Thursday, July 3, 2014

The unthinkable

Wendy and I are listening to a new radio station these days when our clock goes off at 7:40.  They are called The Edge and they try to come across as edgy, risque, and exciting.  This means that they try to use headlines that have some sexual content and riff on them comedically.  They are sometimes amusing but mostly meh.  Sadly this is the best radio station we have found and that is a sad thing to say about radio.

The hosts are generally pretty happy to talk about sex and use their personal experiences for chat fodder.  They talk about embarrassing moments they have had and relate to headlines using their own history.  Compared to a lot of people they definitely come off as being very open and accepting about sex and relationships.  Today they were talking about fetishes and spoke about fart fetishes, fantasizing about other people than your spouse, and other subjects designed to titillate the audience with their vaguely taboo subject matter.  It ended up making me very sad though because of the things they wouldn't say and wouldn't admit to.

First off the very idea of a sexual fetish bothers me when mainstream sources discuss it.  They inevitably group a bunch of things into a pile, call them normal, and deem everything not in the pile to be a fetish and thus bizarre and worthy of gawking.  The elephant in the room is that nobody can give me a reason why me being super turned on by unclothed breasts is considered okay and being turned on by farts is shameful.  Neither is sensible or based on any sort of objective standard - they are just random things that turn people on.  My particular set of turnons are very prevalent but talking about them as if that makes them better or fundamentally different is ridiculous.  Breasts are organs whose primary purpose is to deliver milk to babies.  Drooling over them is fine but it shouldn't be treated as a right and proper thing, just as a common one.

The second thing that got me is the way the hosts desperately avoided saying that they fantasize about people other than their partner.  It was clear that though they could talk about all kinds of things they had done it was completely not okay to suggest that they ever held thoughts of others in their mind.  I find this attitude incredibly frustrating - there is nothing wrong with exclusivity if that is what floats your boat but the idea that we all have to pretend that our domestic partners completely end other sexual desire is insidious and destructive.  No matter how you live the fiction that our partners should instantly and completely fulfill all of our desires and needs places far too much pressure on a relationship.

In the end both things are similar in nature.  Both revolve around the fiction that there is a simple, normal way to have a relationship and that people who don't follow that mould are wrong, bad, or crazy.  Neither of those things is true and the fact that they are so established in our public discourse frustrates me to no end.

1 comment:

  1. I think that in any given culture there is a normal way to have a relationship and there are other ways that are abnormal. From a similar but related area of cultural life - most people who can't seem to find anyone to have a sexual relationship with will choose something from the menu of "normal" ways to deal with that: sulking, complaining to friends, keeping a stiff upper-lip, working really hard to meet people, not minding being alone in the short term, etc. Some people will choose something from various other menus of abnormal responses: "marrying" a human-sized doll, shooting spree, not minding being alone in the long term, etc.

    Obviously shooting spree is a problem behaviour whereas I don't see why choosing to have a relationship with an object you've anthropomorphized is a problem behaviour (it's a problem if it's a problem for *you*). But you and I probably have similar method detecting problematic relationships - a healthy combination of ethics of caring and utilitarianism. For a lot of people, though, I think detecting problematic things works on heuristics rather than analysis. As long as the culture they live in has furnished them with a reasonable life, it is safer to stick with options from the normal menu than any abnormal menu. There is no rational connection between shooting sprees and text-based internet relationships over MUDs, but both are abnormal, and it's easier to do a quick check than to think through every situation you encounter.

    Not that I don't use quick heuristics - I'm pretty sure most human relationships don't get past the "Why would this matter to me?" filter to actually be analyzed.

    I'm not trying to make some kind of false equivalency here. Obviously you are right here (hey, I'm right too, what a coincidence that I'd think that). But I think that for many people the function they use to detect if their food has spoiled is the same one they use to detect whether sexual relationships are problematic. Trying to train themselves to think in a new way about it would be difficult on the order of your quest to try to enjoy cheese (and they should get off their lazy asses and do it).