I was in seventh grade when I first felt the scrotal thrill of dominating another person. My pale, blond friend Robin and I were watching The Wild Wild West (dubbed in Japanese--this was at Yokota Air Force Base, where our fathers were stationed). The sight of Robert Conrad, shirtless as secret agent James West, fighting off a gang of villains carried us away. We ignored the developing plot line and began to grapple on the tatami flooring in front of the black-and-white TV. I straddled Robin's waist and pressed his arms to the floor, while he thrust and squirmed between my thighs. I got an erection, and within seconds I felt the insistent nudge of Robin's cock against my skin. I have told this story before. It was a highly charged moment for me. Many of us have similar stories--the sudden intense awareness of the adolescent body and its unanticipated desires.
As a sophomore in college, I got my first taste of being dominated. Roughhousing with my friend Dave at the soccer field at night, alone in the dark, him, me, and another friend also named Dave. I struck too hard, igniting Dave's temper. He struck back, harder. This pissed me off, and the exchange of blows became more vehement. Having had enough, Dave, about three inches taller than me and perhaps twenty pounds heavier, tackled me and fell hard on top of me against the bleachers. The edge of a metal seat ground into my spine. It was sudden and painful, but the image that sticks with me most is Dave's face, dark and distorted with perplexed rage, the pounding of his heart dictating the rate of my own heartbeat, our bodies heaving as we gulped down oxygen. The other Dave pulled us apart. My head was spinning--still boiling with anger, sad that us best friends would so suddenly explode on each other, frustrated because I hadn't won the fight. It was later, though, in bed alone, that the image returned, and I felt myself getting hard.
A few years ago my friend Elizabeth was commenting on the fact that some men look at other men and calculate their chances of taking them in a fight. When I confessed that such thoughts entered my head nearly every time I see another guy up close and in person (specifically attractive guys, but hardly ever in photographs or movies), she shook her head in wonder. If I, she said, so shy, so bookish, so gay, entertained thoughts like these, then surely it must be a universal male phenomenon. Perhaps it is. I don't know. The physical sensations of fighting thrill me and, in my particular case, sexually arouse me. One of those mysteries of desire I have no explanation for. I figure that some women must feel it, too--or why else do young girls squeal to see two guys fighting over them--or deliberately pick fights with their boyfriends, just for kicks, apparently.
The sex drive is linked to aggression--top and bottom--at least for a large number of men. Studies of the mammalian brain indicate that the attack and fuck "buttons" are intertwined with each other in the hypothalamus. The brain rewards aggression similar to its response to sex, food, and drugs. The hypothalamus,
an ancient region of the brain, conserved throughout mammalian evolution, ... is about the size of an almond, housing a motley collection of neurons. These cells regulate distinct bodily functions such as temperature, circadian rhythms, sleep, hunger, thirst, sex, anger, aggression and response to stress. ... [M]any brain regions surveyed contained separate but intermingled populations of neurons activated during fighting versus mating, with only a small degree (about 20 percent) of overlap.
It's a part of the brain linking us with our caveman ancestors, but one which, thanks to evolution and civilization, we can control and redirect through discipline and the influence of social mores. Its impulses can be sublimated and channeled into athletic and economic competition. But, as with scientific explanations of almost anything, the research raises as many questions as answers.
Let me close with one last personal anecdote, this one relating a small but puzzling event within the last couple of years. A student of mine, a veteran of the Iraq war, came to see me in my office. He was good looking in an ordinary way (neither GQ nor Randy Blue material), fit without looking imposingly muscular, very "butch," I guess, funny as hell in class with his loose, drawling observations about the literary works we were discussing. I had never felt myself physically attracted to him at all. In my office, though, he started explaining his life situation--his struggles with his mother, who was an addict, in prison at the time, and his own iffy economic situation and post-war health issues. He became, in short, extremely vulnerable in my eyes, visibly paler, with a slight tremor in his hands, resting on his knees. When I said something to comfort him and offer some support, he looked up into my eyes, his own eyes welling with tears. I say this with great embarrassment and confusion, but my impulse at that moment of intense vulnerability and connectedness was to jump him, wrestle him to the ground, and pound my cock down on his. I got stiff in my pants and had to lean forward to hide the bulge. When I leaned in towards him, he, in turn, leaned in towards me, which made me even more uncomfortable. I can't explain it, and I'm rather appalled at my feelings then. Of course, I controlled myself and did not act on them, but the feelings themselves were disturbing. My response to this guy's pain and weakness had been violent and sexual. I wanted to dominate his defenseless body. It was purely automatic and unintended, with no previous sexual and violent thoughts regarding him. It was a blitzkrieg of neurons and testosterone, and another revelation to me of how the body's impulses can spring up without regard to moral training, conscience, or will.