Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sexual Encounter at Farpoint

Having successfully turned my wife into a scary Star Trek fan with a winter-long non-stop marathon of the entire seven-year run of Deep Space Nine, I thought maybe she might enjoy The Next Generation, as well. I thought wrong. Ditto Voyager, but I think I knew that going in.

Still, we're plowing ahead with TNG season one, which is interesting for me, because it's stuff I haven't watched in over twenty years. It's also interesting to watch the show struggle to assert its own existence under the shadow of the original (remember what a huge deal that was?), and to know that it's going to be two whole seasons - 56 episodes, to be exact - before it manages to come into its own and start to make some excellent television. In the meantime, there are hints of coolness, mostly from the actors.

There's no denying the Proustian Rush I'm getting from it - a lot of the fun is the nostalgia of the thing. I was still in high school when these episodes aired, after all. The contrast between the way I watched it as a 16 year old and a 36 year old is amusing, because never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I'd be reviewing them two decades on in the same room, in the same house, as a man married to a beautiful woman.

Heck, as a 16 year old, sex itself was still a few years in the future, and women were an unfathomable mystery - the idea of meeting a girl who might share my interests to any degree was pretty foreign. No. I was hot for women and girls, and I'd been seriously ready for some kind of frisson with a member of the opposite sex since before first grade, but I was deeply terrified of them and, not being the kind of guy that attracts your average high school girl, was beginning to get a serious mad-on towards them because I felt I was being rejected out of hand.

Of course, being a normal American teenager, I'd already discovered masturbation and pornography a few years earlier, so I got the gist of what sex was supposed to be. And the women I've been with should be thankful that I did view all that porno, because it introduced me to the one idea about sex that I wasn't getting anywhere else - how the act itself was performed. High School sex-ed was taught by our gym coach, and focused heavily on sex at the cellular level. My parents didn't much talk about it to me as a young child (beyond the mandatory copy of How Babies are Made), and never as a teenager - when a talk that touched on practical applications and concerns might have proved worthwhile. But, no: I was alone with my own longings and ideas and no way to make sense of it.

So, a dual picture of sex began to emerge: the state-sponsored view of sex as a sterile act primarily for the reproduction of the species, illustrated with paper cut-outs; or sex purely for pleasure, as a really fun leisure activity, with voluptuous women who seemed to enjoy it as much as the men, illustrated with videotape. The joke is, porn did a better job of preparing me for sex than health class or my parents ever did, especially when you consider the last few years of my life - meaning that parents and gym coach were 100% wrong, and Christy Canyon and the hedgehog were 100% right.

Of course, the dark side of porn enters into it after a while - setting up unreal expectations, ease of access and use, etc. But as a teenager, it was the closest I was going to get to real sex for quite some time, and believe me, I'm still grateful. Maybe I wasn't going to boldly go anytime soon, but, hey, in the meantime, the television brought me weekly space adventures, and occasional, furtive glimpses into sexual adventures, both science-fiction as far as I was concerned. And, truth be told, both held my interest with the same intensity.

And, years from now, when all my testosterone is gone, and I lie decrepit in a wheelchair in front of whatever passes for a television in the year 2060, when 24-7 porn is a broadcast channel... chances are good I'll wish someone would just rerun an episode of Star Trek, instead. With a little luck, maybe it'll be "The Inner Light."


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