Decoding Your Kink by Galen Fous

Decoding Your Kink book cover

(source)

{This is the text of the book review from episode 52.}

This episode’s book review is Decoding Your Kink: Guide to Explore, Share and Enjoy Your Wildest Sexual Desires by Galen Fous. Whose name I hope I am pronouncing correctly.

I received this book for free, but that has never stopped me from being honest about what I read. Episode 31 or 48 should be proof enough of that.

The author puts right out there that this book is from the point of view of cisgender, heterosexual male in the dominant role. It was still inclusive and recognised the existence of an array of other people—including asexuals. So, points for that.

He recognises that people do kink for a variety of reasons, saying:

No matter how dark or perverse, or light and spiritual you seek to be, there are new maps being created and older ones resurrected, that offer the opportunity to express your authentic sexual desire in a healthy, conscious manner.

Fous starts the book talking about his personal journey to becoming comfortable with his kinky side—and it wasn’t an easy one—then talks about how this influenced his decision to help other people become comfortable with who they are. He says:

Exploring our personal Eros fully, discovering all that has been hidden in the shadows all these years, can lead to a state of greater self awareness and confidence. Confronting and resolving old shame and guilt can lead to psychological breakthroughs personally.

Which is absolutely true—it’s why I started doing what I do. When you suppress and deny a core part of yourself it negatively impacts everything in your life. There is nothing more central to a human than how they relate to other humans intimately—whether that intimacy is expressed sexually, emotionally, mentally or any other way. Well, except perhaps how a person relates to themselves, I suppose.

When a society, government or culture tries to define the acceptable way for people to relate to themselves and one another that society, government or culture are attempting to control what it means to be human.

All a person has to do is get up in the morning—you’re human. You’re you. Complete as you are. Ta da!

The phrase the author uses for what we think of as typical sex is ‘friction sex’. Which I really, really liked. Because we have mindfucks, right? So why can’t we have mind sex? I’ve had conversations with people where you’re right on the same page—it’s exhilarating.

There could be emotional sex, mental sex, what Erica Jong would call the zipless fuck—there are all sorts of profound ways to merge with another person, which is what kink is all about. Finding unconventional ways to connect with someone.

The phrase he uses at one point is ‘straight-up friction sex’. I can hear some of my friends now with that one.

‘I really need some straight-up friction sex right now. So much friction my hair is standing straight up and entire florist shops full of balloons float towards me.’

I want this phrase to make its way into common parlance so I can say, ‘I’m not really into friction sex. Other types—absolutely. Not so much with the rubbing.’

Something the author has created—or conceptualised—is the Personal Erotic Myth. It’s all the things that set your brain (or other parts) tingling. Props, power play, costumes, atmosphere, phrases, all that. The bag of tricks your brain opens up when it’s time to get intimate with someone else or yourself. I’m going to talk more about this later, but wanted to introduce it here, because it’s a big part of his philosophy.

Later in the book the author discusses the physical consequences of holding down or holding in the emotional responses we’ve been taught are wrong. So, if you’ve been told you’re not supposed to express your emotions by your family and society, you’ll close yourself off emotionally, but also physically—you’ll hold yourself more stiffly—cross your arms more, clench your fists and so on—as a way to physically hold back your natural response. And that’s why white men can’t dance, basically.

I’m simplifying greatly because the section is long, but it was quite interesting—in the example provided, he talks about a patient who had been repressing a lot for decades and how he usually used music therapy to help people get in touch with a natural rhythm.

This guy just could not find it. If you repress and repress and repress some things some people will never be able to get it back.

When he was talking about how our emotions affect our physicality it reminded me of how easily I stopped biting my nails once I was out of an awful situation. Bit them for years—until they bled—tried everything to stop. Once I was out of high school—school had always been a living hell for me—I just stopped. Without trying or noticing.

As I was working on the review I realised that since I’ve moved to England what I thought was TMJ has cleared up. My doctor said he couldn’t find anything wrong with the actual joint, but my jaw popped like hell when I ate anything chewy—loud enough to hear it across the room. It seemed like that’s what I had. It doesn’t do that now. I think the muscle in my jaw was very tense—maybe I was clenching it a lot. I had never been happy where I grew up or in the general area where I lived. Liberals aren’t meant to be born and raised in the American South.

They say you can’t move away from your problems, but apparently you can. Some will just go away if you get away from the stressors. Either way—it’s nice to be able to eat chewy bread and yawn without my jaw popping again.

In this book—there’s a lot of talk about archetypes, rituals and symbols and how to understand and use them to your advantage. I particularly liked this bit:

A couple in a D/s relationship could create the mutual intention, for example, to aspire to the highest ideals of their respective positions as Dominant and submissive and bring these qualities to the relationship.

He goes on to talk about how, obviously, people aren’t going to achieve perfection—it’s about intent and commitment, though.

While we’re on not achieving perfection—everything was not perfect, because when is it ever. And you know I like to cover the pros and the cons.

There was more repetition than necessary—several repeated paragraphs. I don’t mean publishing errors, I mean bits that were repeated intentionally.

In a similar vein, the author had a tendency to overstate his case. I understand—it’s hard to kill your darlings. You have twelve paragraphs that are beautifully written, but if you’ve covered everything you need to say in six then the six will suffice. The people reading the book, they get it… you’re preaching to the choir.

I was hoping for more actual exercises on how to work out your personal interests. The book is called a ‘guide’ and at times it felt more like an ad for the author’s personal brand of therapy.

There are some recommendations, and quite a bit of advice for other things, but that could be overshadowed by the overstating of his case. It’s also understandable that you can’t write down exactly how therapy works because it’s going to be tailored to each individual. The title just didn’t seem quite apt. You guys know how much I love my homework.

When he was talking about your Personal Erotic Myth it reminded me of Meg-John Barker’s class, which I attended at Eroticon. The session was about learning about yourself through your fantasies. It included a zine—a pamphlet that was quite a few pages long and had many exercises. We only got through a couple or three in the class and my mind was blown. I learned things about myself just by examining my fantasies for forty-five minutes—and I think we did, like part of three pages of the nineteen pages in the booklet.

This book—Decoding Your Kink—made me want to break that back out and really sit down with it. The zine is available on Meg-John’s site, which is megjohnandjustin.com—the actual document is here. It’s £2.50, but it’s worth it. Whether you’re a writer and are looking for inspiration or just want to learn more about yourself or your partner or how your brain works when you’re not looking (because your brain is doing stuff when you’re not looking)—it’s totally worth it.

I was also reminded me of Madison Young’s homework assignment from her DIY Porn Handbook, which I reviewed in episode forty, where she talked about just having a conversation with your desire.

Just:
Hello desire.
‘Hello.’
What do you most crave?

Then letting your desire guide the conversation from there.

I took the Personal Erotic Myth Survey on Fous’ site (link in the notes, if you’d like to contribute your info) and it’s a fairly blunt tool and really not scientific—which the author admits to. Participants are self-selected from sex and kink-positive communities, which will skew your results like mad. There have been over 2,400 respondents, though. I’ll be writing a separate post about the survey itself that will be up in a couple weeks, hopefully.

It’s just about paying attention to who you are in those private moments and accepting those sides of yourself.

Now I’m going to put on my Pedantic Pants because I cannot help myself. If it drives you crazy, pretend they’re made of your favourite fetish material.

There are flocks of possessive apostrophes when words should have been plural. Including in a paper that had been submitted to a professional journal which was a little…oof

Some people enjoy making up words for things. Sometimes that’s useful—because we don’t really have a word for that thing and when we don’t have a word for something it can be easy to pretend it doesn’t exist. Other times it can come across as precious—it depends on the words chosen.

Other times people come up with new words for things we already have words for (that’s not really the case here—it’s just one of my peeves—‘We already have a word for that’).

The author invented a few new words and phrases, is what I’m trying to say.

Like, Sex Creature. This is described thusly:

Most people have a complex authentic sexual persona, as distinct as a fingerprint and inherent as their eye-color…

Then he goes on to say these sexual personae are ‘distinct and independent from our outer social personas.’

While this phrase is useful—to help people who are ashamed say, ‘Oh see, this is a part of myself, but a separate part and it has a name’—I feel like trying to get the psychotherapy community to embrace the term ‘sex creature’… it’s very Freudian, isn’t it? It sounds like something someone with a German accent would ask you about. ‘Are you in touch with your sex creature?’

‘Sure, his name is Ralph and he sounds like Elmo. Looks like Sweetums, though.’ Sweetums was that giant Muppet on Sesame Street.

Sweetums the Muppet

My sex creature (not the guy in the hat). [source]

Love the concept. The name, though… it’s like English food. Not so great with the naming.

The last thing is Fetishsexuality. Or what Jillian Keenan—who wrote the outstanding Sex with Shakespeare—calls Alternasexuality—I believe that’s her word for it. Something like that. It’s based on ‘alternative’. Both authors are trying to do the same thing, which is establish that kink is an orientation for some people and should be recognised as a valid, separate orientation like being gay or straight.

Keenan had a great article on Slate about kink being an orientation, actually—it’s something she writes about a lot—anyway… the idea would be a huge step forward in terms of legal issues. If kink was recognised as ‘just the way some people practise intimacy’ then taking children away from parents who are kinky, forcing morality clauses on kinksters and so on would go the way of the dodo.

So I do think a word is useful in that it helps validate the group to the people outside—who are the ones passing laws and making judgments against us—but it also lets people who might be uncomfortable with that part of themselves know they’re not alone. ‘No, you’re fine. There’s a word for that. Welcome.’

And if you think there are too many labels out there—people only started to use the word ‘gay’ to mean exclusively ho-mo-sexual in the 60s. Not that long ago. If you complain about there being too many labels, that usually means you’ve never had a difficult time working out who you are or your place in the world. Congratulations. Not everyone is that lucky. Have some compassion.

So. A word is good. I’m not in love with ‘fetishsexual’ though. I know what it means and it sounds like it’s exclusively for people with abnormally high attachments to textiles or clowns or something. It’s sort of specific sounding. It feels like I’ll be explaining what it means to everyone if I describe myself that way.

‘Alternasexual’ … Sorry, Jillian. I love you, but I feel like Winona Ryder is going to show up and we’re going to listen to a mix tape while wearing flannel… That doesn’t sound so bad, actually. It’s a little 90s, is what I mean, though.

But I don’t have a suggestion! I know! I’m terrible!

However, if either of those caught on and the mainstream started to get it, accept it and defend it—I’d happily explain what it meant to everyone. I don’t care what you call it, just give me my rights and dignity.

I suppose, though, ‘whateversexual’ (maybe that’s what we should call it—since people can literally be into “whatever”)—‘Whateversexual’ would be the technical term and ‘kinky’ would be the slang. Like homosexual and heterosexual are technical terms for gay or lesbian and straight.

I’ve only just realised, bisexuals are only ‘bi’. They don’t have an informal name. Huh. We got really lazy when naming the bis.

Anyway, those are my thoughts and this episode is long. Wrapping up:

Overall, I enjoyed it. Fous has some thought-provoking insights and useful advice. If you are interested in the psychology of kink maybe give it a look.

I’d give this one a 4/5.

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