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‘Why Are People Into That?’ Asks Incisive Questions About Kink

When I started podcaster-educator Tina Horn’s Why Are People Into That? A Cultural Investigation of Kink, I expected her to lead with the casual podcast cadence I’m accustomed to. What I got was pleasantly richer without sacrificing any of the acerbic gay wit we’ve come to expect from this pivotal voice of queer sex ed.

It’s impossible to talk about the book without discussing the eponymous podcast, so I’ll start with that. In it, she banters with a sexually adept guest while exploring the ins and outs of the day’s kinky topic. Listeners arrive out of curiosity and stay for seamlessly woven personal experiences and socio-political discussion of taboo sexual practices.

This matters to the book, because it lives up to its name. This book is Horn’s podcast writ large and solo. It’s her voice given the expansive space needed to get into the absolute weeds of each topic. Once she gets started, you get to see her shine. Expertise shows in the little things, like the array of examples she draws from in film, literature, and academia. She also displays the restraint to stop her lack of personal interest in a kink from impeding her exploration of its value to others. And her mastery of the skill of conveying academia-adjacent knowledge into reader-friendly text is frankly enviable.

I read this book with the critical eye one can only have because they profoundly care about a topic. I read sharply because I want sex education to be the best that it can be, not because I want to dismantle it. Here, Horn’s elaboration on the ecstatic emotions of fisting, or her judgment-free linkage between cannibalistic kinks and everyday language exhibit thoughtfulness and care. The kind only available to someone who’s been elbow deep in another person and reflected on the experience afterward.

If my critical eye wasn’t assuaged by her deft handling of the opening chapters (titled Feet and Spanking respectively), it was completely satisfied by my hallmark chapter: Consensual non-consent. When I saw it in the Table of Contents, I quietly thanked the author for including ‘us’. Us people who are drawn to taboo power dynamics and altered states of consent, whether or not we’ve been victimized. A kink that is evoked everywhere in romance, porn, and imagination but relegated to withered taboo when it’s time to actually talk about it.

Her dismantled-with-love approach reaches its stride in this chapter. It engages with the anxiety-laden topic by tying it to the mundanity of other sex acts that incorporate a hint of coercion. Basic restraint bondage and mystery play ‘vanilla’ sex, to name two. It’s the soft introduction this kink needs before she explores the ironies and paradoxes that underpin consensual non-consent. Just like good sex, the book always gives readers a breather between challenging topics and chapters.

If consensual non-consent was the chapter I was looking forward to, then cannibalism was the one I dreaded. Maybe it’s over-exposure to true crime media, but my engagement with cannibalistic fetishes has been tainted by the gory and horrid. I was neither looking forward to blood-and-guts vore nor the fava beans and nice Chianti erudite fantasy.

Horn once again reassures the reader by guiding us along a more…palatable path. The angle is idiomatic. She makes us confront the everyday reality of cannibalistic language: eat your heart out, I could eat you right up, you look delicious, etc. It’s a mirror to our everyday acceptance of the cannibalistic and its relationship to affection, not destruction that reveals why people enjoy vore. It was never just about consumption any more than foot fetish was just about feet.

For someone who doesn’t read many books, this one is superbly enjoyable. My scatterbrained self loved compartmentalized chapters dedicated to single topics. Humor and seriousness share pages harmoniously. Most importantly, I left feeling like I detached a few harmful preconceived notions I didn’t even know were there. That’s the real joy of this book: It’ll challenge some of your problematic notions no matter how confident you are in your sex positivity.

Early on, she outlines her rationale for why sex workers and sluts are excellent sex educators: experience. My own internalized whorephobia had concealed that plain logic from me, but I’m glad Horn dislodged it. My understanding of kinkiness is better having read the book, even if I still can’t get behind (or under) wet-and-messy fetish. It’s nothing short of gladdening to learn from a first among equals.

If you’re fond of her podcast, this is for you.

If you wonder why people are interested in select kinks like feet, bimbofication, and consensual non-consent, this is for you.

If you haven’t been pulled in by more surface-level explainers on fetish and sexuality, this is for you.

New words I learned: circlusion, whorearchy

Those were mine, but you’ll likely learn something new, too.

Why Are People Into That?: A Cultural Investigation of Kink by Tina Horn is out now.

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Summer Tao

Summer Tao is a South Africa based writer. She has a fondness for queer relationships, sexuality and news. Her love for plush cats, and video games is only exceeded by the joy of being her bright, transgender self

Summer has written 40 articles for us.

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