Mar 062012
 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m interested in exploring the world of fetishes, even if they don’t have any personal appeal to me. I recently came across OPandER.com, which has a Clips4Sale store.

OP and ER clips are little dramas of jeopardy and salvation. Women get in situations in which they need medical treatment, and there’s a strong emphasis on the medical technologies and on the physical signs of the female’s experience. “Excellent acting with a dramatic breathless scene and seizure, very deep and strong chest compressions, realistic defibrillations, intubation, 12 lead ECG.” “A Nice Surgery Feature film with detailed surgery scene, black rubber mask, CPR, defib, many closeups.” Some of the scenes are apparently shot in a real hospital.

On the most superficial level, this is a way of seeing women naked. Slightly deeper, this is a way of putting women in positions of intense vulnerability and dependence. Digging in even deeper, what’s unique about this fetish scenario is that the “violence” done to the woman (defibbing, intubation, CPR, etc.) is not to hurt or punish her, but to save her. There’s a built-in excuse for getting the fantasizer off the hook for sexual guilt and anxiety.

It’s a little like the scene in Pulp Fiction in which the sexual tension that has built up between Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace has to be released somehow. Instead of sex, Mia accidentally ODs on snorted heroin (thinking it is cocaine) and goes into a coma. Vincent has to drag her to his dealer’s house and inject adrenalin directly into her heart to save her (and by extension save himself from the wrath of Mia’s gangster husband). The sexual act is replaced by a drama of jeopardy and salvation.

While describing this to a woman I met at the GRUE, she told me that she works in the medical field, and that certain medical devices and procedures I was described are no longer in use. Automatic defibrillators are replacing defib paddles, and stethoscopes are generally not used in ER situations because heart rate is no longer considered a key diagnostic tool. Some of the particular technologies that OPandER fetishizes are becoming obsolete, replaced by less visually or physically spectacular technologies.

This got me thinking about the particular devices and acts that shift out of medical practice and survive only as fetishes. Several fetish technologies were once part of medical practice, but no longer, and are now performed mainly as part of sexual play (or as questionable medical practice): enemas, sounds, Wartenberg wheels, violet wands. If this historical process is continuing, then OP and ER is an example.

Maybe the procedure itself is important. I found this guide on temporary neutering by testicle heating years ago. The idea is that by carefully heating up a male bottom’s testicles, you cause his sperm and testosterone production to decrease, and you get the effect of castration without all that messy blood and permanence and aggravated assault charges.

Now, I have no idea if this procedure actually works. It may not affect a man’s sperm or androgen production at all, or it may not have enough of an effect to change a man’s behaviour. But the procedure itself may have a placebo effect on both the top and the bottom, and produce the desired effect because both the top and bottom believe it would. The procedure becomes a liminal ritual, and the trappings of it are significant, whether they have any empirically measurable effect.

A related issue came up when Gray Dancer mentioned doing cigar play and picking up some Cuban cigars during his stay in Canada. It occurred to me that as tobacco smoking becomes a less and less common practice in everyday life (at least in North America), smoking may only survive as a fetishized activity, and the technology of smoking may become increasingly impractical and art-like. Cf. calligraphy is now an art, not a practical craft or skill.

I thought, what about electronic cigarettes? These are small devices comprised of a rechargeable battery, a vaporiser and a cartridge containing water mixed with nicotine and flavorings. They are often styled to look like conventional cigarettes, and many models include a coloured LED that lights up when the user inhales, furthering the visual comparison to the device they replace. (There’s a particular word for that kind of design I can’t remember. It’s like how people put motors in the front of cars because that’s where horses went.)

White woman's face, smoking an electronic cigarette

I suspect that for some people, the actual combustion of tobacco and tar is a necessary part of the fetish experience, and e-cigarettes are an inadequate substitute. However, I also suspect that before long, somebody somewhere will display a fetish for e-cigarettes. With the right preparations, we can actually observe the birth of a new fetish.

Interestingly enough, the Smoke Signals smoking fetish website has considered the issue of electronic cigarettes.

The continuing anti-smoking trend shows no signs of letting up (ironically, even as the eventual legalization of marijuana seems inevitable), our pessimistic side believes more firmly than ever that sightings of female smokers are destined to dwindle to almost nothing. And with the smoking rate continuing to drop, the number of smoking models available for video shoots will most likely continue to decline as well.

With that in mind, we’ve started to wonder lately whether women or models, smoking electronic cigarettes will someday have to actually be a somewhat-viable alternative for those of us with smoking fetishes. We believe we have been as vocal as anyone out there, in our disdain for “fake cigarettes” and for those who would suggest video of e-cigarette smoking as any sort of alternative to smoking video. We continue to feel that the two are anything but interchangeable; smoking an e-cigarette is NOT smoking.

However, our curiosity has gotten the better of us. It’s hard to tell from promotional videos released by e-cigarette companies whether a real smoker could actually look like she was smoking when she was actually using an e-cig.

And so, we have tried electronic cigarettes. Among other things, we wanted to see whether there’s any chance that our smoking fetish could be “fooled” into thinking that e-cigarette vapor was really smoke – and whether they were palatable enough so that people would actually consider them as viable alternatives, rather than quit smoking entirely

But e-cigarettes don’t replicate all of a cigarette’s properties. They don’t leave ashes or butts for a submissive to handle or eat, there’s no hot coal to burn, and they probably smell different. On the other hand, our hypothetical e-cigarette fetishists may come up with new acts and kinks built around the particular properties of these devices.

If you do a Google images search on “electronic cigarettes”, the small minority of images that show people with the e-cigs show only women. Is this reflective of the target market for electronic cigarettes, or is this reflective of the sexualized image of female smokers?

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