a very serious event—not what I bargained for.
“No, never. Cross my heart.” May looked at me pleadingly. “My Baba’d kill me if he knew. He gets so angry. One time he hit me so hard my nose broke.” She touched the furrow on the bridge of her nose. “You don’t mind if we don’t do it, do you?”
“No, no it’s fine—if you don’t want to,” I lied in a choked voice.
A leaden weight of disappointment dragged me down—quickly followed by a surge of relief. I didn’t have to perform; she was giving me a way out!
I lay down beside her on the narrow bed and gave her a reassuring cuddle. When I pulled the eiderdown comforter over us, she smiled and gave me a warm kiss.
“You’re really nice… but I have to tell you something: my name’s not May. It’s Hassanah. Jamillah thought I should use a different one.”
Bizarre! Now I had to confess: “Guess what?” I laughed. “I’m not Paul, either. My name’s Owen.”
“You know you look like him—Paul, I mean. It suits you. I think I’ll keep calling you Paul.” She gave me a little hug. “Sorry I cried, but I got scared. Thank you for being nice.”
Frustrated, resigned, relieved—my mind was all over the place. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me: I’m too nice. My insides seethed: a mess of dark selfish urges wrestling with the need to be kind and considerate.
Moans and creaks percolated through the wall. I motioned at the dividing wall and joked, “Sounds like they’re having fun.” Hassanah giggled.
“We’ll wait ‘til they’re finished,” I said. “And we won’t say anything to them, right?” I didn’t want John knowing I’d failed.
“Yeh, let’s not say anything. They can think what they like.” She was smiling widely now.
It got quiet, and after an appropriate pause we knocked on John’s door and went in hand in hand. There was a powerful smell of smoke, sweat and sex. John and Jamillah looked flushed and satisfied as they shared a cigarette, semi-dressed on the bed.
After teasing and joking, we went downstairs and had a cup of tea. At the front door as we said goodbye, Hassanah turned to me. “Can we see each other again?” Her eyes were bright with hope.
A thought flashed: I can’t go through that again—but I couldn’t tell her. “I’ll see you down at the pool, maybe next week,” I lied. She smiled, gave me a quick kiss and left with her sister. That was the end of swimming on Saturdays.
I couldn’t cope—not with girls, not with dating. It was too complicated, too entangling and I didn’t want to hurt anyone. How could I explain the odd coincidences: our shared inexperience, false names, both our noses broken and crooked (mine was busted in a bicycle accident when I was five). It was spooky—too weird for me. But that didn’t stop the physical itching, the torrent of fantasies, the push and pull of urgent desires. Why couldn’t sex be simple!
Sex is not simple. Our earthly desires are ever in tension with our heavenly aspirations—the down and dirty struggles with the pure and transcendent. Of all experiences, sex and physical intimacy is the most complicated and the most conflicted, the source of more songs, stories and shame than any other human endeavor. We yearn for the transports of love and the orgasmic release from ego; we get obsessed by the masturbatory demands of sexual craving. Within our psyche, the sublime selflessness of lovemaking wrestles with the shadowy alienation of porn. In its pure form sex is the force of creation; in its dark aspect, it is an oppressive force.
We are sexual beings. All babies are fascinated by their bodies, their orifices and sensations. Yet by the age of three or four, we’ve learnt not to go naked in public, or to touch ourselves in certain places that feel good. Society and religion legislate and control our sexual desires and actions. Unrealistic expectations, rules and inhibitions serve to transform natural sexual experiences into a tangled mess.
Like most adolescents, I was caught in that mess of hormonal urges and self-conscious uncertainties. How could I be a virtuous person when my thoughts seemed so depraved? Most confusing, I couldn’t understand my own reactions. Why was I ashamed of my sexual feelings? Why did I feel guilty when I masturbated? Had the Nuns, the Catholic Church and the repressed British culture infected me with a deadly virus?
Yes, of course—but that is only part of the story. In 2001, I wrote: Sex, like love, partakes of the Life Force. Sexuality spans all levels of process and all aspects of our being. It is physical and organismic—it is transcendent and spiritual—and it is everything in between. When our natural relationship to sex is disturbed by intrusive energies, everything is disturbed.
To a certain extent, our sexual and sensual natures are inevitably warped—Sigmund Freud based his life’s work and theories on that premise. The sources of sexual confusion are so various and so pervasive, they are almost impossible to name. Some we can recognize, but many are hidden far beneath awareness.
Sex and the Family
We are the progeny of incest, rape, infidelity and loveless fucking. Only some of our ancestors were sexually self-controlled and considerate. Scratch the history of every family and you find dark secrets, some recent, most hidden in the past. To hide their homosexual tendencies our forebears had to marry and have children; they lived in fear of denunciation and death. Incest and sexual abuse is still prevalent throughout every society. How common was it in the past when everyone shared a bed?
We shudder to think about it. Imagining our own parents having intercourse is gross enough. We tend to turn away and deny that sex, particularly illicit sex, could ever be part of our heritage and our families.
Unsurprisingly, my parents had their sexual quirks. My mother knew no shame—and I know far too much about her sexual history. At age 15, she happily lost her virginity to a Harley Street doctor on his examination table. After marriage, she had multiple sexual liaisons, the first with a neighbor before I was born and the last with a mortgage holder in hopes of stopping him foreclosing on her property. When drunk, she screamed terrible obscenities at my father. Incest, perversion and lust: these were her favorite words according to my sister Jeffie.
As for my father, he was sexually traumatized. In his 80’s he told me about being sexually molested at age seven by the headmaster of his boarding school. The sexual contact was particularly bewildering. Dad was emotionally deprived and terribly homesick; the headmaster was kind and affectionate.
As a young teen, Dad went to Winchester College, one of the oldest public schools in England. Founded in the 14th century, it had hardly changed since medieval times: cold showers, harsh corporal punishment and a system called ‘fagging’ in which innocent freshmen were treated as slaves by older prefects. Dad was physically tormented and sexually bullied. Few heal completely from sexual trauma without help—and he had no help. Like many molested children, he was sexually disturbed and sporadically inappropriate with his affections.
On the surface, our family seemed open-minded about sexuality: casual nudity was normal; there were ‘sexy’ books in the bookcase; my sister’s boyfriends slept over. Hidden under that tolerance was a mess of tangled weirdness. Born into this swirling maelstrom of sexual dynamics of parents and unidentified ancestors, no wonder I was perplexed.
I was homophobic; all of British culture was homophobic. Newspapers headlined scandals about homosexual spies; Private Eye, my father’s monthly magazine, made endless fun of queers. Male/male sex was buggery, officially illegal in the UK until 1967. In my eyes, Mr. Hughes was a weirdo, an oddity, and I simply couldn’t grasp his attraction to other males.
What about Mr. Hughes as a person? Was he simply a lonely man with good intentions or was he grooming boys for sex? If so, he trod a dangerous path. One word from us boys and his life would have been demolished.
Strangely, I thought of him as the victim rather than the perpetrator; the other teenagers used him shamelessly to get alcohol. Now I wonder if I remember the details of the car ride precisely. I may have been drunker than I realized and am not certain how far his advances went before I told him to stop.
Did other boys feel powerless to resist him? The unequal dynamics between an older person in a position of trust and a younger sexual partner straddles the knife-edge of sexual coercion. My father at age seven could not say ‘no’ to his molester. I said ‘no’ at age 15—but then Mr. Hughes was not my teacher or employer. If a person holds power over your life and wellbeing, it can be impossible to halt unwelcome sexual advances.
G. Jung tells us that power is the dark shadow of love; there can be no true relationship or sexual choice when a power differential predominates. That brings up another tough question: was I sexually exploiting May/Hassanah?
As a white male and a brown female, there was an obvious power differential between us. She automatically gave me control of the situation and of her body—and I teetered on the brink of misusing that power. Thankfully my anxiety and a nascent conscience saved the day and stopped me from date-raping a vulnerable girl. What might have happened if I had not restrained my selfish urges?
I am grateful I did not force May/Hassanah, but I wish I’d been more courageous. I knew her cleft nose made her self-conscious and sensitive to rejection. She never knew why I discarded her; she probably thought I found her unattractive. I caused her unnecessary pain and confusion and that is, in itself, a kind of abuse. It only takes a modicum of love and consideration for sex to becomes sublime and sacred.
Read the next chapter: 6: An Aborted Trial
 Evans, Roland. Seeking Wholeness: Insights into the Mystery of Experience. 2001. Sunshine Press Publications.