It feels like only a few weeks ago that something on Trina Read’s blog pissed me off to the point of distraction. Oh, it was. And now it’s happened again. I want to like her, I want to believe that there is this great groundswell of sex-positive writers and we are all in it for the RIGHT reasons: to end sexual shame, persecution and prosecution so that all humans may enjoy their basic human right to derive pleasure from their own bodies in whatever way they want.
Trina Read is, almost single-handedly, making it hard for me to believe that. Yes, her following is growing, but at what cost? She’s getting readers by running blogs with headlines like Top Ten Strangest Sexual Fetishes. Will that drive page counts? You bet it will. Does it do terrific harm to the state of human sexuality? You bet it does.
This is, in case anyone is wondering, classic Sex-Negative media. I cannot trust a single word out of the mouth of someone who claims to want to help people have a better relationship with their own sexuality and will run a piece like this on her blog, regardless of whether or not she wrote it.
Indeed, this piece was written by Brian Parker, who is, I assume, hoping it will drive traffic to his own web site, on which he sells sex-toys.
Assuming that they both have the PhDs they say they do, let me offer both Trina and Brian a bit of education that they clearly missed:
1) Calling ANYONE’S sexuality “strange” implies that there is a golden norm to which good, healthy & NORMAL people adhere, and that any deviation from that is “strange.” Further, such shaming language is at the root of the vast majority of the problems people have not only with their own sexuality, but with others. Indeed, it is the kind of language that makes some people think that it is okay to make fun of, bully, and otherwise harm people who’s sexuality is different from their own. So, you’ll forgive me if the opening salvo of this sex-negative diatribe sounds like the sophmoric bullying cry of a menace to society:
“I’ve been fortunate (or unfortunate) to have worked with and studied people who get off on a number of different things.
I thought I’d compile a list of the top ten strangest fetishes I’ve heard of so all you people out there who think you’re super kinky can have a new perspective on how sexually whacked some people are.”
Are you fucking kidding me?
- Implying that you are fortunate, in this case, sounds like “woohoo, I get to see all the weird freaks up close and personal.” Likewise, saying you are unfortunate implies, “oh, the horrible people and things I must see.” Wow, how cool you must be, thanks goodness all those crazy people are there to rise you up.
- “…all you people who think you’re super kinky…” What? Is this a competition? “I’ll show you kinky, you don’t know kinky!” Seriously, you want to set this up to cut down not just the people you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to work with, but everyone else also?
- Just to be clear, kinks and fetishes are very different. You REALLY need to make that clear if you’re going to set up this little competition. One CAN be super kinky, and still not have a fetish. A fetish, I hope you know, is a condition that, according to the DSM-V has caused, “clinically significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning.”
- “… a new perspective on how sexually whacked some people are?” Sexually whacked? Is that a technical term? Could that be more judgmental? You’re supposedly a doctor, right? Of human sexuality, right? So imagine some “sexually whacked” person is sitting in your office, in tremendous personal pain because of the shame they feel because people don’t understand them and say degrading and dehumanizing things about them. THAT’S WHAT YOU JUST DID!
Brian, that is abhorrent. I expect this shit from Maxim, but from someone who claims to be a doctor of human sexuality, and is trying to build a business as a sex-educator???? No. It is you who should be ashamed, not the people with sexual fetishes that you may find distasteful. And Trina, you published it, on your blog, you are as guilty as he is. And you two are marketing yourselves as a great sex-educating duo.Will you use the page counts and “shares” garnered from this to show that you are “popular?” Will you then keep preaching this kind of hate speech to people who make you popular because of it? Like in high-school, when the “mean girls” get popular by belittling others, and jocks lock nerds in lockers? We don’t need that in the world of sex-educators, thanks, but no thanks.
Exploring the spectrum of human sexuality by making it a freak-show is not, never has been, and never will be, okay.
On to your list of strange sexual fetishes. I have to point out to you that “strange” is a matter of opinion. The fact that you include “chubby chasers” on there is demeaning to a huge portion of the population. It is strange to like people with a body shape that doesn’t conform to fashion runways? It is strange to be attracted to, I dunno, 1/2 of the American population? I’m willing to grant you that there is a very limited number of people who have a balloon fetish, so that you could call UNUSUAL, but declaring an attraction to body fat to be a “strange fetish” is just beyond the pale.
(Is being exclusively attracted to really fit people a strange fetish? Probably not, because Madison Avenue condones it. Jeesh. I’m sorry, but fuck you. That kind of thing hurts so many people!)
- Furverts? You really used that word? How cute and colloquial of you. Do you call African Americans “Ni#*&!” ? And really, do you think these people “get boners” at every single mascot they see on the sidelines? Kinda like people who like women get hot for every single woman they see, regardless of what they look like? Generalize much? This helps support the idea that people with kinks and fetishes are a menace to ALL people, and generally on the prowl for everyone. No, that is not true.
- Breast & Ball Toruture comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, not just beating with sledgehammers. Is everyone who enjoys a nice tight nipple-clamp “strange?”
- Bug Chasers. Hmmmm, does it occur to you that this might be more akin to a suicidal tendency than a sexual fetish, even though it is acted out via sexual activity? Really, you want to mock that as a strange sexual fetish? Might be a psychological condition worthy of taking seriously.
- Messies also involve things like pudding, ice-cream, and all sort of things that are messy and delicious. It’s not all poop and puke and mud. Seriously, if you’re going to make fun of people, at least get your facts straight. And there is nothing wrong with licking chocolate off your lover’s body, even if it is messy. Or fucking in the mud, for that matter.
Spreading ideas like these amounts to fear-mongering. And dismissing a true fetish as the punchline of some joke, or some contagious thing that we should all be worried about is insulting. Worst of all, allowing people to think that some kinky-fuckery is linked to any sort of pathology without making clear the difference between a kink and a fetish is downright irresponsible.
Luckily, you threw in this little disclaimer at the end, “As you can see there are lots of people into many different kinks. It’s best not to judge others on their sexual choices. If they don’t hurt anyone, they are doing no harm.” That rings genuine. Like when someone says “you look like a skanky crack whore and I wouldn’t touch you with a 10-foot pole. No Offense.”
I don’t care if you have PhDs from Oxford or The Universal School Of Cracker Jacks, it is NOT okay to mock people’s sexuality just to drive page counts and build your brand. Which is the only reason that I can imagine anyone would write such a demeaning article about human sexuality.
Yes, that’s what maxim does. And Cosmo. Even Nightline does it. And that is why we have such tremendous issues with both body image and sexual shame in our society, because the media perpetuates these myths of sexual normalcy. The idea that people who are explicitly working in Human Sexuality are doing the same thing is just unfathomable to me. It is anathema to everything I believe in. And personally, I hope that groundswell I spoke about earlier rises up and washes you, and this kind of writing, far away. You cannot make a name and a reputation for yourself by mocking other people. You cannot heal sexual shame for all by saying “you’re okay, because you’re not as whacked as these people over here.”
Human sexuality is not a right & wrong thing. We are attracted to what we’re attracted to, and it’s okay. Yes, I know you said that in your closing line, but every sentence of your piece leading up to that said something else. We need to STOP using this kind of language, because it is the only way we are going to get others to follow suit. Opening hearts and minds to the full spectrum of human sexual expression, in a safe and supportive way, starts with not mocking people. Being sex-positive starts with NOT calling people “whacked” and “strange” and using salacious sexy-bits to sell an idea of sexual normalcy that is completely false, that people are literally killing themselves and others because they don’t adhere to.
Unlike the other piece that Trina ran on her blog, this cannot be chalked up to a difference of opinion. Although one’s definition of “strange” may vary, there is no way to interpret your tone as anything other than grossly sex-negative and bullying. You should be ashamed. And you should probably stop playing doctor until you can, first, heal thy self.
By the way, if you want to buy sex toys, and we hope you do, please don’t buy them from someone who peddles sex-negative messages. May we suggest Good Vibrations and Babeland, two stores that we love, through and through. And that are run by truly sex-positive people.)