When I was fourteen, a friend (“Jay”) and I were walking to the park together, when Jay furrowed his brow and said, à propos of nothing, “I read that ninety-five percent of guys masturbate.” Jay glanced over at me anxiously. “Ninety-five percent,” he said, “That’s a lot! Do you think that’s true?” “I don’t know,” I shrugged, “It’s probably true. I mean, that’s what I’d guess.” “Man,” said Jay, “that’s a lot.”
Of course, at that time both Jay and I indulged in “onanism” on a regular basis. Today someone like Jay could easily find something on the internet to allay his masturbatory anxiety, but when we were fourteen most masturbation advice was found by surreptitiously paging through books – some helpful, some awful – in the public library.
I thought about this when I saw Jocelyn Elders on CNN yesterday advocating for legalization of marijuana. As you may remember, Dr. Elders was briefly Surgeon General in the Clinton administration, until she was cashiered for suggesting that information about masturbation be included in sex education courses and taught in schools.
Jocelyn Elders is the kind of person who actually tries to think about things in a serious way. For example, it should be clear to any thinking person that the “war on drugs,” especially marijuana prohibition, is an abject failure that entails an enormous human cost. And it is ironic that Eric Holder, who once said we were a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race, is behaving with abject cowardice on the subject of marijuana prohibition.
The problem is, Dr. Elders is a careful thinker who tends to give thoughtful opinions about important subjects, and that’s just not very “marketable” these days. Her opinion about masturbation, which any reasonably sophisticated culture would view as common sense, was met with guffaws. (“Hey, studies show most 9th graders are only masturbating at a 5th grade level!” HA HA HA HA HA.)
Watching Dr. Elders speak to the young journalist from CNN about marijuana prohibition, she came across as a lonely figure in a sea of idiots. The journalist was polite, yet you got the sense that he was eager for the day when he’d move up and be able to interview important people. Too bad. We should all take time to listen to people like Dr. Elders.
I met up with Jay again when he was in his late twenties. He was alone, and hadn’t been much luckier in love than I’d been. Never got very far with women. He said he was bitter.