“Vanilla” sex is so over.

Like many of those who posted this week, I also found McClintock’s discussion of S/M particularly interesting. It is not often that we get to discuss fetishism in an academic setting, but the rare occasion is bound to bring up diverse and “disturbing” ideas.

S/M’s increasing rate of appearances in mainstream media has called into question the “vanilla” sex that is promoted by dominant heteronormative culture as of late.  Despite the notion that sex is not just for procreation, but for recreation also is still fairly new, fetishism has become a recent winkle in plans of the rather conservative sexual beings.  However, for those looking to explore all that sex has to offer, the buzz about fetishism has opened up the possibility of unprecedented satisfaction and comfort.  Giving those a platform to discuss fetishes in a safe and nonjudgemental has revealed that most aren’t “just having sex” and those with “sexual kinks” are certainly not alone.

Rihanna’s fairly new release “S&M” (http://www.vevo.com/watch/rihanna/sm/USUV71002981) has generated quite the conversation about fetishism, particularly sadomasochist sexual fantasies.  With phrases such as, “Sticks and stones may break my bones // But chains and whips excite me” and “It’s exactly what I’ve been yearning for, give it to me strong,”  Along with popular media such as Cracked.com claiming, “Bizarre sexual fetishes are a staple of the human psyche–most everyone has them, and with the arrival of Internet porn, all the walls came crumbling down. Suddenly, everyone everywhere could share their sick, nasty fantasies with the entire world, safe under a veil of anonymity,” the pop culture staples bring attention to sexual pleasures that go beyond mainstream ideals of what sex should be.  But are representations and proclamations like this enough to start a revolution of sexual realities?

The truth of the matter is that many highly regarded media health outlets still refer to fetishism as a “disorder,” described as such on Livestrong.com and Discovery Fit & Health.  Perhaps a bright side can be found in the helpful statements about treatment, though.  For instance, Discovery Fit & Health advises, “It’s only necessary to seek help if harm is coming from your sexual habit, says sex therapist Barnaby Barratt – if, for example, you’re clashing with the law or injuring yourself or others. Your off-the-track practices aren’t hurting anyone? In that case, Barratt encourages, ‘Enjoy!'” (http://health.howstuffworks.com/sexual-health/sexuality/fetishes-and-other-sexual-preferences-dictionary.htm)  Well, there you go, the doctor says it’s okay.

The current interest in sexual fetishes may not be enough to open up discussion on the extremely unorthodox or painfully embarrassing, but it does seem to be promising.  Sparking debate on the topic brings forth an opportunity to open oneself up to an exploration of inner desires that had not been deemed acceptable before.

–Elizabeth Nash

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