Zach was quiet all through brunch, brooding over their conversation about the different routes to the hearts of male and female. That was fine with Emily, she was shoveling down free bacon and eggs and home fries, a side of fresh organic sourdough with butter and local honey, all of it washed down with local apple cider. Heaven.
Zach refreshed his own energy reserves, but much more deliberately than usual. His was working his food mechanically, grinding away at each mouthful absentmindedly, staring into space, almost the way he’d been oiling Emily’s leg. He’d spent so many years around so many people who insisted that gender identity was a cultural myth, that he was wrestling with it. But not for the win so much. The idea that Emily thought wanting to fuck everything was perfectly fine and natural was pretty appealing. Finally he spoke.
“So when you asked me if I wanted to only fuck your socks off or every attractive woman’s, doest that mean you want to go steady? Statements of fidelity? Commitment?” He was still really just thinking about independent variables, not engagement rings.
Emily damned near choked on her cider. She did blow a little bit out her nose when he asked that, it surprised her so much.
“Dude, I’ve known you a week. No, I don’t want to go steady. You kind of missed the point of the part where I said I barely knew you and you needed to win my heart. Jesus, I’d never get partnered to a guy I hadn’t even had sex with yet. I was asking out of curiosity, to see what you’d say. I think lots of guys feel the way you do, they just won’t admit it.” Her view of relationships had formed in a commune.There were quite a few very open relationships there. Her father was in a couple himself.
“Do you believe in monogamy?” Both of Zach’s parents had been through quite a few relationships. Both had married, twice, and divorced, twice. His father, at fifty something, still chased women, had lots of women friends he both fucked and hung out with, and one ex wife and a couple of old girlfriends who would probably castrate him on sight, given the chance. He’d fathered three children after Zach. Mostly the women loved him, he was super loving and fun and didn’t try to bullshit them at all, not since the murderous ex-wife. It was the same way with Zach, except for the marriage and fatherhood part. He kind of took those things more seriously, at least in theory. Or maybe it was his hypothesis. That would be a pretty scary one to test.
“Do I believe in it?” She laughed. “Language, Z, language. I know it exists, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen some really healthy monogamous relationships, but neither partner was virginal when they got into them. I don’t think it’s natural.”
“Why not?” As much as Zach loved lots of variety in women, he also kind of liked the idea of finding the one who would be the one who would change all that.
“Well, remember what the P said about why sex is good? Because of genetic diversity? I could have four kids with one guy, or I could have four kids with four guys. Which would be better?”
She phrased her question exactly that way on purpose.
“Whoa, wait a minute. It’s the male who has all those great sperm. I could father a thousand children or four, which should I do?” He threw the challenge out there.
“Before you can father those thousand children, you’re going to have to find a thousand women, or at least a few hundred, willing to first fuck you and then bear and raise your children. And if you want for those children to survive, you’re going to have to be bringing home an awful lot of bacon, so much that you’re never going to find the time to get those women to fuck you. Besides, you think we don’t talk to each other? That we’re going to let you get by with putting the cake in the oven and not sticking around to wash the dirty dishes? And wouldn’t it be nice if I had four guys to clean out my gutters and shovel the pig shit?”
“Unless I’m a violent pig of a rapist and don’t really give a shit about women or children or probably even myself.” He suddenly felt a little nauseated. “Because they wouldn’t really have to be willing and if the kids didn’t survive I probably wouldn’t even see them starve to death because I’d be off looking for the next woman to rape.” Zach had never, since age twelve when he’d bust his first nut, felt so totally turned off by the thought of sex.
“Well, not to rub it in, you’d also probably have to do battle with an awful lot of other horny guys who all wanted to father a thousand children, too, or at least fuck all the women.” She smiled at him. “You watch the nature shows. Sometimes, while the big bad alphas are fighting it out, the more clever, less violent males are taking care of the business of baby making. You think we don’t talk about their cleverness?” She winked.
He sighed, and noted to himself how quickly humans tended to pick up each others’ little habits.
“So monogamy isn’t natural and every woman should have four men to father her genetically diverse children and clean her gutters.” He sighed again. “Sounds like one of my mother’s ex girlfriends.”
Emily laughed, and threw her cloth napkin at him as she stood and picked up the car keys. She held the door for him as they headed out to the car. She didn’t respond to him until she’d hit fourth gear.
“Monogamy in a sexual sense probably isn’t natural for anything. It’s really rare in nature. But for species like us, whose offspring require lots of care, it’s important for men and women to work together to ensure our kids will make it. In terms of sex and genetic diversity, we’ve got a pretty strong instinctive drive to seek out variety in sex partners.” She was back in road focus mode.
“Tribal culture takes care of that in a lot of ways. It takes a village to raise a child.” He knew all the good quotes from all the various movements over the years, he’d learned to read walking the halls of the women’s studies department at Smith. That and he’d lived with a tribe for a while, in South America.
“Let’s talk about testosterone.” Emily shifted gears.
“Sure, whatever.” Zach was tired. In fact, he was emotionally exhausted, wrung out. And he was going to have to figure out where he was going to sleep that night; he’d kind of killed what he had going with Amy over Em. He was ready for Em to tell him all about what a horrible beast his testosterone made him; he’d heard it all before.
“It’s a steroid hormone, a sterol, like cholesterol, a lipid.” She looked over at him. No more open book, he was leaning his head back, eyes closed.
“Um hm, back to lipids.” Low.
“It’s really one of the very few things that does make you different from me, in terms of genes and gender and all that stuff.” She paused. “You’ve got a whole lot more of it than I’ve got.”
“That and a dick. That thing that I think with, that tube to my heart.” Defensive.
“Well, I have my little joy stick, too! That switch you so much want to flip!” Offensive.
“It’s not the same thing!” Dismissive.
“It’s EXACTLY the same thing!” Aggressive. She popped the clutch and almost stalled.
“What do you mean?” He’d picked up his head and was looking at her.
“You and I started out exactly the same. We were eggs in our mothers’ bodies. Along came our fathers’ sperm and those eggs got fertilized, Dad’s DNA got let in.” She paused. “The gender thing comes about because your father’s sperm was carrying a Y chromosome, and my father’s sperm was carrying an X chromosome.”
“And both eggs had X’s. Yeah, I kind of remember that from high school.” He was waking up. He really liked talking with Emily about biology. “So you’re an XX and I’m an XY.”
“Yeah, but the point is that Y chromosome. Early on in development, you and I were pretty much the same. But then, since you had a Y chromosome, your little embryo started producing male hormones like testosterone, and that made you develop differently. Your little clitoris decided to develop into the head of Mr. Happy, instead.” She grinned at him.
“No way!” He looked down at his lap.
“Way.” She looked there, too.
“Yeah. And your balls are like my ovaries dropped way, way down. We’ve both got nads, just slightly different kinds, all based on our hormones. We’ve kind of got mostly the same equipment it lots of ways. Of course we women have got the womb, which is kind of the base state. When you look at most kinds of sexual organism, with the exception of fungi, you’ve got these wonking big female eggs that are going to eventually develop into the new offspring, and itty bitty sperm that are only there really to transfer genetic information.”
“It’s an important job!” Suddenly Zach found himself thinking about conjugation tubes again; he’d realized he’d been a little off with the bacteria in his reading. Then he started thinking about Sarah Sandusky’s butt crack again, and how great transfer of genetic information could be.
“Of course it is! It’s a fucking marvel of evolution!” She really did dig Zach.
“And if I remember correctly from Sex at Dawn, human males have pretty spectacular dicks, as dicks go!” His was getting all spectacular. ‘And being a good fuck is a great trait!”
She was getting turned on. She downshifted as she took a turn.
“So, let’s talk about testosterone.” She smiled the subtle one. “Besides sex, what else turns you on?”
“You mean when I’m in a generally well laid state?” He turned on the charm. Testosterone was pumping, he was oozing pheromones. “I like exploring in nature, really long hikes, sitting on the side of a mountain with a fire crackling nearby, looking out at the world with a cold beer and a fresh caught fish dinner in my belly and a beautiful woman….oh, wait.
Okay, you can stay home.”
Emily giggled. She could sense the pheromones, even if she was unaware of them.
“I’ve done lots of long distance back country by myself. It turns me on. Reading turns me on, fiction and non-fiction, I like stories and ideas and poetry. Some music gives me a fucking woody. Does that count as sex?” He grinned at her.
“I guess it depends on how much the music makes you think about sex in terms of the response.” All serious, but really turned on herself.
“A good bass line can do it. When the Bruins really start going at it sometimes I get kind of hard, too. It bothers me a bit. Depends on the play. If they’re just being assholes, I hate it. If they’re in the right, well…” he paused, starting to fear he might be exposing himself a little too much. Jerking off in front of a woman was one thing, telling her these kinds of truths quite another. He did his own gear shifting, into self help mode. He’d spent some time with a therapist or two, part of the program growing up in his world.
“Planning and finishing a project is a real turn on. I do some stuff with my dad sometimes, or have in the past at least. I‘m great with my hands, and not in the way you’re thinking, I know how to build things. Even being here at the university is kind of all about my own grand ideas about life. I’m really into deep social change, believe that being well educated is a good foundation for being an effective agent of change, but I so hate the machine I’m not willing to go the typical route. I like being my own man while also being a contributing member of society. And I like eating good food and hanging out with good friends and meeting pretty women and getting well laid.” He grinned at her.
“Back to sex. Testosterone.” She smiled back at him. He really was hot. “Most of those characteristics really are great characteristics. They all are, really. When it comes down to it, that surge of testosterone that you get when the Bruins are whacking away at their opponents could come in handy. Even the sex thing.” Her smile was mischievous.
“What do you mean?” His was kind of lecherous.
“Well, some day you could find yourself in a situation where you lived in a tribal culture with really open attitudes about sex and maybe twenty or thirty women would expect you to be servicing their teenie weenies of delight and fathering their children and bringing home the bacon. Heck, the might not even care about the bacon and the kids, what if you just had to service the sexual needs of a dozen or so women who wanted their switches flipped two or three times a couple of times a week? Or just two or three? Think you’re going to get to fishing with the boys? Your pecker that perky?” A new look, one he’d never forget.
“Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you should be monogamous. Maybe some day I’ll take you up to the farm; it’s kind of a mixed culture. But there’s a core group, most of my aunties and uncles, who’ve been with each other in most ways possible over the years. Most are in fairly stable pairs, and they’ve paid attention to the genetics of my cousins. They also have sex with people who come and go, and really, my dad fits into that category. Sometimes they have sex with people who are new, so I guess you could say strangers. It works, for the most part. For some people, it doesn’t. And there’s definitely been some pain and suffering involved. But that’s part of life.”
“Dad keeps his relationships pretty casual, ever since the divorce from the woman with the machete. So he kind of mostly hooks up now and then. Most of his dating these days isn’t about sex at all, he’s been friends with most of the women he sees for years. Of course he’s getting old.
“His twenty year old twin Barbie dolls are old friends?” Em hadn’t formed a clear image of Zach’s father yet. She’d been resisting the urge to think of him as kind of slimy.
It was his turn to give her a look. A brutal one, it kind of startled her.
“What makes you think Peaces and Cream are Barbie dolls?” He really sounded offended.
“Peaces and Cream? What are they, strippers?” Tactless.
“Actually, they’re up front of an incredible band out of Vegas, Chocolate Fudge with Peaches and Cream. They’re big girls, blues babies, bastard twins of some mix of albino European and African American. Daddy picked them up one night after their show, he likes all kinds of women, not in to any particular kind of look. It was pretty short lived. Oh.”
“Oh what?” She felt pretty bad, again, for having made false assumptions.
“That was kind of the problem. The twins weren’t in to each other at all, the siblings thing, but didn’t mind sharing. Of course you know how guys are, and well, they kind of starting getting into it with each other over him, and then he met this other woman……….Oh.”
Studying with Emily was teaching Zach so many things.
Linda Brooke Stabler, Ph.D.