io9’s Annalee Newitz posed the question of “Why Do Geeks Like Kinky Sex?” which she followed with a write up regarding her opinions as to why this could be considered the case (full text of the article is HERE).
“The connection between geek and kink is so strong that there was a fairly popular con in the early 2000s called Fantasm that was basically devoted to SF fandom and kinky debauchery — along with the usual con stuff like hanging out with friends, drinking, and just having fun.” – Newitz, io9.
The basic supposition of the article is that the social identification of geek revolves around the sexual identification of kink (which is a very loaded term in this case). The definition of kink in this case is the proclivity for cosplay, furry, technological sex, BDSM, &c. These assumptions are holistically black and white and dangerous to boot. Even Academic conferences contain a level of kinky debauchery, drinking and ‘just having fun’ that Newitz describes. To be honest, the conference scene from Big Bang Theory in which Leonard and Sheldon argue and come to blows is a mild exaggeration of my personal experiences at conferences. I have participated in ‘Iron Stomach’ competitions, watched as various nerds became aroused over discussions of satellite telemetry, and came into an argument with a professor over the speed at which a thesis was being written. Honestly, Grad School was nearly as bad as High School when it came to discussions about who was having sex with whom and how.
In general, sociological and anthropological definitions of sexuality (see Van Der Elst for an example) note sexuality exists outside of the normative social groups with whom we attach ourselves and gender. Yes, our sexuality is part of our identity; however, we often do not have control over to whom we are attracted. It is noted that homosexuality tends to occur in approximately 10% of the general population, whereas bisexuality is wider spread to approximately 25% of the population (see Weismantel’s works). Just basing this off a very conservative view of human sexuality, 35% of humans are “kinky.”
Divorcing ourselves from this archaic perception of human sexuality, we enter into the fetishes about which Newitz writes. She concludes that “… our naughty little dalliances reflect our broader interests in stories that take us out of the mundane, everyday world,” because as she wrote previously that “we like fantasies, whether they’re about spaceships or demonically hot creatures of the netherworld.”
Starting with the most commonly known sexual fetish and practiced for that matter, Roleplaying offers, to my perceptions, two benefit to monogamous partners: 1.) the perception of being with someone else, and 2.) a chance to distance oneself from their own sexual perception of themselves. A mildly successful form of ED treatment in non-physiological cases is teaching the man to adequately roleplay to get past their self consciousness and nervousness over sex, their body, and the negative perceptions one has of their bodies. This can be handled through cosplay as well in which one gets to fantasize about being with something they find attractive (see Naughty French Maid, Nurse, Teacher costume and tell me how that compares to Sailor Moon?) The striking difference with roleplaying sex and the image evoked by costumed play is that it has more to do with personal delights and imagery we enjoy.
BDSM, which has come to international attention of late through the Fifty Shades of Grey series, is more a matter of control and power. Believe it or not, Taboo from the National Geographic Channel listed some statistics (the numbers I cannot remember) that show that wealthy, powerful men are more likely to want to be controlled/dominated than the general population. Whereas individuals that wish to be the “dom” are most often perceived as the “weaker” partners in real life, they rule when it comes to the bedroom, club, &c. Most people that practice BDSM would not self identify as geek. In the 1980s when sex clubs in NYC and LA became famous for autoerotic asphyxiation, you would more commonly find an actor or Wall Street Hamptonite than a computer programmer. As the profile of the traditional jobs associated with geekdom has increased so too has the landscape changed here.
Furries are a specific group all to their own, existing the sphere of cosplay and ranging into bestiality (depending on how far the fetish takes itself). This is due to self identification with a specific animal or specific animalistic traits. It is not overwhelmingly common, however, for individuals to get together and have massive orgies or even a couple to have sex while in their fursuits. This is part of the cultural imagination of furries and is incorrect in its assumptions wholly. Studies right now are starting with the furry community in mind, regarding the totemism of the costumes, the sexuality of the participants, the gender perception of the participants, and social identification, &c; however, initial studies note that there is little to no difference between the general population and furry participants when it comes to sexuality and gender perception. However, in my opinion (though wholly anecdotal), this has to do with a sort of sexual totemism arising from their personal totemism with respect to their suits. It is very certain, however, that Furries hold a very high presence on the internet. Paimona notes a good number of individuals each day that exhibit furry artwork; anthropomorphic fiction still sells as an avenue for the young reader (see Warriors, Watership Down, and so on); and finally, fan fictions exist for World of Warcraft and other games that contain anthropomorphic races that involve fursonas. The point is: we do not know how individual participants of this genre self identify and probably will not for several years to come.
Finally, the commentary on technological sex and the image evoked by her writing regarding the lusty geek is borderline insulting. Just going to the LH Henry model of human culture, we find that technology is the base of his pyramid of culture. Technology is the bedrock of humanity, from the wheel to the cell phone. Innovation is what has allowed humanity to progress from taking 50 years to build a pyramid to taking two years to build a skyscraper. Dildos, sexual technology and the fetishization thereof have always existed. I had a friend in graduate school writing his thesis on the history of sex toys. The Romans had Priapus, who’s image was an erect penis and was said to ward off evil magics. Priapus statues are also famous for being one of the first personal images of deities one could keep in their homes. Further, a number of the statues recovered are surprising (see this piece from the Musee Pircardie – Priapus) in that they are two separate pieces. The top half can be removed to reveal a penis, and according to my friend, were most likely used as sexual objects.
The fact that technology is often perceived by the public’s imagination as being a hallmark of geekdom is not surprising; after all, it’s typically a geek that invented it. However, people have been figuring new and better ways to find pleasure for a very, very long time. If anything, the increased sanctification of technology is to blame far more than geeks for technophilia to be in the national consciousness. We do not know how purveyors of this particular brand of pornography tend to sexually identify or even self identify their social class. To assume that it is the geek that is the lascivious purveyor of this kink is no different than assuming any sexual stereotype of any ethnicity or specific social group. This line of thinking is dangerous and flat out wrong when it comes to the dialogue of human sexuality which is a far more nuanced and varied thing than as was presented by the article.