The Personal Erotic Myth and the Rise of Fetishsexuality
Understanding the role of the unconscious in exploring authentic sexuality.
Posted May 18, 2017
This is the fourth installment of interviews with speakers from the 2nd Annual AltSex NYC Conference, which was held on Friday, April 28 in a midtown NYC theater. Galen Fous is a psychotherapist and author based out of Portland, Oregon, specializing in working with clients seeking to integrate BDSM/kink identities, something that Fous describes as "fetishsexuality." He presented on this new concept, combining sexual identity exploration with depth psychology elements such as Jungian archetypes and mythological narratives.
Q: In the beginning of your presentation, you talk about "normal" sex. What is that and how has it changed?
A: Normal put in quotes sums it all up. Normal should be tongue-in-cheek these days. There is no normal other than each individual’s sexual norm. I use the term normal now to mean personal to the individual. Your sexuality is as distinct and personal as your fingerprint.
I consider it normal for you to embrace your sexuality as your birthright. You have every right to claim, experience and celebrate it. No government, law, religion, psychology, family nor anyone has any business interfering with your “normal”, aka authentic sexual expression.
I believe we are in an era of human sexual expression unprecedented in the history of civilization. The vast range of human sexual potential has barely been explored up to this era. At this early stage of sexuality’s emergence from the unconscious to the conscious realms, we and those we engage can still be quite immature, reckless, uneducated and irresponsible with these compelling opportunities to experience the depths of our sexuality.
Many of these issues of our lack of experience, honesty, and knowledge around our sexuality could more readily be resolved if we had a rigorous ongoing comprehensive sex-ed program starting in middle school. But we not only lack sex-ed for our young people, we lack sex-ed for adults, not to mention sex educators and sex therapists. Sex-Ed should be normal!
Q: You place a lot of emphasis on sexual integrity and authenticity, and you seem to believe many of these so-called afflictions of the day such as sex/porn addiction and hypersexuality are a manifestation of a lack of these two qualities. You even call it Sexual Authenticity Disorder. Can you explain further how this is all connected?
A: I believe that sexual authenticity is an innate, inherent dimension of the individual. It transcends environmental and developmental influences, though it can be negatively impacted by those factors. It needs to be intimately linked to sexual integrity. That integrity is sorely lacking at present. We seem to have a high resistance to being sexually honest.
There is a long unending stream of national news reports about politicians, teachers, religious leaders, entertainers, sports figures and other celebrities, caught in some variation of sexual dishonesty. Pundits and psychology “experts” often label these sexual pursuits, and the fall from grace that follows, the result of sex or porn addiction.
These highly publicized celebrity cases point to, but overlook a larger issue of rampant sexual dishonesty that is found at every level of the culture. These cases are just the visible tip of the iceberg of our collective sexual shadow, and the secretive ways we attempt to express our sexuality.
Many people exploring and opening to their authentic sexual desires are inclined to keep their sexual explorations secret due to tangible fears of being shamed, harshly judged or punished about their personally meaningful and normal sexuality. Many of these people get labeled as sex/porn addicts or self-label as addicts after the fact when they are discovered.
I believe in many cases, the often vilifying, porn/sex addiction label, branded or grasped, misses a deeper dysfunction. The significant issue being overlooked is what I identify as Sexual Authenticity Disorder – an extreme and often life-long effort to conceal aspects of one's sexuality and the fear of revealing or having your authentic sexuality discovered, shamed, judged or punished by others.
Q: You have created the concept of the fetishsexuality as a unique sexual identity. What is that and why is it important?
A: Fetishsexuality, as I define it, is an authentic sexual identity and orientation. It describes a part of the gene-pool driven to orgasm or other deep erotic state through their innate, inherent, life-long desire for a particular range of archetypal, symbolic, mythic Eros with a compatible counterpart. It is typically enacted by individuals through a negotiated, power-exchange sexual and/or relationship dynamic.
Abundant examples of these archetypal power-exchange pairings, and by abundant I mean millions if not 10’s of millions, can be found within emerging Kink, Fetish, D/s-BDSM and other alternative sexual subcultures worldwide. Typically paired dynamics include Dom or Domme/sub, Master or Mistress/slave, Daddy/daughter, Mommy/son, predator/prey and literally hundreds if not thousands of other variations.
In essence, Fetishsexuals are simply sexual beings seeking to experience the full ecstasy of their intense but authentic desires, with a consenting partner(s). When engaged consciously and allowed to express and embody with a consenting partner, these fierce explorations of our taboo, wild instinctual edges can offer a profound sense of empowerment and acceptance, as well as a full-body, soulful, exquisitely spent bliss from either side of the power exchange.
Q: You have done some very interesting research on your website, asking over 2,700 individuals about their first awareness of erotic desire and numerous other questions about their sexuality. You have created a concept known as the Personal Erotic Myth (PEM). You are highly influenced by ideas around the unconscious, mythology, and Jungian archetypes. What have you learned from your research?
A: The “Discover Your Personal Erotic Myth Survey” (PEM) you refer to is a tool for individuals or couples to help look into the nuanced depths of their authentic sexual desires. It is also a psychological research study to begin mapping the sexual psyche of Kink oriented individuals.
A PEM contains the fantasy imagery, story-lines, mythic archetypal personas and the particular enactments that drive a person that has a PEM to orgasm, or other deep erotic states. Once someone understands their PEM, they can begin to learn how to fit their sexual desires into their everyday life in a conscious, healthy, fulfilling manner. In other words, to operate as if their sexuality was normal!
I devised the PEM survey in response to working with hundreds of my clients over the last 18 years, who sought to come to terms with their own kinky desires. Clients came to me trying to understand this mild to extremely kinky part of themselves, that had been with them for decades in their fantasies but seemed at odds with their everyday social or moral persona.
Some of the startling insights from over 2,700 people who have taken the PEM survey so far:
- 38% became aware of their sexual fantasies before age 10, 69% by age 12
- 23% were masturbating to them by age 10, 55% by age 12
- 63% masturbate to porn daily to several times per week.
- 33% claimed their porn/masturbation activity led to more desire for their partners, 53% said it made no difference in their desire for their partner.
- 54% struggle with shame and fear the judgment of others about their desires
- 74% claimed Dominance and submission was a prevalent aspect of their fantasies
Q: Can you explain how archetypes and myths particularly play a role in power exchange and other kink related fantasies?
A: The power-exchange concept in Kink implies a pairing of a dominant persona and a submissive persona. The particulars of how the dominant or submissive personifies in relation to the other are unique to each individual.
In kink-driven power exchange fantasies, there is a broad range of paired archetypal characters that can potentially combine together. When allowed to express uninhibitedly in real time, the pair can have the potential to engage in an elegant Erotic dance as passionate and as intimate as the tango.
Among the many potential personas, the King or Queen archetype could be considered a major influence on the dominant, and servant or devotee as an archetypal influence on the submissive.The King/Queen archetype and servant/devotee, for example, are quite common to the collective human psyche the world over, kink and not.
Mythic heroic stories and rich archetypal characters have been a mainstay of each individual cultural literature, theater, art and cosmology for thousands of years. These universal, collective, archetypes, symbols and hero and origin myths have been an integral aspect of all human experience across all cultures since recorded history. They manifest from and are part of the human psychic software already embedded in our unconscious.
Connecting with these elements of dominant or submissive within the personal psyche can be an elegant “yarn” to weave a romantic D/s relationship with and a gateway to unleash the intense, primal, sexuality of BDSM.
The noble, good King/Queen archetype generally symbolizes a leader who blesses, protects, inspires, is wise, makes clear agreements, holds boundaries cleanly, is in integrity, accountable, just, responsible and many other qualities. The submissive, the loyal devotee, one-in-service archetype, represents the powerful ideals of surrender, devotion, obedience, service, selflessness and more. The profane side of the D/s-BDSM paradox, the Erotic side, holds all that is dark, taboo, forbidden, painful cruel et al in a way that carries a potent Erotic charge for both partners. In terms of the Kink/Queen the profane aspect represents the cruel or unjust or egomaniacal Tyrant, the shadow of the King/Queen.
You can read more in Galen Fous' book, Decoding Your Kink: Guide to Explore, Share, and Enjoy Your Wildest Sexual Desires.