Recently, the wonderful editors at PositiveLite.com took some of the Toronto-area contributors out for a lovely holiday lunch. Somehow, the conversation moved, as it does, to fetishes, and Bob suggested (jokingly…I think) that I become the resident writer at PositiveLite.com on fetishes.
We laughed about it; the thought of a young (yeah, that’s right), somewhat vanilla woman who recently came out of a nine-year monogamous relationship writing about fetishes was a bit humourous. However, afterwards I got to thinking about, and consequently talking about, fetishes.
The more I read about and talked about fetishes, the more apparent it became how common they truly are.
Depending on one’s definition of fetish, I know people with shoe and foot fetishes (retifism), leather fetishes (doraphilia), and S&M fetishes. There are all kinds of fetishes; tree fetishes (dendrophilia), cross-eyed fetishes, watching people sleep fetishes (somnophilia), rubbing up against strangers fetishes (frotteurism), teddy bear fetishes (ursusagalmatophilia), licking one’s eyeballs fetishes (oculolinctus). The list goes on and on. You name it, if it exists; someone likely has a fetish for it.
I have good friends who are exhibitionists, and several who are voyeurists (I mean, who isn’t?). There are whole websites dedicated to specific fetishes for god’s sake, yet we rarely talk about them. I began to wonder: if fetishes are so common and such a regular part of human sexuality, then why are they still so taboo?
Granted, some fetishes are really, really out there. I tend not to “fetish knock” as a rule, but I draw the line at anything that harms another living creature (or defiles them when they are dead). I can only conclude that fetishes are so taboo largely because they are sexual in nature and our North American society has a very clearly defined idea of what is considered “normal sexuality”, even if it is anything but normal.
This concept of “appropriate” sexuality is constantly shoved in our faces. Whether it is movies, magazines, sex-ed, music videos, or conversations, we are taught from birth what sex should look like; heterosexual (predominantly Caucasian), attractive, and not “too freaky” and anyone who steps outside of this is considered a freak, transgressive, or dirty (and not necessarily in the good way).
However, if you ask me North American society’s idea of sex is far more bizarre than autonepiophilia (sexual pleasure derived from dressing up or imagining one’s self as an infant). We are a society that is obsessed with breasts, but who freaks-out about breast-feeding in public. We are a society that continually objectifies women and portrays them as overtly sexual (or not sexual at all), yet we scorn women for being promiscuous or even for knowing what they like sexually; we may even call them sluts. We are a society that pushes soft core sex in movies and advertisements, yet gets up in arms about pornography.
We are so obsessed with sex as a society, that we will buy virtually any product that promises to enhance our sex lives, yet we ostracize those who are open-minded enough to know what they want and to seek it out. Yet, for a society that is so obsessed with sex, we certainly are uptight about it. We push sex, but are afraid to have real conversations about it or believe that real people have sex in “unconventional” ways. We are sexual hypocrites.
This is why anyone differing outside of this sexual “norm” faces so much stigma; the queer community, people living with HIV, people with fetishes. It is because of this “normalized sexuality” that people feel forced to stay in the closet for lifetimes. It is because of this view that young women feel obligated to say “yes” to sex even when they don’t want to because they think otherwise guys won’t like them. It is because of this view that I know numerous people living with HIV that were told they got what they deserved because they were being promiscuous.
It is because of this view that people may not access health care services, or be completely honest with their doctors, for fear of judgment of their sexual practices. It is because of this view that people are unable to live totally fulfilling sex lives or ask their partners for what they want in bed.
We are a sexually judgmental, and consequently, sexually repressed society and I, for one, am tired of it. So, next time you find out someone’s sexuality extends outside your concept of “normal”, please, don’t be so fucking judgmental. Take a good, hard look at what you’re into, and if it fits within “the norm” maybe you’re the one who should ask yourself, “Am I the one who is a freak?” Besides, how do you know you don’t like something like catheterophilia (sexual interest in the use of catheters) until you try it?