Straight guys have weird rules when it comes to their heterosexuality. It’s perfectly normal to hire your mate a stripper on his birthday, watching as he is led around on a dog leash or has half a Heineken bottle shoved up his ass, but it would be weird to rub sun cream into a pal’s back. Unless of course you’re in Croatia and you paint him so there’s a sunburnt cock spraying out jizz on his skin when he goes to the lo-fi house boat party. You might have a threesome with a woman, high fiving over her like you’ve just won a relay race, but if your knees brushed together during class, well that would be nasty, better punch your bedroom wall a few times so you don’t get the deposit back on your rental flat.
Given this approach, it was pretty refreshing to hear Paul McCartney explain The Beatles penchant for group wanking. In an interview with GQ, McCartney told how he was over at John Lennon’s place with a group of mates, and “instead of just getting roaring drunk and partying—I don't even know if we were staying over or anything—we were all just in these chairs, and the lights were out, and somebody started masturbating, so we all did." Paul says they would shout out names of hot women to think about—like Brigitte Bardot—before John killed the vibe by bringing up Winston Churchill. He explained that it wasn’t a big deal, “it was good harmless fun. It didn't hurt anyone. Not even Brigitte Bardot." I’m sure Brigitte is flattered they were all circle jerking over her, I mean, all of our nan’s would be.
Thing is—even though it’s kept in secret or assumed to happen only in the kind of school where the uniform involves a cape—men masturbating or getting their dicks out together is pretty common, much in the same way girls spend their adolescence snogging each other as practice for when Zayn Malik finally asks them out. I spoke to men about why they do this sort of thing and don’t tell anyone. I promise not all of them went to boarding school.
Alex, 24, Chef
When I was in highschool my mate had a free house, someone’s older brother got us some beers, I reckon we had about one each, but we were skinny lads back then so it was enough to get a buzz on. We were watching Scarface, it was pretty dark and we were really hyper, I remember having this tight raspy chest which I get when I’m over excited because of my asthma. There was a scene where this blonde woman is in bed with a guy with her top off, she had these massive boobs. It was a big deal. At this point in my life I was still glancing at my sister’s Cosmopolitan magazines because I liked the sex diagrams, so an actual naked woman was hot. We just kept rewinding and rewinding the scene, getting more and more excited. It was very tribal and Lord of the Flies and eventually some of the guys started wanking under their PJ bottoms until all of them came.
Afterwards it felt as though the atmosphere had been sucked out of the room, no one looked at each other and we watched the rest of the movie in silence. I remember my wrist grazing the bloke next to me and we both snapped our hands away. None of us ever spoke about what happened. I guess it shows how seriously straight guys take this stuff, normally you’d mock your mate over this but we didn’t even see it as a laugh, it was too embarrassing. I haven’t even told anyone until now, I pushed it down so far I completely forgot it even happened.
Jonny, 21, student
Me and my friends would have competitions to see who could cum quicker. The fact it was competitive made it clear we weren’t cumming because we liked the idea of other men pleasuring themselves but because we wanted to win.
Another time, when my group of friends were getting ready to go to a house party, this guy Marcus had a boner and kept getting his dick out and casually asking questions like “need some ice?” or “I’m thirsty” just with his dick hanging out of his fly. The more annoyed we got and said he wasn’t funny the more he did it. There was a drum kit in the room and he started slapping his dick against the cymbals and snare drum. A couple of us joined in, we managed to get a good rhythm going, I think we were playing some Arctic Monkeys song.
We were a proper close group of guys and the fact that our humor was so divorced from what anyone else would class as normal made us even closer; it was like this secret pact to not tell anyone what actual losers we were. I don’t speak to them anymore, but I would love to bring that up at one of their weddings.
Matty, 24, music industry
Me and my mates were proper stoned. We don’t normally talk about sex but we were chatting about how nice it is when a girl puts her finger up your ass. When my friend went for a piss in the garden, another one of us took a picture of his dick midway through, he was going to caption it “free the tip” on Instagram. Then another guy, who’s a bit rogue, I mean I don’t even know how he got the angle right, took a picture of his asshole and sent it to the group chat. I was proper dying with laughter, my rib cage was stinging. The wrinkly thing looked like a wise old man’s face. Some of us joined in taking pictures of our own assholes, I think one guy sent his to his Misses. Then we started joking about how my mate Simon probably had his fingers up there. I don’t know if he actually did, but it started to seem as though he might do, his face was proper red. It escalated quickly because the humor was pushing us to go further and further and more extreme.
It was a sick night. But then in the morning I just wanted to leave and not talk to anyone for a couple of days. Not that I was ashamed, I had just let a lot of myself gape out. I felt quite vulnerable. I wanted to be on my own in front of a computer screen. We haven’t spoken about it since but sometimes we hint at it, someone might say “asshole” and the whole group creases and the other people we are with don’t get what we’re on about.
Danny, 23, finance
I went to a boarding school and that whole soggy biscuit thing doesn’t happen. Or at least I never saw it. Loads of homoerotic shit went down all the time though. When you left the showers and started walking down the corridor, everyone from each room would appear in their doorway with a spinning towel and you’d know exactly what you were in for. As you ran down each person would slap your ass. People got really good at it by the time we got to sixth form, I would get purple welts on the back of my thighs. Some guys definitely enjoyed it, I mean they weren’t even running.
Before bed we would have pretty open conversations about penis sizes. It would normally start with banter: “you’ve got a right chode Jonesy” and then someone would say, “at least mine has girth” or something. We could be pretty mean, but if you could laugh about a weird dick, it didn’t seem so bad anymore. Anyway most of the time, the guys with the big ones would be the most nerdy. This computer science dork had honestly the biggest balls I’ve ever seen. I dunno, do girls like that?
Other times we would go to bed at night and you could hear guys fapping and everyone would be sniggering with laughter. All this made me feel pretty confident in my naked body. When I first went to uni I would get it out in front of the guys and they would be like “bro, nah." I love being naked—not in a weird hippy naturist way though, it just feels good.
I’m not surprised this stuff happened. School was boring, lights went out early, we were restless and no one ever saw any girls. You’re with each other all day so you become more comfortable with one another. When you share everything, getting intimate feels normal.
Harry, 25, Digital Marketing
When I was at school me and two other guys would have sleepovers. Huddling together on blow up beds in the glass extension, we would watch Sexetra—that program where Americans go swinging in trailer parks or have mass orgies at barbecues. After a while we progressed to porn and at first when we masturbated to it we pretended it was a joke. It was around that time that I realized I was gay. They were focusing on the screen but all I wanted to do was look at their bodies. It happened a couple more times after that, then we stopped being friends when we went to different high schools. The whole thing made me realize I’m attracted to men and perhaps if we hadn’t made a habit of this it would have taken me longer to come to terms with my sexuality. It also made me see that gender is more blurry than people like to think, these guys were ‘straight’ but sure they probably got off on the fact there were two guys next to them tossing themselves off.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.