By Gerald Hannon
Sex is to love what Dr. Livingstone was to Stanley.
Perhaps, better put, what Africa was to them both–an adventure, a quest both perilous and safe as sidewalks, incomprehensible and banal, a journey in which finding what most you want might mean half forgetting what it is you’re looking for.
It seems we are all looking for love–though in its hyperventilating contemporary manifestation love can strike one as merely a version of romance in which the beloved is more necessary for one’s self-esteem, for what he or she means to one, than for what he or she uniquely has been, can be, will be (it is always good to ask oneself, when faced with a potential lover, whether the candidate would earn Jane Austen’s approval. Trust me–Jane knows).
It seems, though, we are all finding sex, each new encounter a pleasant oasis bringing us one step closer to love, our Dr. Livingstone. Or so we hope. And so we obsess.
I am 60 years old, have been in love, have had sex with thousands of men and, of late, with some women, virtually all of it on a commercial basis for the last 18 years (students who do their research will discover that I was booted out of my journalism teaching job at Ryerson when my part-time job as a prostitute was revealed in the press).
It has been most instructive, this having sex at the whim and pleasure of others. It has led me to treat sex not as an oasis, but as a continent of its own. Like any continent, it is beautiful, dangerous, rough, over-civilized, partly unexplored, occasionally over-touristed but mostly not much like the brochures.
There are too many secret places–like all the straight guys who will pay to have their ass holes fingered. Like the dawning realization that there may be no such thing as a married man who has kept his marriage vows. Like proudly cock-hungry women.
I sometimes glimpse what looks like love–like the young straight man who agreed to have sex with me while his girlfriend watched because that was her fantasy and he was willing to indulge it.
I do not expect to find love again. There is some disappointment in that, but I have a continent still to explore. If Stanley had never found Dr. Livingstone, I think he would have been a disappointed man.
It was his job, after all–he’d been hired by the New York Herald to do just that.
Yes, a disappointed man. But I don’t think an unhappy one.