I just read a remarkable article on Jezebel by a woman who makes a little extra money going over to a friend’s house and burning his feet with a cigarette while he self-pleasures. In the article, she interviews him extensively about why, exactly, he pays a number of female friends to do that. The result is a fascinating journey inside the emotional experience of what most people would consider a very extreme kink. One interesting section, for example:
I was thinking about the term for what this is… it doesn’t really feel like you’re acting out a fetish to me, the way we do this. It feels much more like a ritual.
It is a ritual, that’s a very good word for it. It’s many things. It’s a way for me to control how much pain is being inflicted upon me, and in what way, because as a kid, when that was going on, I didn’t have any control.
There are so many aspects to it, like the fact that it’s on the feet and the hands… It’s ironic that that’s where the burning happens. I mean I’m not a religious person, in the sense of Catholicism and all that, which is how I was raised, which by the way didn’t help either. “Have some repression with your cigarette burns, Greg!” It’s not just a fetish. It’s getting into a deeper place for me than that, and that’s why I prefer to see people like you for this. Even though you’re hurting me, it’s about a connection, too. I need to feel connected to you before and while you’re doing it, even though I’m not necessarily connected to me when it’s happening. Sometimes I think I’m up in the corner of the room watching it, I sort of disassociate, which is why going to see traditional dommes for this never worked for me. I’m not criticizing them, but in general, they have their own personality that comes into play, and they’re more about objectifying someone. A lot of dudes want that, so a lot of times they have trouble being nice to me while they’re torturing me. For them it’s more about the absence of a connection. It took me a while to figure out that that just doesn’t work for me, because I tried that version for a while, and I was feeling empty and bad afterwards. I seek out people that are in their own bodies, that aren’t play-acting a role, because I like them to be in the room, in their bodies, while they’re doing this.
I admire how introspective, and how specific, this guy’s understanding of his kink is. He’s thought seriously about it and come to understand it about as well as any of us can understand our weird and irrational desires.
The article does give me one reservation, though; I worry that some people might assume that because this guy was abused as a child, all kinky folks must have been abused as well. Sure, some kinky people were abused, but so were some vanilla people. Some folks, like the gent in the article, use kink as a way of controlling and recontextualizing experiences that left permanent marks on their psyche, the way some people get tattoos that turn their scars into art by incorporating them into a design. Other folks… just kinky. Not everything in life has a reason.
The best part about the Jezebel article, unquestionably, is how profoundly compassionate and human it is. People with extreme kinks are too often regarded as freaks, a living sideshow to be gawped at by “normal” people, whatever those are. The man with the burned feet is not that, however. He is a man intimately aware of his own foibles and fallibilities, finding a way of living with a painful past that does him the most good in the present. That’s not freaky, that’s not extreme, that’s human. That is all of us.
So the next time you hear about some strange and bizarre kink, some extreme thing way further along the spectrum than your own tastes (you know what I’m talking about; that one thing you always delete from your browser history. Yeah, that.), try not to see it as disturbing and creepy and Other. See it as a human being coping with their own desires and their own mind in a way that works for them, because that’s all it is.