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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
My wife Sandra says I behave towards these patients as if they were love rivals or younger siblings. She believes their treatment only leaves them more dysfunctional, and that I’m like a person who repairs the broken leg of a chair by breaking the other three legs. This is the type of criticism that only a few people can offer you. Sandra has her own surgical practice, specialising in the correction of benign gynaecomastia, or “man boobs”. We use the same small private hospital near Bondi Junction, in a low-rise tower clad with glass that trembles like lake water. Every Thursday my wife excises unwanted gland tissue and fat from men’s chests. At home we eat large meals. Sandra drinks red wine. To me the world appears unsympathetic, even hostile, crowded with troubled men who might burst into the house and machinegun us in bed.
Without exception the Errol Flynn patients come alone to their initial consultation. First we discuss their sexual and medical histories, including any exposure to dangerous chemicals. They explain their problem: when the patient makes love to his partner he finds it impossible to ejaculate within a comfortable period of time, before sex becomes tedious or otherwise unpleasant for them both. Sometimes the patient cannot climax at all. In these pre-op consultations we may as well be following a script:
ME: There are two components of the treatment we offer: first you take a levocarb drug─something originally designed to treat Parkinson’s. We find it has other purposes. The second component is the implanting of a 2cm-long device in the base of your penis. This implant sends an electrical charge to your testes, which then produces ejaculation.
TYPICAL PATIENT: I’ve read about the procedure.
ME: Then you’re aware the implant and drug interact? The treatment won’t work if we use one without the other.
TYPICAL PATIENT: I want this done soon.
ME: Do you have questions?
TYPICAL PATIENT: No.
ME: You’re about to have an electrical device installed in your penis and you don’t have questions?
TYPICAL PATIENT: When can I book the procedure?
I’ve never encountered a problem in the operating room. Some men bleed slightly more than others. Once the device is installed, no one wants it removed. We don’t offer revisions. My advice is that patients should abstain in the first week after surgery: the wound must be allowed to heal before they go ahead and refine their new facility. By four weeks they should be able to ejaculate without manual or visual stimulation, using nothing more than the power of will. Some patients compare this novel sexual ability to a remote control. At three months they can bring themselves to orgasm 20 or 30 times a day. They say it’s like pressing a button in the mind. At will they become erect and within a minute or two, again at will, without needing to grip themselves, they blow their load.
After surgery these men don’t want to be the person they were before.
If you’ve wondered whether very frequent ejaculation leads to weight loss, then I have the answer─it does not. My favourite patient, Thomas, was heavy before treatment and today he remains 15kg overweight. At his first consultation he sat there practically curled up, probably wanting to die. That’s changed, we changed him last year.
Unlike the others, Thomas has a standing appointment every month; at these check-ups we monitor long-term effects of the treatment. Today I ask, “What’s happening with your weight?” And Thomas says as usual, “Nothing’s happening.”
We know the treatment cures addiction to pornography. These patients no longer want lurid input from their environment. Thomas refers to his implant as “the on/off switch”.
I’m told his problem with pornography began in his late 20s, a time when he was married and yet infatuated with a female co-worker at some marketing company. This colleague preferred women. Still Thomas was fixated on her. One afternoon Thomas invited the colleague home for dinner with his wife, suspecting the infatuation would be settled that night, either quashed or consummated. Here he was correct. Instead of cooking dinner they drank several bottles of wine and the three of them had sex in the kitchen. Once, he described the scene for me in terrible detail. The day after their triangle, Thomas observed that his wife and the colleague were hitting it off in ways he hadn’t anticipated: he kept returning from the next room to find them kissing on the couch. If anything, his wife seemed a little homophobic before the orgy. Soon she left Thomas and moved in with his beloved colleague. Acting definitively, he quit his job to counter the jealousy and regret. At home he became obsessed with lesbian pornography. His sexual dysfunction presented.
What we do to these men is no worse than the way they come to me.
Today Thomas says he’s no longer interested in “romantic or sexual relationships”─and that’s the biggest change. He asks if the drug is producing this indifference, and I tell him, “It’s not one of the side-effects.” Next Thomas confesses to feeling guilty about his offhand autoeroticism, and queries whether he is “evolving incorrectly”. I say there’s no such thing as mistaken evolution. Thomas will no longer be controlled by jealousy, nor mesmerised by images. He’s my favourite because he was the first patient to fulfill every aim of the treatment─Thomas has lost the desire for sex and love, and possesses only the want for sensation. I’d like all of them to reach his state of obsolescence.
Between my wife and me, unfortunately, there is unresolved discussion of the treatment, and about what Sandra describes as my overdeveloped sense of competition.
These men will never trouble the world again. They possess extraordinary attributes. No harm is done.
Andrew Pippos lives in Sydney. His fiction has appeared in N+1, Fifty-Two Stories, Meanjin and Seizure.
In addition to Flash Fridays, The Open Bar is now accepting submissions for a new feature, Flash Fidelity: Non-Fiction in 1000 Words or Fewer. Submissions to The Open Bar may be sent in the body of an email or as an attachment, with the category of the submission in the subject line, to email@example.com.