PERSONS WITH SPECIALIZED SEXUAL INTERESTS
Since human sexual behavior is not instinctive, but is shaped by a variety of social influences, different human beings develop different sexual interests and behave sexually in different ways. This fact need not, in itself, create any problems, but most societies set up certain standards or norms for sexual behavior, and if these norms are rigid and narrow, a great number of people may be defined as sexual deviants. (See the introduction to "The Development of Sexual Behavior" and "Conformity and Deviance.")
In our own society the sexual norms have traditionally been extremely restrictive and unrealistic, and thus there have always been many individuals with "sexual problems" or, to be more precise, with social problems which sprang from their need for sexual expression. Their behavior did not fit the prescribed pattern, and thus they found themselves forcibly restrained, frustrated, defamed, and persecuted.
Of course, some social restraint is necessary where sexual acts involve unwilling partners, i.e., where they have clearly identifiable victims. This is the case with rape and all other forms of sexual assault and molestation. However, where sexual behavior is consensual and private, there is no need, and indeed no justification, for social interference. On the contrary, any such interference, whether legal or psychiatric, is intrinsically oppressive, no matter how well intended. It may be that some sexual deviants or eccentrics are maladjusted and could profit from some form of therapy, but this should not be imposed by force. Nor should their sexual abstinence before any "cure" be required. As long as they harm no one else, they deserve to live according to their own values. Even if we perceive them as sexually crippled (and this perception may well be wrong), we have no right to take away their crutches. After all, it would be a double injustice for society first to create such cripples through sex-negative doctrines, emotional neglect, or degrading living conditions and then to punish them once more by denying them the little sexual satisfaction of which they are still capable.
One thing cannot be doubted: Many people in our society have, through no fault of their own, developed sexual interests that lead them far away from our official sexual norm. In the past, such persons were called sinners or heretics, and today they are often denounced as "perverts" or "sexual psychopaths", but regardless of the label, they are, as a rule, deprived of their right to sexual fulfillment, even if it does not interfere with the rights of anyone else. Some, for example, like to be hurt or humiliated during sexual intercourse, others like to dominate their partners, play with urine or excrement, talk "dirty", or watch people masturbate. Still others like to dress in the clothes of the other sex or are sexually dependent on some piece of underwear, a doll, a motorbike, or another inanimate object. The variations are endless, and there is no need to be exhaustive. The main point is that all of these persons with highly specialized sexual interests usually get little support from their communities, have difficulty finding appropriate partners, and most often are left unsatisfied. Many of them are unsuited for marriage and thus live alone and unappreciated in terrible isolation. Not infrequently, they also feel embarrassed and guilty about their desires which they dare not reveal to others. In short, even if they do not come in outright conflict with the law, their lives are likely to be very unhappy.
Yet, with a more tolerant social attitude none of this would be necessary. In fact, we can safely assume that even the most unusual sexual tastes could be satisfied if people were given a chance to look openly for willing partners. In some cases, such partners might have to be paid for their services, but except for totally bizarre or destructive sexual wishes, there should be no lack of gratification. Moreover, society could lend its support by taking suitable action. For example, in 1964 the Swedish physician Lars Ullerstam suggested legal reforms that would permit the establishment of contact bureaus for all erotic minorities. He also proposed specific personal "sex ads" in newspapers and endorsed social clubs in which sexual eccentrics could meet to indulge in their particular fantasies. Certain movie theaters could be set aside to show "sex films" geared to particular audiences, and brothels could be built that would cater to special sexual requests. Indeed, Ullerstam demanded the creation of mobile brothels that could visit suburbs, isolated neighborhoods, hospitals, and nursing homes. The employees of these brothels should be called "erotic Samaritans" and should be highly respected.
Needless to say, when these proposals were first made, they found little public support. In the meantime, however, some of them have been silently adopted in many Western countries. Some European countries have legalized both female and male prostitution along with so-called "pornographic" films, books, and magazines. Even in the United States many cities now have their "adult" theaters, peep shows, bookstores, and "toy shops". There is also a growing number of newspapers and periodicals which publish personal "sex ads". Special "bath houses" offer sexual opportunities to homosexual, and recently even heterosexual, customers. Certain "massage parlors" provide sexual relief for the tired and lonely, and "sex clinics" employ "sexual surrogates" to treat the sexually inadequate. Special clubs organize "swingers' parties" or orgies, sexual "weekend retreats", camping trips, and cruises. Finally, there are hotels and resorts which specialize in sexual recreation.
These developments have undoubtedly helped not only millions of "average" people, but also the sexual minorities, and for this reason alone they ought to be welcomed. Far from proving any "degeneracy" of our civilization, they show, on the contrary, that it has become more enlightened and humane. If some of the new establishments retain an aura of tawdriness and exploitation it is mostly the fault of our outdated laws which force them "underground" or into the arms of unscrupulous hucksters and organized crime. In Europe, elegant, well-appointed, and well-lit "sex shops", "porno theaters", and "sex clubs" are run by respectable people and can be found in the best business districts next to fashion houses and expensive jewelers' stores. Prostitutes can work without pimps in pleasant surroundings. In sum, there is no longer a compulsion to keep sex "smutty" or "filthy". Obviously, if the public were willing, the same improvements could also be made in America.
Both Europe and the United States have recently seen the appearance of newspapers which carry personal "sex ads". Many of these advertisements are directed toward persons with specialized sexual interests, and some are thinly disguised offers by male and female prostitutes. (From a California newspaper 1976.)