Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tarzan and the Pirates of Penance

Johnny Weissmuller, Olympic swimming champ turned movie actor, was still making Tarzan movies when I was a young boy. He put on a full suit of clothes complete with pith helmet and became Jungle Jim in 1948. His girth by that time made him look more like elephants had raised Tarzan than apes. However, the Roosevelt Theater in Downingtown was still showing all his old Tarzan movies right back to 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man.
Maureen O’Sullivan played Jane in the first several Tarzan films starring Weissmuller. It is interesting how over the years Tarzan’s loincloth grew wider and longer, while Jane traded her own in for something more resembling a dress. The Motion Picture Production Code, more popularly (or perhaps unpopularity) called the Hays Code, had much to do with this wardrobe change. It took the latter name from Will H. Hays, the President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America for 25 years.
Hays was hired in 1922 to clean up the movies. He was sort of the film industry version of Wertham. Hays was a former Postmaster General and Head of the Republican national Committee. The Motion Picture Production Code did not go into effect until 1930, and given scenes in the early Weissmuller Tarzan films, did not completely get a firm grip on censorship for a few more years.

The earlier films were very suggestive and risqué. There is a sequence where Tarzan and Jane go swimming, for instance. They stand upon a tree branch. Jane dives and Tarzan tears her dress off as she does. He then dives in after her and we have a long sequence of the two of them swimming underwater.

Jane is obviously naked (although she may have had some type of flesh-colored G-string on). At one point in this sequence, they are in a position underwater that suggests intercourse. When Jane emerges she swims to shore, where some fronds partially hide her body (covering the naughty bits as Monty Python would say) and she has to struggle to pull her dress away from Cheetah.
I went to these Weissmuller era Tarzan films as a boy. I was never a great fan of this genre, but you went and watched what this week’s matinee offered. I hadn’t realized that acted out before my eyes, was a whole psychology textbook. Were these actors exhibitionists? Were we in the audience voyeurs? In a way both things are true, but more likely the writers and directors were tapping into the audience’s secret sexual fantasies.

So welcome to Sexual Psychology 101, our subject is exhibitionism vs. escapism and fantasy.

I might have accepted the idea that I was an exhibitionist. Why else would I have been doing the things I did between ages of twelve and fourteen?
I was wrong.
An exhibitionist wants to display their private parts publicly, or at least semi-publicly. They can be non-threatening or threatening in their manner of display. Whether it is threatening or not depends more on the aggression of the exhibitionist. If his or her action is perceived as threatening there may be an arrested for indecent exposure. Most exhibitionists are not aggressive. They may be flashing to shock or get attention, but seldom do more then show themselves. Others may do it in an acceptable social situation, such as the Nude Bike Rides or women displaying themselves for beads at Mardi Gras. Whatever the circumstance these acts of exposure are in front of other people. Exhibitionists want other people to see them, such as the lady in the photo.

To have anyone see me naked was not my desire even in circumstances where nudity was acceptable. Someone requiring it of me or where it was considered expected did not make it any more acceptable to me. So if I was not an exhibitionist, what was going on?
What was going on was an almost universal experience known as Sexual Fantasy. Individual minds and imaginations create widely varying fantasies. Some people only fantasize mentally. Others incorporate a certain amount of acting, such as when married couples do roll playing to heighten their relationships. People may use fantasy during intercourse or in masturbation, which mine were not. I did not know about masturbation until I was fifteen. Mine was a form of escapism. When a person experiences repression or is suppressed by others they use fantasy to convert a negative to a positive experience. “If you were abused or bullied when you were small, then later in life you might turn being bullied into something pleasurable and fantasize about erotic submission or humiliation”.

Children are subject to emotional wounding. The subconscious is always trying to heal us when we suffer conflict or pain. Sometimes it does this by eroticizing these conflicts allowing our painful past to become a pleasurable experience. If not for this, our conflicts may turn to a more violent form of fantasying where we are inflicting pain and suffering on other. Those who move toward this second form sometimes begin to act it out antisocially, such as turning to rape or other violent behavior.
My boyhood fantasies were not violent, at least not to others and they did not incoporate the infliction of pain. They involved capture and humiliation at the hands of others. In my fantasies my subconscious controlled the bullying by my captors so that it aroused the erotic sensations I desired, rather than the humiliations of school and social life that I couldn’t avoid or control. My mind turned the negativity of my life to a positive rather than the alternative. The humiliation and anger I felt toward others did not become a fantasy of tormenting my tormentors. If I had developed fantasies that gave me pleasure from inflicting pain, I may have become that weird, quiet kid who shows up at school one day with a gun and starts shooting.
The realities of our early lives weave the tapestry of our sexual fantasies. We may think what we imagine is strange or “evil”. We may have guilt or embarrassment over what we fantasize and desire to erase it from our brain. This can’t be done is the conclusion of psychiatrists in this field of study. You can’t delete the fantasies from your brain as I could delete a sentence from this computer. You can’t control your sexual fantasies any more than you control what you dream in your sleep. In fact, attempting to do so may actually have the adverse effect of the fantasy embedding itself into your every thought and taking control of your life.
Now some people might look at my youthful fantasies as perverse, but in some scientific surveys this fantasy of capture and submission has ranked as the second most common. The facts remain that everyone has a secret life of sexual fantasies, some of which may be far more bazaar than any I imagined. The difference is I choose to be honest and talk about the secret world of my puberty, where most people take it to the grave. There is a word for people who claim never to have this secret world. That word is Liar.
There is also a word for people who have never engaged in one or more of the Seven Deadly Sins. That word is non-existent.

I am not a saint. I am a man of flaws, faults, foibles and failures. I am a sinner. If you tell me you are a person who never was, isn’t now nor ever will be a sinner, then all I can say is I don’t believe you.  Heaven help you if you believe that of yourself.  (You got that, Donald Never Did Anything to Ask Forgiveness For Trump?)
In other words, like two curious children behind the barn, I am showing you mine. You don’t have to show me yours in return, but go look at it before you decide to judge me.

Why pirates?
I can’t say for certain. Maybe it was because I read Treasure Island four times. Pirate movies were popular fare when I was a lad. In Pirate films there was usually a fair lady captured from a Spanish galleon and held against her will on the Jolly Roger ship. They often divested her of outer garments and tied her to the mast in bloomers and under bodice. Maybe my mind simply reversed rolls. My mind created female pirates and I was their fair captive lad. It reversed the looks as well, for Movie pirates were usually a scurvy lot, whom I would never consider pretty. But my lady pirates were pretty. My lady pirates were Vargas Girl Pirates.
It began one night when left home alone that my lady pirates showed up. It began as innocent play; not even play, just daydreaming to pass the time. I read a lot. Besides the novels of Stevenson, I had read the works of Jack London including Sea Wolf. Maybe I had been reading such stories at the time and began imagining myself as the hero, casted to sea in a shipwreck, finding presumed safety on a deserted island.

That was definitely the scenario for my fantasies. I played that scene over and over in my mind many times. My imaginary self always began by exploring his new surroundings and came upon a pirate ship anchored in the bay. Ah, rescue, he thought, but when he approached the people on the shore, who must have come from the ship, they attacked and he flees. He is surprised to discover this crew is all women. In his first escape, he loses his shirt. He already lost his shoes and socks in the ocean when he swam ashore.

He didn’t escape with the shirt on his back, but he did with his pants in place.
But not for long, soon they came upon him in hot pursuit. He fell and they had him. They dragged him back to the beach and tied him to a pole, after pulling off his trousers. The women have our hero captured and displayed in nothing but his briefs. He is embarrassed. They tie his hands behind his back and he can’t cover his arousal.
At first this was all. I was making it up in my head and it ended there. Our hero wasn’t the only one helplessly aroused. I had tied his hands behind his back because I knew nothing about masturbation. At that point there was nowhere further to take the fantasy. I got dressed and either turned on the TV or went to bed.

This being nothing but a narrative in my head, I could indulge it anywhere. When bored in a class I could picture my lady pirates. No one could see my hero get aroused, but what of me? A teacher could summons me to the blackboard at that moment? It would be bad enough caught with my mind elsewhere, but worst being seen in that condition.

In life habits, sins and fantasies are seldom satisfied splashing in the shallows. Sooner or later they want to wade to where the bigger waves are. They will take you to deeper water, regardless if you can swim or not.
My lady pirates were off the boat; they weren’t sailing away from the shore of my imagination for a while, and the island of Ninth Grade would be a hard one to survive.

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