William Boyd, Ph.D. (professor_boyd) wrote,
William Boyd, Ph.D.

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questions and answers

A few months ago, questions were posed to me in another forum, and I answered them to the best of my blithering ability. I place those questions and answers here now more for my future edification and, let’s be honest, to remind myself that one doesn’t really need a thousand words to answer everything.

Just most things.

So, here we go. On the subjects of fellatio, what I’d do for Dominic, satisfying sexual experiences regardless of one’s personal identification and preference, my relationship with Lena, an unfortunate evening of my life, Dominic beingthe sun and the moon and the stars and all that lies between, and why I ended study sessions at my house. In the interest of privacy, I’ve removed the names of those asking the questions, with the exception of my esteemed colleague Professor Blanchett and mo chiontach gu firrineach.

Dear Professor Boyd:

Repeated references have been made to your fabulous fellatio skills. As someone who only rarely gets to play with the other team's sports equipment and is therefore often out of practice and unsure of herself in this area, I wonder if you would be willing to share the one technique that makes you a memorable oral sex partner.

Well, now, that's a question for the ages, innit? Or at least for Dominic.

In actual fact, I've not been that good at it for anyone but Dominic. I'm not the only one teaching patience in this relationship, let's be clear. I could state the obvious—that practice makes perfect and all that—but that would be trite, and I like to save my moments of trite for those more deserving. I only know what works for me, and (forgive me if this becomes a bit ... much) that's 1) my nearly unshakeable fascination with the soft patch of skin just between Dominic's balls and the underside of his cock (he tastes of the week before summer ends there, of edible, untreated wildflowers; and his scent's like that of honeysuckles just before they drop from their own lush weight); 2) patience itself, the patience Dominic's both displayed and taught me, patience that brings confidence and as great a pleasure giving as receiving; and 3) what I understand have been called my pointy little teeth. Apparently—and let me just share this between us—if one is careful, and one is confident and one is already really fucking brilliant (as one has heard) with one's tongue, then one's object of such inimate attention is already in such a willing position that the appropriate use of said pointy little teeth, especially scraping gently over the head of a willing cock and pressing the skin back just enough so that one's tongue can dart across the tip, all brick–hot and whipping, like, well, then ... you're in, aren't you?

Pity I can't offer you a demonstration. Though I'm very curious how you've learned about this aspect of my, em, personality.

Professor, If anything were possible, what one thing would you do for or to Dominic and why. And just how good does he look in firelight?

Only one thing? Allow him to wake up tomorrow morning knowing that he's graduated, that the Baskerville campus is nothing more than a view in a rearview mirror, and that we've driven half the night through and when he opens his eyes he'll see a new view, from a new window in a new home, and he'll hear the sound of my voice speaking French, thanking the little boy who's brought the paper, and he'll smell coffee and bacon and he'll know that we survived.

So the one thing I suppose I could give him if I could give him anything is happiness. And it is possible.

As for how good he looks in firelight, well. [pictures censored, ahem]

You tell me, hmm? These are of course cropped for appropriate public viewing—as I'm sure you're aware, Dominic doesn't shed his clothes or inhibitions for just anyone anymore. I think you'll agree he's quite, quite beautiful.

Dear Professor Boyd,

Don't you think that anyone, regardless of their sexual preferences, could have satisfying, and even a meaningful sexual experience with a member of the same or opposite sex? Ie. a homosexual man could be sexually satisfied, and perhaps even engage in a serious long-term relationship, with a member of the opposite sex, if the right woman was found, still fully knowing that his preference is for boys men.

And please, feel free to elaborate.

Prof. Blanchett

Dear Professor Blanchett,

My initial reaction to your question is one of I suppose bemused surprise. We've never discussed such a topic in our our conversations face to face, and while I'm far more confident of my ability to put a point across in writing than in actual speech, still I am concerned that I will not be able to say here exactly what I mean. I will, however, give it a go nonetheless.

I think the key here is the difference between "satisfying" and "meaningful." Indeed I believe that a person of a certain sexual persuasion could still find some sort of satisfying sexual experience with another who did not share that persuasion. I have known women who identified as lesbians, but who also found satisfaction (in a physical sense) in their short and long–term sexual relationships with men. I do not suggest that these women represent a majority viewpoint within lesbians; I have neither the experience nor the cheek to do so. However, in discussing these (in fundamental terms, heterosexual) sorts of relationships with these women, I found that my friends were quick to explain to me—unprompted—that their physical relationships with men had little to do with emotional attraction, and that in fact they believed the ability to distance themselves from an emotional attachment they neither wanted nor needed—the absence of something meaningful to them—actually provided even more of a sense of secutity in their identification as lesbians. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, I do not suggest that this viewpoint carries across the wide swath of lesbian perspective. I feel a certain level of discomfort even in mentioning what I have, but my friends assure me that they do not mind their experiences being shared as part of a discussion.

I also make no claims of expertise in the field of male sexuality, but history (and perhaps deep–set systems of value/belief and plain old stereotypical bias) seems to suggest that men do not spend as much time or energy on wondering if their sexual relationships are meaningful as long as they are satisfying. There is, I believe—I could well be wrong—even more evidence to suggest that a gay male would not find a relationship with a women to be meaningful. Satisfying, perhaps; if one's end is merely pleasure and one hand or pair of lips or—and let us hope I'm not pushing beyond the limit of collegial conversation here—orifice is much the same as any other, then of course that can be satisfying. But not, I think, in the long term satisfactory. Or meaningful. Again, this is just a limited perspective born of limited experience.

So I suppose my answer to your question is that I do not know. I'm afraid I do not hold any degrees in behavioral psychology, and my concentration in philosophy has been on more clear–cut ideology. Sex and love (which I take to be the basis for what you would call a meaningful relationship; again, here I could be wrong) are topics I rarely cover, and possibly for good reason, and let's leave it at that. Of course, if you wanted to discuss this further, I'd be willing to do so, but I cannot guarantee any more coherence than the limited show I've made here.

I think, Cate, that the important thing is respect, in whatever relationship a person chooses. Respect and trust. Without trust, there is neither satisfaction nor meaning—but that may be a topic for another time. Over a drink, perhaps, and after I've trounced you at darts, of course. (I'm sure you expected that, as you do so much else.)

Professor Boyd

Professor Boyd,

Can I have your children?

I'm curious about your mentions about Lena and your mutual friend. Are there any other details you'd be willing to share (how did the knowledge of Lena's sleeping with the friend affect your (acknowledged) jealousy? did this encounter have something to do with the fact that you are now gay, instead of bi? (I note in your bio that you were bi until age 25 and this encounter happened before your 25th birthday.))?

Also, does it ever occur to you to share some of these memories (Lena, [censored reference to a rough night], etc.) with Dominic, to help him understand your life before you became a professor?

It would be a lie offensive to both of us if I attempted to say that Lena's sleeping with Stewart had nothing to do with my decision to (and let's use a vernacular I typically despise, because I'm a glass and a half in, and why on earth not?) pick a side and stick with it. At this time, and on seeing how you're likely hoping for honesty from me, it seems appropriate to admit (as if it needs telling) that I was never considered much of a prize to girls or women. It wasn't a matter of poor communication or even particular shyness; I was just not attractive on either physical or emotional levels, and I say this as the absolute truth; at a time when I would have made a decent catch, in my early twenties and pulling a steady cheque for the first time in my life, I was working too hard to bother with myself, and indulged in some very unhealthy pursuits. However kind you are now, lass, and whatever urge you have to bear my metaphorical children, would you have wanted a man who could barely raise his head from either a book or a pillow? Would you have loved a man who when the night came wanted—needed—silence, a fire, a guitar and little else? Could you have loved a man who pretended he was worth the effort? Who pretended anything and everything as long as it worked?

I'm getting off track; you'd think I'd know better by now.

Lena had no illusions about me—she turned away when I turned around, if that makes sense. What we had was what I thought at the time was perfection; not something so cold as an arranged public display of adoration. There was companionship, and a sense of trust, even when we stumbled home at the same time from separate places, both reeling bowlegged and better served by other lovers. I loved her, and she loved me; it was better for the knowledge that neither of us expected anything else from the other. I could have stayed by her side for much longer, even after Stewart told me everything. It wasn't the mere fact that she had slept with him—by then she'd slept with most of my friends, male and female, and I'd returned the favour in fucking spades. But she hadn't told me about Stewart. She hadn't told me—and this is the part I'm not terribly eager to share—that it hadn't been good, just the two of us. She never told me, when she had every chance to every time she put her head on a pillow next to mine, that she needed more—or less, now that I think of it. She let me believe it was good and right and what she wanted. For every time I fucked someone else, I would swear on whatever text you call sacred I was with her three times as much and three times better. I promised nothing to anyone but her. I fucked women and men; I made love to her.

I could have chosen not to believe Stewart. I could even have stayed and questioned Lena and begged her to give me the truth, however much it would have changed our lives, perhaps even for the better. I saw her twice before I disappeared from London, at two parties, and both time I held her to me and kissed her and closed my eyes and breathed. her. in. and felt nothing. I should have wished her well. I wish I had. Instead I left a cheque for six months rent on the coffee table and told her to burn everything I left behind with the last of my candles, and to please, if she did nothing else for me, fucking please keep nothing, because I took nothing of hers with me. I was on a horse so high I could see God, I tell you.

It was no hardship to walk away from relationships with women after that, I promise you. I still adore women; most of my colleagues (and certainly the ones with whom I best get along) are women. One of my greatest friends is Miranda, and I admire her beauty and her heart and her grace everyday. A new friend is Cate, who reminds me of Lena in odd ways, though certainly not physically. But I do not love any of them, and the fact that I cannot tell any of these women about who and what I do love—now that I understand and feel what love is and what it could be and what it was so unfortunately not in my relationship with Lena—shows me clearly what I already knew and wished that I didn't: that I do not trust them completely. I would not be so crass or simplistic as to blame Lena for that; there are too many other factors at work. But I can no longer spare the energy to trust anyone but the person I do love, and loved before I even recognized it.

Which of course leads to your second question regarding when or if I might feel ready to tell Dominic these things and others (I cannot think about the night you specifically mention; I hope you will understand that the details are becoming more and more vague—catching up with scars and bruises that disappeared a long time ago, I suppose—and that to dredge up such a memory in combination with those of Lena would send me somewhere I'd rather not go). You cannot know how often I've begun to do so, and then felt it ... unnecessary, or better (worse), that it would seem like such a plea for compassion that's already so freely given to me. What right in the world do I have to expect Dominic—who has survived so much more than I have—to listen to a history I would rewrite if I could?

What I have done is written it out, as much as I could, over time, since the first night I brought him home. It's almost all there, in the journals that rest on my bookshelves, journals he could easily take up but doesn't. He seems to know that things come slowly from my mouth even when they race from my pen, and he is so patient, at least in that respect. My hope is that he will wait for me. My hope is that he will still be there after I've told him everything.

Hope is a fine thing, isn't it?

Dear Professor Boyd,

I have some questions concerning the incident referred to obliquely [censored reference to that rough night again]. Did you ever seek counselling? (If you never, did, then I am doubly impressed by your recovery). How long was it before you were able to allow anyone to be close to you again? When did the nightmares stop? - or do they still recur from time to time? Also, have you ever talked about it with Dom?

Counseling as in professional therapy, with a psychologist or psychiatrist? No, none at all. But I did speak to Margaret (after she drew it out of me, anyway; I fought her hard, but she's more stubborn than I have ever been), and in doing so released a lot of the memory. I was on her doorstep two days after I'd received my letter, and there was still bruising, of course, and I'd never imagined I could have gotten away with telling her nothing. She was very good to me, very kind. She has always been kind to a brother who has not always deserved that kindness.

My nightmares then and now of that night are vague things: of crawling and the smell of grass after heavy rain, of the sound of glass ashtrays sliding across wooden tables. (I don't have any glass ashtrays in my house—I shouldn't have any of whatever material, but what I do have are bowls and saucers, and are absolutely not glass.) That night started out well enough, understand. I was given a lot of things I wanted. And I sang, and played, and saw a few friends for the last time. It should have ended as well as it began. Few things do, though.

I would like to think I will eventually tell Dominic. First because I know he will think nothing less of me or my life, and second because it weighs on me some days and more nights. I almost told him that afternoon in my back garden, under our manufactured eclipse. But the time wasn't right, and I'd found him so quiet—when I think of the hours afterward, and the drawing he found and talking about St. Andrews ... it would have been too much.

I'll tell him. I have no idea how, but I will tell him. Happily taking suggestions.

And from Dominic:

Explain to me again how I'm the sun and the moon and the stars and all that lies between.

The sounds Dominic makes while Billy's making love to him are intoxicating. Billy closes his eyes, forcing his senses to concentrate just on those sounds, to relearn them and test them against memory. They hold true, and Billy would not expect otherwise. And when Dominic pulls him closer, his large hands moving down Billy's arms, across his back and over his hips, Billy moves faster, just a touch harder, in response. Need rises up in Billy so quickly, he's almost unprepared for it. His hips seem to move of their own volition, until Billy forces himself to slow down, shifting toward a better, stronger but slower rhythm--another gift for which he can thank memory.

That says quite a bit, doesn't it? But you're looking for more, and for as long as I can, I plan to give it to you.

The sun: Constantly on fire, aren't you, chiontach? Consumed by something or someone. You think yourself scattered, unsteady, but you're really not; you're intensely focused when you want to be, and the heat you generate in that focus—be in on paper or in the grass or in our bed—is enough to power and warm galaxies science has yet to discover. And more than enough to cover me.

The moon: However much you love to spend your days in the heat and light, you truly come alive at night. In the dark you become something other, just as fascinating to me, you understand, but other. And when the moon hits you, relfected off the sheets you seem determined to kick and pull off our bed, you somehow know what you're presenting to me: challenge, base, unmistakeable lust, and shadowed perfection. Sounds fucking twee, doesn't it? But seeing how we have an audience, I'm trying to keep it clean, chiontach.

The stars: Dancing little things, stars. Of course they've been around for thousands of year before we notice or enjoy their light. And they seem so small to us from where we stand rooted to the ground. You'd make an excellent star, I think, if I weren't keeping you earthbound with me. People would admire you from near and far and name you something absurdly long and in Latin, of all things. People would try to classify you in scientific terms. And I would remember how you had burnt bright for more than a year beside me before I understood, and how we made up for lost time.

All that lies between: I'd need a book for that, chiontach. Or at least my marker pens. If you get home before I do, why don't you bring them out and I'll try and show you?

Professor Boyd: Why did you stop having groups over to your house? Too much hassle? Too many unwanted propositions?

Really good question, that. I've only had the one unwanted proposition, actually. Poor girl, she really had it in for me that night. But as for a proper answer to your question, I don't hold those meetings anymore at my house for two reasons: 1) it would seem like a disruption in the solace of the place—I would hear the voices now of students arguing and the sound of bottles clinking hours after they left, and when I am home, the only things I ever want to hear are Dominic's voice and music. ... amd 2) inviting students over generally means clearing up, and I'm not terribly good at that, as Dominic would I'm sure be happy to tell you. He probably would neglect to mention, however, that some of the mess is his own. *smirk*

Really, though, I do still hold group meetings, just as the Reichenbach Fall instead of my house. I suppose it took Dominic's presence in my house to make it feel like a home, and to allow just anyone else that same space would corrupt it somehow. When that door shuts at the end of the day, the house is ours and ours alone.
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