I accidentally stumbled on an amusing essay by John Updike. While I wouldn’t call myself a fan of his writing, I thought “The Disposable Rocket” was a really amusing piece. I’ve been scanning about looking for possible essays to assign when I start teaching, but this one might be a little bit on the edge:
From the standpoint of reproduction, the male body is a delivery system, as the female body is a mazy device for retention. Once the delivery is made, men feel a faint but distinct falling-off of interest. Yet, against the enduring female heroics of birth and nurture should be set the male’s superhuman frenzy to deliver his goods: he vaults walls, skips sleep, risks wallet, health, and his political future all to ram home his seed into the gut of chosen woman. The sense of the chase lives in him as the key to life. His body is, like a delivery rocket that falls away in space, a disposable means. Men put their bodies at risk to experience the release from gravity.
When my tenancy of a male body was fairly new— of six or so years duration— I used to jump and fall just for the joy of it. Falling — backwards, downstairs— became a specialty of mine, an attention-getting stunt I was practicing into my thirties, at suburban parties. Falling is, after all, a kind of flying, though of briefer duration than would be ideal. My impulse to hurl myself from high windows and the edges of cliffs belongs to my body, not my mind, which resists the siren call of the chasm with all its might; the interior struggle knocks the wind from my lungs and tightens my scrotum and gives any trip to Europe, with its Alps, castled parapets, and gargoyled cathedral lookouts, a flavor of nightmare. Falling, strangely, no longer figures in my dreams, as it often did when I was a boy and my subconscious was more honest with me.
From fucking to falling; what an admirable transition. I had a theory once that art was like falling. It was only great when it was accidental and disconnected, weightless and away from the cares of the mundane world, lose and unmediated. I suppose I was dreaming a lot of falling then, and I was in my mid-thirties. I never thought of my penis as a disposable rocket though. Updike goes on to give it a separate consciousness, and like the King Missile song, proposes that the penis is detachable.
An erection, too, defies gravity, flirts with it precariously. It extends the diagram of outward direction into downright detachability— objective, in the case of sperm, subjective, in the case of testicles and penis. Men’s bodies at this juncture, feel only partly theirs; a demon of sorts has been attached to their lower torsos, whose performance is erratic and whose errands seem, at times, ridiculous. It is like having a (much) smaller brother toward you feel both fond and impatient; if he is you, it is you in curiously simplified and ignoble form.
Okay, so maybe it might be a little inappropriate for freshman comp. But after reading so much feminist rhetoric in my early years in school, I for one would have welcomed such an interesting take on male sexuality.