How Sex Feels: A Reverie

Consider the boy. Any boy—the kid who packs bags at the supermarket after school, for instance. He has long been aware of the mysterious otherness of girls. But now he is drawn to a particular girl, the one with the brown hair who buys shampoo all the time. The boy is shy and risks considerable mortification in approaching her. He is astonished to find himself doing it. Surely she will ignore him, or worse yet, sense the fiend in him and turn away in disgust. It seems miraculous when she smiles.

So he is launched. Up to now it has been “girls,” not a girl. To be sure, he has been in love many times—with movie stars, teachers, somebody’s older sister—but always at a considerable distance. Buffeted between frank carnal hunger and the most rarefied romantic moonstruck agonies imaginable, he has till now really only loved an idea—the idea of the feminine, the other. Faced with a specific, individual girl, he must adjust.

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