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.