Article: 19880101038

Title: The L World

The L World
HMH Publishing Co., Inc.
OK, men, before you do anything else, please take the following test. It's simple and quick, and I promise you'll learn something about yourself.
Asa Baber

OK, men, before you do anything else, please take the following test. It's simple and quick, and I promise you'll learn something about yourself.

Let's call this the Universal Male Lechery Test. Were you honest in your answers? How many "false" responses did you give? Ten for ten? I'd bet you came close to that number. I know I did.

Now let's try an experiment. Please take the Lechery Test again. Only this time, answer it as if you were going to hand it in to a committee composed of (A) your spouse or significant other; (B) the governing board of the National Organization for Women; (C) a group of religious leaders from your community.

Finished? How many of you scored a large number of "false" responses this time? May I see a show of hands? Why don't I see any hands? Well, then, let me ask it this way: How many of you reversed yourselves and scored mostly "true" responses? I can't believe it. Most of you changed your answers? You were afraid of going public with your lechery?

Don't worry, amigos. It's happened to all of us. We're afraid of the L word. Call us lechers and we shrivel up and die a little. We feel defenseless against that charge, so when it's leveled against us, we lie and duck and cheat. "Who, me? Lecherous? Not on your life."

That describes the past quarter century of male life in this culture. It's a hell of a way to live, isn't it? Why are we so fearful of the L word? Why have we chosen to deny our basic make-up?

There are two reasons: (A) the powerful nature of our sexuality, powerful from our childhood years; (B) the feminist and fundamentalist attack upon that nature.

Let's face it, we're a horny bunch of guys. A wonderful, vigorous, amazing sexual force comes into our lives at an early age. We can't hide from our own hardons—not that we'd want to—but we're also confused by them. The signals we get from many directions are antisexual. The New Puritans imply that our aggressive sexuality makes us rapists and pillagers by definition. That's a heavy charge, and it hurts us. So here's this new gift, this warm glory, this beautiful force, yet the message we get from the culture cuts against it, diminishes it, suggests it's evil.

The male experience of early sexuality is inherently a happy one, however. We love the new toy we've found. We play with it and pamper it. We like our bodies. Very few shameful signals come from within us. We stare across the schoolyard at recess and ask ourselves how girls can be so naïve, so protected, so unsexed. We tell one another jokes while they skip rope. We yearn for them while they giggle and dream. Our horniness is obvious; our needs are great. We lust and fantasize and masturbate—yet through all this early development, we hear a subterranean symphony of shame that continues through our lives. We are, we're told, monstrous and unsociable in our sexuality.

Consider the fuss made during Jimmy Carter's Presidential campaign—over his remark that he had lust in his heart. Or consider the recent persecution and assassination of Gary Hart. "Gary Hart, Bedeviled by Demons," one headline read. Lives there a man with soul so dead who couldn't list and identify those demons? Do we not shiver just a little when we hear the knives being sharpened for Hart as the L word is branded on his forehead?

Try this: "Under the sway of his sensual passion, and when conquest and possession were the issue, he could be very intense, according to confidants of several of his partners. But once the passion was consumed, the fantasy fulfilled, and the specter of the start of a relationship reared its head, Hart would shrink back and—clang!—that inner steel door between his two selves would slam shut." That's Gail Sheehy writing an analysis of Hart in Vanity Fair. I have to wonder as I read that paragraph if it doesn't describe a major dynamic in the male psyche—a dynamic that is natural and self-protective, not demonic and dark.

One day soon, gentlemen, we'd better stand up and cheer for our nature. We'd better take the Universal Male Lechery Test and mark it honestly and hand it in to that committee with pride. "This is how we are," we'll say. "Now deal with us instead of trying to condemn us. And clean up your own house before you come over and criticize ours."

Oh, yes, that reminds me: After Gary Hart's appearance on Nightline this past September, a friend of mine called me from Washington, D.C. "That guy gives me the creeps," she said. "He makes me gag. I wouldn't trust him for a minute. And boy, oh, boy, do I feel sorry for his wife. Why does she take that shit? If I were her, I'd throw him out of the house."

I listened, but I didn't say much. How could I? I was too busy laughing. Only three months earlier, she had been on the phone to me describing her latest affair, one that her husband didn't know about.

You don't suppose we should construct a Universal Female Lechery Test, do you? You don't suppose women go clang! too? They don't have problems with intimacy or sexuality, do they? None of the women candidates who've run for various political offices have ever slept around, have they?

Hey, I'm just a dumb, lecherous guy, and I'm only asking.