Thursday, March 22, 2012

Unified Theory of Kink

UPDATE: On second thought, too simple and reductionist even with all the 'generally' and 'I think' etc. I still think it's an interesting trend, though.

Apologies to regular readers for going over old ground, I'm trying to make this post more accessible.

I've heard the theory, attributed to Dan Savage, that kinks come from people's fears (though I haven't found a reference). My theory starts with that and takes it a few steps farther. Here it is:

Men generally are taught by the culture to be afraid of being disgusting; men's kinks are mostly oriented around either overcoming that or owning it but saying it's OK.

Women generally are taught by the culture to be afraid of being victimized, and to be afraid of being considered a slut; women's kinks are mostly oriented around either overcoming those or owning them but saying it's OK.

Women and men, of course, both have more fears that impact their sexuality than I list here. These are the ones I see as primarily shaping kink, though.

Men are Gross

The idea that men are gross, disgusting, and unattractive is one we are trained to constantly from a very young age. "Sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what little girls are made of. Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that's what little boys are made of." Do a Google search on "boys smell better than girls" and take a look at the results. I did it both ways to compare but since "boys smell better than girls" mostly returns "Why do girls smell better than boys?" that one pretty much makes my point by itself. Lots of those answers are to the effect of "girls care more", which is a self-fufilling prophecy insofar as it is true. Media mostly pictures guys as something girls put up with if and when they want something. I just recently wrote on the way men never show up on Kinky and Popular on Fetlife. Guy's genitalia is represented as being something horrifying that no one could want to see (e.g. Anthony Weiner), primarily due to the bizarre modern form of male homophobia. Seeing other people of the same gender naked was a normal part of life for all of history except in some of the past century, in locker rooms, bathrooms which weren't private unless you were rich, in barracks, in shared rooms at an inn. The obvious reaction of a straight man is indifference. Any man of an earlier time would consider the modern "eww" and avoidance to be unbelievably, suspiciously prissy and prima facie evidence of mental and sexual abnormality.

Really, I'm not sure how much I should bother to belabor this point, I think it's probably pretty obvious if you think about it. But the pervasiveness of it is probably difficult for women to imagine; easy to see though, if you start to look.

What's less obvious is how much this point is pushed by men rather than women. When I remember hearing "sugar and spice" I remember it in my father's voice. Men write most of the scripts and jokes in the mass media that imply women only put up with men when they want something. It is men who are so horrified by the idea of seeing a dick.

Men's kinks mostly seem to be based on the fear that we are gross. There are a few ways I think I see men reacting to that.

We can accept it but say it's OK. The style of submissive kinks I see in men can generally fit that mold. That's how my submissive side works. I may be disgusting, she may even tease about it, but if I serve her she will still touch me, still love me. I think when men go for helplessness, as in bondage, for example, the idea is that he can't do anything but she still wants to do something with him.

We can deny it, shout it down, by having our partner accept our sexuality in an exaggerated way. This is how my dominant side works. For this kind, it's essential that she be seen to be enjoying it. If she's happy about me cumming in her face, I can't really be that gross, can I? Or a play reluctance fantasy in which we agree beforehand that her role is someone who wants me but is ashamed to say because of social convention. Her enjoyment subverts the feelings of rejection. (Obviously the bad version of this is a guy trying to tell himself every woman wants him, or it.)

We can accept it but say it doesn't matter. That's another face of bondage, domination, and rape fantasy that I don't really get into. She may think I'm disgusting but she's tied up, she's my slave, I have the power. So it doesn't matter. I think there's also a revenge element in there. Oh, you think I'm gross, do you? I think this is the one that's active in actual rapists, but of course the kink doesn't make one a rapist. Also, I'd like to note again that the feeling of being gross is largely driven by other men; any revenge element is misplaced.

Women must be Pure

Women's kinks I don't know from the inside, I only know them from reading people's writing and guessing.

I guess if I were faced with slut-shaming aimed at me, one possibility would be to accept it but say it's OK. That seems to me to be what's going on with all the slut-shaming play some women like (the popularity of which was my biggest surprise, I think, in learning about kink.) If you, for example, write "SLUT" and "WHORE" and stuff on my naked body, and nothing bad comes of it, it disarms and conquers that threat.

Another possibility would be avoiding responsibility. If I'm tied up and he fucks me, it's not my fault. If I'm his slave, he's responsible. This one doesn't seem such a good match for the dominant men who want their 'disgusting' sexuality accepted (like my form of dominant), it goes better for the ones who want to feel that whether they're disgusting doesn't matter. I think the common desire for a strong man, who can "drive the bus" as I've heard it put, comes from this one.

I think perhaps women liking male orgasm denial may sometimes come from reversing this one; "I'm not the whore, you are." But orgasm denial in general is the popular kink I understand the least.

Women are Endangered

It seems to me that the main fear driving kink in women is fear of victimization, abuse, rape. Women are raised to be afraid of these things to an extent that is difficult for men, or at least me, to imagine. Women are taught the danger of being alone on a dark street, alone in a parking lot, alone with a strange man; when the danger, which has struck horrifyingly many women, is more from men they do know. Women have to be careful about people getting them a drink and putting rufies in it, for crying out loud. It's crazy that half of us have to live that way.

It seems to me that most women's kink is driven by that fear, in a way analogous to men's kink being fear of being disgusting. If I were a woman, I guess I'd have a similar set of options to the ones men have.

I could accept it but say it's survivable, conquerable, deal-with-able. That's how a large set of women's submissive kinks tend to look to me; all different ways and levels of putting themselves in a victim-like situation, from light bondage to highly realistic play rape. I am helpless, but it's OK because it's actually fun; I am helpless, but it's OK because he deeply loves me.

I could deny it, shout it down, by reversing it. Make him the victim by playing victimizer. That's what I tend most often to see in dominant women, in my very limited experience.

Update: Another factor is projection. A lot of times we imagine how good something that's our kink would feel to the other person. Or, I guess, perhaps the more empathetic among us do. So we basically treat our partner as if they had our kink, with varying results. When it doesn't work, at least it's among the most well-intentioned of failures. :)


  1. I think perhaps women liking male orgasm denial may sometimes come from reversing this one; "I'm not the whore, you are." But orgasm denial in general is the popular kink I understand the least.

    In my case, I think I spent a long time feeling ugly and unwanted and orgasm denial is a strike against that feeling; I want a guy to beg for me.

    And, I'm living vicariously through my partner a little bit; when my partner is turned on, I get turned on, too - and it seems like keeping a guy from coming gets him pretty hot and bothered. So, I can imagine the fevered state my partner is in and get off a zillion times thinking about it - and because he still hasn't come, he'll be attentive and into it the whole time (Minx is awesome at continuing to participate in my pleasure even after he's orgasmed, but with lots of guys, their orgasm means the party's over; I can keep getting myself off if I want to, but they can't be bothered to give a shit. Orgasm denial fixes this).

    And, maybe it's a bit of revenge against the memories of past partners who didn't care about my pleasure; let's put that shoe on the other foot.

    And, perhaps it's about control - his control over himself. I grew up totally believing all the high school bullshit about guys needing to have orgasms, raping women because they "got so turned on they couldn't help themselves," etc....watching a guy bring himself to the edge and then stop, entirely, because I fucking told him's very comforting.

    I don't claim that any of this is typical of women who dig orgasm denial. I'm just saying it's how I feel.

    And also, a lot of this is pretty speculative because I've fantasized about orgasm denial a lot more than I've implemented it. :P

  2. Hmm. All sounds very reasonable.

    "living vicariously through my partner" - I've been meaning to update this with a bit on projection, how the above listed stuff works when we imagine how we'd feel if our partner did the equivalent. For example, that's definitely how my love of cunnilingus, especially wet, messy cunnilingus with lots of "oh please let me lick you", "you taste so good" comments works.

    I love being teased and stopping temporarily; a few seconds of total cessation, a few minutes of something much less intense; I've spent so much of my life restraining myself and that plays with that fear. If she does resume trying to make me orgasm (in my case trying is pretty well identical to accomplishing) after a little while, it neutralizes the fear, says it's ok. Denial on the other hand would be extremely triggering for me and probably pretty much be the end of the relationship.

    Maybe the difference is more just quantitative time scale and fear play. The guys who like it like being teased for days instead of minutes, and they like the "I may not let you come at all" fear play.