Warning: contains sexual detail that some will find distressing.
I have dabbled in the world of kinks. In my early 30s I was, unusually, still a virgin and my libido was boiling over. Traditional personal column attempts at dating were unsuccessful, perhaps because even back then Guardian-readers weren’t exactly broad minded when it came to women. Frankly, I got desperate for some bedroom action and turned to the darker side of internet dating: kinks and NSA (no-strings-attached) sex. I wrote a racy ad seeking men with whom I could experiment and received a stack of replies within 24-hours of posting it – compared with just two replies to my Guardian ad.
Despite knowing it wasn’t the place to look for romance, I still naively expected some basic respect and common decency. Sometimes I found it. But among those who were more – shall we say committed – to their kinks, what I found was obsession and little care for, or interest in, anything else.
I can no longer recall verbatim what my ad said, but I made it crystal clear I wasn’t into 24/7 permanent arrangements or any sort of BDSM ‘slave contract’ crap – which I’d read about. I was explicit about only being interested in consensual fun ‘sessions’ or ‘play’, with the emphasis on fun. Still emails arrived aggressively saying the sender would rape me and treat me like ‘the piece of meat I was’. These got F.O. replies. Others whined because I was not into coprophilia – sex play featuring faeces. I gave these, ‘you enjoy your shit but it’s not my thing’ replies.
One man was looking for a 24/7 ‘submissive’ but said he was also interested in occasional play. We emailed for a while. He was hellbent on persuading a woman to submit to his will permanently. Among other things, he wanted to control what she would wear and to sexually humiliate her on a daily basis. He said he wanted her to want it, but would punish her if she ‘failed’ him. If he could find some vulnerable and desperate woman – my words but I can’t think any woman in her right mind would volunteer – he would do all these things to her and tell himself she wanted it. Goodness knows what I thought at the time. Now I see him as a wannabe rapist with a banal ‘she was asking for it’ rationale. You won’t be surprised that I stopped emailing him after a few messages.
Another man was a serving police officer – a fact which I verified. (I was meticulous about vetting any man that I planned to meet with. If I couldn’t somehow check their ID was genuine I had nothing to do with them.) I met this ‘copper’, as he described himself, only once but we exchanged quite a few emails and texts until he started being outright abusive to me – without any provocation. When do such types need provocation? I have no idea now why I did not run a mile after he told me it was his fantasy to ‘grab some skinny heroin addict girl’ handcuff her and torture her in stages until he raped her in every orifice. All the more chilling since the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer who abused his position in order to kidnap, rape and kill her.
Looking back on this, I am baffled that I had any interaction with such men. Even the ones who seemed polite and well-mannered were obsessed with their own sexual gratification at the exclusion of almost everything else, like their marriages or their jobs. For one it was a singular fetish about spanking a woman who was wearing only a black bra. But he would drive hundreds of miles to do it and presumably told lies to cover what he was up to. Another would only meet me to his schedule, but persistently sent explicit texts whenever it suited him, not asking if it was ok or explaining why he could text but not meet (and yes, I later discovered he was married). One was very charming and attentive and would always ask how I was and how had my day been. He invited me to stay over. We had moules marinière for dinner and lovely wine. After a second glass I was over-the-limit (in terms of driving home). He then put on a disgusting and violent pornographic film. He did not harm me, but it became clear he viewed me like a prostitute and would expect sex which I suppose he thought he was paying for with his charm, good wine and dinner.
I only came across one autogynephile during this time, which you can read about in my booklet Men in Dresses, but the point I’m making by sharing my experience is this: It’s clear to me that men with sex fetishes, and particular fantasies, will go to enormous lengths to act them out.
Furthermore, they don’t think, or care, about who might be negatively affected in the process. They especially do not seem to care about women. Whether it is the wives and girlfriends they cheat on, or those who engage in their fantasies with them. Their motive is their sexual desire and ensuring it is satisfied.
As I got tired of saying when I was student, this is a generalisation not a universalisation. I am not claiming this is how ‘all men’ are. But it is foolish to deny that there isn’t a significant number of men happy to ride roughshod over the wellbeing, safety and dignity of all others in order to satisfy themselves sexually. It’s also dangerous to make policies and laws that enable such men to do this with impunity – which is what a policy of allowing self-identification of sex or gender could amount to.