By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Kyle's friends lovingly call him a pervert because, as he says with one eyebrow cocked, "Well, I am." It's not really that he's perverted, it's that he talks about sex all the time. He talks about the sex he's had. He talks about the sex he would like to have. He talks about the sex that you should have—with or without him. He presents himself as a sex aficionado, versed in the many-splendored ways of sex.
Kyle has an extensive pornography collection, and about this porn he has many deeply fleshed-out theories and opinions. There is good porn and bad porn, degrading porn and empowering, liberating porn. The good, liberating, empowering porn is the porn that shows two consenting adults having fun, consensual sex. The bad porn involves humiliation, violence or coercion. Incidentally, Kyle likes to be spit on during sex.
Kyle says he loves and respects women. There's nothing he finds more tragic than a woman who can't achieve orgasm. "Imagine going your whole life like that," he says, looking as if he might cry, "never knowing what good, healthy sex can be." Of course, Kyle kinda sees these women as a challenge and generally offers, even just on a friend level, to literally give them a hand. "It's a matter of showing them technique," he says, crooking his index and middle fingers in a way that, if light were shining on them, would throw really frightening shadow puppets against the wall. "I'm just offering some assistance so they can do it on their own."
Masturbation is a big deal to Kyle. Or, rather, it's a big deal that women he's involved with masturbate. "If a woman doesn't masturbate, then it means she isn't comfortable with her sexuality," he says matter-of-factly. This is what he said one chilly, Huntington Beach night to Karen and her friend Julie. They both nodded—just to be polite—but later, they talked about it with each other. "You know what? That's bullshit," said Julie. "I'm perfectly comfortable with my sexuality, but frankly, I don't like to put my own fingers down there. I prefer the real thing." Karen just smiled; she didn't say anything, but she thought about it. Yes, she masturbated. No, she didn't think she was entirely comfortable with her sexuality. What does that mean, anyway? And who is, for that matter?
Sometime later, Karen got together with Kyle. His "technique" wasn't exactly bringing her to the threshold of ecstasy. It wasn't that he was bad; in fact, he was quite good, but the circumstances of the encounter—it was rushed, she didn't quite know what it meant, the room was cold—made it so she couldn't relax. He asked her what she needed. She showed him. Then she showed him, using her own hand to demonstrate the right combination of pressure and movement. She removed her hand. He took it and put it back. And so she reached orgasm from a combination of her own stimulation, his stimulation, and the strange situation itself. A few minutes later, though, she began to feel weird and kind of embarrassed. On the one hand, she felt like it was great that she'd felt comfortable enough to touch herself in front of him. On the other hand, she felt like maybe she shouldn't have done that. "I worried that he would take that as me saying he wasn't very good," she says. And so, as a way to test the waters, she said to Kyle, "I hope you don't think you weren't doing a good job—because you were. It was just that for some reason, I was having trouble coming, and I just . . ." She let her voice trail off.
"Hey, it's always awkward with someone new," said Kyle, reassuringly. "It's just a matter of figuring out what gets you off. If that means I need to just stand in the corner playing Chinese checkers, I will." Somehow that didn't make her feel so good.
The thing that bothered Karen most, though, was that this was Kyle. Mr. I-don't-date-women-who-don't-masturbate. Mr. Look-at-me-I'm-comfortable-with-sex-in-all-its-sundry-forms. Was that all bullshit? Did he prefer the kind of woman who had difficulty orgasming because it allowed him to feel like the more experienced one? Was he actually, despite all his talk, threatened by a woman who knew how to satisfy herself? For Karen, these are only theories. She'll never really know. He hasn't called her since.