Later that evening, Kim and I were going through our luggage together, seeing if we could thin it out. Pulling out my evening wear, a long black dress with slits up at the sides and a plunging neckline, my toy bag fell out. I had clumsily forgot to zip it before packing it and as it rolled onto the floor, so did all of its erotic cargo.
Kim, trying to help, went to pick up one of the butt plugs. Purple, with a jewelled end. One of my favourites.
“Hey, what’s this?”
“Ah… don’t touch that.”
She recoiled. I picked it up. I always sanitize toys between uses – cleanliness is next to goddess-ness after all – but I didn’t want to scare her. Kim points to the head of the double ended dildo now, that is peeking cheekily out of the bag opening.
“Oh my god, what is that? It looks like a… like a…”
Well the cat (or dildo) was out of the bag now. So, with that, I began to try to explain to this innocent little thing from Malaysia, the various tools in my bag and their uses. Her eyes widened when I explained the plug.
“It goes where?”
“Some people like it.”
“But why? Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Mmm. Hopefully. Possibly at first.”
Kim looked at me with confusion, then amusement.
“You are a funny lady, Katia.”
I smiled indulgently at her. Time to put the toys away and change the subject. At that exact moment, Penelope – Thai tasselled skirt flaring out behind her – threw open the door and ran in crying. She smelled of coconut oil and her eyes were wild.
“I just went for a massage in town… and… and…”
“Penelope!” I said, stepping forward to help. “Whatever is the matter?”
As I stepped forward, one of my toys fell from the bag I was trying to zip. Penelope looked down at the mid sized, flesh coloured plug on her foot, shrieked and ran outside again, wailing louder. I looked at Kim in confusion. She shrugged.
Later, I heard through Kim that Penelope had apparently had a bit of a misunderstanding with a Khmer masseuse. Khmer massage – along with Thai massage – is known to be quite an intimate experience. But there are also two types of massage place: the ones that relax you and provide muscular and skeletal relief, and the ones that provide – for want of a better phrase – happy endings. Penelope, being Penelope, had stumbled into entirely the wrong kind of establishment and their attempts to give her a happy ending had very unhappy results.
She sat quietly at dinner, legs tightly crossed. I tied to engage her in conversation, but as the resort’s in-house sexual deviant, I was apparently only adding to her trauma and she refused to look at me.
Then along came Ben, with his tray of food.
“Penelope! Babe! What’s up? Time of the month?”
Ugh. Penelope winced. Now that was the last thing she needed right now.
I patted the seat beside me, glaring at Ben.
“You. Come. Sit.”
Ben stiffened, grinned, then did as he was told.
In the vast expanse of farms and stilt houses around the resort property, the heavy pound of Khmer music was playing. It would be Khmer new year in a week and the festivities were starting early. There was something incredibly pleasant about sitting by an open window, feeling the wood frame and chairs vibrate with every over amplified beat. In addition, the thrum of a thousand crickets in the garden outside and the intermingled incense from the Buddha shrine combined in the humid evening air in a way that was deeply sensual.
I excused myself from the dining hall early to scour the garden a final time. I found myself a fallen bamboo cane of the right size, then wandered to the apartment where Ben was staying and found – to my delight – a Kapok tree: it’s bark, a mosaic of merciless thorns. I pressed my body gentle against them, feeling each little point press threateningly against my skin. Yes, this would do nicely.
I waited there a while. The others left the dining hall and filed past me first. Bruno shot me a suspicious look, while the Aussie winked at me:
“You look like you’re up to no good.”
I grinned back at her and watched the group leave. No Ben. He was probably still eating. I imagined the others had grown tired of his inane prattle and rushed their meals to escape him.
Finally Ben came around the corner. He looked surprised to see me. I nodded to him and allowed him to walk a few more steps until he was between the Kapok tree and I.
He looked at the bamboo cane in my hand.
“Katia! What are you doing here? And what’s that stick for? Were you planning on beating me with it?”
I shot him a wicked smile, lifting the cane and placing it to the side of his neck.
Ben shifted uncomfortably, accidentally brushing the thorns on the trunk behind him. He winced in pain.
“I imagine you usually beat yourself. It might make for a nice change, mmm?”
“Uh…” he leaned back, as if to get away, but caught the thorns again. He could have moved away on either side, there was space, but his feet didn’t move. Presumably they knew something his fearful mind did not.
I started to trace the cane gently around his neck, then deliberately slowly, down the length of his chest, his sternum, his belly and down to his belt line. Then below. He spasmed a little.
“What’s wrong? Am I making you nervous?”
He gulped. Sweat was beading on his forehead. He licked his lips and took a deep breath, attempting to compose himself.
“N…no. It just… it’s just that it tickles a little.”
“Mmm. Tickles? I imagine it’s doing a whole lot more than that, Ben. At least, that’s what your other head is telling me.”
Ben looked down at the obvious bulge in his chinos, covering it reflexively with his hands, like Adam in the Garden of Eden perhaps, when realizing his nakedness. In a sense, he was naked. I saw right through his coyness and attempts at bravado, to the slobbering, desperate man inside. A slave to his desires, and soon, yes, to me too.
What an uncomfortable position to be in. Poor thing.
“No need to be shy, Ben. You think it’s the first time I’ve seen an erection?”
I smacked his hands away with the bamboo cane.
“Hold this for me, would you?” I said, placing the bamboo cane between his teeth. He held it obligingly, his eyes widening. “There’s a dear. Now let’s see what we have here.”
I knelt down in front of him, placing a hand on both of his hips firmly.
“There now. See? Do I look scared? It’s hardly threatening, Ben: you don’t need to protect me from it. I’ve seen bigger. Much bigger than this… attempt.”
Ben’s shoulders slumped and for a moment he looked like a little boy lost. I gently began massaging the side of his hips, then kneading forwards towards his groin, stopping short of the strained fabric there.
“Yes, relax. That’s it. There. Now, you don’t need to look so afraid. Well, perhaps it’s wise, but you’re not going anywhere, are you?”
Ben shook his head, wincing as in a moment of relaxing his back caught the barbs of the Kapok.
“And you want to please me, don’t you?”
Ben nodded slowly. He looked wonderfully ridiculous, standing there helpless, cane between his teeth like an obedient puppy, awaiting my next instruction.
I increased the speed and intensity of my massage, still avoiding the intimate area. So much of this work is the energy from potentiality. Sex is a release – it’s fast and furious and then its gone. Where there is tension, where there is potential, there is creativity and hunger. This is my preferred arena to work from, in all areas of my life, but especially in my work. Ben was moaning softly now, edging his erection towards my hands, but my hands always moving away from it, continuing to massage.
“I wonder what you thought when you saw me here, standing outside of your room. I look quite appealing, don’t I Ben? This black dress glides over my contours like poured wax and – ah – I caught you. You like breasts, don’t you Ben? It’s alright. You can look. They are very nice aren’t they? I bet you must have imagined what it would be like to hold them…”
I paused, watching his jaw clench over the bamboo.
“Perhaps to place one in your mouth… suckle on it. Mmm? Feel its softness giving to your tongue as you lapped on it.”
He was beginning to drool.
“And perhaps as you did that, to have me sitting over you as you did that, sitting on that little mound of yours and squirming on top of it.”
Ben’s mouth gaped open, the cane falling out. I gave a sigh of exasperation, stopped the massage, picked it up not bothering to dust it off and shoved it forcefully back between his teeth.
“No Ben. I didn’t tell you to drop it.”
He mumbled something that sounded vaguely like an apology, but there was too much saliva to make sense of it.
I knelt back down again, switching from the previous massage to just running my hands softly down his thighs. Ignoring his now more desperate attempts to thrust his boner into my hands.
“Settle! Just listen Ben, I am telling you a story. Please don’t be rude or I will be forced to take that cane from your teeth and impress my disappointment onto your buttocks. Understand?”
He nodded. He was moaning louder now, his breathing coming out in hard rasps. Anyone could hear. The thought crossed my mind that we may both get into a bit of trouble for these shenanigans, but this would only take a few moments more. He was close.
“Those images I just gave you. They caught your imagination didn’t they?”
I stood up, brushing the red dirt from the front of my dress and starting to walk away. I heard Ben let out a gasp, I heard the sound of the cane dropping to the floor. I turned to see his body spasm helplessly for a moment or two in front of the tree.
“Ben… did you just?”
Ben looked up at me, ashamed.
“Oh dear. Did I tell you to do that?”
Ben shook his head.
“N.. no… Mistress…”
His chinos had a growing darkness on their front now.
“I have to say Ben, I am really quite disappointed. I was simply trying to reassure you, to tell you a story, and you do – this.”
Ben looked at me, vainly trying to brush off the stain with one of his hands.
“You’re really quite pathetic. I would imagine there are wild horses with more self control than you.”
I raised my eyebrow and glared at him. He cowed.
“I’m sorry, Mistress.”
I sighed, picked up the cane and dusted it off.
“Apology considered. Really Ben, as embarrassing as this whole thing is for you, you could consider yourself quite fortunate. I have the tools to teach you to overcome that undisciplined nature of yours and shape you into something far more… pleasing. It would of course be quite a lot of work for me, and I am supposed to be on vacation but…”
I ran the tip of the bamboo through my hair, brushing my bangs out of my eyes and looking Ben up and down.
“If you really want my assistance, I suppose you could ask very nicely and I might consider it…”
Ben paused for a moment, then knelt down before me.
“Yes… please Mistress. Please help me. I want to please you.”
I smiled. He looked a lot more fetching down in the dirt, than he had all day. I placed a wedged shoe on top of his back for a moment and rocked forward on it, pressing him down a little more. He spluttered a little, then looked up at me with a placating smile.
“Request accepted, Ben. Alright, your work starts tomorrow. Better get some rest – you will need it.”
Ben got up slowly, watching me conscientiously as a student might gaze at a teacher at the start of an important lesson. He jangled his key chain in his hand, flustered, and placed the key in the door.
“Oh and Ben?”
“You’d better change those pants, unless you want to advertise to the world what a pathetic little thing you were tonight..”
Ben disappeared into his room. I yawned and stretched my arms. To sleep now, perchance to dream, of a tailored set list of discomfort and frustration for my new project.
All work and no play does make a person dull. And in my work, I need to always have an edge, or many, preferably sharp, pointed or at the very least, hard.
So I’m travelling to South East Asia for research, and of course a little respite. First stop, Cambodia, a little resort just outside of Seam Reap. Then Thailand – that heady mix of dirt, excitement, and mystery that I’ve always found so intoxicating a prospect.
Siem Reap is a harsh Mistress in herself. The heat is hard to explain, inescapable, it invades every pore and the only way to survive it is to surrender to it. My dewy skin breathes in temporary relief as the tuk tuk turns and the mildest hint of a breeze ripples through my cotton shirt, over my bare décolletage, sensually brushing bare skin and bringing me to life in a way I haven’t felt in a long while.
The road is an ordered chaos of interweaving tuk tuks, mopeds and cattle. The smell is a heady mix of boiling refuse and floral fragrance from the vegetation of the fields and forests beyond.
I contemplate being a stranger in a foreign land must be somewhat similar to how my submissives feel at times. At the mercy of many things that are beyond their control, trusting that things will work out because they have to, yet knowing around every turn is something that may just push them completely out of their comfort zone, at best, or completely destroy them, at worse.
No, I’ve never destroyed any of my submissives. There seems little point going to all the trouble I do for them to simply have them fall apart at the end. Yet I aways try to impress the possibility that I might have this unspoken destructive power, when I learn their fears and subject them to them in small, arousing doses. They don’t understand, in those moments of vulnerability and terror, that I never mean them any harm – I am simply showing them a new way. A way to transcend those dull fears and limiting beleifs that stop them living to their full potential. I am the inner city paint store to the suburban artist – come to me and I’ll show you shades and tones that you’d never known before. Especially red. I do like red. And purple. Even blue.
Opposite me in the tuk tuk, Kim sits quietly, hugging her backpack to her as if to protect herself from the world. We’re staying at the same resort, and while waiting for our driver she confided in me that this was her trip to find herself, after quitting a well paid but unsatisfactory job. She talked to me about her upbringing in Malaysia and the “Asian work ethic”, which I found very interesting. But the part where my ears really pricked up was when she spoke of physical discipline in the school system.
“When we were bad, to punish us, they used bamboo,” she said, obviously somewhat pained by the memory. “We were given a choice, thick bamboo, or many thin bamboos tied together.”
“Which did you choose?” I asked her.
“The thick one. It looks bigger, but it hurts less. The smaller ones tied together were sharp. They really sting.”
Bamboo. I take a mental note.
“How about you?” She asked, “What do you do?”
I raised my eyebrow at the girl sitting in front of me, some ten years younger than me and full of childish curiosity. Should I tell her what I do? The toys I have and where they go?
“I’m… not sure I should tell you.”
She leaned forward a little, eye widening.
“Oh. You do something bad? You mafia or something?”
She laughed at her own joke. I sighed and shook my head. How to explain? Do they have kink in Malaysia? Did she have a boyfriend? If so, that might make it easier. Kimmy, sometimes when two people love each other very much, they tie each other up and put things up their asses? No. No, and anyway, love has nothing to do with this business of mine. Affection? Yes. Friendship? Sure. Trust? Absolutely. It was not love, beyond that I love my work and the submissives seem to love theirs.
“Have you ever heard of Mistresses?”
Kim looked lost in thought a moment, then frowned a little.
“You mean, like the other woman?”
“No. Different kind of Mistress. It’s about… being a person of power for another person to reliquish their power to. How to explain? Ok. When someone submits to me, to my whims and caprices, I can take them past their stale day to day reality and into a whole new world of strengths and possibilities. It’s a creative process of sorts.”
“Like a life coach?”
“Uh. Yeah, sure. Like a life coach.”
“You could teach me! Be my coach, I need one.”
I smile back awkwardly. We enjoy a minute or so of uncomfortable silence until our tuk tuk rattles loudly down the stone drive of the resort.
Lush green canopy and a myriad of flowers and fragrance greets us at the gates. I learn that there are seven others here, mainly females in their late twenties. Two men. One, a German called Bruno who looks very dull. The other a cocksure English man in his late twenties called Ben, who made me bristle (not in a good way) when he introduced himself to me in the manner of a drooling, undisciplined puppy. I pondered he might be a good subject to bring to heel.
Bags unpacked, Kim and I slipped into our bikinis and headed to the pool. The smouldering tiles surrounding it threatened to brand bottoms that lingered there too long, so we slipped slowly into the cool blue water, letting it cool our overheating skin. An English girl named Penelope was there, on a gap year, writing a segment on “following your bliss”
I suppose bliss is alright, but I’ve always found pain to be a better teacher. Perhaps that explained why she hadn’t learnt much. There was an Aussie girl there too, lean, angular and as intimidating in nature as the vast hot expanse she travelled from. Of course, I liked her immediately.
We were rudely awakened from our blissful soaking by a large blur of pale skin and red trunks whizzing over our heads and landing with a great splash in the pool.
He came up, spitting water, like some kind of lecherous Orca.
“Ladies.” He said with a wink, then sidled up next to Kim. “Your first time here in Cambodia?”
He was leering at her chest. Practically drooling. No subtlety. He asked the question directly to her breasts.
Kim shot me a worried look. Help me. Ben was obviously blissfully unaware of how much of a cretin he appeared at that point in time. It came to me at that point that I’d have to teach him. Holiday schmoliday. This had every potential of becoming a very satisfying project indeed.
“Ben, is it?” I said.
He looked a little scared as I addressed him. Good. He nodded.
“You look like a physical guy, Ben.” His head perked up, rooster-like, obviously pleased with himself. This was disappointingly easy.
I lifted my leg out of the water,, being careful to brush the inside of his thigh with my big toe before presenting him with one of my black manicured feet. He tensed a little as I brushed that soft and vulnerable spot. His eyes betrayed in that moment all of the sad little fantasies such men have about women… before they meet me.
“My feet are an absolute wreck after all of this travelling.” I drawled, lifting my other foot out of the water. “I’d so appreciate a pair of big… strong… hands…”
I didn’t need to continue. He was already pressing and rubbing my feet with all of the hopeful obedience of a submissive.
I moaned sensually. I really couldn’t care less about the foot rub. I’m not a foot person. But this was all part of the game.
He stopped for a moment, looking at me with that stupid smile on his face. Probably thought he was going to get lucky later.
Oh, he had no idea.
I returned his gaze, unsmiling, and with solemn intensity. He gulped and turned away.
“Well,” I said, pushing my foot into his hand. “Carry on.”
He did as he was asked. Kim looked at me, puzzled. I shot her a wink. Penelope was giggling. Silly girl.
I looked around the lush garden. Many exotic plants, abuzz with butterflies and birds.
And there, between the bathrooms and the change rooms, exactly what I was looking for.
Bamboo. Canes of it dancing in the slow afternoon breeze.
I lay back, Ben kneading my feet as I plotted the ways in which I could knead him into a better specimen of man.
It was going to be a wonderful vacation. I could feel it.
The 1901 Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defined heterosexuality as an “abnormal or perverted appetite toward the opposite sex.” More than two decades later, in 1923, Merriam Webster’s dictionary similarly defined it as “morbid sexual passion for one of the opposite sex.” It wasn’t until 1934 that heterosexuality was graced with the meaning we’re familiar with today: “manifestation of sexual passion for one of the opposite sex; normal sexuality.”
Whenever I tell this to people, they respond with dramatic incredulity. That can’t be right! Well, it certainly doesn’t feel right. It feels as if heterosexuality has always “just been there.”
A few years ago, there began circulating a “man on the street” video, in which the creator asked people if they thought homosexuals were born with their sexual orientations. Responses were varied, with most saying something like, “It’s a combination of nature and nurture.” The interviewer then asked a follow-up question, which was crucial to the experiment: “When did you choose to be straight?” Most were taken back, confessing, rather sheepishly, never to have thought about it. Feeling that their prejudices had been exposed, they ended up swiftly conceding the videographer’s obvious point: gay people were born gay just like straight people were born straight.
The video’s takeaway seemed to suggest that all of our sexualities are “just there”; that we don’t need an explanation for homosexuality just as we don’t need one for heterosexuality. It seems not to have occurred to those who made the video, or the millions who shared it, that we actually need an explanation for both.
There’s been a lot of good work, both scholarly and popular, on the social construction of homosexual desire and identity. As a result, few would bat an eye when there’s talk of “the rise of the homosexual” – indeed, most of us have learned that homosexual identity did come into existence at a specific point in human history. What we’re not taught, though, is that a similar phenomenon brought heterosexuality into its existence.
There are many reasons for this educational omission, including religious bias and other types of homophobia. But the biggest reason we don’t interrogate heterosexuality’s origins is probably because it seems so, well, natural. Normal. No need to question something that’s “just there.”
But heterosexuality has not always “just been there.” And there’s no reason to imagine it will always be.
When heterosexuality was abnormal
The first rebuttal to the claim that heterosexuality was invented usually involves an appeal to reproduction: it seems obvious that different-genital intercourse has existed for as long as humans have been around – indeed, we wouldn’t have survived this long without it. But this rebuttal assumes that heterosexuality is the same thing as reproductive intercourse. It isn’t.
“Sex has no history,” writes queer theorist David Halperin at the University of Michigan, because it’s “grounded in the functioning of the body.” Sexuality, on the other hand, precisely because it’s a “cultural production,” does have a history. In other words, while sex is something that appears hardwired into most species, the naming and categorising of those acts, and those who practise those acts, is a historical phenomenon, and can and should be studied as such.
Or put another way: there have always been sexual instincts throughout the animal world (sex). But at a specific point on in time, humans attached meaning to these instincts (sexuality). When humans talk about heterosexuality, we’re talking about the second thing.
Hanne Blank offers a helpful way into this discussion in her book Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality with an analogy from natural history. In 2007, the International Institute for Species Exploration listed the fish Electrolux addisoni as one of the year’s “top 10 new species.” But of course, the species didn’t suddenly spring into existence 10 years ago – that’s just when it was discovered and scientifically named. As Blank concludes: “Written documentation of a particular kind, by an authority figure of a particular kind, was what turned Electrolux from a thing that just was … into a thing that was known.”
Something remarkably similar happened with heterosexuals, who, at the end of the 19th Century, went from merely being there to being known. “Prior to 1868, there were no heterosexuals,” writes Blank. Neither were there homosexuals. It hadn’t yet occurred to humans that they might be “differentiated from one another by the kinds of love or sexual desire they experienced.” Sexual behaviours, of course, were identified and catalogued, and often times, forbidden. But the emphasis was always on the act, not the agent.
So what changed? Language.
In the late 1860s, Hungarian journalist Karl Maria Kertbeny coined four terms to describe sexual experiences: heterosexual, homosexual, and two now forgotten terms to describe masturbation and bestiality; namely, monosexual and heterogenit. Kertbeny used the term “heterosexual” a decade later when he was asked to write a book chapter arguing for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The editor, Gustav Jager, decided not to publish it, but he ended up using Kertbeny’s novel term in a book he later published in 1880.
The next time the word was published was in 1889, when Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing included the word in Psychopathia Sexualis, a catalogue of sexual disorders. But in almost 500 pages, the word “heterosexual” is used only 24 times, and isn’t even indexed. That’s because Krafft-Ebing is more interested in “contrary sexual instinct” (“perversions”) than “sexual instinct,” the latter being for him the “normal” sexual desire of humans.
“Normal” is a loaded word, of course, and it has been misused throughout history. Hierarchical ordering leading to slavery was at one time accepted as normal, as was a geocentric cosmology. It was only by questioning the foundations of the consensus view that “normal” phenomena were dethroned from their privileged positions.
The emphasis on procreation comes not primarily from Jewish or Christian Scriptures, but from Stoicism
For Krafft-Ebing, normal sexual desire was situated within a larger context of procreative utility, an idea that was in keeping with the dominant sexual theories of the West. In the Western world, long before sex acts were separated into the categories hetero/homo, there was a different ruling binary: procreative or non-procreative. The Bible, for instance, condemns homosexual intercourse for the same reason it condemns masturbation: because life-bearing seed is spilled in the act. While this ethic was largely taught, maintained, and enforced by the Catholic Church and later Christian offshoots, it’s important to note that the ethic comes not primarily from Jewish or Christian Scriptures, but from Stoicism.
As Catholic ethicist Margaret Farley points out, Stoics “held strong views on the power of the human will to regulate emotion and on the desirability of such regulation for the sake of inner peace”. Musonius Rufus, for example, argued in On Sexual Indulgence that individuals must protect themselves against self-indulgence, including sexual excess. To curb this sexual indulgence, notes theologian Todd Salzman, Rufus and other Stoics tried to situate it “in a larger context of human meaning” – arguing that sex could only be moral in the pursuit of procreation. Early Christian theologians took up this conjugal-reproductive ethic, and by the time of Augustine, reproductive sex was the only normal sex.
While Krafft-Ebing takes this procreative sexual ethic for granted, he does open it up in a major way. “In sexual love the real purpose of the instinct, the propagation of the species, does not enter into consciousness,” he writes.
In other words, sexual instinct contains something like a hard-wired reproductive aim – an aim that is present even if those engaged in ‘normal’ sex aren’t aware of it. Jonathan Ned Katz, in The Invention of Heterosexuality, notes the impact of Krafft-Ebing’s move. “Placing the reproductive aside in the unconscious, Krafft-Ebing created a small, obscure space in which a new pleasure norm began to grow.”
The importance of this shift – from reproductive instinct to erotic desire – can’t be overstated, as it’s crucial to modern notions of sexuality. When most people today think of heterosexuality, they might think of something like this: Billy understands from a very young age he is erotically attracted to girls. One day he focuses that erotic energy on Suzy, and he woos her. The pair fall in love, and give physical sexual expression to their erotic desire. And they live happily ever after.
Without Krafft-Ebing’s work, this narrative might not have ever become thought of as “normal.” There is no mention, however implicit, of procreation. Defining normal sexual instinct according to erotic desire was a fundamental revolution in thinking about sex. Krafft-Ebing’s work laid the groundwork for the cultural shift that happened between the 1923 definition of heterosexuality as “morbid” and its 1934 definition as “normal.”
Sex and the city
Ideas and words are often products of their time. That is certainly true of heterosexuality, which was borne out of a time when American life was becoming more regularised. As Blank argues, the invention of heterosexuality corresponds with the rise of the middle class.
The invention of heterosexuality corresponds with the rise of the middle class
In the late 19th Century, populations in European and North American cities began to explode. By 1900, for example, New York City had 3.4 million residents – 56 times its population just a century earlier. As people moved to urban centres, they brought their sexual perversions – prostitution, same-sex eroticism – with them. Or so it seemed. “By comparison to rural towns and villages,” Blank writes, “the cities seemed like hotbeds of sexual misconduct and excess.” When city populations were smaller, says Blank, it was easier to control such behaviour, just as it was easier to control when it took place in smaller, rural areas where neighbourly familiarity was a norm. Small-town gossip can be a profound motivator.
Because the increasing public awareness of these sexual practices paralleled the influx of lower classes into cities, “urban sexual misconduct was typically, if inaccurately, blamed” on the working class and poor, says Blank. It was important for an emerging middle class to differentiate itself from such excess. The bourgeois family needed a way to protect its members “from aristocratic decadence on the one side and the horrors of the teeming city on the other”. This required “systematic, reproducible, universally applicable systems for social management that could be implemented on a large scale”.
In the past, these systems could be based on religion, but “the new secular state required secular justification for its laws,” says Blank. Enter sex experts like Krafft-Ebing, who wrote in the introduction to his first edition of Psychopathia that his work was designed “to reduce [humans] to their lawful conditions.” Indeed, continues the preface, the present study “exercises a beneficent influence upon legislation and jurisprudence”.
Krafft-Ebing’s work chronicling sexual irregularity made it clear that the growing middle class could no longer treat deviation from normal (hetero) sexuality merely as sin, but as moral degeneracy – one of the worst labels a person could acquire. “Call a man a ‘cad’ and you’ve settled his social status,” wrote Williams James in 1895. “Call him a ‘degenerate’ and you’ve grouped him with the most loathsome specimens of the human race.” As Blank points out, sexual degeneracy became a yardstick to determine a person’s measure.
Degeneracy, after all, was the reverse process of social Darwinism. If procreative sex was critical to the continuous evolution of the species, deviating from that norm was a threat to the entire social fabric. Luckily, such deviation could be reversed, if it was caught early enough, thought the experts.
The formation of “sexual inversion” occurred, for Krafft-Ebing, through several stages, and was curable in the first. Through his work, writes Ralph M Leck, author of Vita Sexualis, “Krafft-Ebing sent out a clarion call against degeneracy and perversion. All civic-minded people must take their turn on the social watch tower.” And this was certainly a question of civics: most colonial personnel came from the middle class, which was large and growing.
Though some non-professionals were familiar with Krafft-Ebing’s work, it was Freud who gave the public scientific ways to think about sexuality. While it’s difficult to reduce the doctor’s theories to a few sentences, his most enduring legacy is his psychosexual theory of development, which held that children develop their own sexualities via an elaborate psychological parental dance.
For Freud, heterosexuals weren’t born this way, but made this way. As Katz points out, heterosexuality for Freud was an achievement; those who attained it successfully navigated their childhood development without being thrown off the straight and narrow.
And yet, as Katz notes, it takes an enormous imagination to frame this navigation in terms of normality:
According to Freud, the normal road to heterosexual normality is paved with the incestuous lust of boy and girl for parent of the other sex, with boy’s and girl’s desire to murder their same-sex parent-rival, and their wish to exterminate any little sibling-rivals. The road to heterosexuality is paved with blood-lusts… The invention of the heterosexual, in Freud’s vision, is a deeply disturbed production.
That such an Oedipal vision endured for so long as the explanation for normal sexuality is “one more grand irony of heterosexual history,” he says.
Still, Freud’s explanation seemed to satisfy the majority of the public, who, continuing their obsession with standardising every aspect of life, happily accepted the new science of normal. Such attitudes found further scientific justification in the work of Alfred Kinsey, whose landmark 1948 study Sexual Behavior in the Human Male sought to rate the sexuality of men on a scale of zero (exclusively heterosexual) to six (exclusively homosexual). His findings led him to conclude that a large, if not majority, “portion of the male population has at least some homosexual experience between adolescence and old age”. While Kinsey’s study did open up the categories homo/hetero to allow for a certain sexual continuum, it also “emphatically reaffirmed the idea of a sexuality divided between” the two poles, as Katz notes.
The future of heterosexuality
And those categories have lingered to this day. “No one knows exactly why heterosexuals and homosexuals ought to be different,” wrote Wendell Ricketts, author of the 1984 study Biological Research on Homosexuality. The best answer we’ve got is something of a tautology: “heterosexuals and homosexuals are considered different because they can be divided into two groups on the basis of the belief that they can be divided into two groups.”
Though the hetero/homo divide seems like an eternal, indestructible fact of nature, it simply isn’t. It’s merely one recent grammar humans have invented to talk about what sex means to us.
Heterosexuality, argues Katz, “is invented within discourse as that which is outside discourse. It’s manufactured in a particular discourse as that which is universal… as that which is outside time.” That is, it’s a construction, but it pretends it isn’t. As any French philosopher or child with a Lego set will tell you, anything that’s been constructed can be deconstructed, as well. If heterosexuality didn’t exist in the past, then it doesn’t need to exist in the future.
I was recently caught off guard by Jane Ward, author of Not Gay, who, during an interview for a piece I wrote on sexual orientation, asked me to think about the future of sexuality. “What would it mean to think about people’s capacity to cultivate their own sexual desires, in the same way we might cultivate a taste for food?” Though some might be wary of allowing for the possibility of sexual fluidity, it’s important to realise that various Born This Way arguments aren’t accepted by the most recent science. Researchers aren’t sure what “causes” homosexuality, and they certainly reject any theories that posit a simple origin, such as a “gay gene.” It’s my opinion that sexual desires, like all our desires, shift and re-orient throughout our lives, and that as they do, they often suggest to us new identities. If this is true, then Ward’s suggestion that we can cultivate sexual preferences seems fitting. (For more of the scientific evidence behind this argument, read BBC Future’s ‘I am gay – but I wasn’t born this way’.)
Beyond Ward’s question is a subtle challenge: If we’re uncomfortable with considering whether and how much power we have over our sexualities, why might that be? Similarly, why might we be uncomfortable with challenging the belief that homosexuality, and by extension heterosexuality, are eternal truths of nature?
In an interview with the journalist Richard Goldstein, the novelist and playwright James Baldwin admitted to having good and bad fantasies of the future. One of the good ones was that “No one will have to call themselves gay,” a term Baldwin admits to having no patience for. “It answers a false argument, a false accusation.”
Which is what?
“Which is that you have no right to be here, that you have to prove your right to be here. I’m saying I have nothing to prove. The world also belongs to me.”
Fewer than half British 18-24 year-olds identify as being 100% heterosexual
Once upon a time, heterosexuality was necessary because modern humans needed to prove who they were and why they were, and they needed to defend their right to be where they were. As time wears on, though, that label seems to actually limit the myriad ways we humans understand our desires and loves and fears. Perhaps that is one reason a recent UK poll found that fewer than half of those aged 18-24 identify as “100% heterosexual.” That isn’t to suggest a majority of those young respondents regularly practise bisexuality or homosexuality; rather it shows that they don’t seem to have the same need for the word “heterosexual” as their 20th-Century forebears.
Debates about sexual orientation have tended to focus on a badly defined concept of “nature.” Because different sex intercourse generally results in the propagation of the species, we award it a special moral status. But “nature” doesn’t reveal to us our moral obligations – we are responsible for determining those, even when we aren’t aware we’re doing so. To leap from an observation of how nature is to a prescription of nature ought to be is, as philosopher David Hume noted, to commit a logical fallacy.
Why judge what is natural and ethical to a human being by his or her animal nature? Many of the things human beings value, such as medicine and art, are egregiously unnatural. At the same time, humans detest many things that actually are eminently natural, like disease and death. If we consider some naturally occurring phenomena ethical and others unethical, that means our minds (the things looking) are determining what to make of nature (the things being looked at). Nature doesn’t exist somewhere “out there,” independently of us – we’re always already interpreting it from the inside.
Until this point in our Earth’s history, the human species has been furthered by different-sex reproductive intercourse. About a century ago, we attached specific meanings to this kind of intercourse, partly because we wanted to encourage it. But our world is very different now than what it was. Technologies like preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) are only improving. In 2013, more than 63,000 babies were conceived via IVF. In fact, more than five million children have been born through assisted reproductive technologies. Granted, this number still keeps such reproduction in the slim minority, but all technological advances start out with the numbers against them.
Socially, too, heterosexuality is losing its “high ground,” as it were. If there was a time when homosexual indiscretions were the scandals du jour, we’ve since moved on to another world, one riddled with the heterosexual affairs of politicians and celebrities, complete with pictures, text messages, and more than a few video tapes. Popular culture is replete with images of dysfunctional straight relationships and marriages. Further, between 1960 and 1980, Katz notes, the divorce rate rose 90%. And while it’s dropped considerably over the past three decades, it hasn’t recovered so much that anyone can claim “relationship instability” is something exclusive to homosexuality, as Katz shrewdly notes.
The line between heterosexuality and homosexuality isn’t just blurry, as some take Kinsey’s research to imply – it’s an invention, a myth, and an outdated one. Men and women will continue to have different-genital sex with each other until the human species is no more. But heterosexuality – as a social marker, as a way of life, as an identity – may well die out long before then.
Brandon Ambrosino has written for the New York Times, Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Politico, Economist, and other publications. He lives in Delaware, and is a graduate student in theology at Villanova University.
If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital, and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.
My aunt Pearl always used to say that you don’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket. I remember the words echoing in my ears as they carted her off to rehab yet again, for her gambling addiction.
She was not only a serial gambler, but also a serial trophy wife. Her habit allowed her to work her way through the fortunes of six husbands, some of whom died in what can only be described as mysterious circumstances. Fortunately the standards of police investigation in Northern Rhodesia at the time were not quite up to the standards of CSI tv shows today. One went riding on his ranch, and was never seen again. Another choked to death in a tragic sausage eating competition (no surprises there), and another had a mysterious heart attack while taking his daily exercise. No one would think playing bowls could be so strenuous.
Needless to say, Aunt Pearl died a very wealthy woman. When asked where her wealth had come from she would often reply that one of her husbands had been involved in the ‘underground’ doing secret work during the war in London. This seemed very cryptic, and it’s certainly true that she did generally marry older men, much more frail than herself. One had indeed been in London during the war, though he worked on The Underground, driving a train. It was he who won the lottery and was the basis of her fortune.
You doubtless wonder why I am sharing these intimate details. Well, I am still sunning myself on the beach here in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. A flat tummy is good, as far as it goes. A bronzed one is even better. I’ve been getting some help from Juan the masseur, who has helped in so many ways. He’s rubbed all manner of things on my body to improve my tone.
My presence here is due in part to my cashing in a few stocks and investments. I always make a point to have a small portfolio of shares; as Aunt Pearl said, ‘you don’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket’, after all. I am not suggesting you take investment advice from a crossdressing femme like me, but this market feels right for an adjustment. I can’t help thinking it’s about to slide for a while. Best revisit those precious metal stocks. They look a lot more secure than most right now.
I have been learning some useful Spanish phrases, which I will list for you at the foot of this message. Juan is very talented, a master of tongues. He said to me just the other day that he envied my good luck on the market.
“If I stand close to you, perhaps some of that good luck will rub off on me!” He said with a laugh.
I smiled at him, looking at the rather obvious bulge in his speedo, and replied that if he stood much closer it would be more than just my good luck that would rub off on him.
Have a wonderful week, and remember – “Accept yourself as you are, and create yourself as you wish.”
When I first felt that thrill of pulling on panties and not being afraid, it was amazing. I felt like I wanted to find a partner and see what wonderful things I could experiment with.
What would they do with me, and how would they make love to me? You have no idea the rush of finding that first lover who was willing to take the uninitiated young thing I was!
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I wanted just ‘anyone’. No, I wanted a play partner that I could rely on to experiment and help me find out what exciting new things this body could do. I wanted someone that would treat me with respect, but also experiment with new things.
I had never thought for an instant that a man would find me attractive, prior to really dressing properly. It was only as I began to accept myself, that I realised I could enjoy my body – instead of feeling inadequate and embarrassed by it.
Some of you are reading the story of McKlusky, and how he bullied me. As I began to experiment I soon realised that far from being embarrassed and awkward about my body, I could use it to good effect and men not only wanted me, they prized my physical attributes far above females or males.
I began to realise I literally had the best of both worlds. That was why I started to enjoy my new crossdressing sexuality. I realised I was in demand. And men would do virtually anything for me.
Soon I found I had admirers who wanted to take me away on their yacht, take me to wonderful holiday destinations and would do almost anything to be my lover. In fact, they’d take me anywhere, except to meet their mother!
Now, I know you understand the appeal of a great crossdresser. It’s why you are here. And yes, a crossdresser certainly does love the attention. Any CD that fantasises, does so wondering what you might do with them – what height you might take them to. Can you imagine how exciting that is?
Each new lover is a new chance to discover new sides to their evolving personality. Surely you’d love to be part of that exploration!
In Fiona’s Little Black Book there are over 350 CDs from all over the world just waiting to chat, email and meet new friends, just as I did. They want to meet friends of their own age, younger and older. All of them are looking for connections. Whether you’d just like to email, Skype or meet, there’s someone there for you, << Test First Name >>.
If you’d like to join Fiona’s Little Black Book as an Admirer you too could find a CD to explore new adventures with. Are you ready for that?
Come on. Join in today. Just follow this link below to subscribe to The Admirers Club, and start connecting with members of Fiona’s Little Black Book today.
You’ll love the feeling of sexy excitement that a close shave gives you!
The winter months are always fun in an advertising agency. Even more so for myself, as I have several skiing related accounts. It was this that brought me, Bernard my photographer and Sebastian, my personal trainer to the beautiful mountain village of Whistler in Beautiful British Columbia this week.
I found myself here partly to oversee the photography for a ski manufacturer’s latest high end products, and also for a resort client located in the Village. As part of the week’s activity I found myself skiing with a small group of journalists, all eager to test the manufacturers new products.
Before the main days skiing, I had the opportunity to brush up my skills a little with Bernard. There I was, in my tight ski suit, stretching and preparing.
In the comfort of my hotel room, Sebastian helped me refine my style and posture for fast downhill skiing. Sebastian can be very useful on a trip like this. You’d be surprised what he gets up to.
“Now bend your legs, and flatten your back.”
I found the position strangely familiar.
“If you move your hips from side to side,” he said standing behind me, “you’ll find it feel even more fluid.” Sebastian seemed quite breathless.
“Yes,” I gasped feeling my body getting into the exercise. “It’s a very enjoyable sensation,” I said as I moved my body languidly back and forth.
Now, I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but all this stretching and preparation seemed to get Sebastian quite excited. I could swear he poked me in the back with his ski pole!
As it happened I did very well on the slopes. At the end of the week of skiing we had a race down the mountain from the peak, a very exciting informal race. I thought I might be beaten by a number of the boys, but as you might guess, try as they might – and through no small effort on my part – I managed to beat them off and cross the finish line leading by a head.
After that it was up to the hot tub to watch the snow falling on the mountain in the twighlight.
But that’s not the main reason I’m writing. I thought I’d send you a quick reminder that with Spring just around the corner it’s time to start looking for some new Spring colors. This year putting together easy combinations of colors in underwear, makeup and outwear should be every CD’s priority. When was the last time you matched your eyeshadow to your favorite lingerie? Well, todays a great day to start planning ahead.
Got any great Spring outfit ideas? Get on the website and share them!
Sebastian, my personal trainer, was standing in my kitchen, looking distraught. It’s not a good look for a slim man in spandex. He’d cycled over to my place for a coffee.
“The stuff’s everywhere,” he moaned. “I can’t move in my apartment, there’s so much Jiz everywhere!”
“I’m sorry?” I said, adjusting the peach colored silk robe I was wearing. I had just waxed my legs and chest and the soft silk felt magnificent on my skin.
“It’s all over the place!” He went on.
“It’s the week of the Junior and Intermediate Zumba challenge. Everyone down at the gym enters.”
“Is that a ‘thing’?” I asked.
“I get to do the Jiz thing every year, and every year it’s a nightmare. I just get overwhelmed. And this year, honestly, I think I’ve taken as much as I can take. I’ve bitten off more than I can chew and I’m practically choking on it!”
“I believe the expression is ‘gagging’.” I added, helpfully.
“All the other personal trainers down at the gym leave it to me, and every year I just get sucked in!”
“I wonder why,” I said rhetorically.
“My whole place is covered in the stuff to arrange it, costumes, posters. I even had to design them myself.” Sebastian reached into his back pack and brought out a folded-up poster.
“Oh, Let me see it,” I said trying to sound enthusiastic.
“Yes, of course. Your friend Amanda helped me with it.”
“Amanda is my wife’s friend,” I pointed out. Because she edits a trade publication, Pig And Pig Farmer, Amanda considers herself something of a media mogul. I think you’ll agree that’s a bit of a stretch.
Sebastian looked at it thoughtfully. “They wouldn’t let me put it up at Starbucks. They got quite snotty about it.”
“I wonder why,” I said.
But that’s not the main reason I’m writing to you today. It’s going to be spring soon, so it’s time to start getting ready with some new looks for Spring. I thought I’d make a couple of suggestions, to help you along.
Spring is a time to emphasise the soft pastels, using both cosmetics and clothes that lift and brighten their surroundings. This is a great time, if you don’t dress outside of the house, to bring some more feminine colors into your selection of clothes that you’d wear day to day.
If you wear glasses, think about getting a pair that are softer and more blended to your skin. Be prepared to experiment with your daily look, softening it with colors that convey gentle forms. Hard black frames may be better replaced with a softer color, for example.
As you color your life more gently, you may be surprised to find yourself feeling more gentle. You’re going to love that. You may well find that wearing pastels and muted colors contributes to a more gentle mood, and as you look the way you know you should, you start to feel the way you should, too.
I sincerely hope you are enjoying the news I share with you. You can participate and comment even more at http://FionaDobson.com
Have a great week,
+++ A quick explanatory note: Members who sign up for the Free Program, and Premium Program Members, get my messages the moment they are written. They are posted as blog comments about a week later, so belated Merry Christmas. Have a great New Year! +++
My goodness, if you could see what’s going on outside my window. I can hardly believe is! I’m standing here in my Christmas lingerie, and my heels, and quite shocked at what I can see going on out there!
Ali, my gardner has just told me, “It’s ok, Fiona. It’s just Sylvester and Max jacking off in the flower beds.”
Now, I know you can imagine me standing here in my flowing red silk robe, mouth open in surprise. I am staring out at the snowy Montreal scene, and everybody seems to be having a wonderful time! Oh, perhaps you should even be here!
Let me explain. I’m watching Sylvester’s muscle bound arm pumping up and down and Max, my next door neighbours 20 year old son laughing – I think he’s licking his fingers – yes, he’s spilled some Bailey’s Irish Cream on his hand, or at least I think that’s what it is. And Ali is watching, engrossed in the unfolding scene.
They’re laughing and very jolly, Sylvester’s face red with exertion, and he has a look of deep concentration. Apparently, Ali’s Smart Car slid off the drive in the snow as he pulled into the icy driveway. It slid into the flower bed, and onto a rock in the rockery. Max and Sylvester were already at my place enjoying a Christmas eve drink, and now the three of them are working away to lift the little vehicle off the rock and manhandle it back onto the drive. What Christmas excitement!
I should hurry along, Amanda, the queen of tweed will be here soon, and Bernard is coming over. My wife, sadly is travelling. She’s a slave to her job! In the meantime, we are a fun gang, all hoping that Christmas will go with a bang!
I hope yours does, too! Have a wonderful holiday and remember, be careful if you are driving in the snow. Otherwise you too might find yourself licking Irish cream from your fingers after jacking off in someone’s garden!
I have been treating myself to a few enjoyable gifts to myself lately. Victoria’s Secret, and one or two other places have been benefiting from my self indulgence.
On Wednesday, this week I asked Max, my neighbours twenty-year old son, to come with me to a lingerie store. This was admittedly partly to tease him, and partly to teach him a little lesson. He’s been hanging around a lot lately, and seems to spend way too much time at my place. When I am doing yoga he seems to get extremely agitated. When I am working up a sweat he seems unable to stop watching at me.
“Max,” I said to him, “sometimes I don’t know what’s got into you. You spend so much time over here! You might as well help me with some shopping.”
I drove down to the lingerie store with him, and explained, “Things have been so hard lately,” as I smoothed down the skirt I was wearing.
“Don’t you ever feel like,” I searched for words, “…splashing out on some new underwear?”
Max seemed quite overcome by the thought. He carried my bags back to my car once I had bought some new items of hosiery.
Once at home, I took out several boxes of my underwear and asked him to help me sort them into colors and fold them nicely. He seemed very happily engaged in this task when there came a knock on the door downstairs. I asked him to go down and see who it could be.
Max took himself off and some minutes later, when he didn’t return I glanced out of the window to see him clutching at his stomach and heaving into a flowerbed in my garden. This wasn’t going to help the petunias. After all his efforts to keep them looking full and flowery, Ali, my gardener was not going to like that at all.
I opened the window of my bedroom and called down, “Max, are you all right?”
In reply he pointed toward the kitchen and called back “Amanda,” And then staggered off toward the gate to his parent’s house.
I groaned inwardly. Amanda, my wife’s obnoxious friend, had obviously slipped through the perimeter defences. I decided to go downstairs and see what the unbearable woman wanted. I slipped into pair of gender neutral yoga pants and descended the stairs.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with that boy,” Amanda blurted out as I entered the kitchen. Apparently she had got away from work editing Pig and Pig Farmer Weekly a little early today.
“What did you do to the poor lamb, Amanda?”
“I just asked him to help me with something. You see, I’m taking some pain medication for my back. Anyway I’m supposed to,” and at this point she lowered her voice, “use these.” She pulled a package from her sac like handbag.
“And what are these,” I asked not wishing to get too close.
“Suppositories,” she relied, and my stomach turned over.
“And you wanted Max to help you with them?”
“Yes, of course,” she replied in a matter of fact voice. “They’re supposed to bring my temperature down. It’s a side effect of the medication, you see.”
“You don’t think that’s a little odd?” I said, my mind reeling as I stared at the pack on my kitchen counter.
“Is that even a thing?” I made a note to Google suppositories and temperature.
“You don’t understand,” she stammered as though suddenly realising she’d made a horrendous mistake.
“Amanda, I really don’t think you can ask young Max to…”
“It’s the packaging. I can’t get it out of the blister pack,” she protested.
“There are some things, Amanda, you just can’t ask people to do!”
“I can’t open the packaging, it’s my fingers. Not with my arthritis!” she protested.
“All the same,” I said doubtfully. “I think you may have scarred Max permanently. He looks pretty traumatised.”
“Oh, my goodness,” she gasped. “You don’t think he thought I wanted him to…” Amanda looked horrified.
“Yes, I do, Amanda. I think you may have left a very damaging and lasting impression on his fragile young mind.”
However, all this is not the main reason I am writing to you this evening. We’ve got some great new content on the website here: http://FionaDobson.com and I’d love to see your comments and questions about it. Go right ahead and make comments on the site, and I’m thrilled to answer them.
Have a great week and remember not to let your temperature get too high.