Ever see the show, Arthur, as a child? I grew up watching that show every day after school. Even as an adult, when I stumble upon reruns as I’m channel surfing, I’ll watch an episode or two (or ten) for old times’ sake.
I have a distinctive memory of one episode that forever changed my life. When one of Arthur’s friends rips his pants in front of their third grade class, Arthur begins have nightmares that he will be humiliated by having his underwear exposed at school, too.
Watching Arthur try to hide his embarrassing secret gave me warm, fluttery feelings in the back of my throat and pit of my belly as a kid. It also made my mind race as quickly as my heartbeat.
For more than half of my life, I was unwaveringly tantalized by this particular episode and failed to understand why.
As a pre-tween, I knew there was something different about me. Other kids weren’t drawn to that episode like I was, so I never told anyone, for fear of being ostracized and labeled as a freak.
It wasn’t until years later as an adult that I realized that my childhood attraction to embarrassment had become sexualized over the years. Or maybe it was always sexual and I just didn’t understand those feelings before I fell into sexual maturity? Who knows. But the point is…
I am a sexual sadist.
Watching that Arthur episode — as well as other episodes involving secret-harboring — taught me to recognize that my mind and body respond positively and sexually to emotional vulnerability. No, that does not mean I am attracted to all emotional vulnerability. Rather, when I am already attracted to a person, satisfying this kink is more of a bonus.
True sexual sadism is neither abusive nor dangerous. Sadism is about trading power among consenting, adult partners so that one partner controls the thrills another partner feels.
The sadist is then usually also responsible for comforting play partners physically and emotionally after sexytimes are over so that partners are brought back to a comfortable, “neutral” state from the highs and lows through which they have just rocketed.
That is my favorite part of the whole transaction.
I love the high I get from being emotionally available to comfort other people when they are most vulnerable.
For me, it’s a buzz like no other.
As an aspiring therapist, this type of sexual attraction could be fatal to my ability to remain professional. A therapist holds an enormous amount of responsibility to do right by clients and is constantly communicating with people in delicate, weakened emotional states. Again, though, I realize that I am only sexually attracted to other people’s humiliation when it is preceded by a pre-existing sexual attraction for those people, specifically.
Therapists also have an ethical duty to decline services to any potential client when a sexual attraction — on either end of the relationship — risks compromising the quality of their sessions. However, I have no doubt that I will have enough self-control to make that distinction when I am faced with that position of power and responsibility. I know myself well, I’m stubborn as hell, and my sense of professionalism burns strong. (Perfect example: the only time I ever consider shaving my legs these days is when I plan to bare my calves at work. I’ll be damned if I’m going to shave to make myself more sexually attractive for men, but for work… body hair and board rooms don’t feel like a suitable match.)
As with all psychology-intensive positions, to be a sexuality (and gender) therapist requires acknowledgement of the few personal, non-academic thoughts churning within our otherwise nerdy souls. In order to more accurately assess the problems presented to us, as well as those which we seek out, we must assess our own biases and learn when to draw the line between where others would and would not benefit from our services so that we ultimately help others while doing no harm.
Safety. Sanity. And above all else, consent, consent, consent.