That’s some open letter you wrote me today on Salon. I’ve lost readers over the years, God knows, but never with quite so public a display of disaffection.
Your Savage Love sex advice column not only made me a better lover but a better person. You introduced me to people, places and things I would have never otherwise been aware of. You were my secret gay crush for five years. Or you used to be. But, sadly, this is both a fan letter and a Dear John, Dear Dan. It’s over and it’s better this way. You’ll see. No, please, Dan—it’s not you. It’s me. But I’m hoping we can still be friends.
Of course we can still be friends, Debra. Why not? You intend to keep on reading Savage Love, but only for kicks now, no longer for tips. I’ve never asked my friends for more. As for the particular column that made you fall out of love with me—the one about a certain diaper-wearin’ husband and the indulgent wife whose needs he was neglecting—I have to say that I’m surprised by your reading of it.
You trained me well, Dan. I know I should applaud my fellow savage for being so GGG (good, giving and game), but I don’t. I think she should have headed for the hills at the first mention of Depends. I know I shouldn’t think it. But the fact is that I do. Now, instead of regretting what I missed out on sexually, I’m terrified of what I might learn if I give the least hint of a sexual openness.
Oh, Debra. As a long-time reader of Savage Love, you should know that the appearance of a kink in the column—and there have been so many others, Debra, and so many worse ones—is not an endorsement, nor is it an indication that said kink has passed into the Must Go There Zone, i.e., it does not mean the kink has suddenly joined the list of kinks that an indulgent partner is expected to, well, indulge. It only means the kink… is. What to do about the kink, how to handle it, assess it, respond, and, if possible, incorporate the kink—that’s where the advice comes in.
You describe me as “a raging ‘mo with no boundaries,” Debra, which is sweet and, oh, how I wish it were true! All people have boundaries and limits and hang-ups (me too!), and I’ve hammered that point home in Savage Love over the years. But I am guilty of insisting that, yes, there are times when it is worth considering expanding our boundaries and limits —for a particular person.
Paris is worth a mass and sometimes “Dave from accounting” is worth a spanking, you know what I mean? That’s why I advise people to be “good, giving, and game,” to be up for almost anything. Because people are package deals—you have to take the good with the bad, the relatives you like with the relatives you don’t, and the desires that align neatly with your own with the kinks that sometimes challenge your ideas about what is and is not sexy. On a case-by-case basis, Debra, all of us will, over the course of our love lives, face moments when we have to decide if person A is worth engaging in kink B for.
When it comes to sex we sometimes mistake unfamiliarity for revulsion, and blurt out “no” without thinking. Really, how bad is, say, being with a foot fetishist? Is a little slobber on your toes too much to ask for love? Taking a hairbrush to someone’s backside now and then? Too high a price to pay for love?
But I’ve never ordered people to charge out of the trenches, Debra, and do absolutely anything asked of them, ever, by a lover, however twisted, however objectively disgusting. All kinks are not created equal. Some kinks are revolting. (And some people with revolting kinks are thin-skinned and shortsighted. Hello, poop fetishists? If you’re turned on because your kink is revolting and taboo then I’m helping to keep your kink hot by reinforcing the idea that it’s revolting and taboo. You’re welcome.) I describe a kink like a thing for poop as “a fetish too far,” and I’ve told people with AFTF’s that they should seek out like-minded fetishists online and refrain from springing their AFTF’s on unsuspecting vanilla-to-GGG types. (Thank God for the internet, which has removed poop fetishists from the general dating pool! Thank you, Al Gore!)
And Debra, Debra, Debra. Your column today at Salon implies that my sympathies always lie with the kinkster. Not true! I’m harsh on kinky folks who take their indulgent partners for granted, kinksters who fail to recognize how good they’ve got it when they find someone that, unlike me and Debra, will “go there” on an issue like diapers. And you have to know that’s my position, Debra, as it’s in my response to the woman with the diaper-lovin’ husband, a response that hardly reads like an endorsement of diaper fetishism—a response you don’t quote in your piece! Your piece on Salon reads like I suggested that diaper fetishism is wholesome and sweet and somehow browbeat the woman who wrote in about her husband’s kink. The diaper community—that’s right, the diaper community—didn’t see it that way. I got so much waa-waa-waa from adult babies for that column that I can’t walk down the Depends aisle at Walgreens without shuddering. Here’s my response, Debra:
Does your “baby girl” realize what he’s got in you? The world is crawling—literally crawling—with adult babies who are alone and single and miserable and always will be. While the internet has made it possible for adult babies to find each other, a shared interest in nappies and nurseries doesn’t guarantee compatibility. Plus, female adult babies are scarcer than folks who can read “my husband whines and cries and pretends to be a baby during sex” without hurling. Your husband should be doing everything in his power to keep you happy.
My advice: Take that break. Cut the brat off—no more baby games until he can successfully wrap his bonnet around this: Your pleasure matters as much as his does. He may not be interested in regular sex, but he better learn to fake it convincingly. And finally, BA, tell him that his continued failure to meet your vanilla needs is gonna get his diapered ass divorced, leaving him single and shit out of luck, sex-partner wise, for the rest of his adult infancy.
“Dump the honest foot fetishist,” I warned a woman a few weeks ago, “and I guarantee that you will marry the dishonest necrophiliac.” That’s the Karmic Rule of Kink. But vanilla partners are not the only ones subject to KROK. For kinksters lucky enough to be with generous vanilla partners, your somewhat-less-pithy version of KROK goes like this: “Drive off an understanding, adventurous partner by failing to joyfully accommodate his or her desires for vanilla sex and you will NEVER get your kinky rocks off again without having to pay a pro $500 an hour to put up with your bullshit.”
Frankly, Debra, I don’t see how you get from that response to this strange epiphany:
Now, instead of regretting what I missed out on sexually, I’m terrified of what I might learn if I give the least hint of a sexual openness. Now it’s me who’s on the down low, repressing my sexual fantasies for fear of what his might be. I’m the hall monitor geek in the coming-of-age movie who cuts physics for an orgy only to wake up with a persistent itch, a stalker and a big, fat secret to keep buried deep inside. I simply do not want to know what bland Dave in accounting keeps in his spare room.
It took a gay activist to convert me to don’t ask, don’t tell, and regretfully, I’m going to have to DTMFA. Hard as I tried, it turns out that I’m not so good, not very giving and definitely gone. I’m not dumping the column—can’t live without it. But I’ll be reading as a peeping Tom, not an acolyte.
And reading this in your column made me feel like all my efforts at Savage Love have been wasted:
Now, instead of regretting what I missed out on sexually, I’m terrified of what I might learn if I give the least hint of a sexual openness.
Sexual openness does not create kinks, Debra, nor can sexual closedness protect you from them. Oh, you can run from kinks but you can’t hide. Unless you intend to settle down with a Hitachi Magic Wand, odds are good that you will have to come to terms with a kink or two. You have a kinky appointment in Samara, Debra. Because people are kinky, and men are particularly kinky. Women, in my experience (all book learnin’, but lots of it), tend to get kinkier as they get older. Something about sexual peaks, which men hit earlier than women, makes people freaky. Our sexual energy—whether we’re male or female, gay, straight, or bi—has never fit inside the “normal” box into which we stupidly insist on stuffing it. Human sexuality bursts boxes—and, yes, sometimes diapers.
When you fall in love, Debra, please know that I’m still here for you. Hopefully it won’t be diapers or poop or beating off parakeets, but it’ll be something. And I’m confident that the lessons you learned reading about more extreme kinks in my column—lessons about kindness, compassion, mutual respect, a sense of fun, and being open to possibility—will apply.
So there’s still hope for you, Debra. You may be a wild child yet. I’ll see you in Samara.