I figuratively rubbed my hands together when I saw that Jezebel was soliciting readers' "weirdest turn ons." Snarky, no-shit-taking feminists revealing their deepest darkest fantasies! This should be awesome, I thought.
So far, the submissions include quirky things like fake German accents, priest collars, fresh tobacco, alcoholic comedians and "hyperarticulate political shop talk.” One woman copped to really liking her boyfriend’s hands. Another admitted to rape fantasies -- dun, dun, dun -- after tremendous encouragement from fellow commenters. [Insert appropriate boredom GIF.]
This all had me feeling really jaded. I was recently commissioned to write about the strangest online porn, which resulted in me watching videos of an elderly woman double-penetrated by her own dentures and an Indian doctor extracting blackheads while cooing to viewers, "You want to sit on it?" Now that stuff is weird.
Or is it?
What defines “weird” in the realm of sexual fantasy, anyway? Is it marginality? If so, the availability of “niche” porn suggests that even be-dentured titillation isn’t that weird. No, it may not be a top search term on YouPorn.com, but it has enough of an audience to exist as a sub-genre. There are entire sites devoted to fantasies about everything from cannibalism to incest. To the Jezebel poster into priest collars: Clergy porn is definitely a thing. In fact, anything and everything is a thing in porn. That's the infamous Rule 34 of the Internet: "If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions."
There is plenty to be said about the negative impact of pervasive online porn, but one positive effect is that it demystifies fantasy. Should you care to feel less alone in your kink --whether it's tickling or CGI-monster sex, or a combination of both -- you can with just a couple of clicks. Looking for a convention for furries? That exists. A meet-up for diaper fetishists? Yep. A dating site for dungeon lovers? Totally. You're only alone in your kink if you want to be. It's a beautiful thing!
Then again, demystifying fantasy can be a bad thing. What are our fantasies without taboo? We all want to be special little snowflakes -- but when it comes to sex, we don't want to be too, too special. Our own sexual idiosyncrasies are precious and scary and prized (in the same way that the minutiae of our own dreams is endlessly fascinating but usually leaves others bored out of their minds).
Clearly, there is a hierarchy of “weird" that is entirely subjective. One person's secretly held rape fantasy is another person's dentures fetish. Often, the degree to which we feel that our own fantasies are weird is relevant to our enjoyment of the fantasies. In this way, we're all in a competition for the weirdest fantasy (fittingly, Jezebel refers to this series as a "pissing contest"), but also absolutely terrified of winning. Sexuality is full of these contradictions; it's one of its defining characteristics.
I'll never forget the time I hung out with the sex writer Susie Bright shortly after embarking on a reporting trip to cover a "kinky fox hunt" in the woods. With wide eyes, I described to her the neighing men dressed in elaborate leather horse costumes, the crop-wielding huntresses and the guy in a full-body latex fox costume. How craaazy, right? She responded with something along the lines of, "I'm so glad they get to play with each other." It was said in the warmest, most compassionate way. Ever since then, as I've encountered reader letters about kinks that surely only they have, I think, "Oh, sweetheart." I don't mean it in a diminishing sense -- it's just that we're all sensitive little sweethearts who secretly think we're the weirdest of them all.
Allow me to reassure you: You're not. Unless, of course, weirdness is your essential turn-on -- in which case, wow, you are such a freak.