“The only normal people”, the old quotes goes, “are the ones you don’t know very well”. Never a truer word was spoken.
People often ask me if their particular kink is ‘normal’. Sometimes they fret about whether they’re unusual in comparison to my other clients. Perhaps they imagine I have some Blue Peter-style barometer of aberrance hidden in my wardrobe, but unfortunately it’s just not the case . In a similar vein, I’m frequently asked for salacious details about ‘the weirdest thing’ I’ve ever seen/done/experienced.
I take umbrage with these questions for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’d never dream of discussing a client’s private desires with someone else, nor of offering up confidential tit-bits of information for another’s interest. I pride myself on my absolute discretion, and this extends beyond personal details to the particulars of what we get up to together. Secondly, It’s somewhat frustrating to be thought of as a walking, talking cabinet of curiosities, whose job means that people feel they have carte blanche to ask about deeply private information. In those circumstances, I’ve found it quite effective to enquire politely how they would feel if they knew one of their lovers was sharing similar tales about them at a dinner party.
But most significantly, these questions propagate the idea that there’s a prescribed set of sexual norms, and that anyone who falls outside these is decidedly ‘abnormal’. This couldn’t be more inaccurate. Any social anthropologist will tell you that sexual norms are relative, and vary wildly between different cultures and time periods. However, the pernicious belief that certain behaviours, and by extension certain people, are weird and unhealthy still exists today.
Like so many of our contemporary neuroses, the British inherited this repressive outlook from the Victorians. In his History of Sexuality (Vol. 1), cultural theorist Michel Foucault examines the social binary of ‘normal’ vs ‘deviant’ sexuality, which emerges in the eighteenth century to curtail any perceived ‘unproductive’ sexual expression. A So-called ‘perversion’ came to be seen as anything that wasn’t functional, reproductive sex within a heterosexual relationship. These perversions could be ‘cured’ through the institution of marriage, all of which sounds very dull indeed.
To my mind, our kinks are what make us all thrillingly unique. As long as your play is safe, sane and consensual (the BDSM holy trinity), then who’s to say what’s right or wrong? Perhaps you find the sight of a stocking-clad foot the hottest thing in the world; or maybe being treated like a very bad little puppy drives you wild. Whatever your tastes run to, no fetish is better, worse, or ‘stranger’ than any other.
Creating a culture of shame and anxiety around certain sexual behaviours only serves to pathologise healthy eroticism . It also stands in the way of honest communication about our wants and needs – and poor communication goes hand in hand with disappointing sex.
So abandon normal, I say, and embrace your naughtiest idiosyncrasies. There’s an awful lot of fun to be had when you do.