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Learning About Sex from Penthouse Forum

penthouse letters

My oldest cousin had left behind a large box of Playboy magazines in one of their family’s outdoor storage buildings. He was 10 years older than me and my friend, who were in 7th grade at the time of the discovery. What I was doing poking around in my uncle’s storage shed, I don’t remember. But it was not uncommon to be sent on an errand to retrieve some tool. So, I was probably an accidental treasure chest.

Now, to be fair, Playboy was not really my favorite. There were also a few Penthouse Magazines at the bottom of the moving box full of magazines that we hauled two miles back to my house, sharing the carry along the way, full erections leading us back to unlimited discovery. I don’t recall much about the specifics of that afternoon, but it was an awakening that still encourages my curiosity to this day.

Penthouse Forum Letters

Did the *words* hold more imaginative data than the photo spreads? Probably not. But after the page-turning and massage sessions, I wanted MORE. My mind was now *experienced* and hungry for additional clues to the mysteries of sex. And Penthouse Forum was the place for sexy stories that always began something like this:

“We were just friends. I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me, but… we found ourselves naked and in the swimming pool of her best friend’s parent’s house…”

Two girls, one guy, that was the ultimate quest. I can tell you my first reaction to a lesbian spread was very positive. I’ve never achieved that specific forum story, but I’ve had some wild-I-can’t-believe-we’re-actually-doing-this events. I am sure that I wrote a few whoppers to tell my friends. I may have even submitted a few fantasy “letters” of my own.

By today’s standards, with free porn and free erotica, Penthouse Forum is a bit mild. But 30+ years ago porn meant these three or four magazines and the dueling sexual revolution champions of Heffner and Guccione. The thing about Penthouse was their photographers focused much more closely on the uncovered genitals. Playboy was a BIG BOOBS + BIG BUTT fantasy that didn’t really connect with me as much. I mean, I made my way though ALL OF THE MAGAZINES, but Penthouse was more my *taste.*

How Do We Learn About Sex?

Most of us learn about sex by self-exploration. We learn early on what feels good. We learn what images and ideas get us off. It’s a lonely journey at first. As we get a bit older, we begin the long learning curve of courtship and (if we’re lucky, or talented) sex with another person. But, most of our education came in the form of pictorals and fantastic (or not so fantastic) words. Erotica became an acquired taste. Sometimes the words could evoke a more personalized response. Ali MacGraw your thing? Close your eyes…

Our initial encounters with potential partners were well-fueled by hormones and adrenaline. Most of us tried to leverage our visual and mental images into our real lives with real partners. The more you knew the better it could be. This might have been the reason I purchased Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid To Ask when I was 12. For years, after the discovery, my brother would say, “He’s already more educated than I am. He read the book on it when he was 10.”

I was proud of my brother’s taunting. Well, until it became weaponized, but that wouldn’t happen for years.

But the truth is, from that box of Playboys and Penthouses I studied sex with vigor and intention. I was going to make some High School girl very happy. And if I was lucky, maybe two girls at once, during Spring Break in Miami Beach. Maybe not, but Penthouse Forum continued to tease out the fantasy. And while they didn’t do many 2-on-1 guy photoshoots, the lesbians were always of the lipstick and lingerie variety. My aspirations for a menage a Trois remain unfulfilled, but that’s okay. I’ve learned a bit more about relationships and sex in the real world, and it’s nothing like Penthouse Forum.

Learning How Sex Fits Into Any Relationship

Sex can make or break a relationship. When the sex shuts down in a previously hot relationship, the end is probably approaching. It’s not that sex is everything. It’s, at most, 2% of our time in a relationship. The other 98% is the harder part to get right. I mean, once you’ve discovered your own sexual patterns and desires.

What I’ve learned in my current relationship is that joy is about you spend the rest of the time together. You can get it together in the bedroom if the relationship is amazing. We all come from different experiences. Part of dating is finding the places that sync up, the places that are thrilling, and the red flags of “Nope, not for me.” There is a lot of learning that has to go on between the sheets for you and your partner to find a sustainable sex groove. What else do you like to do together?

A couple of times in the past 12 years since I became a single dad, I have allowed sexual heat or chemistry to establish a relationship that lacked promise outside the bedroom. The sex was hot. Maybe too hot. The partnership, not so much. The magic trick, of course, is pulling both things together with a partner: sex is great, but the time beyond sex is even better.

Today, I’d say I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in. We’ve got so many more tools than we had 20+ years ago when I married the mother of my two children. And I’m more inspired to make it work than ever before. And when things go south, I’ve learned, it’s probably because one of the two partners wants out. I’m looking for the long haul and this relationship has green lights across the control board. The red flags have been addressed and burned away.

So far.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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The Off Parent – Series: love, kids, divorce, humor, release, sex

when you lose everything, love comes into focusLet’s take a new approach. Let’s go after local resident and legend Adrian Grenier and see if we can give him another successful show. Let’s feature Austin, SXSW, ACL, Barton Springs, and Formula 1, all as part of what gives this show gravitas. It’s going to be a must-see on HBO (our first choice), because the heart behind the show is writer and single dad advocate, John McElhenney. (Me.)

How would a tv show bring about real change in the family law that gives dads the old 70/30 shaft and asks us to accept that moms should be given the house, the money, and the kids? That’s the way it was in the ’50s. But the states don’t want to give up the gravy train of child support collections. That’s what makes up 80% of most Attorney General’s budgets. And it’s paid for by the government. The states are incentivized to assign child support to one of the parents and then they make their money based on the “money” they have under management.

If you would like to be an early script reviewer or a pilot test group member, please reach out to me via email here: john.mcelhenney (at) gmail (dot) com.

Enjoy. Blessings.

 

in the place of loss and loneliness (a poem)

loneliness and loss

i have lived
in the place of loss and loneliness
listened to the song of myself
aching
reaching
towards
some infinite longing unfulfilled
as if
this sadness was my natural state

i have fallen for a girl
taken pains to weave together
beloved after beloved
only to crash into this emptiness again

what is in my optimistic heart
that continues this quest
how do my arms continue to open
to the threat of love and loss and disappointments

i have no superpower
other than desire
my heart exploding in letters
arranged across a screen or page
into hope
into flames of unrest
and ultimately
into a new set of promises
to have and to hold
to appreciate and adore
to ignite foolishly into dark nights
in the arms of an unavailable lover
unable to meet these rigorous demands
of honesty
vulnerability
and mutual aspirations
and the unrelenting “yes”
that can come from holding the hand
of the one
true
love

7-18-22

a swarm of letters (a poem)

a swarm of letters
rustles in my head
pulls me up and out
coffee
dogs
kisses
symphony of birds
whistling their hearts out
in choruses that bring harmony to the world
and chaos of of stars
hiding just behind the dawn sky
summoning aspirational dreams
into sounds lining up in my head
and soft clicking of the keys
brushing up against your synapses
in an attempt at communication
love
mystery
desire
and the infinite feeling
of
home

6-26-22

not enough kisses (a poem)

i already know there is not enough time
to tell you
now that i’ve found you
how grateful I am
not enough nights
to kiss you
not enough ways to say
i love you
we’re already behind
so i will do my best
each day of our time together
to let you know
you are beautiful
important
and loved

6-14-22