I once dated a man who seemed perfectly normal until the day he asked me to dress up for sex. By “dress up” I don’t mean in lingerie. He asked me if I’d dress up as a cop. My experiences in costume had been restricted to school plays and Halloween, so I was confused. “Do you have a uniform?” I asked. “No,” he replied, reaching behind his headboard for a shiny pair of handcuffs. “Just these.” I high-tailed it, raced home and called my friends to tell them what a freak this guy turned out to be.
But was he? After reading Daniel Bergner’s unsettling but riveting new book, “The Other Side of Desire,” I’m no longer sure where normal ends and abnormal begins. Take the people Bergner, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, introduces us to: a devoted husband with a foot fetish, a fashion maven who’s a sadist, a man who becomes sexually attracted to his young stepdaughter (Woody Allen, anyone?) and an advertising executive who lusts after amputees.
Are all of them deviant? None of them? Or is deviance a matter of time and place, the way that a century ago, fellatio and cunnilingus were regarded as perversions in some psychoanalytic circles?
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