I woke up to the news a few days ago that Florence Henderson had died.
The first thought my neuronal connections delivered from my Florence Henderson Memory Bank was how excited I got watching her back in the Garden of Eden days of my youthful innocence. She inspired that brand new phenomenon: erections.
Now here’s the thing: this happened years before I saw my first porn. While these days it might be challenging to believe, there was a time when erections happened to me without any pornographic influence whatsoever.
You could also say that erections grew without any erotic influence. Erections happened without any help from wiggles and jiggles of armed and dangerous body parts. There was no peeking up skirts. There was no slow parting of thighs. There were no naughty words. There were no sultry faces or dark lipsticks. In the way that most people think about sex, there was nothing even about sex.
Erections were like applause meters. They measured and reflected an inner world of emotional response, a generic passion. There was truth to the old line about being “happy to see me.” Erections used to be like joy-o-meters. Robin Williams embodied this line of thought when he would squeeze his crotch and make a joke about Mr. Happy.
Erections for me back in those days of Garden of Eden innocence revealed inner emotional arousal, a zip-a-dee-doo-dah moment, everything is satisfactual. You could even call it spiritual because it was all about pure feelings of love.
In this day of highly publicized misogyny and misandry, it stretches both the memory and the imagination to think of erections in a wholesome way, wholesome like laughing in church over a quip made from the pulpit.
Back in the days of my puberty and adolescence, I had my share of favorite media (pre-Lady Gaga) gaga loves—Doris Day, Ann-Margret, Patty Duke, Donna Reed, and Florence Henderson. This was before Florence became “America’s Favorite Mom” on the Brady Bunch, a show I never particularly cared for and didn’t follow.
Florence gave me a boner before I heard the term boner. I remember nothing about the show she was on when she accomplished this feat of magic. I just remember falling into the vision her angelic face and presence and feeling the love flow.
The first article I read about Florence Henderson’s death said that she died at the age of 82 from heart failure.
The term heart failure jumped out at me, not in terms of cardiologists, but in terms of general sadness. I thought I’m suffering from heart failure, too. I had just spent Thanksgiving alone and lonely (long story, not appropriate to tell here), and my heart was especially frustrated absorbing so much meanness in the world at large. Like most people stuck at home alone on a miserable weather day as well as a holiday, I went onto the Internet or Netflix or whatever to find something uplifting. The tsunami of ugliness I found instead was thoroughly demoralizing.
Make America great again?
How about making erections great again?
Back in the early 90s I wrote a book called Love Bytes which was about the brand new world of online relationships. Unfortunately, after finding a publisher, I learned that another Love Bytes book had just come out, so I needed to change the title.
I came up with Throbbing Modems. To me and my peer group of happy campers who loved to flirt and frolic online, this was a fun, light-hearted title. Yes, throbbing was a word commonly associated with erections (as well as headaches), and so it had a slightly naughty connotation. But in my mind, it was more amusing than sleazy. Throbbing modems represented to me that a hunk of machinery (the modem) could channel (the throbbing) energy of friendship and love. Technology could facilitate intimacy.
My publisher also liked it, and so we went with the name. Yet as the book went through the design process and then the publicity process, it became more clear to me that my lovely idea had been shanghaied. A creep factor was being added that I had no power or authority to stop.
One of the testimonials printed on the front cover read, “Will get the important body parts of both men and women throbbing like crazy, and I don’t just mean their hearts.”
A CLEAN SOCIETY
I often wonder what it would be like to live in a massively remodeled world where both the religious right and the pornographic left got no brownie points for ruining sex for everyone. What if somehow the amassed will of the people proposed and popularized the idea that sex was beautiful and should be respected as a sacred gift? What if we simply paid no attention whatsoever to the forces that make sex ugly?
This could be so far out of your personal ballpark that it is even too hard to imagine (except for someone like me who is not into spectator sports and thus spends vast amounts of time outside the park on a regular basis.)
What if we treated erections (and so much many other natural phenomena having to do with sex) as miraculous? What if we did not educate and otherwise condition our people to junk our junk with so much ugliness? What if erections could exist in the light and be appreciated with the same respect as fresh air, pure spring water, rainbows, and warm sun rays?
This is something like the atmosphere I was in when as a teen-ager I got erections watching happy things happen on TV, that, oh, by the way, were broadcast to our house in black-and-white. I was in a state of blissful naivety, and the feelings and sensations coursing through my body were unbelievably wonderful.
Adult sex should be that stimulating, full of wonder and discovery.
GARDEN OF EDEN
I am not telling you what to do. There’s no particular action I am advocating. I am not asking you or the world to change for my sake. I suspect and accept that much of the world will continue to make sex ugly. Long live misogyny and misandry. Have a blast. Rock on. Knock yourself out. Junk the junk.
In the privacy of my thoughts, I will continue to hold the vision that the infinite intelligence that created sexuality was good and wholesome. No matter how much humankind has perverted this gift through all of its marketing, exploitation, slavery, violence, shame, ridicule, and kitsch, in the grand and glorious design, it is still amazing like so many other natural amazements.
How lovely to be back in the Garden of Eden innocence.