The Sex Column #1: Disgust
I won’t be replying to a series of individual questions in this column, rather writing about themes that I see recurring—the most common being straight men asking how to 'fuck good'. And I'm never going to deal with that. It has been dealt with. Please leave me alone. The second most common, so far, is: 'Is what I like gross?' I get asked that, a lot. By way of an example, one person wrote to say that she liked to sexually shame men, to tell them that what they like is disgusting. She asked if that made her a bad person. So let’s begin by discussing shame and disgust.
Being disgusting is the bread and butter of having sex. You can wash all you like, but you're still dealing with your INSIDES. You're made of gross stuff and the people that fuck you want to get involved with all that stuff, or they should. It is quite difficult for a person to fuck another person without getting some of their insides all over them after all. A good way to fuck, actually, since you repeatedly ask, is to say what you like and don't like and ask for things and say no to things without making anyone feel disgusting. Unless, of course, feeling disgusting is what the other person wants. And so the short answer to the woman who likes to sexually shame and deride the men that she fucks is of course, no, you're not a bad person, although of course maybe feeling like a bad person is part of what gets you off, in which case yes, you are a bad person, a terrible person or whatever.
There is a spectrum of disgust, I suppose. From 'Oh my God, I can't believe we're doing this, this is wild' to 'If anybody found out that I do this I would immediately die.' There's pleasure for lots of people on both ends of the spectrum and it's fun to find out which bit of it you prefer. (I want to make clear that I’m always talking about consensual acts.) I'm a fairly disgusting person. I know I have disgusted some people sexually and I love to do that, it makes me feel powerful and it's hilarious. But I can also be prim. I watch schlocky sex documentaries and read up on fetish groups aghast and say things like "I'm open minded, but that's stupid!” And that’s how I know that I’m probably somewhere in the middle.
Perhaps early in life you were accused of not washing often enough, or your brother told your friends a funny story about you masturbating in the tent when you thought he was asleep, or someone in another class said that you let them put a glue stick in your vagina, or you remember being turned on by anthropomorphised cartoon animals, animals in drag basically, with long eyelashes and big human tits on a Siamese cat's body. Maybe you carry that around with you and when someone asks you what you like in bed you think 'my desires are inherently at odds with the world', and so you never truly give voice to them. But all these things are part of the world, part of the ridiculousness of being a sexual creature. At the very least you want your own jizz spat back into your mouth, or you like the smell of underwear that has been worn for 72 hours, or seeing murderous handprints of period blood on your sheets as—although you didn’t know you were doing this at the time—you bought the white sheets in order to fuck them up; to dirty them, to make them disgusting, to let free all the horrendous stuff that you spend your days holding in and making small and covering up with politeness and dry shampoo.
Maybe what appeals to me about sex, maybe what makes me such a particularly sexual person, is that this is an area of my life in which I am lucky to be mostly free of shame. In fact, it’s an area of my life in which I feel proud of and confident in my eccentricities. I am happy to show them off, knowing that for the most part people are open to ‘deviancy’ when it makes them feel quirky and adventurous, which, in turn, makes me feel comforted and understood. To know that being a ‘freak in the sheets’ is desirable is extremely comforting to a person who is also a freak on the streets.
And perhaps this is why queer culture can often be hypersexual—because imagine having your desires, and maybe your body, mocked and othered and marginalised, only to find that the very same qualities are desirous and able to invoke pleasure! Well just imagine not wanting to soak that up like a big cum sponge, because I for one cannot.
To be disgusting with another person, to ask them to do horrible things with you and to you, is a part of intimacy. It is freeing. And it is an act of great tenderness.
I do wonder if I am getting more ashamed as I age, more questioning of my desires and the psychology that spawned them; more cynical about the social structures that shaped them, more willing perhaps to consider myself disgusting and to, like the letter writer, accuse others of having desires that disgust me. But, to be honest, I mostly feel that I am disgusting unless I am having sex—that I am only truly disgusting when alone. That is when I feel ashamed. And that is truly pathological.
You're a horror show in the sack and you ask me whether that's okay, and I am here to say it's what dreams are made of.
Thank you my fellow disgusting creatures for writing to me. E.
Photograph by Eli Goldstone