“My wife told me she wanted to have sex in the back seat of the car. She wanted me to drive.”
“A joke is an epigram on the death of a feeling.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche.
As you may know, Dan Savage’s lemon-aid theory of kink (scroll down) holds that an individual develops a sexual fetish as a way to deal with painful past experiences. The sexually harassed woman begins to fantasize about being degraded, the sexually isolated man fantasizes about cuckolding, and the gay target of bile becomes drawn to men whom he associates with homophobia: the burly police officer, for example.
So, what a sexual kink has in common with a joke is that they both can be said to be “helpful,” in that they make it easier to “process” painful experiences. But it’s more than that, of course, as both humor and sexual fetishes are supposed to be fun.
As to humor: When Rodney Dangerfield uses his wife’s unfaithfulness as a punch line, what is he’s saying? To his audience he says: “I’m upset, but I’m not dangerous. Feel free to laugh.” To himself he says: “I’m upset, but it’s not important. Feel free to laugh.”
Does a man who laughs at himself in this way lose a certain grandeur?
It was Norman Mailer who said that the great sin of American culture was that we were willing to sell our souls for a chuckle.
(Pace Norman Mailer, he did stab his wife. But that was a before he got more involved in women’s lib. Here (starting at 2:23) is a statement from Mailer):
So, if a joke can be said to be an epigram on the death of a feeling, what then is a sexual kink? It seems that a kink, unlike a joke, does not require a minimization of the underlying feeling. A woman who grew up with sexual harassment, for example, would not do well to treat the subject with self-deprecating humor. A sexual fetish, on the other hand, would allow her to feel, and feel strongly.