Strange Sex We Have Known

Terry Southern & William S. Burroughs

Strange Sex We Have Known
by Terry Southern and William S. Burroughs

National Lampoon, 1972


Terry Southern

My first encounter with "Dr. Benway" (whom I was later to know as the master scribe and film buff extraordinaire, William S. Burroughs) was on the sleepy sands of St. Tropez in the south of France in the summer of '47. I had been suffering from--or rather, complaining of-- a certain lesion, a rather persistent lesion, on the hinder fleshy part of my left calf, just below the knee. It wasn't painful, but it was irritating in a psychological way, and I was keen to deal and have done with it. An acquaintance of mine, Allen Ginsberg--who later achieved international poetic renown (Howl, Kaddish, etc.)--was staying at the same hotel, and when I showed him the lesion, he said: "Doc Benway will put that to rights in double quick order!" (little did I realize at this point in time that it was simply another joke at my expense by the mischievous Al Ginsberg) and he set up a meet at Benway's beach house.

Dr. Benway was (and is to this very day) a most remarkable personage.

"Your lesion," he observed in his dry and singular tone, "has the mark of genitalia," and he poised a finger near it, just so, not quite touching. I glanced down and noted, with some surprise, that it did indeed resemble a tiny vage, with its puckered pouting lips, half-parted and moistly glistening--but I was reluctant to admit as much to the formidable Benway. "You must be mad," I exclaimed instead with a show of indignation, and instinctively drew back; but the fantastic Benway continued as though not having heard: "Naturally it would follow that the treatment of choice would be to . . . fuck it away." And before I could protest, he raised a finger of caution: "But an extremely small sexual member would be required--perhaps that of a gerbil-- and by damnable good fortune, hee-hee, I happen to have just such a specimen here in this very lab...." He gestured towards a shoddy complex of small cages nearby, and continued: "You entertain no superstitious qualms, I take it, towards bestiality?"

I informed this "Doctor Benway" in no uncertain terms that I did indeed entertain such qualms, and would not consider being "fucked in the lesion" by a gerbil, nor any other member of his devilish menagerie! I had failed, however, to reckon on the man's powers of persuasion, which border on the veritably hypnotic.

"Similar case a few years back," he went on, unperturbed, "man-of-the cloth developed stigmata in both hands and both feet, each of the blessed wounds being in the shape of a female cunt, not unlike your own, only larger--so that when the populace filed by in holy reverence to view the miraculous visitation, they found his worship--his coarse mandrill-root pulsating in gross distention--going at it into both hand-wounds like a maddened warthog. They could not restrain him--he finally broke his own back trying to fuck the lesion in his left metatarsus...."

I must admit to being somewhat taken aback by the sheer grossness of this account, but it did put me in mind, a few years later, of a story so bandied about that I dare say it carries no "kiss-and-tell" onus at this late point in time namely, that curious tale of how LBJ was "caught in the act" (if one may coin) on the Kennedy death-plane from Dallas, trying to force his rude animal-member into the mortal wound of the young President. I recounted the bizarre incident to Benway, but it was apparently old hat to him.

"Hee-hee," he chuckled, nodding sagely, though more through politesse if my guess is any good, than through your true humorous enjoyment, "yes, a classic case of . . . neck-ro-philia, was it not?"

I'm not too keen on puns myself, but I let it pass; after all, a man of Benway's stature (Ginsberg had shown me a lot of weird microfilmed diplomas, citations, credentials, depositions, endorsements, etc.) was not to be challenged unduly.

"Very well, Benway," I said, "if that is your view--"

"It is not only my view," he quipped in his inimitable fashion (cross between Ben Jonson and W. C. Fields), "it is also my gol-dang pur-view! Heehee-hee...."

Needless to say, Benway's "treatment of choice" proved to be less than useless and, in fact, I very nearly succumbed to a damnable case of the pesky "gerbil-clap."

I was intrigued, however, by the emphasis he placed on what was later to become his infamous "view-syndrome," and when I pointed this out he was good enough to address himself to that very issue.

William S. Burroughs

Yes, the cinematic image is apt, and may be extended. Ungrammatically speaking, what is sexy to humans is a film usually laid down in early childhood on a receptive screen. In my not inconsiderable experience as a physician, I have indeed encountered some strange films. Here is a mild example I cite simply to illustrate the concept of sex as film. This highly placed British civil servant pays boys to don uniforms which he provides and treat him like a boy in a reform school. They are given a precise script with certain words like: "You little bastard." And he reads back his own script: "Yes, sir," assenting with civil leer as he casts himself as a Borstal Boy instead of an old school tie. He is tied to that little piece of film. It is the only way he can achieve sexual satisfaction. He may be bored with it and disgusted with it. He may even laugh at it. But not while it is going on. There seems to be a basic incompatibility between sex and laughter. Sex must be serious. Who can laugh during an orgasm? I recall the bizarre case of a boy named Ali I encountered in a remote corner of southern Morocco who could accomplish this seemingly impossible feat. He disappeared before I learned his secret. He is tied to a fear film that is the sexualization of fear, a phenomenon that dates back to our caveman days. It is dangerous to be caught with one's pants down by a saber-toothed tiger, a Texas Ranger, or a house dick. However, if the intruder is on your payroll and acting in your film play, then fear can be converted into the desired end product.

I know of one case of a man whose name I cannot mention because of my deep reverence for his exalted office who can only achieve orgasm by dressing himself as an atom bomb. He is then detonated by a whore disguised as Marilyn Monroe and goes off watching Hiroshima films. Another case of a billionaire...(once again my medical ethics prevent me from giving his name) who recreates the 1929 crash, watches his stocks fall off the board, then screams out: "I am ruined! I am penniless!" and jumps out a prop Wall Street window all of six feet down into a swimming pool full of gold dollars and achieves orgasm on contact. Many other cases of this nature are in my files: a famous actress who reenacts her greatest role and defecates on stage; a similar case involving an Admiral who defecates on deck and wipes his ass with Old Glory while a chorus of hired tars scream imprecations; a white-supremacist politician who turns into a nigger on TV and drops dead while the White Goddess of the evening says coldly: "Take him outside because he stinks. Take him to the nigger morgue."

The thoughtful reader will detect a common denominator. All of these VIPs achieve orgasm by a simulated situation in which the thing they fear most occurs, like the famous author who types out an atrociously written page and screams out: "My talent is gone!" and comes all over the critics.

Cases of animal identification are frequent: subjects who dress themselves as horses, pigs, mandrills, leopards, bears. It would seem that renunciation of the human form is in this case the exciting element dating to a time when some nanny called them a filthy beast, or when the patient reflected that perhaps saber-toothed tigers have more fun than people.

I am happy to say that the whole matter of human sexuality has been placed in a new and more hopeful light by recent discoveries in the area of electrical brain stimulation. Once the sex centers in the brain are stimulated by implanted electrodes, everything in sight is sexy, even a psychiatrist. In fact, one subject was able to achieve full satisfaction by looking at an old boot. So we can perhaps change the film and lead our patient back to normality? Enter the psychiatrist with a naked Bunny girl. But the man said flatly, "The boot is cheaper."

And who can say he is wrong? Electrical brain stimulation demonstrates that sex is arbitrary, and if you can't be normal, why not be arbitrary, especially if it saves you money? With electrodes installed in the brain of every citizen, full sexual satisfaction will be achieved by all and we will enter a Utopia of electronic bliss endangered only by mechanical failures, a very real danger indeed as anyone knows who has waited weeks and even months for electrical repairs, even though he had been guaranteed twenty-four-hour service on his appliance. The answer, of course, is private enterprise and competition. I would like to sound a word of warning, however--and I am sure T. Southern will join me in this--of the very real dangers inherent in nationalized sex-service.

Reprinted courtesy; The Terry Southern Estate, and The William Burroughs Trust (c) 1972, 1999

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