Mixed marriage

Pub date August 17, 2010

Dear Readers:

I was halfway through an answer to a reader’s very interesting question when said reader wrote back and asked me not to. Instead we’re discussing fetishes and how they do or don’t mesh well with regular partnered sex. The questioner had done everything a body could do to accommodate the partner’s special interests, yet the fetish was proving a more powerful draw than the willing, accommodating live body, and the questioner was wondering if there was really room in the relationship for two humans and an object.

Maybe. But moving on, can a person with a very powerful attraction to an inanimate object, a disembodied bodily characteristic, or a specific and inflexible role ever be happy in a relationship with someone who doesn’t feel the same way about swim-caps or dirty feet, or who is just going through the role-play motions?

Obviously, people do manage to include a unilateral fetish in bilateral sex. It’s no weirder or more difficult to negotiate than one partner liking any other activity more than the other one does: you compromise, you do a little of this and a little of that, you try to make each other happy.

It’s actually rare for two people to be independently equally and identically interested in something like rubber or latex or boots or what-have-you, even if they met at the Leather, Latex, and Boots Ball. But if you don’t have a fetish or fringe-y interest of your own, you’re never really going to get it or even completely believe a partner who insists s/he must have X present or deployed for sex to feel worthwhile or even doable.

I think of fetishes and strong attractions to scenes like BDSM, water sports, or cosplay as readily sharable but not entirely transferable. Some will give it a try out of curiosity or just to be nice and discover they’ve been carrying an inner submissive or a pirate wench around, corked up like a genie in a bottle. Yay for you if this happens; it is a rare and beautiful thing.

But more often you’re going to find a situation where a regular vanilla-type person is taken by surprise at the revelation that a new love interest requires a French maid’s uniform and a pair of rubber waders to get off, and is happy to oblige but something is … off. Gradually s/he realizes that there is a love triangle here and the older relationship is the stronger and more compelling one. Eventually she wonders if the other person would even notice her absence, provided she left the uniform and the waders. Meanwhile, the waders-lover suspects the new partner is only humoring him and thinks the waders are pretty silly or even mildly shameful. Bad feelings ensue.

Communication, of course, is the blah blah blah, but we must remember that ability to communicate one’s feelings is not, in and of itself, a cure-all. “I don’t want to do that and I think less of you for being so obsessed with it ” is, after all, a perfectly clear communication.



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