The Desire to Control Others

One of my favorite economics professors had the perfect solution to the problem of unchecked government growth. To keep politicians from spending time and taxpayer money dreaming up new laws, he proposed that each member of Congress be given as many women, recreational drugs, and bottles of tequila as possible. Had legislators been thus preoccupied, we would have been spared proposals like the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and the Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations Act. This last bill, which actually passed into law, was called the VICTORY Act, even though its initials really made it the VICTO Act.

As P.J. O’Rourke notes, “It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.”

And Democrats want to make sure time off from their jobs doesn’t get in the way of such planning. Shortly after the 2006 elections, they called for an extended work week. Frankly, it’s too bad they didn’t ask for the blow, hookers, and cash.

Besides, Washington is already too much of a hard-working, early-rising city. And from the recent spate of political sex scandals, we’ve learned that Washington is also an easily-rising city. For a few months there, it seemed every week exposed another legislator in violation of what Hunter Thompson called the old rule of Louisiana politics: Never be caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

But even that advice doesn’t mean much anymore. Democratic West Virginia state senator Randy White was reelected after pictures surfaced of him parading naked around an apartment full of men smeared with body paint. And that was only shocking because it had happened in West Virginia, a state where not too long ago Robert Byrd’s alliterative friends would have lynched White, despite his wonderful last name. In Barney Frank’s district such an exhibition of gay bacchanalia is usually referred to as “Tuesday.”

Unfortunately for Mark Foley, the old rules still apply to Republicans. The gay congressman from Florida will surely be remembered for his poor spelling, unconscionable hypocrisy, and ending the Republican party’s 12 years of House control. But making clumsy passes at underage pages? Washington has been there and done that. So what was the most important issue brought to light by the Foley scandal?

Eight pages into one of Foley’s more salacious jailbait instant messages, or, by my rough calculations, nine minutes and 22 seconds before the mother of Foley’s object of desire told him to take out the trash, the conversation turned to fetishes. Foley (aka Maf54) tells his young friend (aka Masterplaster) that he enjoys steam rooms. The young man, whom the Drudge Report alleged was intentionally baiting Foley, said:

MASTERPLASTER1217: i have a cast fetish
Maf54: cast
MASTERPLASTER1217: ya like…plaster cast
Maf54: ok..so what happens
Maf54: how does that turn you in
MASTERPLASTER1217: i dont know
MASTERPLASTER1217: it just does
MASTERPLASTER1217: ive never had one
MASTERPLASTER1217: but people that have them turn me on
MASTERPLASTER1217: and if i had one it would probably turn me on

Needless to say, all of the preceding exchange is sic–and sick! But, honestly, aren’t you surprised that cast fetishes didn’t get more press after this?

It’s 1998 all over again. Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. And he was vilified for his inability to keep his marital vows and to refrain from lying every three seconds. But how many people remember that he engaged in anal sex with Monica Lewinsky? Cigars, blow jobs, semen stains on dresses? We remember those. But how many people read footnote 210? “They engaged in oral-anal contact as well.” Footnote 237 says the same thing. The lesson here? As any lawyer will tell you, bodies are buried in the footnotes.

Ken Starr, perhaps mercifully, decided to keep the juicy details out of the public report. But it just goes to show that however obsessed with sex our culture is, our sense of propriety preserved Clinton’s privacy on the anal front. Masturbation, oral sex, and phone sex were fine for the gossip pages. But discussions of the president venturing into the darkest of alleys somehow remained off-limits.

Merriam Webster’s medical dictionary defines a fetish as an obsession with an object or bodily part whose real or fantasized presence is psychologically necessary for sexual gratification. But many people use the word fetish to describe random curiosities.

Now I try not to be Captain Killjoy, and when it comes to fetishes I think most people expect some sort of liberating, feel-good-about-yourselves-despite-your-guilty-thoughts ethos from a sex columnist. But I can’t help you there, except to say if you feel uncomfortable about your sexual tics, trust me, there are people more messed up than you. I know because I get peppered with requests to answer questions. An unhealthy number of them are about fetishes. Some are of the garden-variety S&M. I’ve heard from people who like to get hit–hard. I’ve read letters from people who like to be “raped,” and from people who like to be spanked. I’ve learned that “OTK” stands for over the knee.

Believing, as I do, that people in a free society should be free to do whatever they want so long as no one gets hurt (who doesn’t want to be) does not mean that we shouldn’t also take a critical look at the costs and benefits of fetishes.

Call it kinky sex, sexual psychic disorder, or just plain old Daddy Issues, what are the underlying causes for fetishes? My correspondents claim that wearing a diaper, chomping at the bit, or gauging their rectal temperature is therapeutic.

Rape victims or victims of aggression say rape play gives them a sense of control. A rape scene relives the original act within safer confines. Age play can be cathartic to those who have abandonment issues, I hear. It can help you see that Mom didn’t leave you because you messed up so many diapers. And as an added bonus, it also explains why you can’t get any girlfriends to stick around either.

Cast fetishism is all about control as well. Women, the usual objects in cast play, are immobilized and thus made easier to control. They need the help of a man to do everything: go to the bathroom, eat, have sex. And what with these uppity women these days, they’re basically asking to be encased in plaster.

Of course, some people place themselves in casts in order to be taken care of. They feel they don’t get enough sympathy from their sexual partner otherwise. Still others just like the enforced bodily discipline, the softness of the flesh meeting the rigidity of the hardened plaster.

Like regular old XXX porn, cast fetishism has escalated. Where natural breasts used to satisfy the Playboy crowd, we now have engorged plastic masses. Where visuals of casts over broken ankles used to drive fetishists wild, now we have full leg casts for both legs. One enterprising porn producer has created a video about male cast fetishists who proceed to mummify a woman on a dim sum platter. Another video offers an “LLC/SLC/BC” combo. That’s one long leg cast, one short leg cast, and a body cast, which suggests there may be something to the theory that fetishes are ways to avoid having sex.

Fetishism — like alcohol for someone suffering from manic depression deals with a problem without actually solving it. The solution to feeling insecure about women’s perceived sexual power over men is not to place your lady in a cage or cast or train her like a slave pony but to, well, man up. Stop being so afraid. Men may never know the answer for how to deal with women, but the use of props and crutches isn’t a good long-term solution.

Another problem with fetishism as defined medically rather than in pop culture is the monotony. I can’t imagine why diaper play would be fun on a single occasion but the idea that you would need to wear one every time you got off is positively depressing. If you think putting a condom on is time-consuming, imagine the time commitment and discussions involved in bringing diapers to the bedroom.

Coming full circle here back to Mark Foley and his li’l cyber-ephebe, we learn that politicians are the ultimate fetishists. After all, they spend their entire careers treating problems without actually solving them. They’re afraid of letting people live freely, while measuring their success by how many nipple clamps, collars, and plaster casts they apply to the populace in the form of odious legislation and regulations.

One of the safety risks in domination and submission play is called Top’s Disease. It refers to the tendency of dominant males or females to develop a sense of infallibility or omnipotence. And there you have it: conclusive proof that every politician is a fetishist.

Mollie Ziegler is a writer in Washington, D.C.

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