The following is adapted from
COME HITHER: A Common Sense Guide to Kinky Sex


1. It can be cured.

Without impugning their sincerity, those who offer a miracle cure for one's sexual nature generally do more harm than good. Although helping professionals may have good intentions, on questions of taboo sex, they often are just as misinformed as everyone else. Attempts at cures aren't based on tried and true methods. Only a small handful of graduate psychology programs offer a comprehensive curruiculum on human sexuality; training opportunities are scarce.

There is also no scientific proof that people can be successfully "cured" of kinky desires. Indeed, attempts at cures have universally failed, and clients have been emotionally devastated when the promised relief never came. At best, clients may learn how better to repress or sublimate their needs. But learning to bottle up your feelings does not cure you of those feelings. Instead, repression usually creates a whole new set of problems.

Enlightened helping professionals do not offer cures for kinky desires. Instead, they work with the client to find morally acceptable, emotionally positive ways of living with their desires.

2. Perversions are caused by trauma in childhood.

Despite the advances of medical science in fields such as genetics, there has been little forward progress in sexuality research. Among other things we can't explain is why and how sexual perversions are formed. To date, there has been neither any organic or genetic proof to explain fetishes or sadomasochism. Nor is there any proof that nurture or experience are absolute causes. The most popular theory is that a combination of genetic predisposition and life experience shape our sexual identities.

This doesn't rule out the possibility that science may one day find a genetic cause or a predisposition in some individuals to be kinky; or that we may learn much more about the cause and effect relationship between early childhood experiences and sexual orientation. But for now, that proof does not exist and to attribute perversions to any one cause is, at best, misguided.

3. People with kinky desires have psychological problems.

Yes and no.

There is no proof that people with unusual sexual fetishes or desires are less socially functional than other people. The exceptions are those people whose urges fall on the extreme end of the range (for example, a masochist who inflicts health- threatening wounds on him or herself; a foot fetishist who steals shoes to satisfy his compulsion) and who are too disturbed to exercise the "safe, sane, mutually consensual" moral guidelines of practicising BDSMers.

As a group, kinky people are no more or less likely to be troubled than people who are turned on only by straight sex. It is no secret, however, that people with sexual kinks tend to seek out counseling because they are confused about their feelings or unable to hold together relationships which do not involve kinky sex. This "clinical drift" skews the perception of kinky people as people who generally have problems with relationships.

There is something else to consider. Simply put: no one wants to feel all alone in the world. No one wants to be rejected; no one wants to feel unlovable. Yet, most kinky people grow up believing that no one else shares our needs and feelings- -or that those who do are "sick." Morever, kinky people may encounter rejection or hostile criticism from others when they express their desires. It is hardly suprising that this may, at times, make them depressed. A fetishist may, by nature, be balanced and happy; but if he or she is routinely ostracized and derided for his fetish, you can be sure it will create some psychological problems.

4. Kinky people can't form good relationships.

As noted above, kinky people do tend to seek out counseling, particularly when they are having problems with their partners over their sexual needs. But then, sex and relationship problems are what motivates most people to go into therapy. The big difference is that when "vanilla" relationships fail, people accept it as a common problem of modern life. When kinky relationships fall apart, however, people automatically assume that the one with unusual sexual desires is to blame.

The fact is that when a relationship fails because of someone's kinks, the kinky partner bears only one-half of the responsibility: the other half falls to the partner who is unwilling or unable to explore the kinky partner's sexual needs. It is a compatability issue.

In other words, kinky people are bad partners only for people who cannot accept their kinks. Those whose partners are sympathetic to or who share their sexual desires, are as likely as anyone else to form loving, long-term, committed relationships.

5. Kinky people can't get aroused by "regular" sex.

Not only can they get aroused by it, many of them never have anything BUT regular sex.

Although we tend to think of kinky people as the leather- clad denizens of secret clubs, or the professional dominatrices on daytime talk-shows, the vast majority of those involved in kink are stable, middle-class people, often married, often with children, who have kinky desires they have kept secret from their partners. Despite their desires to explore their true sexual identities, for a range of personal reasons, they remain with their straight partners and enjoy a very ordinary, productive sex life (often for decades) with them.

There are always exceptions: there are fetishists who are only aroused when the object of their fetish is present (indeed, the American Psychiatric Association defines a fetishist as someone who must have the fetish object to become aroused). However anecdotal information from fetishists themselves suggests that the vast majority of them are people who achieve their greatest satisfaction when the object is present--but who can and do achieve orgasm when it is absent.

Another analogy: many gay men, throughout history, have fathered children. Although sex with women may be considerably less exciting to them than sex with men, they are physically quite able to perform in bed with a woman. It just doesn't bring them the most happiness and, given the choice, they choose male partners. It is the same for kinky people: they may derive their deepest satisfaction from kinky sex, but most can have "straight" experiences without any performance problems--and sometimes with great pleasure.

Finally, a fair number of kinky people use bondage, spanking, watersports, crossdressing and other BDSM activities as foreplay. The culmination is often straight sex.

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Dr. Gloria Glickstein Brame
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