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Feb 04 2011

He’s A Super Freak: Tiger Woods and Sexual Compassion

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog. I never reprinted it here, since it was very topical, and by the time the reprint rights had reverted to me the media flare-up I was writing about had run its course. But the Blowfish Blog archives are apparently no longer on the Internets, and the original piece is no longer available. So in the interest of completism and making all my published works accessible, I’m going ahead and posting it here.

Important note: This piece discusses my personal sex life and sexual fantasies. Family members and other who don’t want to read about that, please don’t read this. (I would also just like to point out: I believe this is my only post to be tagged with the categories Sex, SM, and Sports. I’m finding myself very entertained by this.)

Text messages Okay. Maybe I’m a freak of nature. But does anybody else like Tiger Woods better after reading the freaky text messages?

Or, maybe more accurately: Does anyone else have more sympathy and compassion for Tiger Woods after reading the freaky text messages?

Until recently, I had almost zero interest in the Tiger Woods sex scandal. Rich, famous, powerful man; maintained a squeaky-clean public image for years; turned out to be sneaking around on his wife with multiple mistresses and sex workers. Ho freaking hum. Wake me when something remotely unusual happens.

But then — pretty much by accident, since I’d been ignoring this story to an almost aggressive degree — I read about the text messages he sent to one of his sex partners, Joslyn James, which she saved and released to the media.

Including:

I want to treat you rough. Throw you around, spank and slap you

Slap your face. Treat you like a dirty little whore. Put my cock in your ass and then shove it down your throat

Hold you down while i choke you and Fuck that ass that i own

Then im going to tell you to shut the Fuck up while i slap your face and pull your hair for making noise

Where do you want to be bitten

I really do want to be rough with you. Slap you around

For years. And punish you for not seeing me more

I want you to beg for my cock. Kiss you all over to convince me to let you have it in your mouth

Next time i see you, you better beg and if you don’t do it right i will slap, spank, bite and fuck you till mercy

I read these texts. And my whole perspective changed.

All of a sudden, my perspective on Tiger Woods was no longer, “Powerful man with a sense of sexual entitlement, who cheats on his wife with impunity and doesn’t think sexual ethics apply to him.”

All of a sudden, my perspective was, “Oh. He’s kinky.”

And that’s a radically different perspective.

Cheating For starters: While I don’t generally condone cheating, there are a handful of situations where I understand why people do it, and feel some compassion for people who do it, and recognize that a reasonable person might decide that it’s the least bad choice available to them. The main one I’ve written about before is the situation where one partner in a deeply tangled relationship turns off the tap on sex — unilaterally, non-negotiably, and permanently. (And yes, I know, not everyone agrees with me about that. Please, can we not start that argument again?)

But I also have a fair degree of compassion for people in long-term monogamous relationships (or supposedly monogamous relationships), who have strong, deep-rooted sexual desires that their partners can’t or won’t accommodate. I have, for instance, a tremendous amount of compassion for married people who are figuring out, partway through their marriage, that they’re gay. I mean, what are you supposed to do? Break up with your spouse or partner of many years… before you experiment and figure out whether you’re really gay? It’s a lousy situation, one where no choice is going to be a really good one, and people who find themselves in it have to make the best bad choice they can.

And this applies to being kinky — every bit as much as it applies to being gay. What are you supposed to do if you start figuring out, partway through your marriage, that you’re kinky? That the fantasies you’ve been having for most of your life may be more than just fantasies? That they may be a core part of your sexuality, without which sex is always going to be disconnected and unsatisfying?

Coming out day Yes, in a perfect world, people would come out about their sexual desires and orientations before they get into committed relationships with people who can’t or won’t satisfy them. But we don’t live in a perfect world, or anything like a perfect world. We live in a sex-negative and sexually ignorant world, and both the hostility and the misinformation about sex — especially about sex that’s kinky or otherwise unusual — means it often takes years for people to figure out who they are sexually, and accept it, and find a way to fold it into their lives. At which point, their lives have often already gotten tangled into a web that it may be hard to get out of. Hard on themselves… and hard on other people.

Now. Add to this the fact that plenty of sexual desires and orientations aren’t socially acceptable. To say the least. Plenty of sexual desires and orientations will get you treated like a pariah if people find out about them.

And being kinky is definitely on that list. In fact, I’d argue that being kinky is significantly higher on that list than being gay. In much of the world, being gay has a fair degree of acceptance, and isn’t that big a deal. In the overwhelming majority of the world, being kinky still gets you treated as a mentally unbalanced, amoral freak. At best.

Consensual-sadomasochism Yes, some of us are willing to be out about it anyway. I am, obviously. But frankly, my willingness to be out about being kinky has less to do with my courage and integrity and fine nobility of character… and a whole lot more to do with the particular circumstances of my life. Circumstances I can’t really take credit for. I don’t have kids. I live in a sexually tolerant part of the world. I don’t have a job that coming out as kinky could jeopardize: I’m not a teacher, or a public official, or a pillar of the local business community.

Or a professional athlete.

And as long as being kinky is as deeply stigmatized as it is, I’m going to have compassion for kinky people who keep their kinks private. I wish they wouldn’t keep it private from their spouses; but again, that can be a complicated moral decision, and while it isn’t the decision I’d make, I can see why some people in some situations might decide to make it.

Finally:

This is almost certainly not fair or rational. But I now have sympathy and compassion with Tiger Woods for an entirely different reason:

I now see him as family.

I see him as one of us.

When I read those text messages, I did not for one second think, “What a disgusting person Tiger Woods is for doing those horrible things to that poor woman.” When I read those text messages, I thought, “Damn, that’s hot. I want to do that. I want to have that done to me. Now, please.” I could totally see myself doing any or all of the activities described in those messages. Or writing a porn story based on the messages. Or going to a Perverts Put Out reading and hearing a porn story by Thomas Roche or Charlie Jane Anders or some other brilliant sick fuck, based on the messages. And I find it easier to cut people slack when I see them as part of my tribe. It isn’t fair or rational, but it’s human.

Tiger-Woods-Nike I’m not totally letting Tiger Woods off the hook. For one thing, I have a serious problem with the deliberate way he played the squeaky- clean public persona to his advantage. There’s a difference between keeping your sexuality private, and deliberately projecting a deceptive, concocted image of it. What’s more, the squeaky-clean, All-American, family-man schtick totally plays into the exact same sex-negativity and kink- negativity I’ve been complaining about. I have compassion for kinky people who feel like they have to stay in the closet and get their kinky thrills on the down low. I have rather less compassion for people who do all this… while at the same time trading on the idea that a nicey-nice sex life somehow makes you a better citizen/ role model/ sneaker salesman. It’s not as bad as closeted politicians who vote for anti-gay legislation while screwing around on the sly with same-sex partners… but it’s in a similar category, and it’s a category that ticks me off.

Ultimately, though, I don’t know what the deal is with Tiger Woods. And neither does anyone else, except Tiger Woods himself (and maybe not even him). I have no idea, for instance, what the deal is with his marriage: whether he tried to bring his wife into his kinks and she refused, or whether he never told her about them, or whether they had a wild and kinky and happy sex life and he skanked around on the side anyway. Or what. There’s too much about this story that I don’t know for me to really come to any fair or accurate judgment about it.

I just know that my thinking about Tiger Woods has shifted.

The Tiger Woods sex scandal in general, and the kinky text messages in particular, are having the overall effect of making his popularity drop like an anvil. Most people — especially in the media — seem to be reacting to the text messages with derision or disgust or both. But I’m having the opposite reaction. The text messages aren’t alienating me from Tiger Woods. They’re making me identify with him. They’re making him seem less like an unapproachable cog of the carefully manipulated celebrity machine… and more like someone I might run into at a party. More like someone with a complicated sex life, who’s made some fucked-up but understandable choices about it.

More like, you know, a human being.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    themann1086

    I hadn’t actually read those texts before… are those his texts or have you been wiretapping my phone? :P seriously, I sent some near-identical texts to a hot friend of mine a couple days ago. Full disclosure: Not in a relationship!

  2. 2
    John

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post. For the most part, I don’t want to know what goes on in other people’s bedrooms. I’m all for titillation, but frankly, I’m easily squicked. Where a lot of people go wrong is in thinking that their visceral reaction to somebody else’s fun should be the basis for law.

  3. 3
    Sean

    “Add to this the fact that plenty of sexual desires and orientations aren’t socially acceptable. To say the least.”
    What this reminded me of is that I’ve had friends (and somewhat-more-than-friends) in the furry community, who pulled me into it a bit. It’s not a major kink of mine, but I’ve definitely been there, written porn about that.
    A lot of people seem to have very specific ideas (rather, concerns) about what that says about me, which on the one hand are a good source of entertainment, and on the other hand can be very judgmental and trying. (Inner monologue: “Great, I just was having fun and wanted to mention where I was last weekend and what I’d been writing, and now you think that I have some kind of crushing body dysphoria that makes me wish I wasn’t human.”)
    Actually, that probably has a lot to do with my starting to identify as atheist. Once I’d come out as bi, and then been part of this thing that was “even worse”, atheism became just another stereotyped label that I might as well just own.

  4. 4
    Josephine Michelle Draus

    I can understand your sympathy for somebody who’s misunderstood by mainstream society. BUT, by the 3rd line of the Tigers letter to Joslyn James crosses a line that indicates a pathological need to dominate and abuse women in a vicious and violent manner! Just being kinky about sex is NOT WHAT THE LETTER IS ABOUT! MISOGYNISTIC CONTEMPT FOR WOMEN IS WHAT IT IS WHAT TIGER’S ABOUT!

  5. 5
    Greta Christina

    BUT, by the 3rd line of the Tigers letter to Joslyn James crosses a line that indicates a pathological need to dominate and abuse women in a vicious and violent manner! Just being kinky about sex is NOT WHAT THE LETTER IS ABOUT! MISOGYNISTIC CONTEMPT FOR WOMEN IS WHAT IT IS WHAT TIGER’S ABOUT

    Sigh.
    Consensual sadomasochism with a willing and enthusiastic partner is not the same as pathological violent abuse and misogyny. And if you think there are no women who are willing and enthusiastic partners in these sorts of activities, I strongly suggest that you visit some online BDSM forums. (Or simply read some of the comments in the many threads here on this blog about SM.)
    Again: Consensual sadomasochism is not the same as violent abuse. And when you equate the two, you are participating in the shaming and marginalization of the people who participate in it — including women. How is that feminist?

  6. 6
    Eclectic

    I’d also like to mention that this is pillow talk between two people, not a bloody press release. It might reflect what goes on between them, it might be a fantasy that gets them hot that they don’t act on, or it might be motivation for her to tie him up and “correct” those neanderthal impulses.
    Just from the texts, we can’t tell anything.

  7. 7
    Anonymous

    And as for a willing and enthusiastic partner, I can’t resist providing my own example.
    Laylah Martelli’s writings are so powerfully evocative that I once read a number of them in lieu of a physical warmup for a heavy flogging scene.
    If she can’t explain the eroticism of pain, I’m not quite sure what to do.
    (Her name is actually spelled “Lela”, but she anglicized it as “Laylah” so people would pronounce it right.)

  8. 8
    Azkyroth

    Consensual sadomasochism is not the same as violent abuse. And when you equate the two, you are participating in the shaming and marginalization of the people who participate in it — including women. How is that feminist?

    It isn’t. But one of the ugly lessons the internet has to teach us is that for every x women activists who would like to destroy the social structures of patriarchy, there’s an indeterminate but non-zero number who’re more interested in destroying the barriers keeping them out of the office of patriarch.

  9. 9
    Prof.Pedant

    Uh…. If those texts are evidence of kinkyness then I want nothing to do with kinkyness.
    Those texts strike me as hateful, disrespectful, and as indicating a high likelihood of being a dangerous person. The last thing that would cross my mind if someone sent me an email like those texts was that the sender was ‘coming on to me’, instead I would feel threatened….
    Which brings me to my question (which I do not expect to be answered or even addressed [I know my place as a blog commenter], and which is not meant critically): How does someone distinguish between a person who is ‘kinky’ and one who is hateful, power-mad, and likely violent? (and, is ‘all kinkyness’ like this? or is there kinkyness in which the oddness does not seem to obscure the love and respect?)

  10. 10
    themann1086

    Pedant: Context. Sending it to a random person, or someone you just know: creepy and inappropriate. Sending it to someone who has a similar fetish as you that you know: kinky!

  11. 11
    Greta Christina

    If those texts are evidence of kinkyness then I want nothing to do with kinkyness.

    Then don’t have anything to do with kinkiness. If the idea of that kind of activity upsets you, then by all means, you should not be participating in it. But lots of people do like these kinds of activities — from both ends, in both directions, as recipient as well as giver.
    The difference between wanting to do this kind of things to someone who gets off on having it done to them, and wanting to do this kind of thing to someone who isn’t consenting and doesn’t want it, is massive. It’s like the difference between sex and rape. The physical acts may look the same… but the context makes them polar opposites.
    These texts were not sent to a random woman. They were sent to a woman Woods was having an ongoing sexual relationship with. If they were engaging in these kinds of activities (as opposed to just dirty texting about them, which is also possible), then presumably she enjoyed them too. Texting about rough sex with a woman who enjoys doing that with you… how is that hateful, disrespectful, or dangerous?

  12. 12
    PhoenixRising

    I think a good argument is to explain the importance of consent by comparing kink to martial arts. If two people fight in a ring and have consented to be there, then the fact that one or both of them might get beaten to a bloody pulp isn’t a case of assault. If two people get into a fight on the street, then you have an assault case. Consent is what turns it from assault to a mutually beneficial sport.

  13. 13
    Brandi

    Thanks again for reminding the rest of us to be open-minded, Greta. The media loves a villain, but once again, there’s multiple sides to every story. (The side, the front side, the back side… with or without a few OTK spankings…)

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