Saturday, 21 April, 2007, saw my third attendance at what might be referred to as a public “fetish” event. But first, a rant.
I’m not all that fond of the term “fetish”. Apple’s Dictionary.app defines “fetish” in this context as:
- “fetish |ˌfɛtɪʃ|
a course of action to which one has an excessive and irrational commitment : he had a fetish for writing more opinions each year than any other justice.
a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc. : Victorian men developed fetishes focusing on feet, shoes, and boots.“
Who decided what was an “abnormal” degree of linkage for sexual gratification, or what counts as “excessive” or “irrational” for everybody? Why would anybody consider their own tastes “abnormal”, “excessive”, or “irrational”? Who doesn’t regard their own preferences and tastes as entirely normal, reasonable and rational for them? Logically speaking, a preference only seems abnormal, excessive or irrational to somebody who doesn’t share it. So this is a term defined for the purposes of describing other people’s preferences. And I dislike hearing anybody thoughtlessly using terms like “fetish” to exclude, minimise or invalidate the diversity of other people’s tastes and preferences, as if their own were some kind of officially established universally applicable baseline of acceptability.
In most circumstances, the only time I think terms such as “irrational”, “excessive”, or “abnormal” are appropriate is if the individuals themselves consider them appropriate (for example if a person suddenly changed their habits, preferences or tastes in a way which is unusual for them).
I find that bigotry and other kinds of exclusion can be perpetrated using words such as these, and I think that’s vile.
I like leather, probably more than some and less than others. I regard my preference for leather as entirely normal, rational, and reasonable for me. I like it exactly the right amount for me (obviously :p ). Some people like rubber, and some people like PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride).
Some companies can generate enough income selling “fetishy” materials such as clothing and other items to keep them in business, which demonstrates that a significant proportion of the consumer population exists which can support such a business. That’s a lot of people. So what proportion of the human population has to like something before somebody decides that it has achieved “normal” status? Is marriage considered a fetish? What about chinese food?
I feel similarly about the term “kinky” or “kink”, and also the term “deviant”, which are defined thusly in Apple’s Dictionary.app:
- “kinky |ˌkɪŋki|
adjective (kinkier , kinkiest)
informal involving or given to unusual sexual behavior.
(of clothing) sexually provocative in an unusual way: kinky underwear.
informal: a kinky relationship: PERVERSE, abnormal, deviant, unconventional, unnatural, degenerate, depraved, perverted;
departing from usual or accepted standards, esp. in social or sexual behavior : deviant behavior | a deviant ideology. chiefly offensive: homosexual.“
Unusual behaviour for whom? Sexually provocative in an unusual way for whom? Departing from standards accepted by whom? Not by me, that’s certain. So I stick to terms such as “preferences”, “likes”, or similar. But it’s difficult to find a concise term for an event such as Saturday’s, which has a BDSM theme, without using the term “fetish” or “kink”. For the purposes of this post, I will use the term “BDSM night”.
(by the way, BDSM is a term which I particularly like, as it’s concise, descriptive, encompasses a whole range of orientations, and usage-wise has mostly neutral nuances associated with it)
So, anyhow, having dispensed with the obligatory rant……