“Civilization and syphilization have advanced together“ - Van Helsing
In our Sixth Form year we were given a slide show on Venereal Disease as a result of a condom eruption. Several sixth form girls had acquired condoms, inflated them and distributed them around school and the boys were blamed. We were held back after assembly and when no one came forward to accept the blame the Head of Year dismissed us with a shout that we should grow up.
Two weeks later boys and girls alike sat in this special assembly noting the huge screen and the projector. One of the Religious Education teachers took the podium and smiled before she started telling us that pornography could be beautiful. She told us about a wonderful film she had seen set on a beach. It showed the magnificence of love instead of the dehumanising mechanics that made up pornography nowadays.
Every boy had multiple unfastened bra’s in their future, along with edible undergarments (which rumour had it were chocolate flavour) and a certainty that peanut butter could be involved in the bedroom. Everything was brightly possible but right now belonged to the dark side of teenage kicks.
“Venereal disease is something you’ve likely not considered, you know about AIDS but there is much more you need to be aware of.”
What could they tell us that we didn’t already know from Clive Barker novels? One of my friends had a copy of Emmanuel IV and we had skipped school to watch it at my house. We knew sex sounded like saxophones, that women needed oil on their chests and we discovered that watching pornography with 4 male teenage friends was uncomfortable and involved a lot of coughing.
The slide machine clicked and the screen filled with a suppurating black penis hanging from a hairless pink body. Several slides were devoted to this man and his “extreme genital warts”. The words Genital and Warts etched into our minds.
The slide show was akin to someone who had never had a cheeseburger being taken to McDonalds and shown the bright red décor and the menu then just as they are about to order they are shown footage of unwashed abattoirs and the effects of e-coli.
Every girl in the room was a petri dish of disease. Every boy felt warts pressing through their skin waiting to turn their genitals dark and crusty. The screen smeared with Thrush, glowed with gluey Gonorrhea, scabbed over with Scabies and sprayed syphilitic symptoms towards us. Phallus’s decayed and vaginas were riven with discharge. A single picture of crushed looking testicles made me think “well, that’s an image I’ll never forget.”
In each case we were deluged with how these diseases could be caught and the throwaway line “Scabies can be transmitted through something as simple as brushing past one another, the bug burrows into the skin and makes tunnels along the body” caused the entire room to start scratching.
After 50 minutes of destroyed groins and vivid sores the Religious Instructor took the stage and reminded us of the beautiful film she had seen, the beach, the magnificence, the purity and the cleanliness. She assured us sex could, and should, be an enriching experience while behind her a man’s stomach crisscrossed with Scabies faded away as the projector powered off. We filed out of the room nauseated as the teachers behind us laughed into their Nescafe and went for a smoke break.
We never saw the beach based film but once I moved in with other guys we amassed a great deal of pornography. A friend bought round a German film that he proclaimed brilliant and we watched it drunk. Somehow we managed to decipher the dialogue which seemed to run along the lines of “Hi, you have breasts, show them to me and my moustache” before becoming 2 hours of men peeing in plant pots and topless girls drinking the urine. Just as it got boring though they upped the game with the men taking bowel movements on white bread and….
Anyway life rolled on and 20 years later I was at a dinner. I asked a dad friend if he was thinking about a vasectomy given we were at the age where we’d been neutered by life and wife with no use left for our little astronauts. He said he was seriously considering it and I suggested we could go together, see if there was a 2 for 1 deal and “make a day of it.”
My mind flickered on the crushed testes on screen years before and I wondered, obsessed with time travel as I am, if perhaps I had been the only one to see that image. Had that picture been a warning sent by my future post operation self to the teenage trench coat pony tail version of myself?
Did time travel hinge on vasectomies? Are there wormholes in urethras? Paradoxes within prostrates? Singularities within spermatozoa?
During the midnight walk home with my wife I considered my lower parts and their relationship with the tangles of time. As life churned around us, blossoming in back packer bedrooms, tumbling drunkenly on wet beach sands as waves surged and gushed like - [I am at a loss for a simile] - I heard a voice.
“Hey,” it said with scientific certainty. I made a one handed man-justment and listened as it continued, seemingly speaking from my boxer shorts. “Hey, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour you're going to see some serious shit.
I pictured my manhood, sleek and silver and surrounded by blue lightning, uncrushed and alive. Chrome and steel and acceleration baby!