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Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Normal

March 9, 2012

I write about sexuality. I talk about it. I study it. I have dedicated my life to the idea that sexuality is a basic human right, right up there with food and shelter. Everything that I say and do is dedicated to the idea that EVERYONE is entitled to do it however they want. In costumes, closets, corsets or covered in cream sauce while watching cartoons, if it’s consensual, you have a right to do it. And to not be persecuted or prosecuted for it.

My mission in life is to get everyone comfortable with the idea that sexuality is a wildly diverse thing, and that it’s okay. That what someone else does in their sex life has no impact on you, unless you’re doing it with them. My goal is to help a sheltered housewife in the Bible belt accept not only her own sexuality, but that of a costume wearing, corseted kinkster who likes it with cream sauce and cartoons.

Sound hard? It is. But not in the places you’d think. The conservative types are usually far more open to me and my messages than the costume-wearing corseted kinksters who like it with cream sauce and cartoons.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because they’ve spent a lifetime feeling like misfits and marginalized by people who look like me that they assume I am somehow a threat to them and read all sorts of things into my words that aren’t there.

Ironic, huh. Yup. And it’s what so often halts progress when marginalized populations really need to be accepted, but won’t “let” themselves. It’s a trust thing. And we are all guilty of it.

So, that’s the rub. I am not a particularly edgy or kinky person. And I am open about that. With the exception of a darling British boy who, when I was 16, called me “an insatiable American sex-pot” (with an exhausted smile on his face) I’ve never felt at all judged or marginalized by my sexuality. I fall squarely within the realm of the artificial societally-constructed ideal of “normal,” with just enough adventure and experimentation to “prove” that I’m open-minded and fuel people’s fantasies of what life could be like, if only…..

If only people weren’t so defensive and freaked out about sex and sexuality. Ya, I’m on it, that’s my mission in life. Help people calm the fuck down, and get their fuck on.

So why am I such a Pariah with the very people I want to “help.” And yes, I know how condescending that sounds, that’s not my intent, but is my point. And is part of the problem.  When a people feel systematically (and systemically) persecuted, then ANYTHING said by the people from whom they have been persecuted (or even people who appear to be “like” the people from whom they have been persecuted) is run through the “defensive” lens. They put up all their walls and barriers in order to protect themselves from barbs. But when you assume you’re under attack, everything looks like a barb. Kinda like the old saying, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

So with all the perceived barbs, come more walls. And those walls forever divide even those of us who say we want to connect from the people who say they want connection.

Let’s attach some nomenclature here, for the sake of this blog post. I know that I cannot pick the “right” words for everything, so I will choose, knowing it’s a minefield, two words that I believe the rest of the world (the vast vanilla middle ground in which change needs to happen) will understand. They are hot-button words for the sex-positive world, and I know it. Society would like to have us believe that there are two kinds of people: Normal & Kinky. For what it’s worth, I think there is one kind of person: Sexual. And that the expression of sexuality is so diverse that there cannot, by definition, be such thing as either normal or kinky, but for this, I will use the words that others use, because it is “others” that I am trying to reach.

On the one hand, you have the kinky people feeling persecuted (and in many cases literally prosecuted) by the normal people. They have all sorts of shame and judgement thrown at them, and as a natural result, are on guard, defensive and a bit exclusionary. They want to surround themselves with people who will not judge them, which is, generally speaking, more kinky people.

This is what subcultures of all types do. They define and publicly label themselves, surround themselves with similar people, develop their own languages, customs, visual cues and so they flourish in their island, surrounded by a moat of judgement that does, in fact, flow both ways. They feel they have been judged into seclusion, they judge others in a way that protects them, and enhances their seclusion. They keep “others” out, saying it is for protection. This fosters misunderstanding, the divide increases. Anthropology 101.

Now, for me, I don’t think of sex or sexuality as a set of acts, customs, rituals, expectations. As I have said countless times, I am interested in it almost entirely from a human rights perspective. No one, NO ONE, has the right to tell someone else how to have sex, or what to do with their body. So I admit a blindness when it comes to other people’s sexuality. Not because I don’t care, but because I don’t care. I am no more interested in the particular nuances of how you fuck than I am in how the man next door shits. I don’t think that you, and your corset-clad-cartoon-nooners are all that special. It’s just sex.

What I do care about is that you have the right to do it, safely. I care about getting that message to the people who do not currently agree with that.

If “normal” society is freaking out and saying you don’t have the right, then it is “normal” society that I have to work with, not you.

And here’s where the arrogant and defensive comes in. I probably have to do it, not you. Pissed? I would be to. But hear me out, in the hopes that we can all start working together.

If normal society perceives you as a threat, they will block you out too. You can’t get in. No matter how good your intention, kind your heart, smart your logic or how hot you look in that corset. If they are afraid of you, they will not listen to you, because their fear and judgement will stop them. It’s human nature.

You do not, and should not have to change one hair on your head. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, or hide who you are! However, you might need an outside force to help other people realize that not only are you NOT scary, you are awesome, just as you are. Sometimes, we all get it on with a little help from our friends, this is not new.

Being angry about it won’t help, because anger is a repellant just as much as fear is. Being judgmental about them won’t help, because that will make them defensive on top of afraid.

You have two distinct cultures coming together (pun intended) and no one is getting what they need. Why? Fear, anger and distrust are in the way.

Enter the tour guides. I am a tour guide, that’s all I am. I am a native of normal and am very comfortable with the customs of kink. I am that suburban kid who studied Chinese culture and can bring friends and family over to learn the culture, customs and foster greater understanding.

So why do I encounter so much opposition from some kinksters? Because I am not one of them. I can spout all the credentials I want: I was raised by a gay dad, I’ve tried every permutation of mono / poly you can imagine, I like toys, and boys and butts and ropes, but at the end of the day, I’m a monogamous MILF who actually keeps my real sex life very private. Because I don’t think you should care one iota about the nuances of how I fuck any more than you should about how the man next door shits. It is not, and never will be, the point. Indeed, the only point is that we all have a right to have sex however we want, regardless of how that is. “How” will  never be the point.

Anyway, I got in trouble again. Talking with a bunch of kinksters who I love dearly, and my guard was down, I was being candid and sloppy, and I used the word “normal.” Worse, I used it the context of suggesting that as much as I loved them, we needed to be sure that our messages of inclusion were also coming from people who looked “normal.” I overtly said that it made me gag to say it, but that I was saying it as a point of strategy, not of judgement or definition.

Indeed, I want people to understand that ALL SEX IS NORMAL SEX. But we aren’t there yet. The vast majority of the world still thinks that poly, BDSM, trans, group, anal and pretty much everything else you can name is “kinky.” That it is not normal. And they are scared of it.

Why? Because so many of us are so shut off from our own sexuality, and have so much fear and shame around it, that when anything gets close to touching it – in word or deed – our defenses go up. And this is not a conversation that can REALLY be had through the wall of defensive fear.

So I see myself as an under-cover agent of love, in a way. I can sneak in, with all my normalcy, and talk about kink safely, with people who would be afraid of a costumed kinkster. I can be that person who holds hands and soothes when it gets scary, so that people can watch all the way to the happy ending. (Yes, intended.)

But people got very, very mad at me. They didn’t hear the message, at all. They didn’t try to explain why that word hurt so badly or ask what I meant and work together to create new understanding. They just got mad. They just heard the word “normal,” felt judged, flared up, and the conversation ended, for good.

Pretty much proved my point.

I left sad. Why help if people don’t want help?

Oh, I know why. Because it isn’t about these people. Or those people. Or any particular people. It is about ALL PEOPLE. It is about the fact that sexuality is a basic human right. Our bodies are our own.

So I will keep working where I work best, in the vast vanilla middle ground. I will get their defenses down, and happiness up, which will make it possible for the message to be heard. New things to be learned, new customs to be observed, to foster greater cross-cultural understanding. After all, there is plenty of room for all of us to live and work together in peace and appreciation. If we would just stop slamming doors on people.

I just find it ironic that most of the doors that get slammed on me are slammed by people who bitch that they don’t feel accepted. It is an open invitation to an open party, but don’t blame me if you choose not to come because I played the wrong song.

I was reminded of a long conversation I had with a dread-locked, pierced and tattooed “burner” about Burning Man. She went on and on about “her” people,  and their customs and behaviors and the beauty of their community. She assumed it was foreign to me, what with all my soccer mom-ness. It was her arrogance and fear that never allowed her to see that I am very much a part of that community, she just assumed I was “other,” and was never able to see the sameness that united us.

So it is with sexuality. We are all the same, just in very different ways. If we stopped judging, from all angles, we’d see that. So much fear would disappear, so much love and joy could be found.

If only we had a map. Or at least a tour guide.

Next tour leaves in an hour…..

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2012 4:05 pm

    Nice, heart felt, rant and extra points for amusing alliteration.

    Per our conversation over mai tais it is your, what did Gloria call it, your non-scaryness that makes you such an effective guide for folks who are still trying to figure out what all this sex-positive stuff could mean for them.

    I am just as frustrated as you by supposed minority groups(supposed in that I think we’re all kinky) that have a nasty habit of eating their young, aka creating unnecessary and off putting hurtles in place for new people before they can wear the mantle of “True” believer.

    For what its worth, there are numerous folks actively involved in the kink community who have experienced the wall that you spoke of when we first put our toes into the scene and it has inspired us to be more self-aware of how we interact with all people but especially those nervous newbies who are taking their first the brave steps into new sexual territory. Probably not so unexpectedly, many of us have chosen careers and volunteer opportunities that connect us with those fresh faced explorers. Conventional therapists with focuses in sexuality, sex educators, ambassadors and party hosts at sex clubs like the Center for Sex Positive Culture, bloggers like yourself who focus on sexual issues, and sex workers like myself.

    Lastly, I vote that we stop using the word normal to define our or anyone else’s sexuality without the qualifier “for us/them”. And even then what that means to each of us should be a movable feast.

  2. Alyssa Royse permalink*
    March 9, 2012 4:13 pm

    MMMM, just LOVE you Ms. Katherine. What you said, 100% “We are a moveable feast!” Yummy. Thanks.

    We must stop eating our young. There are so many other willing and yummy people to eat. 🙂

  3. May 25, 2012 1:17 pm

    Hey Alyssa. I just discovered your blog today, having followed a link to your post about why you are not a feminist – with which I agreed on many points. Anyway, I looked around a little, paused to laugh at your Dan Savage encounter (huge fan of his also) and eventually wound up at this post.

    At the risk of joining you on the pariah pile…

    I have a friend who’s gay. Well, I say that. I have many friend and family members who are gay, including my mother. But I’m talking about one man in particular with this story. We both grew up in a very small, very impoverished, very closed-minded part of the UK, where prejudices of all types flourish for a variety of reasons. One of these prejudices was/is homophobia. Because of this, my (very effeminate) friend grew up being bullied, vilified and ridiculed from the time he was very young. By the time he was an older teen, he had grown a steel rod for a backbone, and was known (and loved) for being the flamboyantly camp queer of the village where we lived. He would make jokes about himself. Anyone asking where their handbag was (handbag being both what we say instead of ‘purse’ in the UK and a disparaging remark levied at gay men), he would wave his hands and say “here I am!”. Stuff like that. Fast forward a couple of decades and he’s in his mid-thirties. Still an amazing guy, but I do notice that he is never very comfortable in an arena where him being gay is not remarkable – so basically anywhere that’s not our bigoted little home town. The thing is, after getting over the bullying thing, he grew to like the attention he got for being gay. It became his ‘thing’ and he becomes a little lost when he can’t grab the limelight just by labeling himself a ‘fag’.

    Now for the pariah part – I think this can hold true for anyone who is marginalised and who has the guts and gumption to stand up to that marginalisation by saying “so fucking what – you’re not gonna drag me down – this is me!” Costumed kinksters included. They had to get through a whole load of crap to get to that place. The fact that they did get to that place is a huge testament to an iron-clad constitution, and hell if they’re going to give it up easily! (nor should they) I think that when you’re marginalised or othered for any reason, that reason cannot help but become part of your identity, so sometimes, when someone else says “hey it’s okay, I get it and I don’t care” – it can be a “WTF” moment. Being so used to being the person who is not ‘normal’, and in a way that even those who are not necessarily offended by particular ‘difference’ will want to prod and poke (also known as ask questions and be interested), to then have a ‘normal’ person not care one way or the other and not really consider your ‘thing’ to be special or noteworthy, but just a part-of-you-and-hey-isn’t-the-weather-nice can be quite disconcerting.

    Of course, that doesn’t apply to everyone. But equally, the objection to the word ‘normal’ doesn’t exist in every kinkster. As a kinky woman in a fabulous relationship with a kinky guy, it wouldn’t bother me one iota. “Normal” is a word that people understand, and it is a word that is, like other words, entirely context driven. Telling a kinkster they’re ‘not normal’ is one thing. Explaining that a divergence from ‘normal’ is fine when speaking to ‘nilla people about kinksters is completely another. So you let a ‘normal’ slip? Pfft. If the kinksters you were with got so very worked up about it, they were looking to be offended. And will probably continue looking to be offended. And probably aren’t interested in being seen as ‘normal’ by the ‘nillas anyway, because that would reduce how special and different they are.

    I don’t think we need to qualify the word ‘normal’ every time we use it. I think people just need to recognise that words are defined partly by dictionaries and massively by context.

  4. Alyssa Royse permalink*
    May 25, 2012 1:24 pm

    What an incredibly thoughtful, and entirely reasonable, response.

    I happen to think that you are right on. At some point, the labels that other people give us become chips that we carry on our shoulders, and just plain get in the way.

    THANKS. I actually really needed this today. – a

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