A few days ago the Italian edition of Vanity Fair asked me to write an article about fetishisms that opened once and for all the proverbial Pandora’s vase. What I observed was, in a pinch, that real fetishists – those whose lives suffer due to the obsession for the object of their desire – are like that also because they have difficulties in relating to possible partners. A frequently adopted solution is therefore to reduce satisfying their needs to a commercial exchange: you give me my fetish, I give you money, no need for further complications. It is a pretty common approach for example among foot fetishists, that however leads to two problems.
The first obviously is that by doing so they’ll never solve their distress, which can in fact only increase: the occasional laughingstock is just the visible tip of very large “subcultures”. The second is, indeed, the unhealthy part of what revolves around many unusual sexual preferences. The Pandora vase mentioned above manifested itself – as it often happens – on the social networks, where several ladies commented on the article expressing a common view: «given the number of annoying fetishists bothering me online and sometimes in person, I can as well get paid and take at least some easy money out of it».
This is sound reasoning – if you have no ethics whatsoever. After all, whiney old widows are a pain in the ass too: you might as well pose as a medium capable of putting them in touch with their dead husbands to supplement your income. Or sell miracle cures to the terminally ill: after all, you give them some hope and it’s not like they can bring their bank account into the afterlife, is it?
If these examples turned your stomach, I’d like you to notice how their underlying logic is the very same of so many so-called “fetish girls” with tens of thousands of followers. Nobody asks them to act as Red Cross nurses, for pity’s sake, but maybe it would be desirable for them not to contribute to worsening the general situation.
It is hard to complain about female objectification when so many women present themselves like a good for sale, albeit in pieces. In the specific case of retifism, with time prostitution has even become the rule. Investing two minutes would be enough to explain to the typical fetishist what is wrong with their approach and how they can find a truly and passionately consenting partner… but a simple online search will reveal a whole industry based on exploiting their paraphilia.
If you are thinking you had heard this one you are not mistaken. This sounds rather similar to what I have written about financial domination, but also about other trends whose monetary aspect is less prominent, yet based on similar reasoning: gooning and its incel drifts, the drama pits of gender dysphoria, the unhealthy part of cuckolding… and the list could go on and on.
Come to think of it, it was well out in the open, wasn’t it? Well, not so much in my case – for a good reason.
Fact is, as a specialized educator and member of the BDSM community, I spend most of my time immersed in a very peculiar environment. Since erotic domination and submission games can be objectively dangerous, those who practice them created a series of rules, protected environments and instruments through the decades that not only dampen the risks, but even involuntarily foster empathy between the participants.
It is a happy island featuring a whole culture focusing on wellness, working every day since the Eighties to solve the last remaining issues. If you are living there, it is easy to get distracted and think that every other form of unusual sex is just as enlightened.
The reality is unfortunately different. All those variations that don’t involve clear physical hazards feel no such need to intellectualize desire: their only thought is about scratching an itch as quickly and efficiently as possible – until the next fancy pops up.
Solving this problem is supposed to be the mission of the sex-positive philosophy, which is however ignored by those who’d need it the most, and which sadly is itself part of the issue.
As denounced even by prominent figures in the movement, much so-called activism consists of a circle jerk that loves to hear itself talk, instead of making an active effort of bringing the message of better sexual wellness to those who never heard about such things. The widespread mentality described in the beginning is therefore not so surprising, nor how many educators and activists are totally unaware of it. To realize this is a start. However, that saying that goes «if you don’t react you are part of the problem» is true, so I ought at least to suggest a solution.
After lots of pondering, I believe the most effective recipe may also be the simplest: let’s just try to behave ethically. The next time we’ll meet (maybe in a mirror) a person asking us to satisfy their erotic desires, make a point of answering them in the most beneficial way in the long run. This maybe will mean acting against their expectations, or against our own habits; it will probably require some study for both, changing the way we interact with the communities we proudly represent, or making an effort to measure ourselves with unfamiliar mindsets. It cannot be excluded that it may feel somewhat uncomfortable in the beginning, but besides the satisfaction of having done good, at the end of the day we too are going to benefit from it in the form of a healthier and happier idea of sexuality (unusual as it may be) for everyone, centered anew on pleasure instead of neurosis.
Doesn’t this sound nicer to you too?