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The most irresponsible piece of sex journalism yet for 2009 - Elf M. Sternberg
The most irresponsible piece of sex journalism yet for 2009
"Sex is the sewer drain of a healthy body, sir. Any use of the sexual act other than procreation is a waste of vital energy. Wasted seeds are wasted life. Masturbation is the silent killer of the night." Dr. John Harvey Kellogg Well, okay, that's the quote from TC Boyle's novelization of Kellogg's life, but apparently all of these are taken from Kellogg's book Plain Facts for Young and Old.

I was reminded of Kellogg and his obsession this morning, when several sources, most notably Violet Blue, drew my attention to probably the most wrong-headed and ill-informed article about the online kink community ever written: ABC News' Susan James's Therapists Say Kinky Sex Is on the Rise.

It starts out with the worst definition, a "paraphilia" is a "socially unacceptable sexual practice," and then contrasts that with "teleoiphiles." First, the word paraphilia is simply wrong here; it implies that kink is a "requirement," not a flavoring or recreational extra. Susan James claims that if you like kink, you can't have it any other way.

But worse, she contrasts "paraphilia" with "teleoiphilia." Have you ever heard the word "teleoiphilia?" I did, when I was considering becoming a psych major many years ago. It is not an antonym for "paraphilia." It's an antonym for "pedophilia." Her first on-topic paragraph starts by tarring all kinky people with the broad brush of accusation: We're not just weird, we're dangerous, we haven't gotten the message about what's normal or we don't care about what's normal, we'll be inappropriate all the time so you had better watch out for your children.

James's reportage is utterly incompetent, designed to be sensationalistic. She quotes from a "sexpert," Susan Quilliam, who apparently did the current revision of The Joy and Sex, (My opinion on the previous work is not a kind one, and given what little she's allowed in this column, I doubt I'll find the third edition any more enlightening. Go buy The Guide To Getting It On instead) and writes: Creating a "safe" arena for experimentation is critical, she said, and couples should have special words, should they be uncomfortable, to call for "an immediate halt to the activity." Huh. That never occurred to us before. Thanks, "sexpert." If only there was a word for that, and if only we'd been using it twenty years ago.

James's pet sexpert makes irresponsible connections, and James eats them up uncritically. Did you know, for example, that you might start off a swinger and end up a cannibal? It's true! You start out with one perversion and, according to Quilliam, you'll end up at "one of the fastest growing perversions on the Internet — cannibalism." Quilliam, meet Dolcett. Meet fantasy.

Even worse, she talks to a documentarian of the kink scene, but someone who's not kinky himself apparently, and takes this quote from him:
After the pain threshold is crossed, they describe a type of ecstasy called 'flying." It is no longer painful and gives an entirely sexual as well as psychological, transcendent place. Flying is bigger than any drug.
Okay, anyone who's ever read any of my flogging stories knows damn well that I've described the "pushed past pain" point several times, both as a top and a bottom, and describing it as drug-like both demeans it and sensationilizes it. This is language chosen to arouse the anti-sex forces, to legitimize the concept of "erototoxins," and to legislate against us.

The stupid, it just irritates. She goes from singular, criminal examples (like the Hans Miewes case) to a general "It's everywhere! On the Internet! It's not just bad for children! It'll get you! Run for your lives! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" All psychologists know that paraphilia are the result of childhood trauma. And sado-masochism [sic-- what's wrong with her dictionary, anyway?] is never fantasy or light, and eventually your dominatrix will toss you on a spit and roast you alive.

And she makes the claim that once you've tried something kinky you can never have "normal" sex. Because, you know, people who love hot sauce can't stand ice cream or a decent burger without one, right? I'm reminded of Kellogg again, and his obsession with keeping "stimulating" foods away from teenagers because, so his logic went, if they were stimulated in one thing they might become stimulated in others, and that would lead to the victim "dying by his own hand," as Kellogg tried to make wit.

The entire article makes sex out to be this Big Scary Thing, and kinky people are playing with the Big Scary Thing in Dangerous Ways, and maybe They Must Be Stopped.

Grrr. Hulk Smash.

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Current Mood: nauseated nauseated
Current Music: Paul Oakenfold, Southern Sun

8 comments or Leave a comment
From: codeamazon Date: February 12th, 2009 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wonder what it would take for you to get on the "experts circuit" NOT in the choir, but out there in the real world?
elfs From: elfs Date: February 12th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Midori pointed out that doing so is somewhat hopeless; these people can't write about this stuff without either appearing to be part of the "problem," (see the recent incident regarding the Center for Sex Positive Culture and KOMO TV) or bringing in their own sex-negative ambivalence. This is one of those things you can't write about without appearing biased, and if you must appear biased, appear biased in favor of the "vast majority," whatever that is.

Violet Blue gets it exactly right when she says that editors "can't approach this stuff without acting like teenagers who've found dead skunk roadkill and can't help but poke it with a stick."

hydrolagus From: hydrolagus Date: February 12th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Do you get a sense that we're heading into an (more) anti-sexuality climate or is this just a lousy week for pervs?
mrf_arch From: mrf_arch Date: February 13th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Now that god-fearin' evangelicals who might actually prosecute those nasty pervs are out of power, they're getting a bit shrill themselves.
abostick59 From: abostick59 Date: February 12th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
And sado-masochism [sic-- what's wrong with her dictionary, anyway?] is never fantasy or light, and eventually your dominatrix will toss you on a spit and roast you alive.

Okay, now I'm *really* confused. I'm the dom in a D/S relationship with someone who is the domme in all her other relationships. Which of us is going to roast the other on the spit?
whipartist From: whipartist Date: February 12th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Studying fencing may be your only hope.
gromm From: gromm Date: February 12th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

HULK SMASH indeed!

Gee. Where do I start?

Okay, I'll start here: "James's reportage is utterly incompetent, designed to be sensationalistic."

Welcome to Journalism 101, where if we can't just get it wrong, we get to make shit up.

Really, has there ever been a press article about a subject upon which you are an expert that *wasn't* utterly incompetent? If you have, it's because you aren't expert enough in it. ;)

I suppose that technically speaking, there is a good reason for that. It's exactly what happens when you send a rank noob (without any real interest in the subject, either) into a shop for half an hour (maybe a couple, on the outside) and then tell them to write 500 words on the subject. So if you don't know SFA about what you just saw, you might as well be sensationalistic. At least then you'll get people reading your article. 98% of the public won't know the difference anyway.

That said, there's really no excuse for this article, except to get the public screaming to Make It Stop.
slutdiary From: slutdiary Date: February 13th, 2009 02:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I read that article this morning, linked off of Huff Post, and had very much the same reactions as you. But what to do? There will always be Miss Grundy's out there, blue nose to the keyboard.
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