Bottling up your desires and putting that bottle on a dark, little-used shelf so that no one will ever know who you really are—so that you won't be embarrassed or made to feel like a freak—well...that's not so good.
I'm not saying you should necessarily let your so-called “freak flag” fly at full-mast full-time. I mean, that might work for some of you, depending on your lifestyle and where you work and shop, but I fully realize that most of us aren't going to share all of who we are, all the time, to all the people we encounter.
But particularly when it comes to people with whom we have significant and lasting sexual relationships, being bottled up is more likely to, at some future point, give you a lit Molotov cocktail in your hand rather than some tasty beverage.
I am a person with many kinks (the key one being a smoking fetish) who has been closeted before, so let me share some thoughts and ideas from the field. Maybe I can spare you a couple decades of frustration through my own experiences and example.
The very first person you need to out yourself to is, frankly, you.
Many people may be very well aware of their fetishes from early on. That’s probably especially true these days with the Internet allowing so many people of like minds and interests to come together (on issues non-sexual as well as sexual) who would almost certainly never run into each other in the physical world and learn they weren’t alone in their kink.
But even with so much connectivity, sharing and community online, I suspect a lot of people don’t know they have kinks or brush aside how important those kinky desires are to their sexuality.
I am nearing the age of 45. I have clearly had a smoking fetish since long before I could ejaculate. It took until college before I started to realize it. It wasn't until the 1990s, and the advent of the Internet as a “thing”, that I truly began understand it.
I mean, I can distinctly remember on a field trip as a second- or third-grader seeing my young teacher light up a cigarette and being riveted—fascinated—and having a strong crush on her only grow stronger. I can remember when my mom worked as a bartender how much more sexy I found her cocktail waitresses who smoked than I did those who didn’t. I can remember how much more alluring I found Alexis Carrington, the evil woman who smoked Mores on “Dynasty” in the 1980s than I did the younger, blonde, “good girl” Krystle Carrington. The fact that I was in awe of the teen girls in my junior high and high school who smoked, and found ways to be near them whenever possible, even when they were out of my geeky circle, still didn’t clue me in.
Even in college, when I’d masturbate to Penthouse and Hustler magazine pictorials, and found the most pleasure in those rare images in which a woman would have smoldering cigarette in her hands or lips, I still didn’t see my interest for what it was—a fetish. Even though I jacked off most often to a single image—an in-house ad for Penthouse itself, in fact, with a topless woman in black stockings, wearing a fedora and holding a long, lit brown cigarette like some film noir goddess—I still didn’t get it.
As a junior, I’d spend lots of time in the nearby dorm room of a freshman woman who chain-smoked Camels. I think she knew she had some hold on me that gave her sexual power without actually having relations with me, and I think that amused and pleased her, having some sway over an upperclassman. But I think she would have credited her loose, short T-shirts and short pants, and the way she’d sit cross-legged on her bed along with her wild-haired, Bohemian style. Perhaps that’s what kept Zeke—a freshman who was even nerdier and geekier than me—in her presence more often than I was there. It was the smoke for me, I now realize.
Those long-ago days of dial-up Internet connection, when I’d patiently spend hours in the slow process of downloading smoking photo sets of sexy women, and even more time downloading short, low-resolution videos is when I realized there were others, and that there was such a thing as a smoking fetish. It took the early days of the Internet and smoking fetish sites to clue me in.
I accepted it gratefully, knowing I wasn’t alone, even if I couldn’t get it indulged in real-time, in the physical world. When I slowly started to come out of my shy, nerdy shell, I’d date women who didn’t smoke, and gladly, but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t give an edge to the women who smoked.
Maybe part of my confusion for so long was the fact that I hated my mom’s own smoking, and her heavy Salem habit then still has me mostly disliking menthol cigarettes to this day, despite my fetish. Also, until about three years ago, I was a lifelong non-smoker myself, with nothing more than two failed teen-age attempts to even light a cigarette and a couple cigars at bachelor parties under my belt.
I have many other kinks, believe me. The idea of sexual hypnosis and mind control, wet-and-messy sex play, lipstick, leather and latex and light BDSM, silk and nylons. None of them has ever commanded me the same way. Those kinks were little bonuses, and my smoking fetish was a need—not one that I required to get off, but one that I couldn’t ever put aside and had to feed somehow, regularly. There’s a distinction there between kink and fetish, I believe, and one I’ll probably address in my next column here at SexIs.
Accepting my fetish and admitting it to myself was the first step, and a good and vital one; however, sharing my fetish with others—saying that smoking women turned me on—I didn’t do that for the longest time. And that choice had consequences.
The Danger of Holding It In
When I met the woman who would become my wife, and it became clear we had a good long-term relationship potential even before I proposed, I was in heaven. Along with all of her wonderful traits intellectually and physically, she was a smoker. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about my fetish, though, lest she think me freaky or weird. I feared rejection and humiliation.
But she smoked a pack or two a day, and she smoked very light cigarettes. She never let herself be in stale-smoke scented clothing and she brushed her teeth with fair frequency so she never had that taste or smell of an overfilled ashtray. I could enjoy her smoke around me. When we made love, the soft scent of it in her hair and more powerful scent on her fingers was a great turn-on. When she was smoking, I could steal kisses before she fully exhaled or shortly thereafter to enjoy the taste and smell of freshly inhaled and exhaled smoke. Like I said, heaven for me.
That was enough for me. I didn’t need to open up to her fully.
Or so I thought.
Then came the cross-country drive after we’d been married several years, from the Midwest to the Northeast—when we left everything behind for an uncertain future in a new place. She smoked in the car the whole way, and it was nice for me, but also frustrating. Always self-conscious of others’ feelings about her smoke, she would open the window a fair bit and blow her smoke out. Or when the window needed to be shut, she would blow her smoke away from me. But the long-term proximity to the woman I loved and her constant smoke made me yearn for her to blow it toward me; to share her very breath with me. To give me smoke second-hand I so cherished. I told her over and over I wasn’t bothered by her smoke and she didn’t need to keep trying to blow it away from me. By near the end of the journey, I was telling her I kind of liked her smoke, actually, and she was welcome to stop taking such pains to be polite in a way I didn’t want or need her to be.
She didn’t get it. By nearly the end of the trip, I admitted that it was kind of sexy when she smoked. She still didn’t get it; didn’t understand my frustration. Didn’t recognize my need. We argued about it, at one point.
Shortly after we settled into our new area, albeit in a temporary apartment, I opened up to her a bit, and she started to get it a little. Once, she smoked for me sexily while wearing sexy nightwear, and it was great for both of us. But then, as if it were nothing, she didn’t return to the practice again. She still didn’t understand that it was a huge turn-on no matter how much I hinted or suggested we do it again every so often. I didn’t pester her about it, and maybe that’s part of why she didn’t understand how important it was. I explained to her verbally, and it still made no dent—whether she did think me weird and was trying to ignore it or just didn’t get it…well, I still don’t know.
Finally, after months of this I wrote her a four-page letter explaining my fetish. Explaining why I found smoking sexy and what kinds of things I liked about it and might like her to do. Stressing that clearly, we had a good sex life without smoking, but that I needed it to be part of the foreplay or seduction sometimes. Explaining to her that there could be benefits to her. Reminding her that I was eager to fulfill any fantasies or indulge any kinks that she might have—even more often than she indulged mine if she wanted.
It was rough going for a lot of years, because it wasn’t natural to her. It seemed odd to her. Sometimes for my birthday or when she was feeling randy and wanted to play “mistress” to a subservient, pussy-licking smokeslave, she’d smoke for me. But rarely.
It took until she hit that middle-age sexual peak woman so often hit, and discovered some of her own kinks—introducing me to the joys of golden showers that she had never been comfortable trying in her youth, or slapping her during sex and holding her head still with a firm but not strangling grip on her neck while fucking her hard, or having sex in front of other people and once with other people—that she really felt comfortable with who I was and what I desired. Once her sexual “freakiness” spilled out, she had more understanding and sympathy for my fetish.
This awakening enabled her to become comfortable (albeit slowly) with the idea of me taking up smoking myself on a part-time basis (something that would have freaked her out in years past) which, combined with erotic fiction on my computer or sexy pictures and videos, allows me to have fetish-fueled masturbation, taking much of the pressure off her to smoke for me.
I mean, sure, you’d think her being a smoker would have made it easier—I had assumed it would—but that’s not the case. If I’d had a passion for touching, tasting and smelling leather and being bound or struck with it, and she was a person who owned leather skirts, boots, jacket and maybe even leather jeans or suede slacks, that wouldn’t mean she’d be into a leather fetish. It just means she’d like the way leather looks and feels on her. I didn’t understand that then; though perhaps I should have.
How Not to Get in Trouble
So how do you avoid my predicament with your own unspoken, unshared kinks or fetishes?
First, don’t let them go hidden.
Ideally, these days, if you can find someone through a forum or more sex-oriented dating site that shares your interests, that can be good. Doesn’t often work, though.
Barring that, you need to be open early on. Sometime after it’s clear you want to continue seeing this man or woman you’re with—and you’ve been having sex a while, but before you start saying “I love you”—you should probably open up to each other about fantasies, wants and needs. You might risk scaring the person off, but that might be better than holding it in—or getting so involved that love is on the line when you finally reveal your kink or kinks.
Be open. If you trust this person enough with your body, and think you might one day trust them with your heart, you should be able to share. Sure, I got lucky. I’m still with the woman I love and we’re both enjoying kinks together now (hers and mine and ours), but it was a process some dozen years in the making before it finally came together. That’s just dumb luck on my part, as much as it is the value of being relatively patient. But honestly, I probably should have opened up about my fetish around the six-month mark, give or take, when we were tight but “I love you” hadn’t been spoken yet.
How About When You’re In a Pinch?
OK, you didn’t share your kinks or fetishes early on. Now you have a relationship you can’t bear to lose. What do you do?
One thing you can do is try to figure out what “special” needs your partner has. Are there things you notice really turn him or her on that might be less-than-vanilla? Materials? Clothing? Behaviors? Toys? Scenes in movies?
If you can find something like that, and rock that person’s world, you might have an opening. Once you’ve indulged the person and done so cheerfully and willingly—perhaps several times—you might be able to break the ice.
“I notice you really like it when I do [whatever],” you might say. “It really turns me on to do that for you, even though it’s not something I might have thought of doing on my own. It’s kind of kinky even, and I like that, because it makes you happy.”
If the person doesn’t freak out at the thought they might be doing something kinky (which is entirely possible), you might be able to add, “I want to keep doing that for you. It’s just that—I’ve been afraid to tell you I have a kink of my own because I didn’t want you to make fun of me or think I’m weird. Can I share it with you? I’d like to tell you about it; I hope you’ll be willing to find pleasure in my kink like I have with yours.”
Now, bear in mind some kinks are more hardcore than others. If it’s something major—even if it’s not flat-out illegal damn near everywhere—you might not make any headway. If your partner’s kink is getting lightly spanked and yours is blood play, it’s going to be hard to establish a parallel. Your kinks may not be at all comparable to one another. As is always the case, love/lust relationships involve risk. Only you can make the best determination whether it’s a bigger risk to share your desires or not. Just be aware that not getting them met may wear on you and your relationship—as might getting them met by someone else.
Without any kind of leverage, you may simply have to say, “There’s something I’ve been nervous to share with you—something sexual that I’ve kept buried since we met—can I trust you with this, and will you at least consider meeting that need?”
That may be something you talk through. It may be something you write down, as I did and as others I’ve known online have done with their own kink revelations to lovers. You don’t need to be an expert speaker or writer, but you do need to be clear what you desire and, as much as you are able to, articulate why. Also, never leave the other person thinking that meeting this kink need is a be-all and end-all in the relationship. Remind them that “normal” sex is still good and desirable—just that you want to go beyond it at times.
If your kink is a be-all, end-all, then you were already in trouble from the start, and put yourself in a bind that can only end with relief or dismay, and no way to know. But if the kink was something you needed all along, it was bound to come to a crisis point at some point if you didn’t get it out in the open early on. That’s why you have to be honest with yourself to recognize your kink and know if it’s a requirement for you to be happy.
I wish you all well in your kink journeys—if you have any of them—and I hope you do better than I did. But also know that while I can’t give you any guarantees of success, I am proof that it’s very possible to be closeted for a long time, and still exit that closet without losing the person you love or having to give up on what gives you pleasure.