Dan Savage has written yet another in his brilliant series of columns about couples with different kinks trying to negotiate a sex life that makes them both happy. In this case, the woman is fairly vanilla, and the man is into transvestite adult baby/diaper play. She’s been good about playing along with his kink, but he’s become uninterested in having vanilla sex, the kind of sex she wants — ever.
Something about this one really jumped out at me. There’s a pattern in a lot of these letters that’s really prominent in this one: it’s something I’ve thought about a lot, so I’m making it the subject of today’s sermon. (BTW, I think Dan’s advice — essentially “If you think you’re going to find another girlfriend who’s as willing to go along with your rather out-there kink, you’re high” — was dead-on. I just want to expand on it.)
When it comes to sex, I think a lot of people have a hard time distinguishing between things that really upset them or gross them out, and things that just aren’t their favorite. And I think this difficulty is what causes so much of the stress and frustration in these sexual negotiations.
Let me make a quick analogy. I really, really despise broccoli. The presence of it in any food, even in small amounts, makes a dish completely inedible to me. I can barely stand to be in the room while it’s being cooked.
Tofu, on the other hand, isn’t my personal favorite thing to eat. I certainly won’t go out of my way to buy it and cook it. But if it’s cooked right, in a dish with a good sauce and tasty tidbits, I can eat it with no problem, and even enjoy it.
I think when a couple is trying to negotiate sexual likes and dislikes, they need to figure out which of their dislikes are broccoli, and which ones are tofu. And if there’s a sex act that’s tofu to you — and it’s a Scharffenberger chocolate souffle to your partner — then by gum, you should bloody well be giving them their chocolate souffle. At least some of the time.
But he still won’t eat it.
Of course this is selfish. That’s obvious. I think there’s a more serious problem than him being selfish. I think he has a seriously troubling sexual/romantic disconnection.
Here’s what I mean. When I have sex, I don’t just get off on my own kinks and my own pleasure. I also get off on my partner’s pleasure. The sight, the sound, the feel, of someone in my bed who’s getting excited and getting off… that’s hot. It’s not particularly selfless or noble of me — it’s just hot. (I wrote about this a little in A Dyke’s Defense of Blowjobs.) The more I care about someone, the more true that is. And I think that’s true for most people.
And if you can’t get off on the sight and sound and feel of your partner’s pleasure — even if what you’re doing isn’t your particular favorite thing — then what the hell are you doing in a sexual/romantic relationship?