Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Fear, Taboo, and Kink

Upon reading this post and the following comment discussion over at my web doppelganger's--that is, Amber's--I got into a discussion with a friend, we'll call him Alcée, about the meaning of the word "kink". The discussion blended into a discussion of what is "normal" and whether there are any constants from society to society, when we eventually decided that we'd never come to an agreement on a point and moved on.

Now, keep in mind, neither of us are experts on kink--far from it. But the closest anyone seems to get to a real definition is, as he said "something that's different from the norm, [sexually]." The question then became, but what is normal? Move from society to society, or even subgroup to subgroup within a society, and the rules change. Christian devotees of Domestic Discipline wouldn't say spanking your wife for disobeying the rules and then having sex with her is kinky--it's the Lord's will for a husband to rule his wife. My Christian mother would say heck yes, that's kinky*. Some would say using a blindfold and a feather is kinky, others would say oh gee, how vanilla.

So. Societal norms. Alcée says there are no constants from society to society; like the good once-upon-a-time student of society I am, I say there are three things that are taboo in all societies:

1. Murder within the group. (Thou shalt not kill--except the Phillistines)
2. Theft within the group. (Thou shalt not steal--except from the enemies of the Lord)
3. Incest. (Honor thy father and mother, but not like that!)

He of course took issue with this. There are times when it is societally acceptable to kill a member of one's group, he says.

I say sure, but the thing is, those who are acceptable to kill have in some way placed themselves outside of society already. Within fundamentalist Muslim communities, it's okay to kill a woman who had premarital sex because by breaking the rules she put herself outside of the community. She broke the rules, she pays the price. Within our society it's okay to sentence a man to death by lethal injection who murdered his buddy who fucked his wife because by breaking the murder taboo, he stepped over the line. He broke the rules, he pays the price.**

Incest, on the other hand, is pretty definitely forbidden but the definition varies. Is it taboo to sleep with your stepbrother? Can you marry your cousin? How about your uncle? Your mom? In our society most of these are taboo (depending on what state you live in) but in others, some would be, others not. The taboo on some act labelled incest, then, is constant. Would, then, some sort of real or play union with a verboten relative be "kinky" across the board?

Enough with the broad, societal view of kink. As Toby Keith said, I wanna talk about me!

My personal definition of kink would involve fear. The things that could be considered "kinky" that I like (in practice or in theory) fly in the face of things I fear.

I'm claustrophobic, so tie me up.
I fear pain, so whip me till I bruise.
I'm scared of heights, so suspend me from the ceiling.
I'm desperately afraid of being raped, so take me by force.

Which reminded me of a link Alcée sent me earlier today, and which I used in a vaguely scientific way to explain to him how fear is related to arousal:

Flow of potassium ions in brain cells is key to sexual arousal

The interesting thing here not being the potassium, per se, but the norepinephrine. If I remember correctly, norepinephrine is released in the brain as a response to epinephrine, commonly known as adrenalin.

The fight or flight response.

The pounding heart, the panting breath, the dilated pupils, the sweat.

The confusion of one type of physical arousal with another.

I'm also not a biologist, so don't jump on my ass for getting this connection wrong. It certainly makes sense to me.

*The word "kinky" is related in my memory to a moment when the fact that my mom is not, in fact, the Blessed Virgin was hit home. We were watching Trading Spaces, and the design of one of the rooms, a bedroom, focused around a bed that the couple had been given as a sort of bizarre wedding present; it had been handed down through several pairs of newlyweds in their family. It was a large canopy bed made of clear acrylic (like a stripper's platforms) which was bad enough, but towards the end of the show we simultaneously noticed that the acrylic canopy was lined with mirrors. We looked at each other and said, in unison, "wow, that's...kinky." Keep in mind that I had pretty much never talked about sex with my mom before so the fact that she knew the word and could recognize it when she saw it was a shock to my tender teenaged sensibilities.

**This is not to say that either capital punishment or honor killing is right by my own moral compass, only that it is generally accepted in that particular society.


Ellen said...

In some cultures, cousin marriage is considered advantageous.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

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