Anything Goes?

[WARNING: This post regards some things which should be disturbing to many readers. Please proceed at your discretion.]

If you’re involved in this community for long enough, whether as a creator, a participant, or even just a simple voyeur, you will invariably come across some things that will shock you, and some that will even trouble and disturb you in a real and serious way. Things that challenge and things that truly offend. Or, as such things are known more popularly, “some real fucked up shit.”

It’s simply a function of how lumped together people of all tastes and persuasions are under the umbrella terms of “kink” and “BDSM”; there may be real distinctions between people and groups within those categories, but in a lot of ways we weirdos are stuck having to associate with each other, with even the ones to whose beliefs and behaviors we object. It’s a lot like being American, actually. A New York liberal and an Alabama good ole boy may repulse each other but they are, at least in one sense, countrymen. And believe me, the commonality is often a good deal less comfortable, and less familiar, than that.

In many cases, it’s a question of what else there is to call one thing or the other when they are most overtly joined in not being “vanilla”, which is to say, not being what can safely be called normal or usual for the majority. What do a foot fetishist and a furry have in common? Not a great deal in substance I should imagine, but they both can freak out the squares.

So unique to this “community”, to this landscape of strange and unusual sexualities, is the need to negotiate the territory with a little functional pluralism. There’s a bit of the Golden Rule in this, in a form that asserts, “Judge not the persuasions of others in the way that you would like not to be judged for your own.” I’ll return to this point in a minute, but for now it is enough to say that this sentiment is widely held among those who, by one standard or other, either are weird themselves or participate in the weirdness of others. It’s a good deal of “live and let live” with a dash of “hey, I don’t get it but good on you for being yourself.”

It’s a somewhat noble sentiment, laudable at least for its friendliness and its affability, and there’s a measure of solidarity in it too. It’s a reasonably good attitude to have, and it functions well enough in terms of preserving the dignity and humanity of our fellow human beings, at least for most of the time. Unfortunately, however, there are occasions when this sentiment is applied to a fault, and it is that which I intend to explore today.

As a kinky person you are uniquely challenged by the question of where you “draw the line”, both for yourself, in terms of what you are willing to welcome into your own sexual experience and fantasies, and, yes, though some would balk heartily at the notion, for others. What is good for people? What is safe? What is healthy? These are moral considerations, and ones which I think a great many people, despite their compassion and their sympathy, think very seriously about.

And before I get too much further into the exploration of these questions and these ideas, I should state very clearly that I believe that this moral calculus is indeed the sacred right and province of every thinking person. While I don’t believe in judgment for judgment’s sake, or in judging unfairly or unsympathetically, I do think it is important that we are willing to call some things wrong, when we are able to see true harm and exploitation. Without that, I feel that we would be every bit as lost and debauched as they say we are.

I have written before about the need to separate, in the popular imagination, what is kinky from what is pathological (such as authentic sexual sadism that conscripts the unwilling and the ineligible), but as I reflect on what I have seen this week, and what I have encountered not altogether rarely in the past, I feel compelled to illustrate this same need for those within the community to do likewise.

The case in point involves a young man [for discretion’s sake, all parties involved will be kept anonymous] whose kink seems to revolve around being a “homework slave” for young women in college; he writes their essays, does their assignments, and so on, for which he asks nothing in return.

The academic dishonesty of it aside, let’s suppose that this much is reasonably harmless, at least as affects himself. Let’s say he feels good about this role and enjoys seeking out the means to fulfill it, and in so doing he provides some measure of benefit to the “partner” with whom he engages. Even this much is certainly more complicated than that, but the purpose of bringing up this young man is not to analyze him or to put him and his desires under the microscope. What matters, is to look at what happened next.

[NOTE: The details here are a little fuzzy, due to their discovery revolving around an exchange of messages and Tweets on Twitter, some of which were deleted. The parties involved either could not be reached or declined to clarify.]

Apparently, the young man was unable to complete a particular assignment for a particular young woman and, overcome by shame at this, he decided he was deserving of some form of punishment. For a BDSM submissive, this in itself is not particularly unusual; punishment and so-called “funishment” often play a significant role in a healthy D/s relationship.

However, in his desire to correct the balance of his transgression, he elected a very extreme behavior which he wanted to be induced to perform: his suggestion was to boil a portion of oatmeal and pour the mixture over his face.

Now, I am not a squeamish man. But it seems it should be apparent to anyone that this is something which any person who wants to should in all attempts be prevented from doing, and that the motives to do so must be investigated because they imply a serious degree of mental pathology. If you yourself are unconvinced, let’s take another moment with it shall we?

Boiling water, so employed, would be bad enough, and certain to cause burns. The mixture, however, would render the substance not only gooey, but sticky, and this means that instead of the majority of it mercifully splashing away it would cling, almost certainly causing serious and permanent damage. This, again, could be bad enough if it were done to an appendage or some less fragile part of the body, but applied to the face we are now talking about disfigurement, and if it were to affect the eyes could potentially cause blindness. [TO BE PERFECTLY CLEAR, this is highly extreme behavior which would fail to dismay only a small proportion of those who practice kink and D/s.]

So we must, to begin with, try to see his perspective, and ask ourselves what it would take in order for that punishment to fit the crime. In any case, no matter what we might think of that would cause us to think of this as appropriate for anything, the things that would, in any world, balance that scale are orders of magnitude more grave than failing to give a coed the means to skate through her education. In short, this person’s means to evaluate these things were so distorted that they contributed the worst thing they could think of in order to square what they could only have imagined to be the worst possible thing they could have done.

It certainly qualifies as cruel and unusual, and if it had been at someone else’s behest we could safely consider them a psychopath. To go so far beyond the pale, to so exceed any reasonable boundaries with regard for safety and wellbeing, and to inflict such a terrible degree of harm is self-evidently pathological, and if it were done to someone else it would be abhorrent. But sadly, the tale of a dangerous desire is not where this story ends.

Apparently, out of contact with and unable to receive the reprisal of his choice from the young woman to whom he had given this perceived injustice, he went in search of someone willing to administer the same. Imagine it; again, so out of whack and so distorted was this person’s reality that he was approaching strangers (online) in order to get them to induce him to commit this grievous act of harm against himself. And, I am sorry to say, he found one, who reportedly was willing to pocket $100 of his money for her troubles.

Now, personally, I am deeply dismayed and disheartened by this. It reflects poorly on sex workers and their clients, it reflects poorly on the kinky, it reflects poorly on young women… It troubles and sickens me that such a thing would take place, that this person would be unable to get the psychiatric help that they need and would find not only a venue for a terrible extension of their illness but would be indulged in it by someone who took time enough to profit from it before laughing all the way to the bank. It is nasty, it is twisted, it is wicked, it is evil. But I’m sorry to say, ladies and gentlemen, it does get worse from there.

What is supposed to have happened next is that, among those in this woman’s circle, another young woman in the community objected to this, it made the rounds with many who felt likewise, a backlash ensued from friends and supporters of the first one and then…?

We don’t know. At the time of this writing the young man’s account has been silent since before the incident. We have backtracking and apologies from the whistleblower to the profiteer, and after a bit of gloating from the latter party both of their feeds have gone back to normal. And now what? Now I sit, writing this article.

Barring the even more twisted possibility that all of this is an elaborate “mindfuck” on us all, a hoax of some kind, presumably the young man is in a burn ward or (hopefully, at least) a psych ward right now, having to explain how he got this way, as he probably will have to for the rest of his life. The profiteer is back to being her usual self and not only feeling good but smug about it. The whistleblower has been embarassed into silence. And the catalyzing tweets were deleted, sweeping the whole thing under the rug.

So, supposing that nothing new comes to light, where does that leave us? What do we make of all this? What can we learn?

The first thing that must be said in response is that, as in the rest of society, mental illness, and in particular untreated or extreme mental illness, has to be addressed more clearly in the kink community. For all the dreck that you hear about kink being like or better than therapy, and for all that it is authentically therapeutic for the right people, the entire world of BDSM is not a substitute for mental health treatment and care. If anything, this example illustrates clearly how dangerous these things can be in the wrong hands, and when explored without conscious care and support, in isolation, without the connection to and engagement with loving and protective partners, all of which are conditions that apply in spades to those who are profoundly mentally ill. They are uniquely subject and vulnerable to versions of these things which are not just unhealthy or strange but which will cause them serious harm. You may as well send someone who is crippled and drunk to run with the bulls.

And those of us who struggle with mental health issues as a disability, who have the upper hand when it comes to managing it, we need to call it like we see it and encourage others into care when we see someone who is unwell, who is hurting themselves. We can’t let these social media tools become just television, with nothing but advertising, programming, and self-congratulation. Imagine the kinky social media universe being your only point of connection to other people and ask yourself what it would be like if no one just treated you like a real human being, and looked out for you when you were ill and confused.

The second thing to say is that we have to stop perpetuating the idea that this is all just a game, by which I mean that’s it’s just amoral playtime that exists in a vacuum. Kink affects people very deeply and very seriously at all kinds of levels and in all different ways, and you are playing with fire if you don’t have respect for that. We have to start saying that, along with consent and aftercare and all the other things we preach about so endlessly, what is inherent and indispensable in kink is at the very least a decent human respect and care for those with whom you engage.

And the third is to recognize that the InstaDomme mentality, which neglects in its entirety the whole of what I’ve just said, is more than just the offensive nuisance we’ve all come to live with it as. It used to be that a prostitute (because that used to be the only kind of sex worker there was) had to live in a town or a city and had to cultivate relationships with the people she worked with and with the environment in which she lived. It used to be we had to live with each other, and those who provided a service had to see and interact with their clients as human beings.

The good ones still do this today– they provide their services, they build a reputation, they participate in the community, they contribute to the welfare and the ecology of their worlds; they are upstanding people who care about what they do and what they put out there, and about how that reflects and feeds back on them as professionals and as people. But this modern incarnation, which is only achievable through the distance and disposability made possible by the Internet, is opportunistic, it’s shallow, and it treats the world like fast food customers; like hunger, that is just waiting to be turned into dollars.

And by the way, if you’re thinking that what they do doesn’t really have anything to do with the so-called “Real Thing” and that it’s not important enough for you to worry about, you’re wrong. Content creators and sex workers, whether you like it or employ them or not, are at the center of kinky identity and culture, and if you don’t think that feeds back on real people and especially the younger generation, you’re wrong.

What’s at stake isn’t just the fate of the lost ones, like the young man in this story. It isn’t just the “paypigs” and their money. The risk is that kink moves from this generation into the next as nothing more than another way to make a quick and dirty buck, that people use like a bad drug, with an attitude that makes it all just masturbation.

Please, whether you’re a creator, a provider, a consumer, or just a participant, please take kink and your kinky practice seriously. Don’t take it as a license to stop asking yourself if what you’re doing is good, or ethical, or real. Don’t use it as an excuse to stop being human, and to stop letting others be it too. If we don’t remember that what we do as kinky people matters, and if we don’t remind each other, then we’ll never be able to reconcile what we do with who we are, and we’ll never become what we’re truly meant to be.


[UPDATE: Apparently a third domme has been implicated and much of the confusion has revolved around the involvement of the domme who was originally blamed. Further bulletins as events warrant.]


© 2018

Click here for more insightful essays from The SMUT Project!

On the Power of Things: Sexual Fetishism

Sexual fetishes are among the strangest things for those who don’t possess them. It’s often simply a non sequitur for most people. Why feet? Why leather? Why balloons?

The word “fetish” was originally coined in the early 17th century to describe the amulets and charms of religious significance worn by West African tribespeople, objects to which they assigned great significance and power. This was observed earliest by the Portuguese, who called such an object a feitiço, from the Latin facticius (artificial) and facere (to make).

In its original sense a fetish was, like sexual fetishes today, a curiousity to those who viewed them from the outside. Why, those who studied them must have wondered, should so much significance and psychological value be bound up in these tiny stone carvings?

Over time it was put forward that many distinct objects of mystical or religious significance, and indeed the so-called “fetishization” of these objects, were to be found in religions throughout the world. The Christian cross for example, while often merely symbolic and representative, could be seen as a fetish object when it is shown by an exorcist to the supposedly possessed, or when in fiction it is used to combat a vampire; in order to affect or ward away anything it must be imagined that the object has a power unto itself.

Naturally, of course, this led to some disagreement within the church and among religious scholars as to whether religious fetishism indicated some form of heresy, i.e., that worship of or focus on the object was detracting from one’s connection to the godhead. This is a question to which we will return. Indeed, it is something I’m sure nearly every sexual fetishist has heard at one point or another over the course of their relationships; I feel like you’re more interested in my _____ than you are in me…

The modern interpretation of fetish theory, which takes note of its sexual manifestations, began with Sigmund Freud in 1927. To Freud the essential qualities of any sexually fetishized object were ultimately irrelevant because they were universally, quelle suprise, mere phallic substitutes, an idea which can only be explained through the mental acrobatics required to appreciate his castration theory, which is and are of no use to us here.

These days, the conception of a sexual fetish is reliant on our appreciation and understanding of parasexuality, which is to say that body of behaviors, interactions, and preferences of a semi-sexual nature which are distinct from formal genital copulation. In short, these are turn-ons that are not specifically acts of sex but which are at some level either sexually arousing or which engage specific emotions related to sex. Each of us has a unique relationship to our own parasexuality, and for some this relationship is more robust than others.

While the realm of sensual is not entirely lost on all but a few of us (many are those who may enjoy and have specific preferences regarding things like temperature, amount of light, presence or absence of music, and so on), there are some for whom parasexuality is as important or more important than formal copulation to their overall sexual experience, which can involve not only elements of sensuality, such as those referred to above, but also relational elements between themselves and their partner(s), which include relationships of power and circumstance as well as the way in which those things manifest through acts and experiences. These are the so-called “kinky people”.

What this means is that, for people who are highly parasexual, what others often do to “get in the mood” is an end unto itself. From instance to instance these things may or may not lead to sex, during which these themes and experiences may or may not be carried on, and when all is said and done the parasexual experience may or may not conclude. Sex itself may be a destination or a stopover in the sexual experience of someone like this, or in some cases passing it by altogether can be part of what’s involved.

In any case, among those so persuaded, the aspects of parasexuality can comfortably be divided into two categories: kinks, which describe acts and sensory experiences which one enjoys as an element of that sexual context, of which one may have many and any of which one could usually take or leave as the situation allows, and fetishes, which are either essential or semi-essential in the pursuit of the overall sexual experience. Put simply, kinks are the seasonings and fetishes are the meat.

Naturally, of course, man does not live by meat alone, and everything else on our metaphorical “plate” certainly matters a great deal, as does what’s on our metaphorical “table” and all that’s involved in our metaphorical “meal”, but a fetishist is one for whom a certain degree of participation in their particular fixation is what makes it all make sense.

To put it another way, for someone with a fetish, while many other things may or may not take place during a sexual experience, the fetish is that thing without which the experience would be incomplete. In many ways it’s the soliloquy in Hamlet; whatever the stage setup, props, lighting, and so on (the kinks), the play is simply not the play without “To be or not to be…”

But to continue with that metaphor for a moment, it must be said that, for those who remember, the soliloquy in Hamlet is not the climax of the play, and for many fetishists engagement with their fetish need not be the main event of the experience. In similar fashion to how the text is performed, though, if one is to condense the exhibition at all, the “To be or not to be” speech is quite unlikely to be cut, it exists satisfactorily on its own, and if it is done without it certainly remains, at the very least peripherally, in the minds of those involved.

So what are we to make then of fetishism, now that we understand what it is and how it relates to a person’s sexuality? What is its form? What is its nature? What is its relationship to those through whom it is experienced?

To begin answering these questions, we have to become more specific in our analysis, and to first make clear a number of salient points. In order to do this I must concede, as your author, that I myself am possessed of a fetish of my own which involves the feet and footwear of the object of my affections.

To start with, for myself (and I believe for most fetishists), the fetish object does not exist in isolation. Whether neutral or even aversive in its alternatives, it is only powerful as it relates to the person with whom I am enamoured. Specifically, while the feet, underclothes, and to some extent shoes of my partner are powerful indeed, a shoe or a sock or a stocking is as much an inanimate object to me as it is to anyone else until it is associated with her.

A pile of shoes is just that to me. A pair that belongs to her is significant. A pair that belongs to a man is repugnant. A pair that belongs to a child or an infant is inert, as are most shoes from earlier times or from different cultures. The only way that I respond to these things in the absence of someone to associate them with is when I can associate categorically; shoes that are made for women, socks I would like to see her wear, and so on.

From these examples it should be clear that, even for someone who possesses the ability to be moved powerfully by an object, it matters a great deal to whom and in what capacity that object relates. I don’t just “like shoes” or socks or even feet. I like the ones that go with those to whom I am attracted.

And yet, even within this the objects are not entirely equal. I may prefer her sneakers to her flats, I may prefer her new sneakers to her old ones (or vice versa), I may be especially excited when she wears one pair or another from her collection and almost nonplussed when she wears another. It all relies on the appreciation of a number of different factors that relate both to my own experience of these things and to the objective variations within them.

But even within these preferences there is more going on. There’s also the extent to which she relates to them temporally. The ones she’s just been wearing are much more attractive than ones she’s had sitting for months in her closet, regardless of whether I may prefer the others abstractly. There’s a freshness to her connection with the object that dies away within a fairly short span. This much indicates that, again, it isn’t so much the object as it is that object’s connection to her.

Which leads us back to the question of worship through an object and worship of an object. I believe I have made clear that worship of an object is only marginally at play, but we are still left with the question of why, then, if the object itself is not particularly important, should it be important to engage with the object?

For this we must suppose that while my appreciation for my partner is vast it is also broad and multifaceted; when I like someone I like everything about them in lots of different ways, and when we focus our attention entirely upon each other as takes place within sexual congress my awareness of these things, even at a subconscious level, becomes more and more heightened. I like and am attuned to so many things about her at the same time that a fetish provides a welcome relief in that I can, not isolate one thing to like, but collapse all that attention into a single thing. A fetishistic persuasion, then, provides a focal point to which all that energy can be devoted.

In short, I don’t have to be internally conflicted by trying to like her hair and her face and her eyes and her neck and her collarbone, etc., etc., etc., all the way down, a little bit each, all at the same time. Instead, I can turn my attention to her feet and like that one part of her body a ton as a way of liking everything I like about her, all in one place.

But not only is this true of her physicality, what goes along with that is the ability to like the intangible things about her at the same time. How do you make love to a person’s generosity, or their sense of humor, or any of the other things that make them who they are without being able to fit it in within that same collapsing of attention? That’s why it’s so intense and overwhelming, why it’s so powerful, because everything that attracts you to that person gets bundled and focused into that one singular experience.

And how, once it’s all in one place, does one explore that kind of love and attraction, in a way that leads one to orgasm?

It should be noted here that the fetish experience, as I have alluded to above is not a static and isolated thing. Once I have the feet of a beautiful woman for whom I have this love in front of me, and my genitals are being stimulated, it’s not as though I want her to keep still and leave me alone with them. In fact that’s the last thing I’d want. It’s the way she moves, it’s what she says and how she says it, it’s whether I can tell that she’s reciting a script or speaking from the heart, all this incredible minutiae to which I remain alert while being flooded by that emotion, and the tug of war between those two things is what pushes me closer and closer to the edge.

And that, in a nutshell, is kink. That is what the parasexual experience is about. It’s toying with attention and involving both oneself and one’s partner in both mitigating and exacerbating one’s tendency to become overwhelmed, exploiting the patterns and preferences by which one navigates that territory, and indulging the emotions that go along with it all.

I hope this explains a thing or two to those who were formerly confused by those with sexual fetishes. Obviously I cannot speak for fetishes with which I am not as intimately familiar, or for fetishists whose experience differs from mine, but I am willing to believe that I am a reasonably representative example, and that there are parallels and common ground in spite of the differences.

As strange and as odd as we may seem to many, even most of those who are not like us, there is nothing unusual about what we go through and experience in the course of our indulgence, except to whatever extent it is stronger, more powerful, and more profound. If you are one so constructed, consider yourself lucky. I do.


© 2018

Click here for more insightful essays from The SMUT Project!

InstaDomme: FemDom and Kink on Social Media

It’s not infrequently that I browse the “FemDom” and related hashtags, particularly on Twitter because that’s where we at the SMUT Project feel there is the most to be done when it comes to connecting with those who think seriously about the topic. I look for things to share, thoughts and content to promote, things that inspire me or with which I feel a sense of common cause, things I feel connected with or represented by in a positive and meaningful way.

But more reliably than anything like that, what I find in much greater proportion is a slew of what is, in essence, merely advertising. Not for prodommes, not for pornography, but for a special breed of person that I only became unpleasantly aware of in the last couple of years, and which I’m fairly comfortable in believing not just did not but could not have existed until sometime around then: the “InstaDomme”.

She is, in short, at least as defines the typical case, a very young woman (I should say most often in the range of 18-22), with a relatively new account that has a relatively low number of posts, the sole purpose of which is to provide herself with 1) an income stream under the guise of what is called “financial domination”, and 2) an outlet for her distinct and abundant immaturity.

A typical feed reads as follows (quotes taken anonymously from actual tweets):

  • “Your just a looser #findom #femdom”
  • “Where are my #LittleDick losers? I know you’re lonely and feeling vulnerable. Come to me, weakling.”
  • “bow down to your superior and start $ending cucks”
  • “i’ll humiliate you, spit on you, take all the money you have in your wallet, then make you crawl to the ATM like the pig you are to give me the amount I deserve. and you’ll be begging me for more #findom”
  • “RT Game. $2/$2/$2. 1 Comment per 15 min. Drain this fucking loser #findom”
  • “makeups expensive. New foundation costs me £45. #reimburse me for it losers. #reimbursement #findom #paypig”
  • “money makes me so horny”

And make no mistake, there are accounts like these by the hundreds, even by the thousands.

And why not? Can you imagine the perverse simplicity of it? Imagine being that age and coming across the idea that instead of working hard, whether to produce content or cultivate relationships or even just to interact in a healthy and productive way with those around you, instead of suffering from the pressures that life puts on us all, instead of letting that pressure subject you to the pains of growing into a stronger and better human being, all you had to do to achieve success and provide yourself with cash is to create a couple of social media accounts and accounts on sites to process payment, give yourself a title like “Princess” or “Goddess” or “Queen”, fill your feed with bile, and wait for your rewards to come pouring in.

And oh, do those rewards ever floweth. It’s not just the evidence they post, in the form of screenshots declaring their account has received another $100 or $200 or more, the trophies of their “tributes”. It’s not just that they persist in a way that clearly indicates that it’s working for them. It’s the flood of dozens to hundreds of engagements with what they post; the likes, the retweets, the encouraging and prostrating comments, and followers, followers, followers.

A great many of these accounts have followings from the hundreds well into the several thousands, and the phenomenon is within itself a little subculture. There are promotional accounts solely devoted to circulating this kind of dreck, there are similarly devoted “slaves” who do likewise. The little communities play “retweet games” where their “finsub” or “paypig” has pledged a certain amount of cash for each engagement, and over a certain period of time the girl will delight as notification after notification signals the growth of her payoff.

Supposedly this is an outgrowth of BDSM. It’s a kink, we are meant to believe, and surely, the whole ridiculous sham wouldn’t perpetuate itself without a lot of people somewhere jerking off to it in earnest. But to someone who grew up before and in the early days of the Internet, someone who is old enough to know any different, and someone who knows the kinky persuasion to have the capability of being profound and sacred and deep (namely myself), this characterization reads as both cheap and abundantly cynical.

Calling findom a kink asks us to believe that, for all time, there have been people with a quiet desperation to walk up to a stranger, be spewed upon, give them money, and call it a day. While I find that hard to believe, I find it even harder to believe that the procedural aspects of the practice make any sense before the combined existence of the Internet, social media, cashless finance, and the ability for both parties to be isolated in the exchange. It’s true that we don’t have another word yet for something that arouses a person sexually without some relationship to formal sex (one that while making that distinction could further distinguish something like this from that which corresponds to real BDSM), and I don’t dispute that the whole thing revolves around being a turn-on for people. I’ll even go so far as to recognize that the roles and power dynamics at play bear some resemblance to the practice of kink. But to whatever extent it is an authentic extension of D/s, it’s one that, in my estimation, completely misses the point.

Let’s concede for a moment the assumption that at the heart of all of this lies a true appreciation of something and a deep desire to glorify, adore, and promote it. Let’s suppose that that drive animates the whole process, and that at the end of it all both parties are satisfied and fulfilled in their true and essential nature. What, then, can we say that this particular process hinges upon? What, if we even broaden the idea to include the whole “brat” persona, can we say is really being set on the altar of worship? In answer, I can only find some of the most hollow, vacuous, and ultimately contemptible things.

I feel we must take as read the self-evident proposition that these attitudes and behaviors are not things that most of us would honestly support or encourage in real life and in the real world. I think most of us, even the tolerant ones, would say that these things are reprehensible in and of themselves, and that they are really only tolerable to the extent that they represent a phase through which we all must pass. These are things for which we forgive our loved ones because for a time they are incapable of knowing any better. But instead of waiting politely and sympathetically while they grow out of it while enforcing the social discipline that they need in order to learn that that mentality is not a suitable or appropriate one for dealing with other human beings, this so-called kink thrusts it into the spotlight, showers it with praise and both tangible and intangible benefits, and then prostrates itself before it and presents it with the most essential biological approval.

“And so what?” you may say. “They’re just playing. Why can’t they just be left alone with their kink?”

But kink is supposed to be a mutual thing, an exploration of two or more parties’ selves that lead them all to be in touch with the way that they best are able to be, and there is no way for her to participate in this kink without lowering and debasing herself until she is petulant and abusive and exploitative and divorced from her sensitivity, her care, and her love. The practice is, on its face, one-sided, but it is as though we are looking at it through a mirror; the imbalance doesn’t favor her simply because she is in receipt of something as pathetically hollow as money. No, in fact it is the other way around; it enables a man to pay her to get her to be her worst self.

But what’s worse than that, supposing that we can imagine that these things do not take place solely within the ejaculatory vacuum and that it actually has an effect on this young woman’s life, how can she ever grow and develop into an authentic, self-actualized, profound human being who is in touch with and in control of her highest and best self when the world specifically rewards her for doing the opposite? Does the supposedly unassailable right of her counterparts’ exuberance come at the cost of her future, and of the quality of her life and relationships? Does the willingness to idolize her adolescent misapprehension of the means by which to assign value to herself and her world arrest her development into adulthood? I think these are fair questions, and worth asking.

Women shouldn’t be celebrated for being brats any more than they should be celebrated for being bimbos, or bitches, or any of the other things that are less than their most engaged, fulfilled, and powerful selves, that’s why this species of what is called findom has no relationship to the practice of FemDom, despite the supposed interchangeability of their hashtags.

The women who can rightly call themselves Goddesses or Princesses or Queens, the ones who are truly worthy of the adoration and worship they receive, are inspiring. They’re something to be proud of, something to be admired because of what they have achieved in themselves. They have a glory and a majesty that isn’t free, and that you don’t get for nothing just by being female. But if we teach these young women that it’s only because of their anatomies and their gender, they will never know that that level is theirs to pursue.

In all of these accounts and these personas there is a common thread that the domme should be worshipped for what she is rather than who she is, and we have to let FemDom be about more than that.

A woman’s true divinity is something that is explored, and developed, and nurtured, and earned. It’s what elevates her beyond the mundane, the pedantic, and the cheap, and submission is supposed to be about getting in touch with that, both for her and for the sub. But if we continue to let young women believe they can have it for nothing, and keep paying to convince them it is so, the only thing we will buy is that the real thing will be rarer, and all the fewer will be those who possess it.


NOTE: It is true that some men also participate in the practice of financial domination, in a fashion almost entirely similar to what I have described here. I don’t know how this relates to members of the gay or bisexual communities, but I expect there are adequate parallels. The whole thing reeks to me of a similarly exploitative charlatanism and nonsense, but I haven’t begun to explore the dynamics there, nor am I inclined to personally.


© 2018

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Play Time: On BDSM as Theatre

It is often something you hear about kink, that it’s all just make believe. That it’s roleplay. And for some people, I’m sure that’s what it is.

I’m sure a lot of people, from those who just picked up 50 Shades and want to experiment with a spanking or two to those who caricaturize the Dominatrix and sub personas and want to live in their own fantasies, do think of kink and of D/s relationship dynamics, at some level or another, as pretending.

But to some of us it’s a lot more than that.

Now, of course, those who want to participate in their kinks full time are few, and there aren’t a great number of people who want what they construct in the bedroom to influence their lives in a particularly significant way. In many ways it’s like yoga, which for most is just another form of exercise and which has its own modern commercial culture, but then there are people who specifically believe that certain poses and postures open you up to different personal states and enable you to access different features of consciousness. For some it’s a diversion, for some it’s an element of religion, and there are a lot of ways to be involved without necessarily being a devotee. With kink, too, you choose your own level of involvement, or perhaps your own level of involvement chooses you.

In the same way, though, that these things exist separately from their cultural or personal application, they also exist with or without a degree of artfulness and artistry, and it is that condition which can dictate an awful lot about the character of kinky play.

For all of us, I think, or at least for those of us who take it seriously, there is an element in kink of trying to get in touch with the truth of a kinky interaction, whether or not that interaction is “real”. To whatever extent a person wants their torment or subjugation at the hands of their partner to be legitimate and immovable, to whatever extent they want their play to have veracity, there is always the desire for it to have verisimilitude. In other words, whether or not these things are actually real, we certainly want them to feel real.

With this, of course, there is a spectrum. Some people only want to get in touch with the truth of that feeling on the grounds that it is absolutely real, and others, just as seriously, want to experience that truth only in complete opposition to reality, and there are many points of compromise in between. Whatever our position on this spectrum, we all seem to agree that kink takes place within an artificial construct, where we determine boundaries and consent, and then we decide, according to our preference, how we want that play to be characterized.

For me, there’s no better cultural parallel for this than the theatre. There are some who want to see Shakespeare at The Globe, with Elizabethan elocution and costume design, and there are some who want it reinterpreted in a modern setting. There are serious people who forgo Shakespeare entirely and look for fresh new approaches to the form of theatre itself. There are moody, minimalistic plays that focus entirely on dialogue and eschew action and setting, and there are snazzy, bombastic musicals and grand, dramatic operas. There are comedies, there are tragedies. There is modernism and post-modernism. In short, there is a whole, dynamic world of what can take place on the stage, in which there is an incredible variety to suit a range of tastes and preferences.

What are we to make, then, of the sets and the scripts and the props and the beats? Obviously, as anyone who has ever staged a production of anything will know, these are entirely up to the creative persuasion and means of those who produce the play, and there’s another world of style and sensibility that determines how what will be done will be done. What the script looks like to one person will not be what it looks like to another, and what comes from their collaboration determines how the content of that script will be interpreted and expressed.

But what of the players? Are they all such puppets locked in rote execution of a spectacular scene? This, I think too, misses the point. Not only does an actor want to find the “truth” I was talking about in what they put into their performance, but that relationship to that particular truth is not a fixed and arbitrary thing. It may change, subtly or otherwise, from night to night over a series of performances and how they get there each time relies very much on what they are able to get from night to night from the other people in the scene. Ask an actor how many times they’ve been surprised by what unfolded onstage, in spite of all the planning, all the intentions, all the rehearsal. Human interactions, even staged ones, can be marvelously unpredictable.

Which is to say nothing of ad libs, or improv. There can be amazing things that happen in a world where skilled and creative actors either take or are given liberties to make it up as they go along. Do the parameters that govern these constructions dilute or diminish them because they are artificial? On the contrary, they allow a freedom and fluidity that creates space in which things can happen, they transport that creativity to a territory in which new things can be explored.

But let’s take it back down to the core of the question, that of the distinction between the person and the persona. I, for one, am the first to be in favor of people finding common personal ground with what their sexuality involves, at whatever level that makes sense for them, but with this, again, there is a spectrum. For some people, there should be no distinction, they want those roles to really be who those people are, and for others it is the height of roleplay, in which the fantasy is pure and under which circumstances they can allow themselves to be and say and do things because that’s what their character can do. These are attitudes about a their own relationship to the truth, in addition to the relationship they prefer the scenario to have.

It’s hard to call any of these approaches more valid than the others because their goals and aims are different. They both attempt and achieve different things. One is more vaudeville, one is more opera. One is more classical, one is more modern. And there is good and bad in all of these things. We all have our own preferences and some things mean more to us than others, but we should try to appreciate them all. Because everyone who participates gives something of themselves to these things, whether it’s exactly like them or just like the best them or very much like a different them entirely. We each have a range, we each have a certain range of talents, and we each have desires and aspirations for who, what, and how we want to play. It’s only the snobs that stratify them too strictly.

What it means to be a kinky person, as someone who is involved earnestly in kinky practice and the craft of it all in addition to the spectacle, is the same thing it means to be an actor. If you’re any good at it, and if you belong with it as it belongs in you, what’s important is how well you do whatever it is that you do, and how meaningful and special you make it by being the one to do it.


© 2018

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One Year Anniversary!!

Today marks ONE YEAR since the launch of The SMUT Project!

We’ve worked hard, and it’s taken us a long way in just a short time. We’ve:

  • produced over 100k words of FemDom and foot fetish erotica (including 15 completed short stories)
  • as well as 11 thought-provoking essays on kink, BDSM, and the intersection between sex and society
  • established a catalog on Amazon, Smashwords, and Goodreads

AND

  • gained 122 followers between this website, Twitter and Tumblr. (Follow us!)

In the year to come we hope to be able to bring you even more! We’re looking forward to establishing SMUT Project Studios (home to our forthcoming visual and documentary efforts), bringing you new print works and merchandise designs, and continuing to build relationships with other kinky creatives!

Thanks to all of you for everything thus far!

Sincerely,

Mr. Yours Truly

Gender Blending: On Feminization, Sissies, & Sharing

When I think about what I generally think of as regular people, and when I think about the views and the image they might have about kink (to whatever extent they might think about it at all), I imagine how much of it would be a complete shock and surprise to them if they had any idea it existed. I think for most people, their knowledge and understanding of the territory begins with rumors and insinuations and ends with the moment in that scene in that movie, right before the camera cuts away and we’re all left to use our imaginations.

To put it simply, what people refer to under the blanket terms of “kink” and “BDSM” covers an incredible variety of practices and interests, most of which, I would speculate, would be complete news to the uninitiated or the plain vanilla. There are a lot of people for whom 50 Shades of Grey is the textbook, and believe me, it doesn’t cover all that much.

Describing oneself as kinky, then, could mean almost anything in practical terms. It’s one of those things you can tell when you see it, but the fact is there is no spectrum, no grades or levels. There are all kinds of kinky people who are into all kinds of different things that may or may not have anything to do with what other kinky people are into.

But then there are areas where these aspects and territories of sexuality overlap, and it becomes harder still to make sense of things when two categories of people do the same things (or some variety thereof) for vastly different reasons, with different motivations, with different goals and objectives, and with very different ideas about who, what, how, and why.

Among the most significant and timely examples of this is the question of activities and play that bend the genders, whether in physical terms or in terms of role or appearance.

We’ve all heard things about them, or at least insinuations. The “crossdressers”. In the early 1900s the term referred mostly to women who wore trousers (when they weren’t being called “bifurcated women”), but today it’s something we think of almost exclusively as the province of strange little men, the J. Edgar Hoovers and god knows who else. The Silence of the Lambs character “Buffalo Bill” comes to mind as well, but as unfortunate as that association is we’ll leave it well aside for the moment. In short, outside of the world of kink it is certainly considered abnormal, and it’s not necessarily something you want to be associated with.

But now, gender issues at large are, of course, some of the most pressing and salient social questions of our time, and while in public there is still (always) the fight for the rights and empowerment of women, and now for trans and queer people as well, in private there are all kinds of activities and play that take place in the uncharted waters of the interplay between them.

Gender identities and gender roles are often amongst the most central aspects of kinky sexuality. Almost everything that interests a kinky person will take place within a context of their relationship both to their own gender and to the genders of others. Their sexual orientation comes first, whether straight, gay, bi, or some combination thereof.

The architectures of these relationships can be deeply complex. For example, you might have a cis-woman, who is bisexual, who may be dominant with men but submissive with women, but she may further be dominant towards women who are submissive, and along the way there may be exceptions to the rules according either to a particular person or a particular circumstance. To truly account for all the variations you’d also have to account for both the sexes and genders of each person involved, and you would have to consider that in some cases the gender is non-fixed, meaning those dynamics were subject to change under depending on the circumstances.

I can tell I’ve lost a lot of you already, but for a moment let’s look at the subset of people who are kinky, who are cis-gendered and heterosexual, and who engage in female dominant play with a gender-bending aspect. Now, these people usually come in a couple of different varieties, but what they get up to typically revolves around three symbolic and, both psychically and physically, pleasurable acts: 1) some element of crossdressing, whether mutually or on the part of the male, and 2) anal penetration of the male by the female’s use of a wearable strapon dildo.

That much is common to each of the sexualities I will describe here, but that much is about all the similarity there is.

The most overt and recognizable form of this particular kink is the practice of “sissification”, in which “sissies” are essentially transformed into living Barbie dolls in wigs, heavy (and heavily exaggerated) makeup, and garish, over-the-top clothing, whether in specific costumes or particular outfits in latex, fishnet, etc., with an ostentatious preference for both hot and powder pinks. There is often a large amount of both humiliation and degradation involved, specifically revolving around the sissy’s now debased status, and very frequently there are two additional elements: 1) the inclusion of situational or permanent male chastity, through the use of a (usually pink and effeminate) locking chastity cage, and 2) the implication or actual inclusion of some element of “forced” or “coerced” bisexuality.

Now this, I think understandably to most people, represents one extreme of gender play, one particular, specific fetish that appeals to one specific subset of kinky people. But what about the rest of us?

For a lot of people, even within kinky circles, the whole dramatic, hyperstylized, and fairly surreal business, though perfectly tolerable in keeping with the “live and let live” culture of BDSM, is somewhat confusing and disorienting, even philosophically objectionable, and personally I’m inclined to agree. It’s one of those things that rings false to me when I see it, that just isn’t for me, but there is a way in which it approximates (to some degree) some elements of things that I find valuable to explore and consider.

For starters, let’s address the two elements I first described, and I’ll take them in order:

Crossdressing

Let’s take as read the prevailing cultural assertion that men’s underclothing is ultilitarian and women’s is ornate, that men are supposed to think about and involve themselves in this aspect of their dress as little as possible while a woman who does the same is considered less feminine.

In a way, the female purview and prerogative in this regard has an element of luxury which is theirs and theirs alone. Women are supposed to have exquisite, carefully crafted, beautifully form flattering and accentuating underwear that entices and arouses, while men are supposed to be basic, and if they put any thought at all into it it should be around the question, “Boxers or briefs?”

And, too, it must be said, that when a man wants to put a little effort in and find something sexy that suits his anatomy, the options available to most men are either plain, sporty, or in the case of what is sold in most sex shops, abundantly childish and tacky. It can be very difficult to find something tasteful, well-made, and attractive, even when you want to.

But what, then? Do the men who want to feminize just have “lingerie envy”? Perhaps, to some extent, but there are other aspects of the interchange as well.

For me, there is a particular element of wearing something sexy for my partner that is not only a representation of my desire to look good and be attractive for her, it’s also a desire to honor and do justice to her femininity by observing a certain amount of decorum. That much of it is an extension of the same desire that leads me to clean and groom myself before we interact or to make sure the sheets are clean and that the house is tidy, and so on. It’s being a gentleman. It’s the desire to be and act a certain way that reflects well on her and shows a gratitude and appreciation for her and her presence and attention.

To put it simply, if you have sex as if you’re interacting with and in the presence of a sublime natural divinity, whom you admire for her spiritual grace and sophistication, are you going to do so in a saggy pair of Wal-Mart Fruit of the Looms?

Moreover, if the underclothes in question are hers (or picked out by her), whether particularly feminine or not, there’s an element of sharing in her unique sensibilities of taste and style, of having that projected onto you. It’s letting that perspective and that disposition conform to you and letting it govern you. In the queen’s court, how does she dress her servant?

But let’s concede that, yes, there is something more to it when you add in the element of actually being represented as feminine or female yourself on top of wanting to be presentable, well groomed, and well dressed. How do we interpret donning feminine clothing for a partner on the grounds that it transmutes you in some way as to your own gender?

Leaving aside the possibility that you are genderfluid and that this act enables you to express that and sets the stage for a more accurate or appropriate version of your lesbianism, suppose first that it can indicate a measure of gender solidarity, meaning to say the desire to be “on the girls’ team”. It’s wanting to be accepted as one of their own even if that’s not what you are, and the underwear can be totemic of that, almost emblematic. That represents a lot of trust that they have for you as well as the trust you have for them.

That’s why, in feminization, panties are often a privilege, not a punishment. [There are valid and compelling ways of making them either.] They’re a way of saying, “You get to be this way because you’re special and this is something I want to give you access to and for us to share.” It’s an invitation, and a way of being included in something exclusive. And that’s being recognized as something special.

But there’s also something to the idea that it involves, by the same token of solidarity, a measure of symbolically taking on the woman’s unique burdens and strains, the idea of asserting that, “Whatever a woman is, I want to be that too.” Whether it’s being emotionally aware and involved, whether it’s being sensitive and vulnerable, whether it’s strength through resilience and compassion, whether it’s any of the things of which women are wondrously capable, a feminized man wants to express his desire to share that.

[I mean, I don’t know of anyone whose feminization involves imitating childbirth or the menstrual cycle, but the sentiment is there.]

Pegging

Which leads us to the other hallmark of feminization, or gender sharing, and that is the man receiving anal sex from his female partner, via the use of a strapon.

To me, and to many, the practice of “pegging” is the single most symbolic and profound form of gender exchange that a couple can engage in, because it’s the thought-completing foil to what I described above. It’s the yin to the yang, and the other side of the coin.

I once talked to a new Domme who expressed an anxiety that men who want to be pegged want, “to be dominated by male energy.” In fact, I would submit that the opposite is actually true. Pegging is about a man voluntarily and deliberately removing the masculine prerequisite for penetrative sex, or conferring that privilege to his Mistress. It’s abdicating what less enlightened minds would describe as his anatomical and biological birthright, and ceding that to her.

Giving one’s Mistress this power is a way of saying, “She has all of her own divine power as a woman, and now she has whatever I also possess as a man.”

And again, it allows the man to take over what it means to receive penetrative sex, which is the solidarity aspect combined with the desire to demonstrate his gratitude for when the tables are turned, and it’s a chance to physically submit himself to the burden of that as a way of showing love.

Additionally, the act of being penetrated as a submissive is further enhanced when viewed as a form of worship. In other words, just as a slave delights in worshiping their Mistress’ body with their hands or their mouth, being penetrated can be a way of embracing that extension of their partner’s body with another unique part of their own anatomy.

Humiliation and Punishment

Now, with everything I’ve described, it could be hard to imagine that erotic humiliation and punishment might play an important role. Like domestic servitude, like chastity, this is a persuasion unto itself for many, but it’s important to discuss the differences in approach between the humiliation of gender sharing from a D/s perspective and the more aggressive denigration associated with sissification.

In many depictions, humiliation is an aspect of any erotic feminization, and more often than not the feminization is forced feminization. Nothing wrong with this exactly, because who doesn’t like being forced to do something they love, but too often this centers around the feminine itself being what there is to be humiliated for.

This is present in what’s also called bimbofication, where apparently once one has arrived at their closest approximation of femininity, they resemble in both appearance and utility, a garish blow-up fuck doll. I, for one, object to that construction as symbolic or representative in any way of the female, and I also don’t know why if I was going to be feminized I wouldn’t want that experience to feel like it was an expression and extension of my self. It’s caricaturizing and depersonalizing, and I’ve never personally gotten on board with that.

But suppose for a moment that in submitting to feminization as an element of power exchange was really a question of enabling one’s Domme to assert control over the gender expression of their sub at her whim, whether as punishment or reward (and, of course, either gender expression could be characterized as either one). In essence, she takes on an almost shamanistic control over how you express yourself sexually, and that has enormous potential.

If she happens to amuse herself with this power, all the better! Imagine some transgression for which you lost either your masculinity or femininity privileges, or that participating in one or the other came with specific consequences, or that being one or the other entitled or dictated your circumstances and privileges. There are lots of ways to explore all kinds of kinky feminization without having to lower or berate the idea of femininity itself.

Conclusion

In all, I think I’ve illustrated what I meant at the beginning of this effort, which is that people have little or no idea how complex all of this is, and we shouldn’t rely on the highly visible trend of sissy pornography to account for it.

There are so many ways to explore this form of intimate companionship and dominance, and it deserves more respect than we give it.

In closing, because I’m a word nerd, I’ll leave you with a simple linguistic distinction between these two forms of gender exchange. An “-ification” comes from the Latin ficatio or ficare, which means “making equivalent to”. Think gratification, purification. An “-ization” comes from the Latin izare, meaning “to render or transform”. Consider crystallization, actualization. I think there’s something to that, but I think the latter has a better ring to it.


© 2018

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On Matters of Taste

Whips, chains, gags, restraints, and atmospheres of supposed cruelty and duress, these are the trappings of what is commonly referred to as “S&M”, or “kinky sex”. To the uninitiated, and to the naive, these are shocking, frightening things, invoked usually as some inevitable extension of “pornography addiction” (a final point of debauched chaos on the addict’s errant journey) and occasionally in the same breath as the most twisted, barbaric varieties of sexually infused murder and torture.

The bizarrities of some people’s sexual lives are held up to others, or perhaps it is better to say waved frantically in front of them, as a warning. Tread not this path, brothers and sisters, or like this you shall become; lost, debased, and capable of anything. I, for one, am sick of being referred to in that tone of voice.

I am sick of being equated with serial killers and psychopaths, or of having it even implied that they come from the same place as me. I am sick of the implication that only my personal brokenness and misguidedness could account for my affection and taste for these modes of erotic interaction. And I am sick of the idea that I slid into my current state, down a slippery slope of self-destructive, poisonous hedonism, and that I need to be redeemed.

What I can’t help feeling when these subjects are raised, as invariably they are when the topic is publicly discussed, is a sense not of defensiveness or guilt or embarrassment, but of anger, alienation, and disgust. I feel insulted, offended even, and deeply mischaracterized and misunderstood. I feel accosted and plagued by Philistine ignorance, and I feel too that those who make such equivalences and assumptions have no business commenting in the first place.

But since a large number of people seem to find these characterizations and assertions convincing, compelled as I think they must be by disorientation and fear, and because these attitudes are perennial, exhibited with unsurprising ghastliness whenever the prudes and Puritans deign to afford my ilk the time of day, I feel that I should take a minute or so to confront them. While I’m sure it will make little difference to the attitudes of those who would like to see the world subsist on the sexual equivalent of hard tack and gruel, I think that I can at least make the subject clear to those who might be willing to accept what other people do if they could be sure that those people weren’t withering or imploding before their very eyes. As distasteful as it is, I can believe that a great many people think and feel the way they do about the way people like me have sex because they are worried about us, and I would be more than glad to put their minds at rest.

To begin with, I really do believe it’s a matter of taste. Put simply, we all have to start taking for granted the assumption that some people are different than us, and that they might respond differently than we do to things that we perceive in different ways. This much, I think should be easy.

In other matters we are perfectly happy with this. “I don’t like spicy food,” we might say, but we hardly think of people who do as having a corrupt moral character. In matters such as these however, you can imagine someone driven to distraction by the concept. How on Earth, we can imagine them saying, can anyone subject themselves to that sort of thing? It hurts! Food is supposed to be lovely and sweet! It’s disgusting! In this, we neglect a number of things, important things, about the consideration of those who do.

To say first, I think we can all acknowledge that there is a difference between a person who likes eating a nice jalapeño or habanero, and a person who wants a diet that involves molten lava, or broken glass. The serial killer Albert Fish, for example, took frequently to hammering rust-covered nails and other unsavory objects into the area around his groin, and this habit is generally considered to indicate his masochism. I realize that, as yet, there may be no word or term to distinguish the sexualized pleasure he derived from the practice and what one gets out of being spanked or trampled by a loving partner, in the way that there certainly is for the fact that his urges also revolved around children rather than adults, but it should be clear that there is a distinction to be made.

I think we are safe in calling someone like Fish a pervert, in a way that we are not in describing sexual masochism itself as a perversion. What’s more, I don’t believe the two are even remotely similar except in ways that are ultimately meaningless. While there may be formal parallels between the sexualization of pain and distress, there is no extent to which I would find it adequate to describe the pain of an act like that and the “pain” of some forms of kink in the same way, and, importantly, I refuse to take for granted that the pleasure is similar as well. When dealing with a character like Fish, we are talking about extreme pathology that extends far beyond what enabled him to get his rocks off, and it is flippant simply to say that he “liked” or “needed” extreme pain in order to get to the same place as the rest of us when his needs came calling. It should be clear, and it’s safe to say, that someone like that needs things none of us would want or choose, even if they were offered to us on a silver platter.

Even Ghost Pepper aficionados and people who like experimenting with the famed Carolina Reaper or the Trinidad Scorpion (the world’s two hottest peppers, which are said to induce “thunderclap headaches” and cardiovascular distress in those who ingest even the smallest of doses), while perhaps a bit foolhardy, can’t usually be accused of a psychologically dysfunctional constitution. They may be causing themselves pain, yes, even, at the extreme levels, putting themselves in danger, but we concede that for them there is something worthwhile about the experience, and even if we call them crazy we don’t really mean it. We think of these people as perfectly capable of making what to us is an abundantly stupid decision, and I think at some level we also believe they must have gotten something out of it. We validate the experience itself, and we show respect to the ability of these people to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be involved. At worst, we tend to think, and say, something along the lines of, “That’s nuts. Must be a crazy experience. I certainly wouldn’t do something like that.”

The point is that we don’t think of these people as inherently disordered, least of all morally, and it’s also that we don’t accuse people who like spicy food in general of participating in Carolina Reaper-level behavior. In fact, I’d wager that most people don’t even know that such peppers even exist, in the same way they would be unacquainted with the many extreme acts and behaviors available to people of kinky persuasions. Those who are overwhelmed by a simple green chile are unlikely to comprehend how far what’s out there really goes.

But even at the fringes, we don’t consider the thrill-seeking, daredevil recklessness of the devotees of spicy food to be the result of some inevitable progress which began with the person’s first exposure to Tabasco sauce. We don’t think of people as being hopelessly addicted to spicy food, seeking out (as the accusation goes) greater and greater pain like a drug because they’re sick enough to like it.

To whatever extent they do it’s because they are curious and open, and willing to find their own limits and to explore the varieties available to their experience. Because what must be said of all of this is that eating and liking spicy food doesn’t just revolve around different levels of capsaicin and the accompanying endorphin rush that is produced upon consumption; there’s flavor too.

A jalapeño and a habanero don’t just burn differently, they taste different too, and there is a whole cuisine the world over that has evolved around the subtleties that separate serranos, poblanos, chipotles, Thai chilis, even paprika or cayennes. You have to concede that, in forgoing spicy food because you can’t take the heat, there’s something you are missing which not only involves the (often) comparatively minor sensation of pain but also a range of pleasures that have nothing whatsoever to do with the pain itself. You have to concede that to those who can stand it, these things might be more than a head rush; they might actually be delicious.

The point also raises another, which is that all of these peppers and their distinct qualities have connections to other, non-spicy foods, which have, again, encouraged the development of all manner of recipes in which the spice is indispensable. What would pico de gallo be if it was just chopped up tomatoes and onions? What would pho or pad thai be like without what most would say is the key ingredient? Fine, I’m sure, but to those who like it, something getting dangerously close to bland, or boring.

And there’s nothing wrong, of course, with liking bland and boring food. I’ve had many great meals that revolved around cabbage and potatoes, boiled this or that, and I’m not immune to the pleasures of a simple bowl of oatmeal on occasion. But that’s always been part of the confusion. No one says you must like or involve yourself in the eating of spicy food, just because other people relish it immensely. No one is forcing you to enjoy or even pretend to enjoy things you find aversive. But it’s important to stop pathologizing and insinuating nasty little things about those who do.

Which leads me, unfortunately, into the territory that contains my impetus to construct this piece in the first place. The next time you hear about the innocent victim of a murder who was hogtied and violated before being killed, be very careful before confusing the perpetrator of such a despicable act with a member of what might very loosely be described as the kink community.

Ted Bundy was not one of us, no matter what kind of porn he liked, and whatever may have thrilled the awful bastards that can do that sort of thing has nothing to do with kinky sex. Liking spicy food has nothing to do with what might prompt a monster to shove a Carolina Reaper down the throat of a 13 year old girl, and you won’t find anyone who approves of or relates to that impulse, not even amongst the weirdest in our rank. While we might all, ourselves, regularly tolerate a bit of indigestion, every one of us maintains the ability to have our stomachs turned, and don’t you dare suggest that that that kind of rot and filth is a part of our buffet.

Kink is an element of humanity, of culture, and if you’re confused by or uninterested in that aspect of our world you are more than within your rights to say so and act accordingly. But it is more than just unfair to suggest that, Man, those people will eat anything. It’s worse to say that someone who likes food you don’t is capable of chugging gasoline, and it’s terrible to suggest that, when someone found doing something evil had a twisted, perverted sexual side, they have anything in common with the legitimately sexually adventurous.

We don’t know, yet, what drives the despicable to do the horrible things they do, any more than we know what makes someone enjoy spicy food. But to grab a pile of festering shit and wave it in front of someone, saying, “How about it, pervert? You want some of that?!” is very nearly as disgusting as the act implied. And suggesting that it’s where we all might find ourselves if we stray beyond white rice and crackers is pathetic.

We need to stop using the kinky as scapegoats, just as we need to stop using them as bogeymen. Being kinky isn’t the same as being twisted, and it’s wrong to pretend that it is.


© 2018

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