The Far Realms of Lust and Longing

From a review of a new book on bizarre sexual fetishes and the “far realms of lust and longing”:

It’s not merely that Jacob finds women’s feet attractive. It’s that, for him, “the feet were the breasts, the legs, the buttocks, the genitals.” Simply hearing the words “size 8” or “size 9” can get him excited. Like a man partial to a particular breast size, Jacob also has his ideal foot shape: a high arch, a wide instep and a staircaselike progression of toes. Once when he was stalled in traffic, the woman in the car next to him had her feet up on the dash — his version of a naked swimsuit model — and he climaxed seconds later.

Later, we learn about a man who’s dealing with his intense attraction to amputees. He participates in internet chat rooms where he can list specific preferences for SAEs (single-arm amputations above the elbow) or DAKs (double-leg amputations above the knee).

Crazy, right? Or is it? The reviewer raises an interesting question:

…”Was a preference for a single arm really all that different from a preference for a certain color hair, a certain tone of skin or shape of face or type of body?” A Greenwich Village psychoanalyst tells Bergner, “Perversion can be defined as the sex that you like and I don’t.”

These stories may seem extreme, but at what point does desire go from acceptable to perverse? Is the man who lusts after petite, vulnerable-looking women any different from the man who lusts after disabled, vulnerable-looking women? What’s O.K.: a different body part, a different age group, a different type of body, a different kind of touch?

12 comments on “The Far Realms of Lust and Longing
  • Ben:

    I think the difference lies in the societally-determined bounds of what is in ‘good taste’ and what is not. And those bounds constantly shift. e.g. when men were all powerful, a May-November romance where she was May and he November, was acceptable but the reverse was frowned upon. That is shifting as more women have money and power and independence.

    The universal taboo is an adult-child relationship. But the age of consent varies widely too (e.g. 13 in Spain, 14 in Bulgaria, 18 in Malta and variable for straight and gay consent in Greece, so much for a European ‘Union’) which highlights that laws too are societally negotiated.

    Besides, are these not ‘private’ preferences ergo, NOYB territory? I think only those, who think they should have a say in people’s private preferences, object to people being gays or perverts. And regardless of the age of consent, most thinking adults draw the line at children. Thankfully so!

  • Plain eroticism and diverse orientations need no moral governance as opposed to perversion that calls for serious intervention. Morality codes work best in fields that are amenable to consensus. Individualistic erotic urges often fall in an uncontrollable zone both for its practitioners and the moral police. Conduct codes can’t be framed as inviolable charters because what is grotesque can’t be easily generalized. Eroticism is heterogeneous and if the paintings / sculptures in the caves of Ajanta, Ellora and Khajuraho are anything to go by, erotic traits had their roots in prehistoric times or may be as old as mankind. What can at best be enforced is the need for consent and age limits tuned to demographic calibrations of physical and emotional maturity.

    Without mincing words, obnoxious weeds like incurable pedophiles should be shot dead.

    That foot fixation you quote is harmless plain eroticism as opposed to obsession with amputees or even corpses – which is perversion that is obsessive and outrageous. The ego in the perverse urge is so helpless, when it is comparatively more in charge vis-à-vis the genital drives. That guy with the foot fixation after having climaxed in the car, could swap his well paying job to morph into a career pedicurist or run / work in a shoe store to satiate his urges masking it as work. For him, the full-on coital engagement that sinfully disregards the seductive pair below (bare/stockinged/socked/RHT’d) could seem obnoxious, despicable and by his own definition, perverse. So the effort should be on to extend the libidinal development research that find ways to sublimate those urges and channel them by methods that are socially acceptable than to categorize them as condemnable – something that could push quaint traits deeper into the recesses, often with dangerous consequences before they get `outed’.

  • The idea of perversion is based on the idea that there exists a range of normal sexual behaviours, the latter being constructive for human beings and the world, while the former is destructive. Western culture increasingly regards sexuality as being entirely subjective, ie not an area in which tastes themselves can be right or wrong, negative or beneficial.

    Our modern view is that when sexuality is destructive, this is because it involves coercion. Child abuse is considered wrong because children are considered unable to consent to sex. We blame paedophiles not for being perverted but for enacting their desires against the child’s will.

    I think there is an argument however that human sexuality is a constructive force when invested in strong relationships, and potentially destructive when it turns into an obsessive or escapist hobby. So maybe healthy sexuality is about being excited and fulfilled by sharing with another person and wanting the same for them; whereas egotistical sexuality is about objectifying people like toys, which is at best harmless but at worst damaging or addictive.

  • “…Sins of homosexuality violate even this basic natural structure of the reproductive function, rendering it necessarily and utterly sterile, void of its intrinsic purpose. That is why homosexuality is sometimes called ‘the sin against nature.’ In fact the sin is so unnatural that Mother Church ranks it alongside murder, defrauding the worker of his just wage, and oppression of the widow or orphan, as one of the four sins ‘crying to Heaven for vengeance.’ However, God did not wait for the founding of the Catholic Church to instill in men the horror of this sin, but he implanted in the human nature of all of us, unless or until we corrupt it, an instinct of violent repugnance for this particular sin, comparable to our instinctive repugnance for other misuses of our human frame, such as coprophagy [shit-eating]… Homosexuality is a vice, or sinful habit, created by nothing other than a series of sinful acts, for each of which the individual was responsible. Homosexuality is a moral problem, which is why, fascinatingly, St. Paul in the same passage derives it from idolatry!”

    — Richard Williamson, the bishop “rehabilitated” by Pope Benedict a couple of weeks ago who needs to “review the historical evidence” before deciding if the Holocaust actually happened or not.

  • I think what strikes many people as weird is for a person to fixate on one physical feature so intensely that they join clubs dedicated to lovers of that feature, or frequent websites and chatrooms devoted to worship of that feature. For example, I know plenty of guys who find something sexually appealing about a pretty female foot. But only a couple of them, I’d guess, would download foot fetish porn or hang out on foot fetish forums online.

    Even fixating on a person’s ethnicity like this seems kind of creepy. It strikes me to not to be so much about the person as it is about this singular thing about them; it can seem very impersonal and empty – de-humanizing, even – from my perspective.

  • Dehumanization is what I was thinking of too. It can happen in many ways, including with people’s consent. We need to differentiate between what’s consentual and what is actually good for us. I think we’re dumping the old religious judgements on this, but don’t have much to replace it with.

  • Here’s a question: If you’d been the subject of someone’s fetish – wittingly or otherwise – would you admit it even to your closest friend?

    I suspect many women, anyway, would not. Is this because “society” has made fetishism shameful, or because there is an inherent lack of dignity in being the focus of a fetish? Or both?

    I do wonder how most guys would deal with it.

  • I’m with Ben. As long as the two individuals involved are adults entering into a relationship of their own free will, why not?

    Most people are pretty open about their “type,” whether that type indicates willowy blondes or buxom brunettes. So what if someone’s type is “only has one arm?” As long as you’re not actively amputating the unwilling, it seems harmless enough.

    I have always preferred women with olive skin and curly brown hair–no wonder most of the women I find attractive are Jewish or Latina, or that my wife is Puerto Rican.

    Similarly, Alisha has always preferred Asian men named Chris. (This is not a joke)

    Neither of us is complaining!

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