“I like your blog,” someone will whisper to me at a party. It’s their secret — and I guess it’s a dirty one since they whisper it to me. Yes, I write a humor blog — which does, occasionally, address sexual penchants. Interestingly, the issues surrounding both are similar.
There’s a certain terror in being amused or aroused by something outside “the norm.” When I first started listening to my favorite comedy podcast which finds humor in all things (including truly horrific news items) I was a little taken aback by the conflict I felt at my reaction. “I’m a decent person,” I thought, “and yet I’m laughing at this…” I felt the same kind of discord in what I was turned on by: “But I can’t be this terrible… What is wrong with me?”
When it comes down to it, while we many not wish to find certain things funny, you like what you like. Similarly, many people find they have certain sexual desires — which they would, in a perfect world, prefer to dismiss.
There are a few other similarities I see between humor and fetishes:
Of course, I think murder is tragic and difficult to fathom. The act itself is as horrific and unfunny as you can get. But the context and inciting factors can be almost as baffling as the crime itself. In my own podcast, I’ve turned assessing the absurdity into a type of game. I marvel at the bizarreness of a murder apparently motivated by not wanting to play Yahtzee or the defense of a killer who claimed he was only attacking people in order to promote his film. Context provides permission to deviate from societal norms, and a place to do it.
As for sexual desires, certain scenarios or acts can be safely explored within context. And, within that context, there may not be any danger or exploitation or malicious intent. For instance, a woman who fantasizes about rape (or being controlled) has no desire truly to be assaulted; nor does a man harboring those desires necessarily have the intent to victimize. Desires can be explored within safe parameters, just as the horror film or local roller coaster provides the space to be frightened safely.
Most people don’t want to feel that they are out of sync with the general population. Thus, they might hide or dismiss their “edgy” side or less palatable traits. Will your partner think you’re demented if you admit you laughed at that YouTube video with the guy falling and breaking his arm? Best not to mention it at all. And walking into your workplace in dominatrix gear likely is a bad plan of action.
But it may not feel any less terrifying or shameful to broach unconventional interests in private with intimate partners — especially when you feel there is something inherently “wrong” about who you are, or get the sense that they would.
There have been news stories about crimes so perplexing to me, I felt a need for my favorite podcaster to poke fun at them so that I could reframe. It (sometimes) avoids acknowledging the true horror of the situation to hear someone recount it gleefully, marveling at the insanity of it all.
As for sexuality, while I wish not to assign too much reason for fetishes, I can’t help but analyze my interest and others’. I read a theory a few years back which struck me: that fetishes do occasionally develop in childhood as a way of dealing with something uncomfortable or difficult to understand. Experiences can be disturbing to children, even if they don’t involve abuse (e.g. hospital stays, anger in the home).
What we connect to can become our baseline. It’s easy then to decide that deviant behavior is anything beyond what we personally are comfortable with. We’re really fine – those other guys are weird.
What do you think?
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Nov 2011
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Hamburg, M. (2011). The Stigma of Humor and Fetishes. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/11/13/the-stigma-of-humor-and-fetishes-2/