As I’ve said before, perhaps my favorite bona-fide sex blogger ever is Thumper. Beyond simply being my favorite, he’s also one of, if not the best-known, writer on the fetish of male chastity/orgasm control (linked by mainstream sex-advice columnist Dan Savage),1 which I happen to strongly share with him. However, almost a year ago I started noticing a downright alarming absolutism in the way he approached the subject matter in relation to sexual submission.

Perhaps paradoxically, I’m actually in favor of absolutism in exactly one context and one context only: the belief that diversity is the only principle worthy of absolutist loyalty.

This is why Thumper’s essentialist explanation of submission rubbed me the wrong way back when I first detected the unmistakable stink of the idea. While essentialist explanations seem plausible for an individual (“I am that I am.”) such reductivism is logically irreconcilable when applied to a group. So, this same laughably nonsensical reductivism is also what triggered me to leave the following intensely harsh (and possibly inappropriately mean) comment on Thumper’s most recent post with regards to a masculine identity.

For my own interests, I’m reproducing our public thread here.

I began:

Since you can take it, I won’t mince words. You wrote:

I firmly believe orgasm control is Right and Natural. There’s nothing kinky about it. It’s totally clear to me now that literally every man in a relationship should have his orgasm controlled by his partner (no, I’m not ignoring you gay guys, but I need to leave you out of this for clarity’s sake). I know that sounds very out there and draconian and like I know what’s best for the entire world. Can’t help it. You can disagree with me if you want, but it seems that, for a man, the act of committing himself to a woman would take on so much more significance if he was also committing one of the critical things that defined him as a man: his orgasm. Not only that, it would make it much more difficult for his partner to drift away. If he really meant it and lived up to his word, the two would be forever locked in a symbiotic feedback loop.

(Emphasis mine.)

Put simply, this is the most disgusting paragraph I have ever read from you, and possibly from any blogger in a very long time. Perhaps that is because I greatly enjoy your writing and find that you and I share much of the same fetishistic desires. So I am perhaps hugely disappointed, which thus fuels my disgust at such a ridiculous and callously sexist statement coming from someone who has a track record that has stayed relatively clear of such contemptible essentialism.

Tell me, Thumper, while you stroke your ego for so carefully addressing the wrinkle of homosexuality while simultaneously tossing it to the winds, what about the heterosexual women, what about the wrinkle of gender? What “should” they do with their desires, in your worldview?

On a related note, I would urge you to read the opening chapters to Sex At Dawn, which I hope will purge you of this pathetically reductionist view of the way men “should” be. Ick. This paragraph feels like everything I was warning you against in my (admittedly rambling) post, Orgasm Denial Does Not Submissive Men Make.

I am, in other words, legitimately an asshole sometimes. In case you wonder how I sleep at night, I justify it the same way any other asshole probably justifies it: I think I’m an asshole about “the right things” and not an asshole about “the wrong things.” So, yeah, it’s true I was meaner than I needed to be to get my point across. I hope I’ll do better the next time, and in the mean time I’ll acknowledge both my triggers (sexual authoritarianism and sexism) and my errors (making someone else feel unnecessarily bad).

Anyway, the comment did spark an interesting interaction worth reading. Thumper replied:

Since you can take it, then I’ll not mince words. Chill the fuck out.

Sorry, maymay, this isn’t religion for me or political. It’s my life and what I’m thinking at any given point. I am not here to advance any agenda. I am not trying to please you or anyone. If I disappoint you, we’ll both just have to figure out a way to deal with it.

Nice way to start the day. Thank you for your opinion.

To which I said:

I can take it, and you don’t have to mince words. Sarcasm, however, seems beneath you. Or maybe it’s not? I wasn’t kind, but I was direct.

Anyway, I’m sorry I contributed to a bad morning. That sucks. I’m just headed to bed and didn’t think about your sleep schedule.

You may never take an interest in politics, but politics will take an interest in you. Same thing as what you seem unwilling to acknowledge about my other post, too. Sigh.

As for religion…well, seeing as how you’re the one who brought that up, I’m struck with the unshakable notion that your views are a religion for you.

Such (religious?) adherence to an ignorantly essentialist view of human maleness, or indeed of any human characteristic, is perhaps the most destructive form of self-centeredness, for you declare others’ expressions illegitimate. And I say this, I hasten to add, as a self-identified man who not only would, but already has wholly subscribed to your beliefs for my own life.

I hope you consider these facts the next time you grant yourself absolution because “this isn’t…political.”

Then, circling back to answer my initial criticism, Thumper wrote:

Now that I’ve had a bit of caffeine, I’ll reply to your comment by saying the intention of my post was to describe a strategy in which men (with penises) and women (with the other part) in traditional marriages or long-term relationships could experience greater degrees of sexual intimacy and satisfaction. That should explain my (admittedly flippant) dismissal of the “gay guys” and, I suppose, by extension anyone not in the aforementioned gender group.

I loved Sex at Dawn. Thought it was great. And, truth be told, I think we humans have totally screwed with ourselves and our sexuality. However, I’m also a pragmatist. I live in this time and under these social norms and am married to a devout monogamist. Therefore, while I agree that my POV does not align with the vision of human sexuality presented in the book, I think it very much compliments the version of human sexuality that plays out in my house. Which, at the end of the day, is all I really care about. Were I like you (young, passionate, not married with two kids and a mortgage), I’m sure my position would be different. Alas, I am not. And I’m very happy not to be.

I have no interest in getting into a multi-thousand word debate about this with you. If you feel the need to rail against my pathetic, narrow, disgusting and icky words, please do so on your own blog. Don’t be upset, though, if I don’t ever read it. As I said before, sex is not political for me. It’s personal. You can go fight the good fight. Leave me out of it.

And, finally, my reply:

I think that’s all peachy keen. Until this:

As I said before, sex is not political for me. It’s personal. You can go fight the good fight. Leave me out of it.

You are the pre-eminent blogger about male orgasm control on the entire Internet, on par with Tom Allen. You are political whether you like it or not.

If you want to treat your sex life as wholly personal and not the least bit political, then you can not blog publicly. Otherwise, and I’m not sorry about this, you can’t have it both ways.

My final words on the issue, since I don’t want to overstay my welcome (and you have been generous with my characteristic harshness, so I thank you) will be to make clear that I care about this with “passion” precisely because we share a fetish and every single time I talk about it I reference this blog as one of the only sensible places on the entire Internet to learn about this fetish. It would upset me greatly to need to start disclaiming my admiration for you due to an increasing amount of relatively careless and flippant remarks specifically due to how often I cite your otherwise fantastic writing.

I hope I didn’t ruin your day. I shouldn’t have that much power over you. Thanks again for your generosity with your comments section.

There is, of course, something to be said for Thumper’s argument that we live in a particular world, with particular realities, and not some other world with some other realities. However, we know what we can say about that: it needs changing. I remain baffled by implications such as his that, thanks to the way things are, ideals like sexual egalitarianism even–and perhaps especially–when it comes to consciously constructed power imbalances are the illusory fantasies, rather than the other way around. The ideals I hold about sex are not the illusions, they are the core of our humanity, buried under eons of cultural sediments (stigma, collective phobias, mass hysterics like religion, and so on).

If reality was, in fact, as gender essentialist as Thumper described it, he would not have been able to actualize the relationship he currently enjoys precisely because such a relationship is founded on the very egalitarian ideals his thesis dismisses. He shoots himself in the foot with his own words, same as I sometimes do by forgetting to use honey in situations where it would catch more flies than vinegar.

Maybe next time Thumper and I talk, we will both have learned a thing or two. (If there is a next time.)

Update: Thumper’s got a reply on his blog. It’s worth a read, so check it out. TL;DR version and my reaction: Thumper affirms maymay’s asshole-ishness and will “amputate him from my life” (sic.) (well, okay, but owch), asserts that our worldviews are irreconcilable and as part of that his blog “is not a platform for any kind of activism” (except, as I keep reminding him, when it kind of is, which says more about how narrowly Thumper construes activism and how widely I do) and will continue to write his blog while abdicating any recognition of the influence he has. All right then. Truce?

  1. I originally intended the prior, non-parenthetical link to point to Dan Savage’s post, and mistakenly pointed to Thumper’s post about an article by Dan Savage. Hence the inserted parenthetical statement. []
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