When I was 7 or 8, I hoisted myself into a tree and accidentally gave myself an orgasm. It was snowy out, and I was bundled in a puffy winter jacket and cumbersome ski pants, which made the branch I’d been hanging from unusually difficult to straddle. As I struggled to pull myself higher, flexing my abdomen with every move, I noticed an unfamiliar kind of pelvic euphoria, which subsided by the time I finagled my way up.
That’s really all I remember — a flash of pleasure. I can’t say I knew then what the feeling was, or what it meant — I am not, I should note, a dendrophiliac — but it must have made an impression on me, somewhere deep in my psyche, because when I first started masturbating, around the age of 12 or 13, I went at it handless.
There was a green leather chair in the guest room of my childhood home, and it had sturdy armrests I’d use to lift myself up — then I’d tighten my stomach and do the deed. I don’t recall the first time I attempted this balancing act or the exact moment I realized it was masturbation. I only know that it made complete sense. I went at it with un-self-conscious zeal for a year or so, until I realized that it was kind of unusual and normalized my behavior by switching over to a more boring method. You know, the quick, furtive stroke.
It’s often hard to take masturbation as anything more than a joke. Whenever I tell friends and colleagues about my original method, it elicits eyebrow raises and embarrassed chuckles. But I’ve always wondered if other kids have gotten off using the same technique I began with — besides my brother, who told me that, in his adolescent years, he’d hang from jungle gyms and shower-curtain rods in order to climax. (He called it his “funny feeling,” the perfect words for it, in my opinion.)