I've written before about how it's become too risky to talk about one's fantasies or fetishes or preferred scenarios. I stand by that, mind you. These days, here in the age of the gender wars, it's far too risky to tell a partner or potential partner what it is you like. It's become too easy to be shamed all across the web, and in the call-out culture, there's a social premium on outrage and finding reasons to attack others' preferences.
I do remember long conversations with girls back in the days of my lost youth--- conversations across tables or over late-night phone lines, conversations in the dark across beds in residence halls or off-campus apartments. I recall talking with lovely companions about dreams and fantasies--- sexual and otherwise ---and offering up visions to one another: I've always dreamed of this? Have you thought about doing this? What would you do if you had the chance, or if this could be the right place? I remember the nights of girls looking at me and whispering, Show me. I remember girls looking shyly across the table and saying, I've always wanted to do this, I just didn't have anyone to trust. I can remember the two of us laughing about suggestions and clinking glasses: And why not? I mean, let's just try it.
I wouldn't do that now. I'd never risk revealing myself, even to a lover I'd been with for a while--- let alone to someone I was trying to seduce. I really never thought it would come to this. I grew up in an era that had discovered experimentation, where art and music and film celebrated transgression and crossing boundaries. And I've spent much of my life marketing myself as someone with whom girls could cross boundaries, as someone with whom girls could experiment. My own experiences with suggestions and shared fantasies had been largely successful. Girls had seen me as a partner who wouldn't judge, who'd be willing to follow them into their own dreams. As the well-read older lover, I was useful--- a resource for girls who needed or wanted encouragement to feel free to try things.
I wonder if it's as simple as a generational thing, as the new century passing me by. The culture no longer encourages fantasies and fetishes. It no longer encourages role-play or scenarios. We no longer valorize experimentation, and we certainly no longer valorize the idea of transgression, of pushing past boundaries just to see what's on the other side.
There are people with whom I used to share stories and fantasies who I feel deeply uneasy about talking to these days. I no longer trust anyone not to secretly be feeling contempt for me. It's not the particular content of my fantasies that might be contemptible, it's that I'd have (or need) fantasies. I've always lived in fear that my fantasies and kinks are boring--- there's always that. But I especially hate the nagging fear that even having fantasies marks me for judgment.
Perhaps it's that I no longer trust potential partners. I've been burned during the last few years in ways I hadn't experienced in a pre-social media world. I hope that I've always been discreet and trustworthy around girls' dreams and fancies, and I'm certainly not given to divulging secrets. But I have developed a gnawing fear of being held up to public (or social-media) ridicule. I have developed a gnawing, paralyzing fear of seeing contempt or derision in a girl's eyes when I talk about what I like and what I'd like to try. I have a gnawing fear that what I might like is no longer regarded as wicked and alluring, but as politically/socially unacceptable and contemptible.
I've spent a lifetime regarding fantasies and scenarios as stories, as roles one can step in and out of. I never saw them as saying anything about my "authentic" self. We live an age of authenticity fetish now, and any games, any stories, any preferences are unacceptable unless they're part of something essential to the self. It's no longer acceptable to sample and explore identities and interests, and I'm very old-school PoMo about that. Nowadays, though, I'm paralyzed. There's less and less chance that a potential partner will accept kinks and fantasies as purely menu items for play rather than a statement about one's value and social rank.
Let's just say that all of this makes it harder and harder to flirt or play with lovely girls, even ones with whom I have a history. It can't just be age and flagging enthusiasm. It's a fear that keeps me from saying anything about what I might like, and it keeps me from asking lovely companions what they might like.
I used to offer up new experiences, and I used to be someone who could persuade girls that it was safe to explore things with me. I won't do either thing now.