The Delicious Grace of Moving One’s Hand is the collected sex writings of Timothy Leary, biographised as follows on the back cover of my Thunder’s Mouth Press 1998 (first) edition:
Timothy Leary (1920 -1997), an iconic figure of the psychedelic and sexual revolutions, earned a doctorate in psychology from Harvard University where he taught until 1963 when he became, with colleague Richard Alpert, the first Harvard faculty to be dismissed since Ralph Waldo Emerson …
Here is Leary’s My First Sexual Encounter
An endless number of memoirs, biographies and autobiographies have been written over the centuries. Authors have described their births in log cabins, in ship-holds, in royal bedrooms, in cow bars, mangers, etc. None of these, to my knowledge, have begun the life story at the moment when the adventure actually begins. I refer, of course, to that most important sexual encounter of one’s life: the circumstances leading up to that magic moment when Dad’s eager sperm exploded all over Mom’s awaiting egg.
I was conceived on a military reservation, West Point, New York, on the night of January 17, 1920. On the preceding day alcohol had become an illegal drug. Academy records reveal that there was a dance that Saturday night at the Officer’s Club. Now that booze was illegal, the ingestion of ethyl alcohol took on glamorous, naughty implications. The Roaring Twenties were about to begin.
My mother, Abigail, often recalled that, during her pregnancy, the smell of distilling moonshine and bathtub gin hung like a rowdy smog over Officer’s Row. My father, Timothy, known as Tote, was about to convert from social drinking to alcohol addiction. In training me for future life he often told me that Prohibition was bad but not as bad as no booze at all.
It was a very special night! Dress-blue uniforms, white gloves, long gowns, Antoine de Paris mannish shingle bobs. The flirtatious but virtuous Abigail, by all accounts, was the most beautiful woman on the post: jet-black hair, milky-soft white skin, curvy Gibson Girl figure.
Tote was behaving arrogantly, as usual. Always the sportsman, he stood at the bar: tall, slim, pouring an illegal recreational drug from a silver pocket flask into the glasses of Captain Omar Bradley, Captain Geoffrey Prentice, and Lieutenant General George Patton.
Abigail, abandoned at a linen-covered, candlelit table, talked to her friend General Douglas MacArthur, Superintendent of the Military Academy, who asked her to dance. The orchestra played “Just a Japanese Sandman”. Lt. Patton, a notorious womanizer, cut in.
Afterward, Tote approached Abigail’s table. Swaying a bit to the “Missouri Waltz, ” my father said, “Look at you sitting there as proper as the Virgin Mary. I’m going to take you for a little annunciation.”
Abigail, her elegant poise compromised only by the faintest flush, folded her fan, rose gracefully, waved gaily to her companions and walked to the cloak room.
Captain Timothy Leary drove his Packard unsteadily to the house on Officer’s Row, humming “Somebody Stole My Gal.” My mother retired to the bedroom, changed to her nightgown, knelt beside the bed, and prayed.
[Note: Abigail and Tote: Timothy Leary’s father was an army dentist, a drunk who beat him and left him at the age of twelve. His mother was a devout Catholic.]
Hail Mother, Full of Grace
Tote mixed a drink of distilled gin. Draining his glass, he ascended unsteadily to the bedroom, removed his Army Blue Jacket with the two silver bars, his black shoes, his black silk socks, his white BVDs. He lay down next to Abigail and initiated the prim fertilization ritual typical of his generation.
Roughly two weeks previous, a splendid, one-in-a-lifetime adventurous egg had been selected carefully from the supply of one million ova stored in my mother’s body and had slowly, sweetly, oozed down her soft, silky Fallopian Highway until it reached, on the night of January 17, 1920, the predetermined rendezvous.
The Lord Is with Thee
At the moment of climax. Tote deposited over 400 million spermatozoa into my mother’s “reproductive tract.”
Opinions still vary in scientific circles about what then tran- spired. According to traditional biological scenarios, the 400 million sperm one of which was carrying half of me immediately engaged in some Olympic swimming race, jostling, bumping, and frantically twisting in Australian crawl or flagellating tail stroke to win the competition, to rape poor, docile-receptive Miss Egg. Reproduction allegedly occurred when the successful jock-sperm forcibly penetrated the ovum.
I passionately reject this theory of conception. I was not reproduced! I was created by an intelligent, teleological process of Nat- ural Election. Disreputable, goofy Lamarck turns out to be right at the level of RNA. Like you, I was precisely, intelligently re-created to play a role necessary for the evolution of our gene pool. The selection of the fertilizing sperm and the decision about the final chromosome division was made by the Egg.
It was She of me that had the final say.
Blessed Art Thou Among Women
I found myself rocketed into Abigail’s re-creational laboratory, exactly where I was supposed to be, in a warm, pink, ocean-cave pulsing with perfumed signals and chemical instructions, enjoying the ineffable Bliss oft-described by the mystics.
Up ahead, I saw to my astonishment that Miss Egg, far from being a passive, dumb blob with round heels waiting to be knocked up by some first-to-arrive, breathless, sweaty, muscular sperm, was a luminescent sun, radiating amused intelligence, surrounded by magnetic fields bristling with phosphorescent radar scanners and laser-defenses.
With this particular Elegant, Educated, Experienced Egg, one did not rush in with macho zeal. Laid back, late blooming, I studied her many sensory apertures, trying to decipher the signals she emitted, trying to figure out What Does WoMan Want? My career depended on it. Naturally I performed some tricks to attract her attention. They must have worked because soft magnetic attraction floated me gently along the Grand Ovarian Canal, up the Boulevard of Broken Genes, feeling myself measured, treasured, and in some giggling way, sought and taught.
And Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb
I was eased into this soft, creamy home, my slim, serpent body sputtering with pleasure. The closer I was pulled to this solar-sphere, the more I dissolved in whirlpools of warm intelligence.
Write Sexercise: Respond in any way you want to to this piece of sex writing.
Some suggestions: Write your own first sexual encounter or the first sexual encounter of one of your fictional characters. Or of one of your siblings? If you’re a twin … Baby, what an opportunity! Or imagine twins being conceived. How might an in vitro conception be experienced from the point of view Leary takes? Or other ways of conception? Identify your favourite part of the piece and articulate why you like it. What don’t you like? Explain that. If you write your own first sexual encounter, what conceit might you choose to structure it, as Leary has chosen the opening words of the Hail Mary? What is the effect of Leary’s conceit? What effect would you like your account of your first sexual encounter to have?
But write anything you like. Give yourself 50 minutes, no more no less.