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Sex, Sexuality and Kink in F/SF Literature

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A couple things bothered me on this CONvergence panel that I don’t think I addressed adequately as a participant at the time.

1) – The assertion of an automatic association between sex and death, loss or subjugation of the self, and that marriage equals loss of identity, as demonstrated by women giving up their surnames.

I don’t argue against there being some element of submission in sex, and an element of ego loss, but these can be entirely a matter letting go to the feelings, to one’s own passion and not necessarily any kind of subjugation of one person by another. Modern western marriages aim at equal partnerships between whole persons who love and respect one another as individuals. Many women today keep their own names and are often breadwinners with meaningful careers. How retrograde is it to suggest they lose their identities in marriage?

I’d suggest that mainstream romance novels are a good indication of the kinds of sexual relationships that continue to have a broad appeal. In mainstream romance strong heroines are de rigueur and relationships work by establishing mutual trust and love between participants who share a mutual passion.

2) – The discussion skewed toward a focus on BDSM and ’50 Shades of Gray’ – with the suggestion that the book’s popularity indicated a widespread proclivity toward BDSM.

The popularity of ’50 Shades of Gray’ could as well be due to curiosity as to proclivity. ‘The Story of O’ provoked similar interest back when it was published in 1954, and yet BDSM remained a deviation from the norm rather than becoming mainstream.

Some panelists suggested that the connection of sex with death was the norm. I consider than one potential kink out of many. Perhaps widespread enough to underlie the popularity of vampire romance.

Yet, the focus on this one form of kink struck me as a distraction from the main topic. BDSM is hardly the only form of kink. The topic of incest was mentioned only in passing, necrophilia and pedophilia not at all. We didn’t hear about fetishes for big feet, big bums, licking eye-balls, or any other favorite body parts. We did hear about tentacles, but not furry sex. What do all these forms of kink have in common?

How much is a matter of culture? Hetero monogamous couples are mainstream in the US, polygamous marriages are mainstream in other cultures. Incest was practiced by the Egyptian pharaohs. Child brides have been normal in some times and places.

The word ‘kink’ suggests something outside the norm, but ‘norm’ is a moving target, and it really seems to be very normal for humans to develop a variety of sexual practices outside their norms. It seems to me that the interesting question here is why human beings develop erotic fixations in so many different ways, including the mainstream fixation on another individual?

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2 Comments

  1. M.Q. Barber says:

    Do you think part of the problem is that people whose only interaction with kink is FSoG automatically think BDSM = kink? As if they were the same level of classification instead of BDSM being one area of the kink realm? (Okay, three areas, but if they equate BDSM with kink, they probably don’t recognize the breakdown of the acronym, either.) So they might hear about a fetish for balloon popping and think “oh, that’s one of those BDSM things.”

    I think you’re right about the curiosity factor. Reading fiction gives people a license to explore worlds they might never be exposed to otherwise. When they find something new, they want to talk about it with friends. Will some of them try adding it to their own lives? Sure. But are all of them suddenly going to discover a proclivity for collars and caning? Probably not.

    • There probably are people who haven’t been exposed to any kink aside from BDSM (as found in FSoG) and think that’s all there is to it. I’m no expert on the subject, but I’m widely-read enough to have encountered references to all kinds of other odd behaviors, so it was frustrating to find the discussion confined to such a narrow sampling.

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