Once upon a time, serious fetishists could end up seriously lonely (or unfulfilled) people — because, let's face it, fetishists and fetishes have always been around. The Sexual Revolution brought a level of openness to hetero-normative sex and the desire for it, but, to one degree or another, it left a lot of people still in the closet. Between the growing acceptance of LGBT people and the interconnectivity brought by the Internet, some of the remaining barriers to finding the partner who fits your sexual proclivities are dissipating — but, as The Independent's Esther Walker learns, the level of openness or actual human connection isn't.
First off, I know (and have known) many people in non-traditional relationships with non-vanilla sexual interests who have perfectly happy, loving relationships that incorporate each person's (usually complementary) fetishes in a supportive and open way. Sometimes, they have met through the Internet, sometimes through organizations designed to cater to their needs, sometimes through happy accident. But, as I have previously noted, for some fetishists, the fetish can serve as a pretty effective barrier to having an actual relationship with someone, which involves having to open yourself up to both positive and negative emotions. Walker lines up 4 examples of the latter type, with an asexual man and a charming older women who likes younger men (not a fetish!) seemingly the most well adjusted.
First up is "James," who loves his Real Doll like she's an actual person. He admits, like most serious Real Doll fetishists, to unspecified problems in having and maintaining relationships. Like his compatriots in this article, he hasn't told a soul about his fetish or the "woman" he loves and has sex with. He also prefers having sex with the doll to that with actual women, calling it "a lot easier and more pleasurable than the real thing," you know, where he'd have to take the needs of another person into account. But this, perhaps, is the money quote:
perhaps it's the power thing that appeals – being in control of every aspect of her.
Perhaps? I'd say that's exactly it.
Next up is the sex addict, "Simon," who cheats on his wife regularly with any NSA sex partner he can meet on a site designed to help spouses cheat. It's not that he doesn't love his wife, see, it's just he needs more sex than she can give him, and 12 years is a long time to fuck the same pussy! Of course, he could be single, or he could have an honest open relationship with his wife, but that's, of course, not the attraction. He only sleeps with married women, so they won't tell his wife, and says,
I know so many men who say things like, "Oh my wife wouldn't cheat on me," and I laugh and think, OK, whatever, mate – she probably already has, with someone just like me.
Except his wife, of course. She's the perfect wife. I don't know that Simon deserves to be categorized as a fetishists — if he and his wife had a legit open marriage, he might have been — but he's still a prick.
Onto "Gemma," who likes swinging and having sex with others watching. Having taken her last boyfriend to a sex party — where he watched her have sex with another dude (which is the point of a sex party) and didn't like it — she'll never tell a potential lover interest about her sexual interest out of fear that he'll leave. She will, of course, continue to go to sex parties and orgies and will never tell a soul about it because they'll think she's a slut. Naturally, she also doesn't think about dating anyone in the scene because, you know, they like to have sex with a lot of people.
Last on Walker's list of fetishists is "John," who has a fetish about playing at baby, which might (or might not) be related. But rather than continue to seek out relationships with women who fulfill his sexual fantasies and older-woman urges, he gets right on the Internet and orders himself up a wet-nurse and diaper-changer.
I realise that it sounds weird, but it gives me some sort of comfort at the same time as addressing my sexual needs. The fact that it's all done anonymously through the web provides me with extra privacy, too.
Basically, he went from having nominally-healthy relationships with older women that he cared about to having completely anonymous fetish sex with women he knows nothing about and ho know nothing about him.
Luckily, Walker interviews two people that really aren't technically fetishists — "Miriam" and "Mark" — who don't make all people with supposedly alternative lifestyles look like they are embarrassed about their life choices, selfish, controlling and/or sort of creepy. Miriam is a divorcée with grown children who dates younger men she meets on the Internet. That's about it. That's her "fetish." She thinks they're more fun in and out bed and, after a long marriage, ugly divorce and depression, she's just having a good time right now and isn't ashamed. Mark is an asexual, who just simply isn't interested in sex of any sort and never has been. He's open about it to at least some members of his family, has tried to find partners and belongs to an Internet of like-minded individuals who make him feel less alone in the world. He actually seems completely well-adjusted, and has an active social life with ongoing relationships with people, unlike the doll-guy or the diaperman.
Look, most people don't run around talking about their sex lives to a ton of people, which is totally fine (and a way to make holiday meals far less uncomfortable). But there's a difference between thrusting your sex life in people's faces and never having anyone that you're not sexually involved with (possibly anonymously) know who you really are. If a guy who likes to wear diapers and be breast-fed can't even tell the woman at whose teat he suckles his real name, he's not quietly living out his sexual fantasies in an emotionally healthy way, he's walling himself off from relationships that can fulfill him sexually and emotionally. And that sucks — for him and for the women who are potentially interested in both parts of him.
Modern Sex: Catherine Townsend Logs On To The New Revolution [The Independent]