I was hoping you could shed some light on my crazy fantasies.

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It took me years to learn to orgasm, but now I can do it with the help of fantasy. The strange thing is, what I fantasize about to reach orgasm are precisely the kinds of men that turn me off when I'm not aroused: out-of-shape, middle-aged discount furniture salesmen in cheap suits; the unattractive father that made me slightly uncomfortable as a teenager when I babysat for his kids. I am attracted to men like George Clooney or Aragorn (the Viggo Mortensen character in Lord of the Rings), but while thinking about them gets me excited, it does not make me come. Thinking about Mr. Cheap Suit, however, has the opposite effect—nothing until I'm sufficiently aroused, but after that, it puts me over the edge. I've been an avid reader of your column since 1995, and I can't recall ever having heard of this kind of thing before. Any insights?

Coming Unhinged

My response after the jump...

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Well, off the top of my head—a head that's already been marinated in two pre-happy-hour cocktails—I'd say thatchoogotsyerseff a wire crossed in the disgust/arousal/pleasure centers of your brain.

Or something.

Arousal and disgust have similar physiological effects on us, CU—they both get a rise out of us—and they both have strong cultural components. That is, we're all taught that certain things are revolting, others arousing. We have baseline, broadly-shared, hardwired desires—our sexual orientations, a large number of common, evolutionarily-programmed sexual interests/responses—but we learn that some things are lovely. Take bound feet: the Chinese were mad for 'em, once upon a time, but not so much the non-Chinese. Same goes for disgust. Certain things are universally disgusting—shit, rotting meat, Ann Coulter—but other things...

Hey, did you know that there's an alcoholic beverage made from boiled yucca root and human spit? While you wait? You do now, CH, if you were foolish enough to follow that link, and you will never, ever un-know this. And while some people think that chewed-up-yucca-root-and-lady-sputtum bev is yummy, you, me, and everyone we know—everyone we know who isn't a member of that chewed-up-yucca-root-and-lady-sputtum-bev-swilling Amazonian tribe—thinks that shit is disgusting.

Anyway, CH, back to you—and on to drink #3—sexy shit gets a rise out of us, disgusting shit gets a rise out of us. Some of its hardwired, some of its learned. We grow up in a deeply sex-negative culture and many of us are taught that sex—arousing, arousing sex—is itself disgusting. Some of us, in addition to being taught that shit, rotting meat, and Ann Coulter are disgusting, have the idea that sex all by itself is disgusting—that arousal is disgusting, that desire is disgusting—beaten into our heads. Couple that with the onset of puberty and the sudden estrangement many of us feel from our previously reliable bodies as they pull us toward new and different and slightly squicky things and experiences—dicks, twats, swapping spit, eating ass—and it's no wonder that some folks wind up making a strong erotic association between feelings of arousal and feelings of disgust.

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So what's up with you, CH? Well, George Clooney gets you going, but you need the extra boost of a little ICK! ACK! COULTER! GROSS! to really get your juices flowing—because the ICK! ACK! COULTER! GROSS! was part of what first got your juices flowing. Take that creepy father. The thought of him grossed you out at the time, no doubt, back when you were babysitting for his kids. But the way he was thinking about you—or the way you thought he was thinking about you—didn't just make you uncomfortable. It also made keenly aware of your sexuality, of your sexual attractiveness, of your sexual power... and, perhaps, the danger it put you in, actual physical or merely psychic, when you unfortunate enough to draw the unwanted erotic attentions of a man who disgusted you.

And here you are today, years later, with George Clooney getting you going the creepy dads and discount furniture salesmen—or at least the mental images of them—getting you the little boost you need at the end to get you off.

That's my theory anyway. I'm sure Sloggers will have more, others, and better for you.