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Friday, March 23, 2012

SL Letters of the Day: Response-o-Rama! Blowing Married Guys, Cups & IUDs, and Sadism as a Sexual Orientation

Posted by on Fri, Mar 23, 2012 at 4:07 PM

I love your column but I was really disappointed in your one-word answer to “His Secret Love”, the young guy carrying on with the much older married guy. You know, maybe it could work? I think I’ve been successfully pulling off something similar for nearly seven years. I’ve been giving head to my butch thirty-something neighbor who’s married and has two kids. He comes by at least once a week, sometimes three times a week. I’m no kid, though, I’m in my mid-forties. I honestly think that my sucking him off on a regular basis has literally saved his marriage since his wife doesn’t want to have sex at all, whereas I’d suck him off 24/7 if he'd let me, and he knows it. Since he lives nearby, we can pull things off on a moment's notice. By the way, I don’t think he’s gay, and he watches straight porn on his phone when I go down on him, I just think he needs a little affection. Why shouldn’t I give it to him? By the way, I live happily with my longtime partner who, like his wife, knows nothing about this.

My Secret Lust

My response—and a couple of other response letters—after the jump...

······················

Firstly, I'm hoping your longtime partner—to say nothing of this guy's wife—doesn't have the "Savage Love" iPhone ap, MSL. Secondly...

I stand by my advice to HSL. You and your neighbor have reached an accommodation, one that makes it possible for him to remain married. It has the added benefit of giving you great pleasure. So everybody wins! Except your partner and your neighbor's wife, of course. Now I've urged men and women in your neighbor's position—trapped in sexless marriages with kids—to do what they need to do to stay married and stay sane. And he's doing it. Or you're doing it. And you could argue—I would certainly argue—that a it's not just a butch thirty-something that's being serviced here. The greater good—in the form of a stable home for a couple of kids—is also being serviced. But you and Mr. Butch, unlike HSL, are older and settled. HSL, in my opinion, is far too young to settle for a married man. He's too young to be the piece on the side. He deserves better, or at least a shot at something better. If HSL really wants to blow married guys, well, there'll be plenty of time for that when he's old and married himself.

And now a couple of bonus response letters to round out the week...

······················

I read Stainless in San Francisco's response to your column, and the menstrual cup is a great device. However, there is one thing to consider: the menstrual cup can cause IUD expulsion, and women with an IUD should speak to their gynecologist before trying it.

Another Med Student With An IUD

PS: I highly recommend IUDs in general. They are an incredibly effective form of birth control and last for up to 10 years (depending on type used).

······················

While I usually agree with everything you say, to the extent that my partner sometimes thinks I can't form a political opinion without seeing what you have to say about it first, I do have to disagree with your definition of sexual orientation in your response to SUB today.

FWIW, I consider my *primary* sexual identity to be sadism. I have a long list of adjectives to go with that: I'm a polyamorous, bisexual, dominant sadist. But all the adjectives are there *because* of the noun. I'm bisexual because I don't particularly care about the twiddly bits of the person I'm hurting sexually. I'm polyamorous because I like playing with more than one partner and for me, sadism and sex are inseparable. I'm dominant because it seems to go with sadism and it turns me on, but not as much as sadism does. Sounds to me like SUB is in a similar position.

Sadism and dominance are integral to my overall identity. Once I figured out that I was a sadist (when I was about 27 or 28), so much of my likes and dislikes made sense. Art and music I love made more sense: my visceral reaction to Rodin's Eternal Idol suddenly made sense, for example. My fantasies, my relationships, the way I interact with people, whether sexually or not, it all made so much more sense once I figured out the dominant sadist thing. And I'm fortunate in that I'm out to some of my colleagues and it's such a relief that they know and I can be fully myself with them.

So, yes, IMO and in the opinion of a few BDSM theorists out there, sadism, masochism, dominance, and submission can all be *primary* sexual identifications, above and beyond the necessary gender of your partner. Ivo Dominguez Jr.'s Beyond the Skins has a fascinating theory of "polysexuality": "monosexuality" is the theory that the only sexuality that "counts" is the homosexual/bisexual/heterosexual continuum. Dominguez argues instead that there are multiple axes of sexuality that can shift and change with time, activities, and partners. But some people have very strong axes that override others: SUB's submission would be his primary sexual identification, admittedly along with heterosexuality, since he mentions that he always fantasizes about submitting to women. My sadism is gender-non-specific.

The way I try to explain it is, if something is *necessary* not only to the enjoyment of sex, but to having sex in the first place, then it's a sexual identity. For most people, that comes down to the gender of their partner, although people can certainly fake it. Gay people who want to conform for whatever reason can fake straight sex. I can fake vanilla sex very easily, especially as a woman. And I can come, but it takes forever. But if I want to come without a 20 minute, single-minded orgasm quest, I need my (consensual) partner's pain. If I'm hurting someone, I can come almost without thinking about it. If I'm not hurting someone, then...it's not that sex isn't as good. It's sometimes that there's no point to the sex at all.

And certainly there are people who engage in the activities who view sadism, masochism, domination, and submission AS activities, not as identities. But increasingly among my kinky friends, I'm finding that they identify primarily as whatever flavor of kink they are, rather than as gay/bi/straight.

Which is certainly not to negate your other points. I agree with most of the rest of your response to him. SUB does not have to "come out" about his submissiveness to anyone other than his sexual partners. So in that respect, it does NOT compare to the need to "come out" as homosexual in order to have a fulfilling relationship. But SUB *must* come out to himself and to his partners in order to have a fulfilling relationship, and if that isn't a sexual identity, I don't know what is. And I was extraordinarily lucky in that I did move from vanilla to kinky with my primary partner, so I did exactly what you suggested SUB do. However, know that I know for sure, I personally would never date outside the BDSM world. Sadism is *necessary* to my sexual fulfillment, more than anything else. There's no point to me dating vanilla. SUB might be more successful dating vanilla with your "conversion" techniques, but if his submission is as necessary to him as he says, I wouldn't suggest it, personally.

Sign me...

Sadism And Dominance Important Sexuality Terms

 

Comments (68) RSS

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Lilliable 1
SADIST and I are now practically in a relationship after the amount of pain caused by reading all of that.
Posted by Lilliable on March 23, 2012 at 4:32 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 2
I'm a happy sadist. In fact, I like to think of myself as the happiest sadist.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on March 23, 2012 at 4:34 PM · Report this
balderdash 3
If I have taken one thing away from all this "coming out kinky" series in SL, it's that kinky people are apparently very, very, very, very verbose.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on March 23, 2012 at 4:41 PM · Report this
4
IUD's aren't for everyone either. Six straight months of heavy bleeding and abdominal pain nixed that possibility for me.
Posted by divachels25 on March 23, 2012 at 4:42 PM · Report this
9
I think the sadists doth protest too much.
Posted by Tyler Pierce on March 23, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
10
TL;DR Even if you're a sadist, you see someone attractive to you and feel attracted to them. The idea of orientation comes from who you find attractive, not what you want to do to them.
Posted by trillian on March 23, 2012 at 5:12 PM · Report this
11
@8 Fucking A.

I'm out as bi and if it ever came up, I wouldn't be "in the closet" about my kinks, but there's no goddamned reason to go around telling everybody about how kinky I am. Who I am with and who I want to be with matter. What I want to do with those people is not a political statement. Whether I'm doing something vanilla or something kinky, it isn't anybody else's business unless they're involved in the scene.

Am I fucking you? No? Then I don't care what you do for sex. I really, really don't. If we have the same kinks, this still won't matter unless I want to fuck you. In which case, believe me, we're gonna get things figured out just fine without broadcasting to all and sundry.

Get a grip, people.
Posted by Zuulabelle http://www.mellophant.com on March 23, 2012 at 5:53 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 12
Sexless marriage? DTMFA. It's the only answer. Really.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty http://www.nra.org on March 23, 2012 at 6:00 PM · Report this
13
#2; excellent. That is all.
Posted by Soox on March 23, 2012 at 6:26 PM · Report this
14
I think SADIST needs to call me.
Posted by OrdinaryJoe on March 23, 2012 at 7:01 PM · Report this
15
I think SADIST needs to call me
Posted by OrdinaryJoe on March 23, 2012 at 7:06 PM · Report this
16
@1 and 3: Amen. This has been about the most tedious and non-erotic string of comments and replies that I can remember. Can't you kinksters just get out your whips and do your thing without having to explain it? The rest of us can just go back to our hot cocoa and flannel jammies. Thanks.
Posted by crone on March 23, 2012 at 8:00 PM · Report this
17
@16
Eh, it's harder to come to terms with being outrageously kinky than with being a normal ol' vanilla sex fiend. Sure, there has been some excessive verbosity in these letters, but they seem to have a lot to get off their chests. Is SL not a good place for them to do that?
Posted by chicago girl on March 23, 2012 at 9:34 PM · Report this
mtnlion 18
Yeah well the law doesn't give a shit what you identify as until you want to get married that motherfucker, which really gives all these "primary orientation BDSMers" a bunch of nothing to cry about. Claim whatever orientation you want, but understand that if you bring up said orientation around certain people (like most of society today), people won't understand why you feel it necessary to tell such details about your life. Also, WTF, this LW SAYS HE/SHE IS BISEXUAL. That's an orientation. Don't orientations also have to do with which people you want to form romantic relationships with too? Is it that you can't be in a romantic relationship with someone who won't allow you to hurt them because that isn't arousing to you? All that sounds like to me is that you're not sexually compatible with everyone--like every other person with tons of other people.

I regularly require a vibrator to get off; dare I say, I have a hard time separating sex from it. Is that somehow related to my orientation?

All this change and confusion, I also believe, is harmful to the real cause of people who have real battles because of their orientation. This is that goddamn slippery slope they was talkin about.
Posted by mtnlion http://radicalish.wordpress.com on March 23, 2012 at 9:47 PM · Report this
19
The jury still isn't out on any kind of menstrual cup and iuds. For one, most cup companies say it's okay to use them (only Diva advises against this, but they also say to replace your cup after a year). For another, someone did a small study and found that choice of menstrual product had no effect on expulsion: www.familypracticenews.com/news/more-top…;;

If anyone wants anecdata, check out iud-divas.livejournal.com.
(Bell-shaped menstrual cups don't work by suction, but they do form a seal. No suction unless you start pulling!)
Posted by daisy on March 23, 2012 at 9:52 PM · Report this
20
Oh, for the love...
Here's that Family Practice News link, for real this time: http://tinyurl.com/7rfv8ku
Or google "Menstrual Products Don’t Increase IUD Expulsion Dr Ellen Weibe".
Posted by daisy on March 23, 2012 at 9:53 PM · Report this
21
I'm the same as SADIST but with a different kink.

I consider my *primary* sexual identity to be [my kink].
Check.

I'm bisexual because I don't particularly care about the twiddly bits of [my partner] sexually.
Check.

I can fake vanilla sex very easily. And I can come, but it takes forever. But if I want to come without a 20 minute, single-minded orgasm quest, I need my [partner to particpate with my kink].
Yep.

Not the sexuality I would have chosen if given a choice in the matter. But all you can do is do the best with what you've got.
Posted by crater on March 23, 2012 at 9:58 PM · Report this
Azul 22
A whole 20 minutes spent on a single-minded quest for an orgasm? Oh you poor thing.
Posted by Azul on March 23, 2012 at 10:03 PM · Report this
23
@18
Since I describe myself the same as SADIST does, your criticism applies to me as well.

I'd respond that as far as politics is concerned, I'm bisexual. In the sense that I date both men and women. So gay rights issues directly affect me, etc.

And I don't say "My kink is my primary sexuality" so that I can fight for societal recognition, march behind that banner at Pride, etc. I'd march behind the bisexual (or asexual) banner.

My identifying that way is the result of searching all my life for a label that fits and finding that there isn't one. When I say that I'm bisexual, it feels like a lie. It is a lie, if you go by the definition: "feels about guys the way a gay guy does, and feels about women the way a straight guy does". I feel about guys the way a straight guy does and feel about women the way a gay guy does. Yes, there's more to sexuality than being attracted to physical appearance. There's romantic love and all sorts of other ways to be attracted to someone. And labels are imprecise. Certainly a case can be made that I fit into "bisexual with a kink". I'd like that to be true. It would make me feel so much more normal. But inside it feels like a lie. And I've found that lying to myself about my sexuality is corrosive.

You're worried about a million sexualities popping up -- everyone having their own personal sexuality. And that causing a nightmare for fighting for people's rights. Don't worry, I'm not trying to push my kink into the political sphere. I'm just trying to find a way to describe for myself what my weird-ass sexuality is all about so that I can understand it better, so that I can be a mentally healthy person. And unfortunately none of the major sexual labels describe what I am. That's just the sad truth.
More...
Posted by crater on March 23, 2012 at 10:36 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 24
@23- So based on your description of "bi" above, you are closer to asexual? If I read correctly, you're not turned on by either sex? Or you are turned on by either sex, but only if you're hurting them while doing sex? I'm so confused.
Posted by OutInBumF on March 23, 2012 at 11:26 PM · Report this
25
The menstrual cup should have no effect on your IUD, unless you're not being careful and yank on the string when you go to remove your cup. They sit in completely different parts of the vagina.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on March 23, 2012 at 11:29 PM · Report this
26
BDSM: where sex is just the stuff you do in between theorizing.
Posted by James Hutchings on March 24, 2012 at 4:42 AM · Report this
27
@21:

I would have thought that 20 minutes was well within the normal range.
Posted by James Hutchings on March 24, 2012 at 4:50 AM · Report this
28
People, the concept of coming out kinky here doesn't mean making a political statement or "whining" about some rights or whatever. It's just about telling other people about a great big chunk of what makes you up. We are freaking "social" animals, and if something strongly defines your life and worldview, be it a hobby, music, art, politics, sexuality, religion or whatever, it's fucking HARD to keep it inside all the time. Granted, you have to control yourself, but someone who's obsessed with gardening can be as obnoxious as someone who's obsessed with BDSM.

Now let's see, some people just garden. Or just think that abortion should be always legal. On the other hand, some people devote their whole life to the art of gardening and spend a great deal of their time doing it or thinking about it. And some other people really fight for abortion rights and talk about it to willing and unwilling listeners non-stop. Some people just like cats, and some people open a cat shelter. Likewise, for some people BDSM is just something they do and enjoy, maybe very much, but it doesn't define them. And for some people being a dom/sub whatever is what defines them. Personally if I could choose, I'd much rather listen to my coworkers talk about their sexual exploits than about their political views all day.
Posted by puddles on March 24, 2012 at 5:02 AM · Report this
29
@26 Isn't Savage Love all about theorizing about sex and sexuality? I mean, look at all the nifty terms and concepts that Dan's made up. He's basically a sex geek (sorry Dan).
Posted by puddles on March 24, 2012 at 6:48 AM · Report this
30
"Ivo Dominguez Jr.'s Beyond the Skins has a fascinating theory of "polysexuality": "monosexuality" is the theory that the only sexuality that "counts" is the homosexual/bisexual/heterosexual continuum. Dominguez argues instead that there are multiple axes of sexuality that can shift and change with time, activities, and partners."

YES, YES, YES. I think Dan's POV on this issue has to be evolving considering all the BDSM-is-my-primary-orientation letters he's been posting. He's realizing that lots of people consider kink more integral to their arousal patterns than gender. GO DAN.
Posted by dchari on March 24, 2012 at 6:58 AM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 31
@30: What Dan (and others of us) keep stating and feeling we're not hearing you BDSM-is-an-orientation folks respond to is something along the lines of, "How does BDSM affect how you watch a movie on a rainy Sunday?" You're still talking about sex, and I know that "sexual orientation" has the word sex in it, but being gay or bi or asexual or straight is bigger than just having sex.

It's who I want to curl up with to watch movies.
It's who I want to marry, perhaps raise a family with.
It's who I check out as I'm walking down the street.

My orientation affects every part of my life, not just how I experience arousal. In fact, the arousal comes and goes with meds, life stressors, health, etc. My orientation stays the same.

BTW, I am kinky, and I perceive it as deeper than just something I choose to do (I can see signs of it from my pre-teen years), but it's still nothing like my orientation.
Posted by Canadian Nurse on March 24, 2012 at 8:03 AM · Report this
32
Like most BDSM practicioners I have met, Mr. SADIST needs to get the fuck over himself. GTFOY. Jesus.
Posted by fotini901 on March 24, 2012 at 8:10 AM · Report this
33
@31 how exactly does being gay affect the way you watch a movie on a rainy Sunday? I'm sorry, but that's just a lot of BS.
Posted by puddles on March 24, 2012 at 9:04 AM · Report this
34
Also, @31, who you want to marry and who you check out is not affected by whether you're straight or gay but by your taste and life goals. Being a straight woman means being attracted to men, but I suppose no straight woman would marry or check out ANY man, right?

So what you're describing as a sexual orientation is basically much wider than just being "into men" or "into women", and guess what, for some people this self-concept might include their kinks.
Posted by puddles on March 24, 2012 at 9:17 AM · Report this
35
Quick note - The menstrual cup will not cause an IUD expulsion unless you manage to pinch the strings while pulling out the cup. I have had an IUD for over a year while using a cup with no problem and I know many other women with the same experience as me.
Posted by tigntink on March 24, 2012 at 12:07 PM · Report this
mtnlion 36
@23, I apologize for my incredulous tone. It's just these letters have been so longwinded and I find them unnecessarily self-indulgent.

I wouldn't say I'm "worried" about a million sexualities popping up--a million different tastes already exist, I just didn't know we were generalizing our tastes to being about our full on identities. I guess there is something a little off putting to me that hurting others for sexual pleasure is integral to the LW's entire person (not just his/her sex person), although I don't see a problem between two consenting adults acting in such a way. I suppose I suffer from old school ideas about whips and riding crops being left in the bedroom and your "real" relationship being about things that are more complex and intangible, and it is those things that ought to define your orientation. Maybe I am being close minded, but considering the need to harm others to be part of your personal identity seems... not that great.

At this juncture, people can say whatever they are whatever they want to say, but I wouldn't be likely to recognize this orientation the same way I recognize gay, straight, or bi, and I don't think they should expect others to either. Of course, everyone deserves to find happiness, and I hope that defining themselves in such a way brings more happiness and not less.
Posted by mtnlion http://radicalish.wordpress.com on March 24, 2012 at 12:17 PM · Report this
37
I admit I usually skim over this type of long self-absorbed letter, but I think some of the commenters here really don't get it. There is a difference between someone who is kinky and someone who is REALLY KINKY. Many people can claim to be kinky in one way or another, but very very few people know what it is like to be tortured by a relentless desire to hurt people, or be hurt. Have some goddamn empathy, thanks.
Posted by TheLastComment on March 24, 2012 at 12:19 PM · Report this
Ophian 38
Thank you @17 & 29.

When bisexuality, trans issues, or kink are the topic of the thread, and sloggers engage in nuanced discussion [I'm not talking about the look-at-me-i'm-so-precious types] what is with the "get over yourself crowd"?

I'm not very kinky, but discussion about the topic from people who have experience and thoughtful contributions is why I come here. I thought the comments section of a sex column was the most appropriate place to give thought and voice to such complex and--for some--important topics.

Anyhow, isn't this thread more interesting than yet another, "my wife won't fuck me," letter?
Posted by Ophian on March 24, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
39
#36 Everybody's identity seems complex and intangible to themselves. We all have a built in self-serving bias that tells us our identity is reasonable and other people are ridiculous. For example I can't help but think that people who identity as furries are acting like idiots. I keep my mouth shut about that subject because I have no right to judge how silly somebody's fox-dragon identity is, and if they say they it is an inane rather than chosen part of their being, I'll try to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that doesn't sound very noble to you, but it's the least we can do.
Posted by TheLastComment on March 24, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
40
@39 In this post I meant to say inate... not inane. Freudian slip?
Posted by TheLastComment on March 24, 2012 at 12:30 PM · Report this
41
@37 THANK YOU. And @38 as well.

@36 I don't know about you, but to me sex is part of the "real" relationship.

And as for this: "Maybe I am being close minded, but considering the need to harm others to be part of your personal identity seems... not that great" - with stuff like that, if it's really strong, there are two ways: you either process the hell out of it or you totally blank it out. Personally, I'd rather be with someone who's a little self-absorbed than with someone who has no self-awareness, especially about their need to hurt others. In fact, all sadists better be like the LW.

Also, all of you, please stop pretending that sexual orientation is not really about sex. Remember Dan's question for anyone in doubt: "Who do you masturbate about?" Really genius, and very simple.
Posted by puddles on March 24, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Report this
mtnlion 42
Fundamentally, my definition of "personal identity" seems to be different than what you're saying, and that's just going to be how it is as well. I consider it what is left of people when their furry costumes, nipple clamps, and other toys are taken away. Who they love when these pleasures are taken away; who they'd spend their lives with if they could not indulge in such activities. I would choose my boyfriend a thousand times over, and I'm sure Dan would choose Terry, and a single bisexual person might not be sure who, but could imagine an ideal partner of either sex. I consider this to be where orientation lies.

If one of these LWs wants to say that they'd spend it in some limbo area where they hurt "just anyone," and feel they have a closeness with their sadism, and that their love for sadism is deeper than what they can imagine with another individual, all right. Sadism is their orientation. But is that how they feel?

@38, I am admittedly a part of the "get over yourself crowd." And that's 'cause I believe most people need to get over themselves.
Posted by mtnlion http://radicalish.wordpress.com on March 24, 2012 at 1:02 PM · Report this
43
@42 you seem to see sex as something that's not an integral part of life and just some bonus pleasure on the side, but it's not like that for everyone. And when these pleasures as you call them are taken away, it's a tragedy, and I'm not sure that most people's relationships would be unaffected by this strategy. Loving sex, even obsessing about sex doesn't somehow make a relationship less pure or worthy of respect.
Posted by puddles on March 24, 2012 at 1:54 PM · Report this
44
*and of course by "strategy" I meant tragedy. need more sleep.
Posted by puddles on March 24, 2012 at 1:55 PM · Report this
45
@42 If you took away the costumes from hardcore furries, they would still choose to spend their lives with other furries. If they were forced to interact with non-furries for the rest of their lives, they would still imagine themselves as animals, and it would be against their will because it is impossible for them to separate furriness from their identity. They would also choose to watch movies and read books that have anthropomorphic characters. I'm not furry but I am familiar with the culture, trust me, it is not just sexual.

Similarly, a hardcore sadist is always thinking about sadism and it influences their lives in ways that do not concern sex.

If I were you I would not be so sure that Dan would choose Terry if Terry were not the submissive type. Based on the boyish types Dan expresses attraction to, it seems that he is only interested in partners with submissive traits. Those traits extend beyond sex only. I recall Dan talking about the division of labor he has with Terry, basically Terry is the housewife. Dan also frequently advocates breaking up with partners who are not sexually compatible, so there is no reason to assume he would choose to stay with Terry if Terry had turned out to be dominant. That does not mean they don't love each other as human being, it's just that there is no reason to assume that sexual kink is not an indispensable part of their relationship. And there is no reason to assume that the dom/sub think should not be vital to ANY possible healthy relationship.

I know there are tons of people who find their kinks to be unimportant unless they are currently having sex, and that is FINE. I believe people like you are the majority, and people who identify as kinky are the minority. I just want people to be aware that people who identify as kinky are not doing it just to be annoying long-winded jerks. People who identify as kinky are also not hurting ordinary kinky people, homosexuals, transgender people, or anybody else, so there is no need to get all defensive.
More...
Posted by TheLastComment on March 24, 2012 at 1:57 PM · Report this
46
people you are attracted to = sexual orientation
activities you are attracted to = kink
things you are attracted to = fetish

What is so fucking hard about this?
Posted by Dr. Gnu on March 24, 2012 at 2:04 PM · Report this
seandr 47
@31: "How does BDSM affect how you watch a movie on a rainy Sunday?"

The answer is the same whether we're talking about BDSM or orientation - you spend that rainy Sunday with your significant other - i.e the person you fuck. Or, if you're single, maybe with friends.

There are similarities and differences between kink and orientation, but I don't think there's any simple and clear line that divides them.
Posted by seandr on March 24, 2012 at 2:08 PM · Report this
shurenka 48
Eh, the problem with SADIST's definition of orientation ("if something is *necessary* not only to the enjoyment of sex, but to having sex in the first place, then it's a sexual identity") is that this will cover many "fetishes". So if someone needed their partner to be in high heels to enjoy sex, then they would have that as an orientation? I somehow don't buy this.

I do not think that kinkiness is a sexual orientation but it is a pervasive aspect of many people's lives and for those people, they should be reasonably open with those around them. Or else, as in a recent letter, people might mistake the BDSM dynamic as abusive. If the kink is constrained to the bedroom, then it's up to the person's call, the same way (I believe) if your bisexuality is confined to the bedroom. It's a fine line between being honest/true with yourself and others about your identity and giving people "too much information".
Posted by shurenka on March 24, 2012 at 2:15 PM · Report this
49
This is a fascinating discussion... I'm especially interested because I define my sexual identity in a way that is not just on the hetero-homo continuum. I self-define as polyamorous, even when I am only in one romantic relationship. It's not about activity, it's about attraction. I am more fulfilled (sexually and romantically) when I have more than one partner. But I'm very much in the closet about it. I wish I didn't have to be, but we live in a mono-normative world. My connection to the kink community is tenuous, but I can understand how many in the lifestyle see it as more than just sexual activity.
Posted by Zebrine on March 24, 2012 at 3:21 PM · Report this
50
This is all very interesting, and begs the question "how come we have to come out--that is say anything in particular--as gay/lesbian/bi?" LGBTetc folks have to come out because of the central nature of gender to our everyday lives. You can't much get through the day, let alone your life, without alluding to a partner, a date, marriage, kids, etc. It's a major life event in most every society, and talking about it lets you bond with other people around you. No talking about it=little social interaction.

We police gender so carefully in US society, and with that comes who we're turned on by. We're men if we are attracted to women (as well as if we are tall, have low voices, etc.) and women if we are attracted to men (and are shorter and like flowers). So who we're attracted to means everything to our basic, everyday interactions. Kinks, on the other hand, much like any other sex act, are not a necessary (or even much allowed) part of our everyday lives. Thus coming out as kinky at this point in our society hasn't got the same stakes.

Hopefully, one day in my lifetime, coming out at all will be the same as saying, hey, did you know I'm double-jointed? And our friends will yawn.
Posted by snowbird on March 24, 2012 at 7:56 PM · Report this
mtnlion 51
Well, I think you all make good points, and you have enlightened my perspective on this issue, so I thank you. And yes, I have always felt that sex is important to my happiness and my relationship, but not truly connected to a more transcendent version of myself; what I would refer to as my identity. I consider my bed self and my majority-of-the-time self to be quite separate, and that actually helps me be more into sex! I don't have to worry about how the way *that* person acts, which is contrary it is to what *this* person believes is appropriate treatment of a lover. I understand not everyone feels this way.

I'll try not to disrespect anyone who claims BDSM orientation around me by denying the reality of what they find to be an inseparable part of their identity, but honestly, no one has. This is the first I've ever heard of it. My friends and I discuss sex and I have a few ideas about who likes what, but it's always been clear which gender(s) they wanted to do those things with. Interested to see how this notion picks up steam outside of slog over the years.
Posted by mtnlion http://radicalish.wordpress.com on March 24, 2012 at 8:22 PM · Report this
mtnlion 52
I am also interested in what all of you might say on the social factors involved in BDSM. I think we can all agree that gay people weren't "made" that way at a young age, but were born with brains that would inevitably be attracted to the same sex. Does BDSM work the same way? Do you think it's "hard-wired"? Or does our shame-based society, which tells us that "equality is best" and that "slavery and subjugation are wrong" have anything to do with it?

And if so, does that have any bearing on whether or not you'd consider it an orientation?
Posted by mtnlion http://radicalish.wordpress.com on March 24, 2012 at 8:33 PM · Report this
53
@52: I think some bits of kink are hard-wired and others are environmental. I'd say masochism can be hard-wired. I like receiving pain when it's the kind that heightens sensitivity- for example, if I leave a couple clothespins on my ladybits and then take them off, they throb a little and yeah they hurt, but if you lick them right afterward it feels AMAZING to me. And I think the reason why that works for me is because I have a naturally high pain tolerance. Even when I was a kid, I occasionally got in a fight and I'd win not because I was stronger or better at fighting but because I could take a lot more punches. I think that aspect of kink- that I'm willing to take more pain because I think the reward is worth it- I a person is born with.

I also think things like wanting to be submissive or dominant in the bedroom have a lot to do with our personalities, which I think have a huge genetic component. But specific things, like fetishes, I feel have more to do with an environmental factor at some point. Maybe a person is born with an inclination to form a fetish, but I think what that fetish is going to be kind of HAS to be environmental. Like a high heel fetish- there's no way people had that before there were high heels, you know?

Now whether I'd consider any of this an orientation- maybe. But probably not. Like others have said, I feel like orientation is really about the sexual AND social aspects of your life, meaning who the hell gets invited to dinner parties with you.

Let me clarify by saying that I don't think that sexual orientation is necessarily the most important factor in who you date and fall in love with, because for some people, it clearly isn't. Hell, I'd even count myself among that number: I'm bi, but what's much more important to me about a person I'm dating than whether they're a hot guy or girl, or whether they're into the same kinks as me or whatever, is whether their end goal for a relationship with me is marriage and to death do us part. I am completely uninterested in people who do not have any hopes of marrying me someday. Do I think some people feel similarly about their kinks? Absolutely. I don't think whether kink is more important than gender in your dating pool should have anything to do with whether it counts as a sexual orientation.
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Posted by alguna_rubia on March 24, 2012 at 10:17 PM · Report this
mtnlion 54
@53, yes, I think that makes a lot of sense. Also, some people who are into BDSM consider it an orientation, while others consider it simply a kink. I think this discrepancy makes it difficult for people like me to see it as an orientation. There are very few men who fuck other men (or women who fuck other women) who call it a kink. Those who said that having sex with the same sex is "just a kink" would be very opposed by both gay and straight people, I think, and then they would try to convince them that that's actually their orientation. I feel that having a general consensus would make it easier to recognize. The whole BDSM-orientation, with some identifying it that way and others not, is a pretty big difference from other orientations.
Posted by mtnlion http://radicalish.wordpress.com on March 24, 2012 at 11:12 PM · Report this
55
@51 I guess that's the difference between us. Sex, or, I don't know, sexuality, has always been at the core of my self-perception, and it doesn't just improve my life, it's something that I honestly can't imagine my life without. I don't have any transcendent part of me that is disconnected from my sexual part. Please notice that I'm not saying that everyone who's kinky should consider this a part of their identity, I know that for many people kink or sex in general are not as important as they are for me. You, on the other hand, are saying that because it's not that important to you, it can't possibly be that important to anyone else. Can you see the problem here?
Posted by puddles on March 25, 2012 at 4:41 AM · Report this
mtnlion 56
@55, I conceded earlier that I understand not everyone feels about sex the way I do, and I do understand how sexuality is deeply connected to people's inner selves. And I don't mind that we're different. Variety is the spice, blah blah blah.

However, I'm not sure if I can be convinced that BDSM is an orientation. But you know, if I accept that some people willingly sign slave contracts for extended periods of time, there may be something there and I am promising here and now to be more open to the idea of it.
Posted by mtnlion http://radicalish.wordpress.com on March 25, 2012 at 8:56 AM · Report this
Turtle 57
Yes @ 31 and 46

Okay, a kink can be hard-wired, but you aren't going to be denied the right to visit your dying spouse in the hospital on the grounds that you're both kinky as all hell. Unless, of course, your dying kinky spouse is the same sex as you.

That's why gay people can't take BDSM seriously as a sexual orientation. Because it isn't.
Posted by Turtle on March 25, 2012 at 9:51 AM · Report this
58
@56 Honestly, I don't really care if it's even called an orientation. What bothers me is this assumption that it can't be an essential part of someone's identity and that it's just a quirk that anyone can take or leave, not really worth talking about. By the way, for context, I'm not even one of those 24/7 total power exchange people who sign slave contracts and have every aspect of their life controlled.
Posted by puddles on March 25, 2012 at 10:41 AM · Report this
59
Look, in any reasonable modern city, one's orientation is not even a real conversational topic anymore. Most people will politely listen to you talk about your partner and kids and then go back to their own thoughts. Excluding good friends and drinking buddies, you can safely assume that nobody wants to hear details about your sex life. Mention your partner, and then leave people's minds free of the details.
Posted by beccoid on March 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
Lance Thrustwell 60
Seandr put it well as he often does - there's no clear line between kink and orientation. The thing we can say for sure is that the more familiar you become with something, the less likely you are to react inappropriately to it. So kinksters of all stripes benefit society as a whole by being 'public' about their kinks to one degree or another. Maybe not to the point of being repetitive and boring, but at least to the point of mentioning it once in casual conversation where it seems germane.

For instance, I know if some attractive woman at a party told me she was into sexual submission, I might think (hope?) she was coming on to me. But if I had heard several people say similar things before, I might be less inclined to leap to conclusions.
Posted by Lance Thrustwell on March 25, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
61
I agree with Dan on the response to the first letter. The LW here is old enough to be aware of the limitations of such a relationship. That's not the case with HSL. When you're young and inexperienced in relationships - and I say that as someone who is both myself - your bullshit detector is not what it is when you're older. I've never seen this happen to my gay guy friends (guess they're more sensible), but I've seen a few straight female friends get involved with married men like this, and like with HSL, they manage to convince them that they're "star-crossed lovers" and get the girl to fall madly in love with them and think they'd be soulmates if only the situation were different, blah blah blah, when really the girl is clearly just a piece of meat on the side and they have no intentions of ever leaving their wives. At least the LW here is old enough to understand that that's the case, so he's not going to get unnecessarily invested in a situation that is going nowhere.
Posted by Whoop Di Doo on March 25, 2012 at 5:17 PM · Report this
62
Oh and just for clarification - not saying gay guys are more sensible than straight girls, just saying maybe my particular group of gay guy friends is more sensible than the one in the letter.

I've seen gay friends get into May-December situations but, as far as I know, the older person was always completely single, my friend wasn't just "something on the side."
Posted by Whoop Di Doo on March 25, 2012 at 6:30 PM · Report this
63
Pat Califia famously said that she would rather be stranded on a deserted island with a kinky boy than a vanilla girl. This was when she was a very kinky lesbian and wrote excellent porn exclusively about kinky lesbian sex. After gender transition he now writes porn about straight, gay male, and massively gender-confused sex...but the common theme is heavy kink. If you want to date, socialize, or even communicate meaningfully with Pat(rick) Califia, the most important think you'd have to know about him is probably that he's kinky.

I, on the other hand, would prefer to be stranded on a deserted island with a man anywhere from vanilla to moderately kinky. However, in order to socialize or communicate with me, you probably don't need to know anything about my sexual preferences or orientation. If you were interested in me, you would need to know I'm unavailable (since my current relationship is exclusive).

I don't see the problem with calling Califia's orientation "kinky" and calling my past orientation (while I was still on the market) "straight" while my current orientation is "not interested." Those all define important aspects of the way each of us socializes and interacts.
Posted by SAH on March 26, 2012 at 7:35 AM · Report this
More, I Say! 64
@37 so, for a really unflattering analogy here, when we talk about child molesters, we often make it a point to clarify that chimo's aren't "gay" or "straight" but that their orientation is paedophilia, right? So why is everyone on board with this manner of thinking but only for situations where it makes us feel better about ourselves to separate the chimos as "other?" Like, if undesirable sexual behaviours are considered orientations, why aren't the mundane, consensual ones?
Posted by More, I Say! on March 26, 2012 at 11:08 AM · Report this
John Horstman 65
Oh gods, here's what happens when laypersons get their hands on technical academic/theoretical jargon. 'Orientation' is a matter of who (or what) you want to fuck. 'Sexuality' and 'sexual identity' are not the same thing as orientation - they take factors other than object-choice into account. Not calling something an 'orientation' does not mean it's not recognized as a legitimate form of sexual expression, it simply means there's a technical distinction being drawn concerning a particular aspect of sexuality. For everyone's sake, please stop inflecting the term with more meaning and cultural capital/baggage - doing so greatly reduces the utility by politicizing the word and complicating the meaning(s). We could use 'object-choice' instead, but people object to that one because it's seems objectifying and/or dehumanizing (especially when applied to non-normative orientations), which necessitated the shift to 'orientation' in the first place.
Posted by John Horstman on March 26, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Report this
John Horstman 66
@64: Again, pedophiles are distinct from gay or straight or bi people because they differ in object choice - they're not attracted to the same class of beings/objects (prepubescent children instead of adolescents or adults or non-human sexual objects). We don't consider sadistic or vanilla people to have distinct 'orientations' for the same reason we don't consider sadistic (yes, some people would argue all pedophiles are sadistic, but for this purpose, I'm using the term to describe a set of sexual behavioral scripts) or vanilla pedophiles to be of different 'orientations' than each other - they have the same sexual object choices, but differ in WHAT they like to do with said sexual objects.
Posted by John Horstman on March 26, 2012 at 11:39 AM · Report this
geoz 67
I seem to have missed a few posts. And I'm ok with that.
Posted by geoz on March 26, 2012 at 1:06 PM · Report this
68
ok.... so here's my take.

31 says: It's who I want to curl up with to watch movies.
It's who I want to marry, perhaps raise a family with.
It's who I check out as I'm walking down the street.

and 46 says:people you are attracted to = sexual orientation
activities you are attracted to = kink
things you are attracted to = fetish

on the whole the 'People' i'm attracted to are dominant, and queer as fuck. occasionally a power-sub or sammy will catch my interest, if they are smart and very self aware. gender is definitely a secondary consideration, and plumbing damn irrelevant. these are the folks i check out, want to watch movies with, raise kids with, etc. i'm up for all kinds of sex, from vanilla to pretty kinky. but i don't do straights, or monogamy. i actually _cannot respond_ sexually in those situations. this is not the same as being bi-sexual, because my attraction is not based on sex. i just id as 'queer', and leave the details as need-to-know, or self-evident to those who know me for a while.
this is definitely an orientation, not a kink. people(strangers) will pick me for sub, often before they pick me as 'gay/queer', or work out what gender i might be.
Posted by sappho on March 26, 2012 at 4:22 PM · Report this
70
@51 Thanks for keeping an open mind. As for social factors in BDSM and orientation, I think the jury is still out on that one. We know that for many people orientation becomes hardwired at a very young age, but it is not clear if that occurs before birth or after. Other people seem to have some ability to change. I think gender identity is definitely decided in the womb, but that is one of the few things we can be sure of. Nobody changes their mind about a sex change operation.

Based on my own observations, I think people who are into BDSM are generally more touch sensitive, more into sex and sensual pleasures in general. They also seem to be disproportionately white and male. I think sexual behavior falls much harder on the nature side of the nature vs nurture debate. Even fetishes that seem oddly specific like shoe fetishes are actually found to exist in chimpanzees. Here is a story about a zoo animal that masturbates to boots if you want to gross yourself out. http://sccpsy101.wordpress.com/home/chap…

Society in general seems to fall on the nurture side of the debate. Society is blamed for everything, from strippers, to rape, to polygamy, to dominatrixes. I think these things are just outgrowths of our inherently complex human social behavior.

@64 That is a really good point, I haven't thought of that before. We make a point not to describe pedophiles as straight or gay. Another example is when the media put a lot more emphasis on Jeffrey Dahmer's obsession with finding a sexually submissive parter than on his homosexuality. That is because his kink was a bigger factor in choosing victims than his orientation was.

This leads to the popular perception that the LW was complaining about: sadomasochists=serial killers. We want to think that people with sexual fixations are abnormal. It's the same old denial of human nature that Western society has suffered from for a long time.

@65 By your own admission, "orientation" means who you want to fuck, so that does not really discredit people who only want to fuck compatible BDSM parters with no regard to the gender of the partner. If you didn't get that I think you missed the point of all of these letters.

Your distinction between laypersons and nonlaypersons is pointless because everybody knows what the term sexual orientation is supposed to mean. The fact that people are using it differently means they want to alter the definition of the word.
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Posted by TheLastComment on March 28, 2012 at 10:35 AM · Report this
71
hmm... yes, TheLastComment, that's what i'm trying to say. i can 'do' vanilla sex, and enjoy it, but only with a D/s and queer person. vanilla/straight _people_ just have no erotic interest for me. somewhat like horses, or children - they might be pretty, but they are not sexy(for me).

it's not about the act, it's about _who_ i'm attracted to. ergo, it is an orientation.

what is this reductive shite anyway? who said we can only have two(or three, or whatever) orientations?? why do we have to police this?

Posted by sappho on March 29, 2012 at 4:48 PM · Report this
72
I find it interesting that the "who-you-do"-vs-"what-you-do"-dichotomists keep insisting that theirs is the only way to view sexual orientation. It seems that even quite heartfelt descriptions of BDSMRs like SUB or SADIST above won't convince them that who-vs.-what is not a clear-cut dichotomy, an opposition, poles that never meet. 'You feel attracted to someone', says a commenter (without realizing that you feel attracted to what you imagine this person will do to you, or you to her... or else, is it simply gravitational attraction?).

I understand that there are people like Zuulubelle above who can quite easily separate what they like to do from whom they like to do. There are lots of people like that around, I understand that they exist and their vision of life and sex is legitimate. Now, why they would so strongly want to invalidate the feelings of those who are not like them, and who feel that the wh(o/at) opposition is too simplistic and simply doesn't help them understand themselves and their sexual behavior... as if this were somehow 'bad'...is more than a tad surprising. That they attribute it all to simply being a drama queen... just makes me think of all those who say similar things about transgender people. You know: you're either a man or a woman, and you don't change even if you mutilate yourself, what you feel inside -- that you're trapped in the wrong body -- is some sort of mental illness that you should get treated and heal from, etc. I'll bet they will also say that transgender people are just big drama queens.

Ah me. People, please: if you're confortable seeing the world in black and white, if your behavior and life make sense to you that way, then so be it. You're OK, your viewpoint is legitimate, you can be happy. Now, it so happens that some people do see shades of gray, forming a continuum. Their perspective is, you know, also legitimate. Sorry, but life ain't simple.
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Posted by ankylosaur on March 30, 2012 at 10:19 AM · Report this
73
The reason why it is still somewhat shocking that a person could embrace the need to hurt others (or to be hurt by others) as part of their identity does indeed suggest that we're dealing with problems with the concept of identity here. Mtlion above says identity is related to "Who [people] love when these pleasures [sex and kinks] are taken away; who they'd spend their lives with if they could not indulge in such activities." TheLastCommenter provided a good answer, to which I add only the following.

"Who I am" is always a complicated question. But it seems we agree that people are different, perhaps all uniquely different; and one of their differences is exactly what things they think of as important for them, as making them 'who they are', things such that life would be much harder, perhaps impossible, without them.

I have a somewhat incommon preference: I love learning languages with a passion that is difficult to communicate. Learning, speaking and working with languages is part of my identity in that a lot of the meaning I have in my life is dependent on that. (If there was only one language in the world, I would be a very, very unhappy boy.)

Yet to most other people, even to most people who learn foreign languages, this is not so: languages are tools, and you learn them because you want to read things written in them, or because you're going somewhere where they speak the language and will need it to communicate, or then you like something else (art, culture) that this language makes accessible to you. To them, learning a language is a 'kink'. To me, it's part of my identity.

So that, in the end, nothing is 'truly part of identity' or 'just some kink you do in one specific part of your life'; it's the person who decides/feels how each item is to fit in the puzzle of his/her identity, how important to his/her being who s/he is. Languages (or BDSM, or...) are not per se identity-forming or mere kinks; it is my personality that makes them the former rather than the latter.

There are of course frequency issues. Certain things (being straight or gay or bi) are so frequently associated with one's identity, they're impossible to leave out when discussing this issue. Others -- languages, BDSM, furries, etc. -- are much less frequent. That is indeed important, and plays a role.

But since in the end we are all individuals, and we all deal with the individuals we know rather than with "the most frequent cases in society" or "the weighted average of the population"... we still have to react to the specific mosaic that each person is. There's no way around it.
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Posted by ankylosaur on March 30, 2012 at 10:35 AM · Report this

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