"The captive bands may chain the hands, But Love enslaves the man...."
Cal was late and it wasn't like him and he didn't want Aunt Paula to be mad. It was Tuesday too, his lesson-day, and Paula had promised that today's would be important. He was already apologizing to her as he came through the door."It's okay, honey," his aunt said. "No harm done. Today's a biggie, though. Lots of new stuff. Hard stuff, some of it, Cal. So, whenever you're ready...." As he unbuttoned his shirt, still catching his breath, Cal realized that Paula was dressed up in what she liked to call her feminine best. Short black dress, nylons and heels, make-up, ear-rings. Her long dark hair was radiant and she smelled citrus-like and sweet. Cal knew that she was staying home with him, but this was certainly the costume for an evening out. He laid his shirt over a chair and quickly undid his belt. In his haste he was fumbling a bit. But Aunt Paula didn't seem impatient at all. She nestled in her chair, relaxed and beautiful. She pronounced his name gaily several times as she watched him struggle to pull his jeans off over his shoes. He was still used to the baggier clothes of a younger boy. But Cal had recently turned ten. His jeans lay at his ankles as he bent to unlace his shoes. Aunt Paula was enjoying his balancing act, which was taking many minutes. He looked boyishly clumsy and adorable, she thought, with buttocks high in the air, stretching his white briefs, as he stumbled about. When the job was done, Cal stood up proudly and faced his aunt with exaggerated triumph and the burlesque suavity of a magician. She laughed at the stiff little bow he gave her, and at the theatrical way he rose up on his toes and flung out his arms. Then, in one curt movement, before Paula was quite done laughing, Cal snapped his briefs almost to his knees, wiggled a bit until they fell to his ankles, and stepped free. Naked as a nail and ready for business now. "What's up, auntie?" he said. Paula tried to sound serious, but couldn't help her laughter. "Cal,"she said, "you are going to have to be less charming or Aunt Paula will never get to the lesson." Cal beamed. He had loved Aunt Paula all his life. Even before he lost his mom (Paula's elder sister) and dad, nephew and aunt had shared a tender delight in one another that was not unlike the love of parent and child. Paula was very young, a few years out of college, when her sister died; but neither she nor anyone concerned for the boy had ever doubted that she must be his guardian. She invited Cal to sit beside her on the couch. She put her arm around his shoulder and drew him against her. Cal loved the feel of Paula's dress against his skin. The crepe was slightly raspy and he was still boyishly smooth. Cal appreciated the contrast: a woman's dress, a boy's exposure. He squirmed against his aunt in the hope of being chafed. Aunt Paula allowed it, encouraged it even. Free though she was in showing Cal her solicitude toward him, she normally limited his modes of reciprocation. For Paula, it would be inexcusable to blur the line between her nephew's acts of deference toward all women, including herself, and mere greedy lust. The woman controls these things, she alone has the power to strip away ambiguity, decide the significance of every intimacy, ordain what emotions she must never show and what her boy must never think. Paula's every desire toward Cal was indeed maternal, even this long-established insistence on his naked humility. It was for his own good. But she was being strangely lenient today. So Cal thought, until she asked him to stand facing her once more.
"Cal," she said, "I want to ask you some questions I know you know the answers to."
"I hope I do, Aunt Paula."
"They're questions about boys, Cal. About ladies too. I'm sure you'll know how to answer. For instance: why are you standing naked in front of me like this?" Cal was relieved. "Oh, I can answer, Aunt Paula. If that's the kind of question you mean. Yes, I'm standing naked in front of you because that's how a boy shows ladies his respect." There was no guess-work here: Cal had often repeated, for Aunt Paula and many of her friends,the tenets of her feminist catechism. "Because a boy mustn't keep secrets from ladies...," he continued.
"Things happen to a boy sometimes, auntie, when he sees or thinks of ladies or girls. I mean...."
"Like to his penis, auntie. It stands up...."
"IT stands up, Cal?"
"I mean, the girls, the ladies, they MAKE it stand up." Paula nodded her understanding, as though she had never considered these matters before. It was a game she liked to play with her nephew. She had taught him everything, but it was lovely to ruffle him.
"Why would the girls want to do a silly thing like that, Cal?"
"So the boy will know they have power over him. So he'll be respectful and obedient, auntie."
"And can the girls and ladies observe what happens to the boy?"
"Oh, yes, auntie. Very often they can. But...."
"You mean right through the boy's clothes?" Aunt Paula sounded incredulous.
"Oh, yes. That is...."
"Then why does the boy have to be naked, Cal?"
"That's what I was going to say, auntie. Many boys, when they realize what power girls and ladies have, well, they get frightened of it and they try to hide. And if they can't actually hide, they can still pretend that their penis isn't hard because of the girls at all. But when a boy is naked, he can't hide and...and...this is something that I think, auntie...."
"Tell me, Cal."
"He can't hide and he doesn't feel like it either. He doesn't want to any more. It's just what you've always said, Aunt Paula. My body doesn't lie even when my clothes do."
"Why is that, do you think, Cal?"
"I can't explain, Aunt Paula. I mean, when you're a boy and you're naked and your penis and balls are just out there like that, I don't know, auntie. If it was just there for your own pleasure, the boy, it would be hidden inside you in private."
"You mean like how my ovaries are hidden inside me."
"Yes, but it's out there, auntie. So when you're naked you feel that means something."
"Isn't there something else, Cal?"
"Oh, there is. Do you mean...?"
"Yes, Cal." Paula lifted Cal's penis toward his stomach to give herself an unobstructed view of his balls and pressed two fingers of her other hand between his testes. "It's these," she said. "Do you see how delicate they are? Do you think that these testicles ought to be just hanging here like this? What do you think, Cal?"
"I think yes, they should be, auntie. Because they're so easy to reach this way. You can see that. So easy to do things to. So no lady or girl has to be afraid of a person with testicles on him. Because she can always teach him a lesson. It's no work for her."
"What kind of lesson, Cal?"
"Her power over him, auntie. That's what I mean."
"Ah, you mean like this then." She quickly grabbed his balls and gave them a hard squeeze.
"Yes, (urmp, gasp) just like that"
She gripped them tightly for a few more seconds then finally let them go. She flashed a devilish smile at Cal, "My, you learn well don't you, such a bright boy."
Cal was six and had been living with Paula for a year when his aunt's life long faith in the supremacy of woman began to evolve into a concrete plan for raising her nephew. She knew in her heart that a worshipful man is a happy man and an adored and well-served woman happier still, and she wanted for her sweet nephew as much happiness as a life of early sorrow could still afford. Cal was her great love, and now she would make him her work as well. Perhaps it was as well, then, that Paula's sister was of the opinion that circumcision is traumatic to an infant, and had not requested the procedure to be performed on her newborn son. Paula's gifts to Cal were to begin with that. The circumcision question was one of the few occasions on which Paula had doubted the judgment of her capable big sister, the only one on which she'd thought her girlhood model terribly misguided. Becoming Cal's guardian, bathing the little boy daily, Paula found herself scandalized by the indecency of his so-called "intact" look. Uncircumcised men put her off. Besides the uncleanliness, she couldn't say exactly why. A matter of aesthetics, she imagined. But for a long time she tried to reconcile herself to Cal's disheartening feature. This was her nephew, this was her love. Wanting nothing to compromise her tenderness for Cal on any level, even the bodily, Paula tried for a year and more to dissolve her repugnance. She adored the boy and reproached herself for the grief she felt at every sight of his innocent little watercock, looking, after all, only as nature had intended. She tried every means to banish her revulsion- argument, fantasy, self-reflection. All the same, when the boy stood smiling as his aunt undressed him for his bath, this moment of intimacy which should have been one of the day's sweet interludes became for Paula a mine-field of ambivalence. It horrified her that she turned away from the boy's benign nudity, it should be a thrill to see his penis, she thought, she could always pull back his foreskin, after all. But her resolutions and brainwashings inevitably failed, and day after day, as she lowered the boy's white briefs, Paula was disappointed. No beautiful miniature of a human organ appeared, but an obscene spigot, a pizzle waiting to grow great. Paula craved more, she craved to see his beautiful penis head always exposed with a nice visible circumcision scar. She had to pull back his foreskin and wash off the headcheese every day. She wished his skin would no longer cover the penis head. How could her sister have been so wrong? Why this stupid anomalous loyalty to "nature" - what had nature to do with human happiness? -and on the part of the woman, too, who had taught Paula the arts of make-up and feminine style and had assured her of their importance. How could she not have recognized the vital importance of getting her boy-child circumcised? Even if you rejected questions of hygiene, there remained deeper ones, of aesthetics, of male psychology. In a moment of compelling insight Paula saw how circumcision merely completed the paring away of man's disguise. No wonder the permanent uncloseting of that over-sensitive glans delighted her eye and mind. The uncircumcised foreskin gives the man one last protection for his modesty. Cutting off the foreskin denies a man even that wisp of covering allowed to him at birth. From girlhood on, Paula had helped many boys and men pull down their vanity along with their trousers. Now she would help her nephew to a deeper humility, one that would truly get under his skin and endure there. It thrilled her now that he hadn't been done as an infant. She apologized to her sister's memory for her rash disapproval of that decision. Cal was six now. Conscious, intelligent, with a definable personality and many of boyhood's customary traits. But at six the shell of the ego is still fairly thin: it takes ages, Paula knew, to build up the atrocious crust of false masculinity that women like her were dedicated to rupturing. Cal, happily, would never have the chance. Circumcision -not in private, not at the surgery, but in public, at a lively ceremony with Cal at the center and all ages of women to witness it, almost the way religious people do it, really - circumcision would demolish the little fortress of reflexes and instinctual pride which is the only defense a boy of six has yet had time to build. She was going to have his foreskin taken away. And the memory and the effect of that lovely catastrophe - at a woman's hands quite literally, for Paula had already selected the female doctor who would crop the boy - would rule Cal's heart forever.
end of part one