The Confessions Of Victor X

Extract from: 'X, Victor': The Confessions Of Victor X (Translated by Rayfield, D.) New York. Grove Press, 1985. ISBN 0 394 62055 0.

(Written in the early 1900s in pre-revolutionary Russia.)

Chapter 2: Enlightenment

Some time later Mlle Pauline left us, which was very upsetting for me, as was Pelageya's departure earlier. My mother now gave me lessons to prepare me for gimnaziya (grammar school). The Russian grammar school course consists of eight classes, not counting one, two or even three preparatory classes. One entered the first class at ten or eleven, and finished secondary education, unless you had to retake any classes after failing end-of-year examinations, at eighteen or nineteen. Success at the final year examination (matriculation) opens the doors of the universities and certain colleges, just like the French baccalaureate. I missed getting into the preparatory class but after an examination I entered the first class of grammar school when I was not quite ten.

My mother was amazed by my aptitude, which she had not suspected. I had an extraordinary memory, a lot of taste, a talent for numbers and a boundless love of reading. My attempts at story-writing, too, were remarkable for my age. Soon I had the reputation of being a child prodigy, but that did not make me any more self-confident. It did nothing to lessen my shyness. It only puffed up my pride, which was already too great. My parents were proud to see me reading serious books in Russian and French which other children of my age could not even understand. I was equally proud of this accomplishment as my parents were.

Between eight and a half and ten I spent two summers in the country on one of my uncle's estates. This uncle had several sons. One of them, the youngest, a boy of sixteen or seventeen and a pupil in the sixth class of grammar school, used to chat with me. This youth was, I believe, completely dazed by eroticism. He thought only of women and talked only obscenities. But he thought I was better informed and more experienced than I was so he did not explain things to me in detail. His conversation was such that I could not follow what he was saying. He regaled me with scandalous pornographic anecdotes whose sense was quite beyond me, and which I grasped only much later. He chased after young chambermaids and working girls while I was there, taking them by the waist and kissing them, but this did not arouse me at all, or interest me.

He pointed out a working girl, for instance, and said, "You know I sleep with her," or, "I've slept with her."

But I did not know the ambivalent meaning of the word sleep and could not see what pleasure or point sleeping with women could have. Sometimes he left our room at night saying, "I'm going to sleep with girls," and he invited me to come with him.

I was astounded by these weird ideas, and wondering if he were mad, I refused. Once we were about to bathe in the river and were sitting naked on the waters edge. My cousin showed me his scrotum, saying, "See how big it is! No wonder since that's where babies come from!"

This remark amazed me.

"How," I thought, "is it he doesn't know at his age that women are made differently from men and haven't got testicles!" But I did not think it worthwhile to enlighten him. Perhaps I was pleased I knew more about it than a boy of seventeen. I knew then that children came from the woman's belly; except that I thought that this happened through an opening torn around the navel and formed during labor.

That was my understanding of the expression I had met in books: "The child at birth tears the womb of its mother."

Naturally I had no inkling that men had anything to do with the creation of babies.

We used to bathe in the river sometimes together with my cousin's elder brother. The girls from the village, those between twelve and seventeen or eighteen, came and watched. Contrary to general opinion, I have noticed that girls are much less bashful in villages than in towns. At least, that holds true for Russia. People of any age and sex in Russia, especially in the country, find it quite normal to bathe completely naked in the rivers and in the sea. Men and women form separate groups which bathe not together but close enough to have a good and quite detailed look at each other. That was so in the village where I spent the summer. In any case, while we boys were bathing, girls little, pubescent and grown-up came as I have said, and looked at us, without themselves undressing. They sat quietly on the grass eight to ten yards from where we had flung down our clothes, and waited for us to come out of the water.

This did not worry my companions at all. It was fun for them, a chance to exchange a few more or less lewd remarks with the girls. But for me it was real torment because of the bashfulness I was inflicted with, which I have already mentioned. I got out of the water, with the deviousness of a Red Indian, when the girls were not paying any attention to me, and then I hid behind a tangle of bushes on the river bank. That was not very hard, for it was the big boys, not me, they were watching for. Usually I had only to wait and hide up to my chin in the muddy river water until the big boys got dressed. Then the girls went away, and I could get out of the water and dress in peace.

But once, when my cousin had already put his clothes on, two nasty little girls, one about fifteen and the other about twelve, refused to leave their posts and waited for me to appear in naturabilis. I saw that they had no intention of going away. I did not dare emerge and stood up to my neck in the water, desperate, shedding bitter tears which mingled with the water that was streaming off my hair onto my cheeks. Finally my cousin realized what was up and had a diabolical idea. He took off his clothes again, got into the river, grabbed me treacherously from behind and lifted me out of the water with his arms outstretched, pulling my thighs apart and showing my sexual organs to the girls. They were delighted and roared with laughter. This incident was a severe psychological shock to me, and for a long time after I could not recall the scene without feeling real anguish. Yet it would be quite wrong to assume that there was any connection between my hysterical anguished shyness and my sex life.

Immodesty bothered me only because it seemed to flout social conventions and offend good breeding. I knew that exposing one's naked self to women was something shocking, but not that it was any different from keeping one's hat on when coming to someone's house. I can prove that this is the right explanation because in my agonizing dreams I saw myself more often than not just in a drawing-room with no shoes on, rather than totally undressed, and yet the first nightmare was just as excruciating as the second. I would have killed myself rather than agree to walk down the street without a hat on, something that did not bother my little friends in the least. If anyone had made me go across town with no hat on, he would have inflicted on me a torture just as terrible as forcing me to walk quite naked. I was, and still am, laboring under the burden of enormous pride, and my bashfulness is a consequence of it. To be seen naked, or without shoes or a hat, is to get into a ridiculous situation. That was all. To say something obscene meant showing yourself to be brought up badly. Perhaps my fathers influence was responsible for my being in such a bad mental state as a child. He was a refined gentleman who cultivated outward correctness to the point of cant, and was very fussy about anything to do with social etiquette. This love of etiquette, for traditional, conventional rules in everyday life was quite contradictory to his ultra-radical and ultra-democratic social and political views.

Fear of ridicule (that is, by society) has haunted me all my life. It may be odd, but when I remember nowadays any social gaffe or clumsy action I committed as a child (for instance, being slow in raising my hat, a ridiculous greeting, an uncalled-for question, an awkward answer, absent-minded impropriety) it hurts me as though it had happened yesterday, and often I cannot help crying out or groaning when I think of it. To my shame I admit that memories of that kind give me more acute pain than do my worst actions of present times. Moreover, wounds like these never heal. They stay open for ever, and time can do nothing to make them go away. My shyness as a child gave me virtually nothing but this kind of experience: the fear, prompted by adults examples and words, of being improper or ridiculous.

Boys and girls from the village usually bathed at the same time of day. On several occasions I saw two groups of boys and girls from fourteen to eighteen bathing in the river at about twenty yards distance from each other. They were stark naked, the water reaching only their knees. Facing one another, they made crude jokes and threw balls of mud from the river bed at each other. They aimed their missiles to hit the genitals of the other sex and this raised storms of laughter. When I had a hot bath in the evening at the house, I took care to see that the blinds were drawn without any gaps, for I knew that the servant girls (and my uncle had a lot of them) watched through the window when my cousins had baths.

Once in fact I overheard two servant girls conversation which never ceased to amaze me: "Did you see him when he had his bath yesterday, the panych (Ukrainian for young master)?"

"Of course I did. I saw what he had between his legs as clearly as I see you know. It made me piss with pleasure. (Ya azh stsala vid visilia.)"

When the girls were bathing in the river, I was never very near and so I could not see their nakedness in much detail. I could see black triangles on their abdomens, but I did not know that black triangles were hair. Then I wondered if they were painted or natural skin color, or if they had put pieces of sticky paper or material over their vulvas to hide them out of modesty. I did know that men had pubic hair but, as I often did, I failed to connect these two pieces of information.

As can be seen, I was surrounded by sensuality and crudity in the country, and yet I remained completely innocent. That can be accounted for by the fact that I lived then for the most part in a private, fictitious dream-world. Sometimes I acted out the part of Godefroi de Bouillon, sometimes of Fernan Cortes or of Livingstone. My head was stuffed with the crusades and the novels of Walter Scott and I hardly noticed the real world. It did not interest me a lot. True, when I was not reading, I went in for physical exercise: horse-riding, swimming, canoeing, sailing. I jumped ditches, scaled walls, climbed the highest trees and even went shooting with my uncles shotguns, with some successI was strong enough to handle guns.

But no matter what I was doing, I was playing the role of some imaginary character. I pretended to be Mungo Park, or Barth or Speke or Grant or Rene Caille or Gordon Cumming (the latter not so often because I didn't like him, finding him too brutal to such noble animals as elephants) or Jules Gerard the lion killer. Sometimes I thought of historical characters, sometimes of heroes from novels by Mayne Reed, Jules Verne, Fennimore Cooper, Gabriel Ferry, sometimes various explorers whose travels I read in Tour du monde, a French illustrated magazine which we subscribed to. When I killed a crow or a quail, it was a condor or a bird of paradise to me. When I got into my canoe I was setting off to discover America or to conquer Jerusalem. Scaling a wall was crossing the Andes. In any case, I had no companions of my own age nearby and did not talk much. As the French poet puts it, "I walked all alive in my dream." When I couldn't understand something people were saying, I never asked for elucidation either because I was shy or because I was proud and I pretended I had understood. That was why sexual mysteries for so long remained hidden from me.

There were often little girls from the neighboring gentry's families visiting my uncles house. But I could not stoop to play or talk with them. For one thing I thought I was too knowledgeable, too grand. For another, I deeply despised little cissies who could not take part in my sports. Ladies liked kissing me, which was not surprising, for I was as pretty as a dream, pink and chubby with naturally curly blond hair and big blue eyes. But I loathed these caresses, which by the way made no sexual impression on me. Up to eleven and a half I never had any genital feelings, and not even the smallest erection. I liked people around me, men and women, but fell in love with no one and had no exclusive attachments.

I left the country to take the entrance examination for grammar school. The examination was a triumph for me. I was just under ten when I entered the first class of grammar school. I had got the highest marks across the board, and the teachers congratulated me. For the first two years my studies were brilliant. My marks were never less than five (the maximum in Russian schools), and I always had my name on the roll of honor, the "golden table" as it is called in Russia, a red board in a gilt frame on which the names of the best pupils in each class are inscribed. There is seldom more than one such student in any class and sometimes not even one in a class is deemed worthy of this distinction. Any pupil who completes his studies after being on the "golden table" for his final year gets a gold medal. I was of course a day-boy, but my parents never helped me with my homework or my studies. However, they quite liked listening to the headmaster of the school telling them that I was a source of pride for the institution, especially on account of my compositions. Teachers used to read them out to students in the higher classes to edify them, and to make them ashamed of their inferiority. My Latin prose translation of a poem by Lermontov, The Prophet, was shown to the rector of the university (I did not then know Latin metrics of course, as I was only in the second class, and therefore the translation was prose). He said that perhaps Russia might be able to thank me one day for giving it another Denys Lambin, Bentley or Ruhken. I heard of that tribute later. The arithmetic teacher too used to call me jokingly "our Lagrange to be". How wide of the mark, however, these predictions turned out to be!

My schoolmates liked me because I did as my parents had taught me and never denounced them. That was a rare virtue in our school. On government orders, to make future faithful subjects of the Tsar, true Russians, the education authorities tried to develop an informers and tell-tales spirit among pupils throughout the system, which was well organized and controlled.

I was liked also because I was a skillful prompter when questions were being asked and I passed my friends my rough copy when we had a day of class composition (extemporalia), as well as solutions to problems etc. In short I was loyal to the collective and although the teachers pampered me, I saw them a [...File error snips a few sentences...]

But as I was not in open revolt. I had top marks for behavior. I had some close friends among my schoolmates. I gave them the benefit of my reading by telling them what I had learnt from books. In any case I tried to interest them in serious reading: history, geography, astronomy, Brehms books on animals, Tyndall on geological and physical phenomena (my mother happened to have published a popular adaptation of Tyndall's works). I got one of my friends to share my tastes in full and we were very conceited about our knowledge. I remember that once we deliberately went off for a walk in a park, chatting loudly so that adults could hear us, decorating our talk with all sorts of difficult scientific words whose meaning we did not know, such as transcendental, subjective, objective, synthetic, atomicity, parameter, evolutionism, precession of equinoxes, thermodynamic and suchlike, words we had retained haphazardly, like the little parrots we were, from our very varied and confused reading. What a pity no one took down that remarkable conversation in the park in shorthand!

At that time I never found myself talking about sex with my friends. My closest friend (the one who was so fond of learned works) was as innocent as I. When we saw dogs copulating in the street we did not understand what it meant at all. We realized nothing would unstick them, but we had no idea that they were stuck together by their sexual organs. We thought it was a sort of disease and tried to separate the animals. Once I asked my father to explain this disease. He gave me no explanation but told me to leave the dogs alone, which I did.

In my first class at grammar school, at just over ten, I all but took a decisive step toward my geschlechtliche Aufklarung (sexual enlightenment), as the Germans call it. We had then a servant girl Masha (diminutive of Mariya). She was a buxom country girl of between eighteen and twenty, very different from the city girl Pelageya. Whereas Pelageya had given children lessons only in goodness and religion, Masha undertook my sexual instruction.

At that time I went to my room every evening to do my homework at my desk which did not take long and then to relax and read. My parents never came to disturb me. But Masha got into the habit of coming to keep me company after tea. At first I was glad of her company. I was eager to spread the light of science around me and I tried to educate the servant girl by explaining the mysteries of astronomy to her, and also setting out before her what I knew of history and geography, showing her pictures etc.

Masha was not very keen on encyclopedic facts. For instance, I talked about historical events. When I mentioned marriages or love affairs, she made jokes and allusions that I could not understand. When I showed her travel books with engravings of savages in naturalibus she never failed to put her finger where the Botocudo or Hottentot's penis was drawn, laughing out loud, sometimes adding, "Pity it's only a drawing."

Likewise, when she looked at a reproduction of some ancient statue with visible virility. Pointing out the abdomen of some naked female mythological figure, she said to me, "They've left out the prettiest part. Would you like to see it for real?"

These improprieties shocked me and I tried to get her interested in serious things, but she would instead interrupt me and say, "You are clever, you are clever. So young and so clever. You know everything there is in heaven and on earth. You've read all the books. But still there's one thing where I'm cleverer than you at. There's one thing you don't know and I do. You don't know what men and women do at night."

"Nothing to it," I said. "They sleep."

"You're quite wrong. They do something that's much nicer."

Expecting yet another impropriety, I tried to turn the conversation onto a different track, but Masha refused to give up.

"You don't know how babies are made."

"Of course I do. They come out of women's bellies."

"Yes, that's how women do it, but how do men make babies?"

"You must think I'm an idiot. I know for certain that men don't make babies."

"How wrong you are. It's men that make women have babies."

"How silly can you get," I said and, convinced that she was making fun of me, I began again to talk about something else. But she came back to the attack.

"I've got to tell you what men and women do when you're asleep. I'll tell you the dance they dance in bed. Your daddy and mummy do this dance too."

I retorted. "Anyway, daddy and mummy never sleep together." (In Russia, in good society, married couples always have separate bedrooms. What are called in the south of Europe matrimonial beds are considered a shocking idea.)

"Wrong again," Masha went on. "Your daddy comes to your mummy's room at night. So listen, I'm going to tell you the dance they do."

Then I got angry. I forbade Masha to talk and threatened to go away if she persisted. It was not that I could guess what she was about to say - quite the contrary. But I sensed that she was going to say something that was against the rules of decency and also slanderous. This exchange, which I remember so well, began again every evening and each time I cut it short by threatening to leave the room. Once Masha said to me: "When you're asleep I'll come up to you and I'll tie your balls (in Russian the usual word for testicles is yaytsa, literally eggs) with string and I'll make a tight knot. Then what will you do? You wont be able to do anything."

The very idea of this mysterious danger frightened me, so to deter this assault, I told Masha that I would complain to my parents. Now it was her turn to be frightened. She begged me to do nothing, and swore that she had only been joking. "A very stupid joke," I replied.

Eventually, one evening, she got bolder. I was showing her the folio engravings in Michaud's History of the Crusades. She was sitting on my right. She quietly tucked up her skirts under the table, grabbed my right hand with her left and put it on her vulva, while her right hand undid my trousers and took a firm grip on my penis. She tried to rub my hand against her Mount of Venus and I could feel something hairy and moist which utterly revolted me. Furious, I stood up and wrenched myself out of Masha's hands and told her I was off straight away to see my father. She went pale, stood in the doorway and begged me with real or fake tears not to ruin her by telling on her. I had such a weak character that I had to give in to her entreaties, and I promised never to mention what had happened to anyone. But from then on I was afraid of being alone with Masha. I told my mother that I would rather do my homework in her study, where she often spent the evening writing pamphlets or answering letters. She let me do so. When I was alone in the study, Masha did not dare come in.

I remember that after this affair I reflected on the hairy sensation I had when I forced to touch Masha's Mount of Venus. "Why has she got hair there? Is it a disease?" (I knew of cases of people with hairy skin and I was also thinking of a big wart covered with hairs on one of my aunts.) It was odd. I did not link my new experience with the "black triangles" I remembered seeing on the girls bathing, nor with the fact that I knew grown-up men had a hairy pubis. This proves that we can know things which are complementary and yet not think of linking two bits of information that we have come across under different circumstances, even though they would give rise to a new truth if only we linked them together. If we really studied the defectiveness of human intelligence, perhaps we might treat syllogisms less scornfully, and would not be so quick to assert that the mental operation of syllogisms has nothing new to teach us. We can keep major and minor in separate compartments for the whole of our life and never hit on the conclusion that would spring from a syllogism that put them together.

Masha gave up making libidinous passes at me. Only once, when I was late getting up on Sunday, she was sent by my mother to my room to wake me up. On the pretext of making me get up straight away, she tried to snatch my bedclothes. A desperate struggle began. I could see very well that Masha wanted just to see my sexual organs, and I defended myself valiantly. I was very strong, and she could not succeed in seeing me naked. After long, strenuous efforts she had to give up.

During my first two years at grammar school, that is the only episode I can recall that had anything to do with sex. The only other thing I can mention is that while I was in the first class, I was struck by the various obscenities scrawled over the streets, the walls, on park benches etc. I did not know what most of them meant, and I asked my father about them. He merely told me that they were nasty things written by guttersnipes. So my little friend (the one with whom I had so naively tried to sound like a great scholar) and I made it our business to rub out these words from walls and park benches when no one was watching. Apart from this fidus Achates, I had other less close friends in class, and was on good terms with everyone in the class anyway. I never had fights with any of them. Those that had no particular liking for me were kept respectful by tales of my physical strength. They knew I had thrashed several pupils in the two classes above ours and that made me very popular.

I spent the holidays between first and second class in the Crimea at the seaside. The next year, after passing the leaving examination for second year with my usual success and being now a third-year pupil, I went on holiday with my parents. This time we went not to the seaside nor my uncle's village, but to a town very near Kiev on the banks of the Dnepr in the middle of forests. Family friends often came to visit, among them my spinster aunt who brought Olga with her.

The very day she arrived Olga lifted up her dress, showed me her sexual organs and said, "How hot it is today. You see, I haven't even put my knickers on."

I turned my back on her. I did not feel the least bit moved. But a few days later my psychological balance was disturbed.

The country house we were staying in was rented furnished. Among the furniture we were allowed to use was a library full of books, most of them old and worthless. This was a godsend to me. As a budding scholar and a bookworm I spent hours rummaging in the piles of old books, browsing and reading. My eyes hit upon a big treatise on childbirth and a little handbook of venereal diseases. Neither of these books had any illustrations. The treatise on childbirth was supposed to have separate plates, which were missing. Out of curiosity I started reading these books, and my eyes saw the light straight away. There was no explicit description of coitus in either of these books, but by reading between the lines I was able to guess what it consisted of. All my memories connected with sex came flooding back, illuminating one another. For the first time I saw them simultaneously. I recalled my adventure with the general's sons, which I had never thought about, my cousins and the village girls' obscene jokes, dogs copulating, the episode with Masha etc.

Though the treatise on childbirth did not describe childbirth, it explained that "the male's spermatozoa penetrate into the uterus, where they meet the females ovum and fertilize it." Furthermore, in the pamphlet on venereal diseases, men were advised to wash their penis after coitus. These two remarks gave me the key to the sexual riddle, although I was not altogether sure that I had understood properly and got the facts right. I read the detailed description of the female sexual organs in the childbirth treatise (pubis, Mount of Venus, clitoris, labia majora and minora, vagina etc.) and was moved to wonder. It gave me palpitations of the heart. The phrases about the clitoris I found particularly disturbing: "organ of pleasure in women, analogous to the man's penis and capable of the same changes." I guessed that the vagina was where the penis was inserted. I re-read the same lines a hundred times with avidity. While I was reading them I had the first erection in my life. It worried me a little. But from then on every time I thought about the things discussed in those two books, which I often did, the erection recurred, and it bothered and disturbed me.

So I now understood everything. I was over eleven and a half. It was June; the long school holidays in Russia last from June 15 to August 15. But I was not certain I had properly understood. I still had my doubts and I needed someone to tell me explicitly, yes or no, if babies were made by putting the penis in the vagina and whether serious, respectable people did the dirty things that I had seen the general's children do with Zoya. This was an incident that had been completely effaced from my memory for years and had never until now come back. Now it reappeared in all its freshness and I was becoming obsessed by it.. I had an intense desire to see a woman's sexual organs, to examine them closely and touch them. I felt that to touch them might give me some extraordinary sensation.

My aunt had now come to stay, bringing Olga. Friends came from the nearby town and often spent the night. In Russia people are very hospitable or, to be more honest, custom forces them to be very hospitable. In their heart of hearts, our good housewives curse and they only wish they could do so openly - good friends who put them to expense and whom they have to lodge at the risk of upsetting the whole household. But what can you do? Custom is tyrannical and even the most miserly people in our country have to give hospitality which in the depths of their hearts they hate and detest. As a result we were always overcrowded. There were lots of rooms, but never enough. Often I slept on a settee in the drawing room.

At the other end of the room two mattresses were laid on the ground side by side for Olga, Glasha (diminutive of Glafira), a little servant girl of twelve or thirteen and Kostya (Konstantin) a little boy of eight or nine to sleep on. Kostya was our cooks son. He could have slept with his mother, but she would no let him because of her husband who was often drunk and used to beat the boy at night.

This little boy was very experienced sexually, as were his two sleeping companions. Before my geschlechtliche Aufklarung I had paid no attention to these three sleepers and went to sleep when they did. But what I had chanced to read had completely changed me. I had an intense desire to see the two girls vulvas. The day after my unforgettable reading, very early, before sunrise, I got out of my bed and tiptoed barefoot to the mattresses where the three children were sleeping. All three of them were stark naked; they had taken off their night shirts and were fast asleep, curled up on their sides, like gun dogs as the French say, that is in an S, or rather a Z. Glasha was sleeping in the middle. Kostya was facing her and she had her back turned to Olga's front (Z,Z,Z).

Olga had one hand between her legs and so her sexual organs were completely hidden. Glasha was clutching her vulva so that the latter was likewise hidden. Lastly, Glasha was holding in her sleep the boys sexual organs with one hand. I was rather annoyed that I could no get a sight of the girls sexual organs, but Kostya's and Glasha's sleeping posture aroused me a lot and I had a strong erection.

In any case, seeing Glasha naked was bound to arouse erotic feelings. The little girl was a delightful type of Ukrainian maiden. She had luscious dark chestnut hair, black eyebrows which seemed to be painted with a brush, very long eyelashes just as black, eyes which were not black but a yellowish brown or tawny color, a little darker but just as warm as old sherry with a ray of sunlight playing on it. Those magnificent big eyes sparkled with intelligence, malice and irony. Her shape was remarkably well developed for her age (twelve or thirteen). Her body exuded health and was strong and plump with dimples everywhere, and folds of fat under a fine, satiny, shining, deliciously pink skin. The color of the plump and chubby child's body reminded me of Boucher's nudes. I had not achieved my aim, since I could not see what I most wanted to. But after feasting my eyes on the little servant girls pink rotundities, I quickly went back to bed on the settee, before anyone could catch me.

Naturally, I did not dare turn to adults to convince myself that I had drawn the right conclusions from what I had read. I felt that the two little girls would be in the know. So the very same day of that exploratory peeping, I found myself alone with Olga. I was about to ask for information, when she got in before me by talking about Glasha and Kostya.

"You know, they do some lovely things at night. After we've gone to bed I can hear them chatting. And Glasha says to Kostya, Go on, like that. Do it again to me. Put it in. Harder! Oh no, that's enough, you're hurting me, you're putting it in too far."

"But what does that mean?" I said, pretending not to understand. "What is he putting in and where?"

"What," said Olga, "don't you get it? He's shoving his pisser in her belly."

"What did you say," I replied, "isn't possible. Can a boy's pisser get inside a girl's?"

"Of course it can," said Olga, "I ought to know! Even a man's!"

"But the holes so little."

"It gets bigger. If you like, I'll show you." She hitched up her skirt and the sight of her vulva, which stood out as something browner against the whiteness of the rest of her body - a sight that had left me quite unmoved a few days previously now excited me greatly. But there things stopped. Someone was coming and that made Olga pull down her skirt.

I could only ask in a low voice: "But why do people do the things you say?"

She replied, "Grownups to get babies; children for fun."

Neither that day nor the next did I find any opportunity to carry on with the conversation. Later Olga went away with my aunt for several days.

Though I had my conjectures confirmed by Olga, I was not yet utterly convinced, knowing that she was a terrible liar. But another talk, this time was Glasha, finally overcame my doubts. We were alone in the garden and there was no one in the house. A little way from us Kostya was sitting next to a bigger boy of about fifteen - the gardener's son from the next villa on a high wall which divided the two villas. They were sitting with their backs to us and their legs hung over the other side of the wall.

Seen from behind, the movements they were making meant nothing to me, but the smart experienced Ukrainian girl started laughing maliciously and said to me: "Can you see what they're doing? Can you see what they're doing?"

"No," I answered, "I don't think they're doing anything."

"What, can't you guess what they're doing? They're pulling out sausages from between their legs," said Glasha, still laughing.

I realized she was talking about masturbation, which my father had put me on my guard against and which, for a long time, I had an almost mystical horror of, although I had only a vague idea of what it was. I decided to get as much information out of Glasha as possible, and pretended not to know what it was all about. I was so hypocritical that I pretended I did not even know the difference between the sexes. That is how I went about it. I asked her why people did such things. She told me that it gave pleasure. Then I wanted to know if she herself had had this pleasure. After a few hesitations and embarrassed denials she finally admitted she had. Then I deliberately asked her a silly question: I asked her if she pulled at just her penis or her testicles as well. My faked ingenuousness made her laugh like a demented child.

"What," she said, "don't you know that girls aren't made like boys?"

She told me that girls had an opening and not a pipe between their legs. I pretended I did not believe her. So she invited me inside the house (where there was nobody about) to show me how girls were made.

We went into a bedroom, and she lay across the bed, lifted up her skirt, parted her thighs and showed me what I was burning to see. The sight of a gaping scarlet slit between the soft, rosy, plump little thighs did not disgust me at all as it had during the incident with Zoya. It transfixed me with ecstasy, though it did not prompt me with any desire for intercourse. Glasha began explaining the reason for the difference between the sexes, describing the sexual act and asking me if I would like to do it with her. I don't know what scruples overcame me, but I said no that it was not right.

"What do you mean it isn't?" the girl persisted. "Everybody does it. All the ladies do it with their husbands, and not just with their husband. All the young men do it with their girlfriends. All the schoolgirls do it with schoolboys. Its much nicer than sweets."

She took hold of my penis through my trousers and added: "See how swollen it is, it wants to come in my cake."

I wanted to bring the question of erection into the open and said to Glasha, "It isn't a disease then, if it's swollen up like that?"

"How silly," she replied, "it's always swollen up like that when it has to be stuffed into a woman's cake. It couldn't get in otherwise."

Glasha could not induce me to have intercourse with her. To look at and handle her vulva was pleasure enough for me. I did not yet have any other desires and I was glad to have resolved all my doubts. Later I re-read the pages that bothered me most in the childbirth treatise and in the handbook of venereal diseases, and I saw that it was absolutely impossible to interpret them any other way than I had done at my first reading. I read and re-read these books, with strong erections each time.

During the next few days Glasha let me look at and touch her sexual organs. She did the same to mine. But I did not let her masturbate me when she offered to. Then I became more fully initiated into sex, as I shall now relate.

[End of extract]