Heterosexuality is a fetish. Why wasn’t it ever in the DSM?

There’s this thing called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly known as “the DSM.” To put it bluntly, the DSM is a big dictionary of mental health “problems” that stodgy old bigots use to pretend that they’re justified in calling people who do things differently than they would like “mentally ill.” An entire section of the DSM is devoted just to “sexual paraphilias,” which, again, has historically been used to jail, drug, or murder people who don’t conform to hegemonic power structures like, “Make me a sammich, woman!” Some super famous people were treated this way, like Alan Turing, who was considered mentally ill because he was gay (that is, he identified as a man and only got turned on by two dudes fucking).

Here’s the thing about the DSM, though. It’s blatantly self-contradictory. Check this out.

In not so many words, the DSM describes a fetish as “something whose presence is required in order to experience sexual gratification.” So, for instance, someone with a “shoe fetish” simply does not feel aroused in sexual situations wherein they cannot focus on shoes. Likewise, someone with a “spanking fetish” needs sex to incorporate spanking in order to get off on it.

Fetishes are diverse, and sometimes amazingly specific (which I always thought would kind of suck, because dang, how unfortunate for the dude who can’t really enjoy getting off unless he’s masturbating in the rain while sucking on someone else’s toes, right?), but the central point is that they’re required to satisfy that person’s sexual tastes.

We all grew up being told over and over again that fetishes are weird, strange things that only perverts and not “normal people” have. Almost no one really questions the mechanism, the logic behind this assertion. We just kind of take it as axiomatic that if you have a fetish, you’re a pervert. And if you have a particularly uncommon fetish, you’re even more perverted.

Here’s what’s weird about that.

People without fetishes get called perverts, too, because of their lack of certain, very specific fetishes. It turns out that the only people who mainstream society, absurdly “legitimized” by ridiculous documents like the DSM, don’t consider “fetishists” (and thus “normal”) are people with very specific, culturally approved fetishes. Here’s a list of a few of them:

  • Straight men.
  • Straight women.

Actually, okay, that’s pretty much the entire list, right there.

Think about it: a straight man is declaring himself to have a femininity fetish. He’s not even shy about it. His whole identity is constructed around the very simple concept that he requires the presence of feminine-presenting people to get turned on. He boasts about how much of a man he is by amplifying the strength and importance of this very specific fetish. Things that signal femininity to straight men are turn ons, while things that signal something else, like masculinity, are not.

Dude, that’s the definition of a fetish. You have a fetish for women. And, like, that’s cool, bro. Fap to it, man! But let’s call a spade a spade and at least acknowledge that you have a fucking fetish, all right?

The same is true for straight women. They are masculinity fetishists. Same logic applies. In fact, so are gay men. They’re pretty hardcore masculinity fetishists, too, and that’s somehow not at all hard for most folks to understand. But call a straight man a “woman fetishist” and his tiny little culturally-imprisoned mind is likely to explode in your face. (So, y’know, be careful with that. Exploding straight dudes’ minds is an extreme sport much like bullfighting, not to be undertaken without extensive practice and possibly protective gear like a bunch of your friends backing you up.) In fact, you can describe all identities whose definition is based on what kind of characteristic they are attracted to in this way: S&M “dominants” are submission fetishists (and also by definition rapists).

Looking at things this way, it’s suddenly not at all strange to note how many “straight” men and women “discover” their “bisexual side” when they first experience sexual arousal from a gender presentation they didn’t expect. It’s not that they’re “bisexuals,” per se, it’s that they don’t have a heterosexuality fetish. And that’s cool, too, y’know? It’s just like how some people don’t have shoe fetishes, and some do.

From this perspective, you know who the least fetishistic people are? Yeah. Queers. Go team.

What’s totally crazy about society is not that fetishes exist. It’s that people without fetishes are considered “deviant,” even while the very definition of the word intentionally implies deviance and perfectly describes most people for whom the definition is never actually applied to. How many of the DSM’s authors had a heterosexuality fetish? Certainly not none of them, y’know?

After all, a fish will never discover water.

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Thank you, hater, for helping me improve the Web accessibility of my blog

There is a hate blog on Tumblr that has called me “evil” and begun recording dramatic readings of my posts. As I understand it, blogs like that are technically against the Tumblr “Community Guidelines,” because it’s directed solely and wholly at an individual (me). But their readings means that I can use their recordings to improve the Web accessibility of my blog by adding links to audio versions of my posts. :)

So, I’m doing that. Some of my posts now have audio versions, which you can listen to by following the “Listen to an audio recording of this post” link near the top or bottom of the post.

This audio recording is the reading of a post called “Importance of applying Ethic of Consent beyond sex,” itself an excerpt from a series called “Radical Ethicism,” a follow-up to an essay I co-authored called “You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense.”

Thank you, anonymous haters, for helping improve my site’s accessibility. I’m sorry you apparently feel the need to (intentionally misunderstand and) misrepresent me, but I do appreciate the way you’re helping republish my content. Here is a video entirely about you:

And here’s a note I wrote directly to the folks publishing that hate blog:

Hi. Love your blog. ;)

I think I’d enjoy recording a conversation with you over Skype or similar where we can talk about me being hilarious. Perhaps it’ll offer your readers a more accurate, even FUNNIER understanding of me.

I totally understand if you’re too busy hilariously misunderstanding my posts to be interested in having an honest conversation with me, though. (Unless I’ve misunderstood you, you seem pretty invested in maintaining such misunderstandings.) Still, invitation stands. :) You seem to know how to reach me for dialogue, if you’re interested in that.

Otherwise, I’m happy you’re using your time to copy content I created to more parts of the Internet, since that’s rather helpful for me. Although I bet there are even more useful things you could do with your time, if you had the motivation to. Linking directly to the posts of mine that you’re referencing is one thing I think might help make your site more useful. I guess we’ll see….

Thanks again.

Take care, give care,


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How to make sure sexual violence prevention advocates never get effective tools

To my right are two people being interviewed by a woman with a soundboard connected to a computer as I sit down at my table in the café. A minute later and it’s clear they’re wrapping up an interview of some kind. They’re using words like “oppression” and “microaggression.”

Then I hear the interviewer say, “I’m going to a conference on domestic violence this weekend.” My interest is piqued.

“Excuse me,” I say to one of the interviewees at the edge of the table. “I’m sorry if I’m interrupting, what were you interviewed about? I’m very interested.”

The interviewee hands me a flyer. “This,” he says.

The flyer reads: “Ha Mapah. I am the sum total of all my ancestors: a multimedia dance journey tracing the intersections of African, Jewish, and Native American Heritages.”

The man who handed it to me says, “I hope you’ll join us. It’s a dance piece I created about being Black and Jewish and Native American.”

“You’re Adam McKinney?” I ask, reading the flyer. He nods. “Wow, cool, thank you. I just couldn’t help but overhear what you were talking about, and this conference on domestic violence…?” I turn to the interviewer.

Her name, it turns out, is Mary-Charlotte Domandi, host of KSFR’s Santa Fe Radio Cafe.

“It’s the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence conference,” she tells me. “What’s interesting about the conference is that they’re going to talk about messaging. ‘Cause y’know, so many people who work in that field are academics and they use words like ‘social construction of masculinity,’ and when you talk like that, people in mainstream America, their eyes just glaze over.”

Adam and I are nodding along.

“It’s like that in a lot of ways,” I say. “Like when rape crisis centers put up posters on college campuses, for instance, that’s not inherently bad, but it requires a self-assessment on the part of the person reading the flyer to identity themselves as someone who’s been raped, and then it requires them to go the rape crisis center. This is interesting to me, this thing about messaging, because I work on Internet sexual assault prevention tools, and one thing we’re trying to do is get people in ‘mainstream America’ to talk about it.”

They seem like they’re listening, so I go on.

“For instance,” I continue, “we have an app on Facebook that mimics parts of the systems that domestic violence shelters have, internally. They keep track of the reports they get from people and won’t, for example, shelter Person B if they’re already sheltering Person A who is Person B’s abuser. But the app won’t talk about it like that. It’ll be more like a social background check: ‘Hey, how’s Jake in chem lab?’”

Mary gave me a puzzled look. “Jake in chem lab? What are you talking about?”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “What I mean is, many people who I’ve talked to, before they go on a date with someone, they ask their friends about that person. Y’know, they ask their friends, ‘Hey, do you know Jake in chem lab? Is he safe? Should I go out with him?’ So this app does something that, but on the scale of Facebook. If there are reports of abuse by Jake, the app will let you know that.”

The interviewer, the same person who seemed to me to be complaining about oppression dynamics, suddenly looks aghast. “Oh my god! The potential for lies!”

I scoff. “Is no greater than anywhere else on Facebook.”

The conversation moves on. Neither the interviewer nor the person she’s interviewing give me a second look. I go back to my table.

I start writing this.

Eventually, Adam gets up to leave. “Bye, Mary,” he says, “and bye, maymay.”

“Bye, Adam,” I say. Then I quickly add, “Does this flyer have some way to get in touch with you or…?”

“Let me give you my info,” he says, and turns to Mary. “Do you have a pen?”

I take the opportunity I’ve been given: “Do you have an email address or some way to get in touch with you, too?” I ask the interviewer.

“Yeah, let me give you my card,” she says, and does. “I get a lot of email, so put your name in the subject line. Send me something about what you’re doing.”

“Okay, thanks,” I smile. “I will.”

I come back to my table with their contact info. And I write this email:

Hi Mary,

Thank for the invitation to send you what I’m working on. I’ll keep this short, because I know you’re busy and I know you already have doubts about what I described in person. Here’s the important take-away:

There is no good reason not to build sexual assault prevention tools into every social network on the Internet.

Over the past two years, myself and a small group of collaborators have created a suite of tool that we dub “Predator Alert Tools.” We’re starting with the most popular dating and social networking sites, like Facebook and OkCupid.com. They’ve been written up in several news outlets already. Here’s one example:


The tools themselves have a very detailed FAQ page, which address a lot of the knee-jerk reactions many people have, such as “But the potential of lies!” In particular, see this FAQ section:


Our personal blogs are stuffed to the brim with a back-and-forth dialogue about the kinds of reactions you had upon learning about what the tool does. See, for instance:


So, I apologize if I seemed annoyed at your reaction. It’s been grating for me. To learn more about what I was trying to explain regarding the “Jake in chem lab” example, see this post:


Thank you again for inviting me to message you with this information. I sincerely hope you will take a moment to at least skim over these resources and maybe to present some of these ideas to the folks at the conference you’re attending this weekend.


I send it. And now, I’m gonna publish this blog post.

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The difference between an accident and an assault is what happens next.

The binary consent models only consider two-thirds of the scope of an interaction that involves a withdrawing of consent: everything that leads up to the breach, and the breach. They posit that these are the only determinants of “was it rape?”, not anything that happens afterward. My partner was terrified they’d assaulted me, but everything that makes the difference between an accident and an assault happened *after* the incident itself. What we did afterward made it an accident—and, in the long run, actually kind of a fortuitous one, given what we’ve learned from it.

Part of a comment by Meredith on my essay, “You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense

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I’m puzzled that neither you nor any of the subsequent commenters mentioned the work of maymay, both in exposing the problems of Fetlife and providing a work-around for the problem of abuse reports being censored, namely the PAT-Fetlife browser extension. It highlights people who’ve had abuse reports against them in yellow as you browse the site, and you can find out what the reports are (and whether to ignore them or not – some are just trolling) by clicking their profile. Maymay’s been doing some pretty unethical things to promote the tools (a viral marketing campaign telling people to ‘kill themselves’ on twitter for instance) which I don’t agree with, but I think the tools themselves still should be publicised and used. The code for them is publicly available, so they could be taken from maymay and hosted by someone more impartial and trusted. The more of us who use them, the safer Fetlife becomes for those who still want to use it.

It seems unlikely that you’d accidentally leave maymay out of a discussion like this (even just to disapprove of them) so my conclusion is that you’re trying to deny them the oxygen of publicity because you disapprove of their methods. In which case, perhaps this comment will not be published. I do think the PAT-Fetlife tool is too important to ignore, though.

Comment by Anonymous on Safe Words, one of a slew of articles talking about the undeniable epidemic of rape perpetrated by supposedly “consent-positive” BDSM community members that totally ignores any mention whatsoever of, well, anything that might actually make a difference.

Also, I didn’t realize telling people whose first interaction with me is telling me that I’m “garbage” to kill themselves amounts to “a viral marketing campaign,” but, hey, at least this person has the right idea with respect to what marketing campaigns are: efforts to get you to kill yourself.

If any of you are marketers, kill yourselves. But seriously. If you are, do.

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FetLife Video Sharer: share pay-walled content with the whole Internet, for free

Did you know? Premium content that you “have to” pay for to watch on FetLife can actually be viewed by anyone, even if they never log in to a FetLife account (because FetLife “privacy” and “security” is piss poor). This means people who paid for a FetLife subscription to watch videos can share those videos with others using free, direct links that never expire.

The FetLife Video Sharer script:

Lets you share videos on FetLife with anyone for free. Gives you a direct, free link to bookmark so you can watch FetLife videos even when you are not logged in to your account. Send the link to someone without a paid FetLife membership account to make it possible for them to watch the video for free, too.

Learn more at maybemaimed.com/fetlife-video-sharer.

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