We don’t often read the “Modern Love” column in the New York Times Sunday Styles section these days — when you’ve been in the biz as long as we have, it’s easy to get cynical and feel like you’ve heard every story about love and sex there is to tell. But this past week’s column, “Finding the Courage to Reveal a Fetish,” leaped out at us. Sure, every publication under the sun (not to mention your mother-in-law’s book group) is discussing kinky sex in the wake of Fifty Shades. A light spanking here, a pair of fuzzy handcuffs there — it’s practically de rigeur.
But this article in the Times delves deeper, emotionally, than anything we’ve read recently: It’s about a woman who has an honest-to-god spanking fetish, and what happens when she falls in love with someone who doesn’t really get it. She explains: “While there is a strong erotic element to my kink, sex is merely a side dish to the more absorbing entree of the spanking itself.” More importantly, though, the article is about someone who has an honest-to-god spanking fetish — and zero baggage to “explain” it away. She wasn’t abused as a child or spanked by a Catholic school teacher; her mother didn’t let johns use her as a human ashtray, a la Christian Grey. She’s just a woman who thinks a little differently about sex and spanking. Which is how we’ve always preferred to think of kink: it’s not deviant or wrong or immoral or “fucked up” or nuts, it’s just different. And when you compare that to the alternative — missionary once a week under the covers with the lights off — who wouldn’t want to get a little kinky?
The article is also about what to do when someone you love is kinky (or when you’re kinky and someone you love is vanilla… and you can’t just whisk them away on your private jet or buy them a new car to win them over). Because while it would be nice if every spanking devotee found a soulmate who was equally into red cheeks, life isn’t always so neat and tidy (though, thanks to the internet, it’s getting increasingly easier to do this!). And not everyone is going to fall in love with a Red Room of Pain the way that Ana did in Fifty Shades.
In the end, the author of this piece told her fiancé in writing:
I’m a writer, so I wrote it down. And as I translated my feelings and memories into these words, I took control of a desire that has controlled me for most of my life. I felt comfortable, confident — even celebratory.
For about three days. Then ancient insecurities, as they always do, crept back.
“Coming out of the closet” isn’t the right expression. We’re not in closets that can be left in a single step as the door clicks shut behind. “Coming out of the house” might be better. Or “coming out of the labyrinth.”
In our different ways, we all just want honesty and intimacy, right? We’re looking for the people who will love us, even when it’s difficult. Or uncomfortable. Or painful.
I always share my writing with David, and this time would be no different.
“This is hard to show you,” I said as I slid my laptop across the bed. “Also, I’m worried that my paragraph structure is confusing.”
As he read each page, I felt the clicks of a dozen doors closing behind me.
“I love you,” David said when he finished. “You’re so brave. And there is nothing wrong with your paragraph structure.”
This is not the end of the story, of course — far from it, in fact — but it’s a pretty hopeful beginning.
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