Nerve Magazine / Debra Boxer / Innocence in Extremis

Rohit Khare (
Thu, 09 Apr 1998 23:42:43 -0700

Sigh. There's a whole series of websites I know are out there, but just
outside the radius of my daily troll. Some have fallen off the map: Suck most
famously; others are worthwhile but just not making the cut: the NY Times, the
Economist (which is why I'm resubbing to the paper editions of both...)

Nerve is in another category. "Literate Smut." I read about it first,
ironically, in print, in an old Time Magazine article. Nerve has some
*spectacular* writing -- and like it says on the cover page, it ain't porn.

Today, I ended up back there because they've co-banner-exchanged with Salon. I
admit, I'm a media whore, the only thing which reliably drags me back to
Salon, especially now that I'm $20 in the hole on Slate, is Courtney Weaver's
Unzipped. Shun me, Robert, if you will. But it ain't the Clinton coverage, the
road warriors, or even the book reviews: it's the inside scoop on urban
singlehood. Same reason I recommend Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell (from
her New York Observer columns) as such entertaining reading:

[It goes without saying by the way, that the consummate voyeur's collection
should also include the complete works of ex-Details columnist Anka Ravidovich,

The Wild Girls Club : Tales from Below the Belt; Anka Radakovich

Sexplorations : Journeys to the Erogenous Frontier; Anka Radakovich ]

The piece below is incredibly powerful. It's exactly the glove I want to slap
Adam with sometimes. It's about, unsurprisingly enough, the bittersweet
tradeoffs of "advanced-age virgins". Something I'm definitely not, by the way.

It's light years better than Tara McCarthy's overeducated Harvard claptrap at
book length, Been There, Haven't Done That : A Virgin's Memoir, which
definitely doesn't deserve a recommended url. In fact, puffery-piece Kirkus
Reviews even said: "...this time you're subjected to a monologue by the most
insufferably smug and egotistical girl in your class. And worse still, this
self-appointed expert in puerile love is a virgin--and proud of the fact--at
the ripe old age of 25."

Which is all the more testament to Debra's piece. Sex is at the root of far
too much extraordinarily unsexy prose.

In the final analysis, I was (ahem) touched by her words on the meaning of
touch, as opposed to sex. Adam may think it's fair game this week to prey upon
innermost fears by posting:

> Consider this begging. Please email her so we can get off this "void
> that is your social life" trip and return to doing important things
> like, say, work...

> Now of those 3 single, ambitious, confident, intelligent,
> wonderfully independent women, care to guess how many
> are caring enough to hold a man who really needs to have
> a good cry?

His motives are even clear to the initiated:

> > From ---@---- Wed Apr 8 18:17:43 1998
> > Subject: Geez.....
> > To: (Adam Rifkin)
> >
> > Are you bound and determined to embarass Rohit until he never
> > posts another word about his social life?
> YES.
> Of course, I'm realizing that this is next to impossible.

But that's not enough to humiliate me, buddy. I done worse.

Anyway, the point was, he sees it as a little simpering to think that all I
want is a corner of spacetime secure enough to *relax*, to feel what I really,
honestly don't have the time to even imagine feeling right now because I'm so
*busy*. And trust me, if I ever became *not* busy the dike would come crashing
down -- so it's a damn good survival tactic for now.

And yes, *relax* means a lot of freedoms. I already gave myself the freedom to
laugh, long ago, and I do (much to the annoyance of the pertenaturally sober
around me). I don't have the freedom to cry. It isn't anyone's to grant, but I
sure could use a little help feeling secure enough to learn. [this was the
outcome of my last pseudo-relationship].

Debra, you are so so so right that presence is the thing one cannot provide
for oneself and technology never at all.

Of course, reading her fantasies makes me feel pitifully small compared to her
demands of a Man, but that's not my problem, is it, really? Even Debra would
have to admit there's fantasyland and not. In the real world, it's all somehow
a little easier. 15 Billion served and counting, after all...


PS. Janie: are you entirely sure about your hypothesis none of the posters on
FoRK have a social life yet? Because you should be...

PPS. Duck, you been missin' some fine times on FoRK this week!

P3S. If anyone really feels like they need to plumb what virginity *used* to
be, check out Al "Screw" Goldstein's all-haptic recollection of 50's
defloration at:


Innocence in Extremis by Debra Boxer

I am 28 years old and I am a virgin. People assume a series of
decisions led to this. They guess that I'm a closet lesbian, or too picky,
or clinging to a religious ideal. "You don't look, talk, or act like a
virgin," they say. For lack of a better explanation, I am pigeonholed as
a prude or an unfortunate. If it's so hard to believe, I want to say, then
imagine how hard it is for me to live
I feel freakish and alien, an
anomaly that belongs in a zoo. I walk
around feeling like an impostor, not a
woman at all. I bleed like other
women, yet I feel nothing like them,
because I am missing this formative
I won't deny that I have become attached to my innocence. If it
defines me, who am I without it? Where will my drive come from and
what will protect me from becoming as jaded as everyone else? I try
to tell myself that innocence is more a state of mind than body. That
giving myself to a man doesn't mean losing myself to a cynical world.
That my innocence doesn't hang by a scrap of skin between my legs.
In college, girls I knew lost it out of impatience. At 21, virginity
became unhealthy, embarrassing -- a female humiliation they could
no longer be burdened by. Some didn't tell the boy. If there was blood
they said it was their period. I cannot imagine. Some of those same
boys thought it was appalling, years ago, that I was still a virgin. "I'll
fuck you," they said. It sounded to me like, "I'll fix you," and I did not
feel broken.
I don't believe I've consciously avoided sex. I am always on the
verge of wholly giving myself away. I think emotionally, act
intuitively. When I'm attracted to someone I don't hold back. But
there have been only a handful of times when I would have gladly had
sex. Each, for its own reason, did not happen. I am grateful to have
learned so much in the waiting -- patience, strength, and ease with
Do you know what conclusion I've come to? That there is no
concrete explanation, and more importantly, there doesn't need to be
one. How I got here seems less important to me than where I am.
This is what is important. Desire.
The circle of my desire widens each
day, so that it's no longer contained
inside me, but rather, it surrounds me
in concentric circles.
Desire overrides everything and
should be exploited to its fullest
potential. It is the white-hot space
between the words. I am desire
unfulfilled. I hover over that fiery
space feeling the heat without
knowing the flames. I am a still-life
dreaming of animation. I am a bell
not allowed to chime. There is a deep stillness inside me. There is a
void. A huge part of me is dead to the world no matter how hard I try
to revive it with consoling words or my own brave hand.
I am sick of being sealed up like a grave. I want to be unearthed.
I pray for sex like the pious pray for salvation. I am dying to be
physically opened up and exposed. I want to be the source of a man's
pleasure. I want to give him that one perfect feeling. I have been my
only pleasure for too long.
Do I have dreams about sex? Often. There is one recurring dream
in which I can't see whole bodies at once. But I know which parts
belong to my body. I know they're mine. I know, better than anyone,
my curves, my markings, my sensitive places. If I close my eyes now,
I can see the man's body. Thin, smooth, light-haired, limbs spreading
and shifting over me like the sea. A small, brick-colored mouth opens
and closes around the sphere of a nipple. Moist eyes, the color of
darkest honey, roam up and down my spine. A sensation of breath
across my belly induces the first wave of moisture between my legs.
This reaction crosses the line into wakefulness, and I know when I
awaken, the blanket will be twisted aside as if in pain. My skin itself
will feel like a fiery blanket, and I will almost feel smothered by it.
In some versions of the dream I am on top and I can feel my pelvis
rubbing against the man's body. Every part of my body is focused on
the singular task of getting him inside me. I try and try and am so
close, but my fate is that of Tantalus who was surrounded by water
he could not drink. Thank God for masturbation.
My fingers know exactly how to act upon my skin -- they have
for over half my life now. There is no fear or hesitation. When I
masturbate I am aware of varying
degrees of heat throughout my body.
It is hottest between my legs. Cool
air seems to heat the moment it hits
my skin, the moment I suck it in
between my lips. After, my hands
shake as if I'd had an infusion of
caffeine. I press my hand, palm
down, in the vale between my
breasts, and it feels as if my heart
will burst through my hand. I love
that feeling -- knowing that I'm
illimitably alive.
Though I've never had a man inside me, I have had many orgasms.
I have talked with girls who not only can't have one with their lover
but can't bring themselves to have one. I was shocked at first until I
saw how common it was. And then I felt lucky. My first one scared
me. At 12, I did not expect such a reaction to my own touch; I thought
I'd hurt myself. But it was such a curious feeling, such a lovely feeling,
that I had to explore it further. I felt almost greedy. And well, I got
better at it until it was ridiculously easy. Still, it is always easy.
I don't expect it to be so easy with a man. I've come to believe that
sex is defined by affection, not orgasm. There is that need to be held
that doesn't disappear when we learn to walk on our own. If anything,
it intensifies.
I love being a girl. I think of my body as all scent and soft
It is an imperfect body, but beautiful still, in its energy and in its
I love looking at my curves in the mirror. I love feeling them and
admiring their craftsmanship. I love my hipbones -- small, protruding
mountains. Or maybe they are like sacred stones marking the
entrance to a secret city. I trace the slope of my calf as if a slender
tree trunk and I am amazed
at how strong, yet
vulnerable, the human body
is. I am as in awe of my
body as I am of the earth.
My joints are prominent as
if asserting themselves. I
know my terrain well,
perhaps better than any
man ever could -- the warm, white softness of my inner arms; the
hard, smooth muscle of my bicep like the rounded swelling in a snake
that just swallowed the tiniest mouse; the sensitive skin between my
thighs; the mole on my pelvis nestled by a vein like a dot on a map
marking a city beside a river. I have stared at my naked body in the
mirror wondering what the first touch from a lover will feel like and
where it will be.
Masturbation is pleasurable, but it cannot sustain a whole sexual
life. It lacks that vital affection. I am left with the rituals, the
mechanics of masturbation. I crash up against the same wall each
time. It becomes boring and sad and does little to quell the need to be
touched. I long to let go of my body's silent monologue and enter into
a dialogue of skin, muscle, and bone.
There are sudden passions that form in my mind when I look at a
man. Thoughts of things I want to do to him. I want to follow the veins
of his wrists -- blue like the heart of a candle flame. I want to lick the
depression of his neck as if it was the bottom of a bowl. I want to see
the death of my modesty in his eyes. Although I am swollen with
romantic ideas, I am not nave. I know it will not be ideal. Rather, it
will be bloody, painful, awkward, damp, and dreadful -- but that is
always the way of birth. It is an act of violence. The threat of pain in
pleasure, after all, makes seduction stimulating. I want the pain to
know that I am alive and real -- to leave no doubt there has been a
The fear is undeniable. It's a phobic yearning I have for a man's
body, but I have to believe that everything, including fear, is vital
when expressing desire. If sexual thoughts are either memories or
desires, then I am all desires.
I am powerfully attracted to the male body. I want to watch him
undress. See him touch himself. I want his wildness in me -- I want
to touch his naked body and feel the
strength of him. His sweat sliding
down the slick surface of my skin
until it pools in the crooks of my
limbs. I imagine the rhythm of our sex
like the slick, undulating motion of
swimmers. I imagine my own body's
movements suddenly made new, so
that we would appear to me like two
new bodies. I imagine the sound of
our sex -- a magnificent, moist
clamor of limbs.
I want to hold him inside me like a deep breath. I want to leave
kisses as markers on the sharp slices of his shoulder blades, then
surrounding the oasis of his bellybutton. I want to slide him in my
mouth like a first taste of wine, letting the bittersweet liquid sweep
every part of my mouth before allowing it to slide down my throat.
I will hold my mouth to his ear, as if I were a polished seashell, so
he can hear the sea inside me -- welcoming him. I will pause and
look at him -- up into his face. I will steady myself in his gaze, catch
the low sun of his cock between my smooth, white thighs, and
explode into shine. I will look at him and think, I have spent this man's
body and I have spent it well.

1998 Debra Boxer and Nerve Publishing

Debra Boxer lives in New Jersey but
dreams about living just about anywhere
else. Her interest in erotica began in high
school when she wrote sex stories during
Spanish class to stay awake. At Rutgers
University she wrote her senior thesis on
pornography. For four years she's been
reviewing books for Publishers Weekly, and
somehow gets all the erotica collections.
She hopes to publish her first novel and
have sex by the time she's thirty.


There has been some feedback on their site, by the way. Clearly the most
ill-informed is right there at the top:

"No one's imagination is that strong, that perfect. She must have
completed the deed. DD 2/8/98 "

Finally, I'm wondering what I'm doing posting this to forty people I kinda
know and forty completely anonymous ones and diety knows whomever else
traipses across xent. It's certainly been a slippery slope, stripping away the
boundaries of my character to let it, as one derisive commentator quoth, "drip
my private life on the the Web." I remember being ashamed and afraid that I'd
never danced with a girl I cared for, or been on a real date, or even taking
contorted measures to avoid even hinting I wasn't as up on sex as my vast
technical knowledge of the subject might belie. Over the years, I've admitted
to each of these, and it has made me stronger and happier not to hide.

Lots of "guys" have all-but-screamed at me for being so cavalier with the
truth. "The Truth Shall Set Ye Free" may be Caltech's motto, but it's been
English patent slug and snail death to a few nascent relationships of mine.

[ ||ugh, if you made it all the way down here, now you know why I spammed you
with this tirade :-]

Yeah, I'm trying to learn there's an emotional closeness dial that has to be
ratcheted up -- I have a sudden vision of the US B-53 (?) dial-a-yield
thermonuclear warhead from last month's Times -- but here I am in this forum
at 97% out already. It's hard to act less so in person.