Puberty came a little earlier to me than to some boys, I guess. I was 11, almost 12. Growing up in a factory town like Peoria, being on the streets a lot, and being very independent from an early age brought me in contact with people I would otherwise probably not have met. Rollie was what in those days people called a juvenile delinquent, actually quite a roughneck-type kid. But I was already quite accustomed to being around roughnecks from the experiences of my morning and afternoon newspaper routes.
For whatever reason, Rollie and I got along very well. He'd been held back a year in school, so he was 12 in the 6th grade. He was also more mature than I was sexually and not at all shy. I didn't think he was gay (he might have been, though), but he exuded sex energy, and he found in me quite an eager co-conspirator.
My earlier sexual experiences had all been with my cousin, but this was a completely different matter. There was certainly a great fascination with Rol's dick, which was substantially larger than mine (man-sized; I could hardly wait to be 12). He also had a lot of pubic hair, which at the time I thought was quite an attraction. But most of all, he wanted to do it all the time. So did I, and we did. "It" was mutual masturbation.
Every day, weather permitting, we would go at lunch time to a wooded area a couple blocks from school, whip it out and beat off. The next year we skipped school a lot and went either to his house or to mine (our mothers were both working, of course). There we several times tried sucking and fucking, without great enjoyment or success in either, so we stayed with what worked best.
Notably, we never talked about what we were doing. I would have said aloud that I was gay at that point, I think, if he had. ("I will if you will" and "You go first" are two very common phrases among over-libidinous boys, I think.) But actually, the subject of homosexuality simply never came up.
There wasn't any particular affective relationship between us. I was quite in love with my friend Louis, with whom, however, I had a much less developed relationship, as far as overt sex was concerned. I had no special regard for Rollie, who I thought was not all that bright. So there was a definite class issue, one that I've not really explored, other than superficially, to this day. But whatever the case, we had a lot of sex.
In the years after, I had a few casual relationships based mostly on sex, though more commonly my partners have been people I regarded as genuine friends too, apart from the sex. I've only had three or four truly anonymous sexual encounters; it was just never my thing to hang around in park lavatories or the johns at college, waiting for opportunities of that sort, nor to snag a complete stranger in a bar and never even ask his name. I found no allure in high risk nor in danger, nor did conquest for its own sake ever appeal to me. Once in a while there was a hitchhiker I would put the moves on -- often successfully -- or occasionally I might pick somebody up in the locker rooms of the university gyms, but 95% or 98% percent of my sexual congress has been with lovers, in mostly monogamous relationships.
It started with my cousin (Byron). It proceeded with a lover (Louis) and a sex buddy (Rollie). It wasn't until my first lover in college (Alan) that I had romantic love and lots of sex -- making love, really -- with one and the same person.
At my present age, I realize how firmly one can embrace these early experiences and patterns as personal preferences and simply stay with them for the rest of one's life. Later elaborations (oral and anal sex, for instance) were more matters of degree than of kind. This late in life, it somewhat surprises me to realize how little experimentation I did -- no fetishes, no kink; I know it is often quite otherwise for some people.
However, I see sexuality and sex as very different things, and am firmly convinced that sexuality has nothing to do with choice at all, even these vague choices about what we like in the sack. I think one is gay or not, and that, for example, attempts to change a person's sexuality are violent, criminal acts. But early experience does, I think, affect the particular ways one works out sexual desires later in life.