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Winter 01
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Erectile Dysfunction
E.B. Gallardo

"Friendship or Sex?"

What is it about an erection that eclipses friendship? Not that I’ve ever been fortunate enough to date a man with the capacity to eclipse anything, except perhaps my sense of self. But doesn’t it make sense that when taking out your most prized body part, you would want to make sure that the person you were sharing it with meant more to you than the Yemenese deli guy who pours your coffee every morning? You’re naked, for crissakes. Safety is imperative. Does painful urination mean anything to you? Is a never-ending caravan of disposable women really worth your life? Is the fantasy worth your soul?

Don’t get me wrong. I like erections. I am pro-erection. Especially when the erections have something to do with me. I even like men who achieve, and really more importantly, sustain the erections in question. You might go so far as to say that I befriend erections. But just once, I’d like to meet an erection that didn’t serve as a barrier to friendship. Just once, I’d like to meet an erectionthat befriended me back.

Unfortunately, friendship is often the last thing that ever comes out of a romantic involvement. It can also be the first thing to go when you begin a relationship.

This is the real erectile dysfunction.

Case in point. My last boyfriend was my buddy first. He was the bestest guy ever. He restored my faith in mankind. Here, I thought, exists at least one man who is a Good Guy. Then his girlfriend dumped him. I watched as his grief propelled him to search for solace everywhere but the one place he would actually find it – within himself. But I was a good friend. I was supportive. Until one day, as I was following along behind him, mopping up the trail of blood pouring out of the wound in his heart, he stopped and turned his sorrowful, bug-eyed, bloodshot eyes to mine. His pupils dilated. His jaw dropped. I thought for a moment that it was the hangover, and he was going to puke. Then his body went rigid, and a blank look came over his face. WHAMMO: erection. His search for solace was at an end! He had found the thing that would fix him! Not my friendship, of course. My vagina. Filling my hole was tantamount to filling the vast, dark hole of his psyche. In just three short minutes.

From the day of the erection onward, I ceased to exist as a buddy, let alone a human being, and became the Object – Repository for the Inexplicable Erection. He had crossed an imaginary line in his mind – The Barrier – where on one side lay My Buddy Liz and on the other side lay My Lay Liz.

Now you might say that this guy had some problems. Fear of intimacy, perhaps. Or he may have never fully completed the anal phase. Also, he could be nuts. Whatever. I’d say, you’re right. However, my experience has been that this problem is common among men. It appears they have internalized a classification system for women: there are women to befriend and women to besmirch. And they are rarely the same person. In fact, I think that men prefer them to be different people. And if, by chance, a woman crosses over into both categories, something has got to go. It’s rarely the sex.

Penises are nice. Funny, but nice. So why are they used so destructively? A penis is often raised like a fist against an enemy. It erects a boundary, a barrier between self and other, demarcating acceptable territory. As if romance were a boxing match, a fight for the heavyweight title, a fight to prove who is the bigger man. Usually, I prove to be the bigger man. That’s a problem.

On the contrary, a penis should be raised like a white flag, not like a fist. An erection should symbolize a truce, a peace offering, a laying down of weapons. An erection should welcome you, not push you away.

You might ask me why I accepted as a boyfriend this man who raised his penis at me like a fist, who bludgeoned me with his erection. That’s okay, I ask myself the same thing. The heart of the matter is that I have a vagina. If his erection is a fist, then my vagina is a line; in fact, it is the line drawn between friendship and dating. He was my friend before. Why should he stop being my friend? When we started dating, I thought, great! Now we get to be friends and do all the really cool, fun stuff too -- an erection put to good use. What’s better? To me, the possibility of romantic love and a sexual union with my buddy implied a deepening of the friendship that we already had. Friendship taken to a higher level.

But my last boyfriend and I were never as intimate as lovers as we were as friends. He stopped sharing things with me and became fascinated with the television. He stopped asking me questions about myself, like how my day was, and started asking me if I’d got my period yet. I guess he assumed I was on some sort of birth control, but I don’t know -- he never asked me. He ceased being interested in my humanity when he began to be interested in my vagina. His erection completely overshadowed any possibility of real communication, let alone communion, between us.

Sex is easy. Sex is cheap. Friendship is what endures. It lasts far longer than an erection. At least the erections I’ve known.

When you get right down to it, we all need someone standing in our corner of the ring cheering us on in the battle of life. Your lover should be your towel man. When you’re all beat up from the fight, your lover should be there between rounds to wipe the sweat and blood off your face, to squirt liquids in your mouth and pump you full of encouragement. My last boyfriend wasn’t my towel man. Every time I’d fall back, he’d shove me forward into the center of the ring. Sure, he was supportive -- he told me that he’d watch my back. My back is nice. It probably gave him an erection.

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