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Some thoughts on human sexuality

[Edit] The map has been updated since this post was made! The new, improved version is here.

Some time ago, a person named Katharine Gates designed a map of human sexuality. Her Web site appears to be defunct now, but the map has recently gained exposure in other places.

My first impression upon seeing this fetish map was that it was woefully incomplete. About the same time as I became aware of this attempt to map the range of human fetishes and sexual activity, I also saw a conversation on another forum in which a woman was complaining that she wanted to spice up her sex life, but she didn't want to do too much, because if she did too much too fast then by the time she was 30 she'd have done every sexual act there was to do, and where would she be able to find sexual ideas after that?

That particular conversation, and another with an 18-year-old who claimed to be "bored with sex" because he'd "done it all," got me to thinking about the range of the human sexual condition (vast beyond all reckoning) and the range of sexual things many people think there is (tiny).

I wanted to try my hand at designing a fetish map that would be a bit more complete than Ms. Gates', and I thought, why not do it as an actual map? One of the ideas I wanted to convey was how small most folks' sexual experience is, how small most folks' conception of the whole range of sexual expression is, and how vast the actual range of sexual expression is. And, I thought, a map of an imaginary world might be a way to do that.

So here it is, the first version of what I'm sure will be many revisions of the Land of Human Sexuality. (Clicky on this map to see a bigger version. A much, much, much, MUCH bigger version.)

The land of most folks' awareness is the Island of Mundania and the surrounding islands. Across the Straits of Fear is the portion of the continent that folks are generally aware of to some extent (gay sex, threesomes, light bondage, and so on). Beyond the Great Barrier Mountains and the Lesser Barrier Mountains, which demarcate the limits of common knowledge of different fetishes, lie the more exotic forms of sexual expression (natori, shibari, cosplay, fisting, puppy play, and so forth). In the frigid arctic wastes to the far north are those activities which only a very, very tiny percentage even of veteran, seasoned kinksters finds appealing (nullification, erotic cannibalism, necrophilia, and that sort of thing).

There's no particular meaning to the size or color of the various areas; it'd be an impossible task to try to, for example, figure out how many furries there are compared to how many folks are into TENS units. Likewise, some of the activities listed could reasonably belong to more than one classification, and some things (like "gay sex") are within the realm of knowledge of most folks but aren't really activities per se (most sexual activities not requiring physical possession of a penis or a vagina can be done by people of any sex or sexual orientation). Nevertheless, when folks think of "sexual things to do," gay sex does seem to be considered its own thing, even though it's not actually an activity by itself, so it's on the map--right across the Straits of Fear.

Anyway, I'd love to hear feedback and commentary on this map. I'v actually been working on it for quite a long time, and I suspect it's still a work in progress--I know there are things I've forgotten. (It's hard work trying to remember every form of fetish out there!)


( 117 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
And a sea monster (perhaps swimming over by the Angry Dragon).
(no subject) - madamruppy - Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - darkwolf69 - Oct. 14th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Oct. 14th, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)
Christ, I'm all over the map!
Oct. 3rd, 2008 02:53 am (UTC)
"gigolo" is misspelled.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Fixed now.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:01 am (UTC)
So how exactly are you choosing what goes on the map? If anyone actually admits to doing a thing or just has talked about doing a thing or gotten off talking or thinking about a thing? I ask because having worked for an adult conversation line for the last nine years, I have heard some ... uh ... things. I hesitate to actually call them interesting things. As a result I recognize way too many of the things on this map. Oddly enough, furries and plushies don't seem to call our line. EVERYONE else does though. Happily that is no longer my day job, but I still have my hand in, so to speak. (gah! no pun intended)

(and as an aside, I love "literotica bay", that cracked me up. I've been swimming there... *snerk*)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC)
Things generally go on the map if they're real fetishes engaged in, however infrequently, by real people. (The exception is the Land of Myth, which contains things like gerbilling and snuff films which are part of the popular folklore, but which have never actually been recorded for real.)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:08 am (UTC)
That is very interesting, I'm actually surprised at how few I hadn't heard of. I really thought there would be more. I guess I don't live as sheltered an existence as I though.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
Or we have similar tastes,a nd there's a lot of stuff out there neither of us has heard of (yet)...
(no subject) - madamruppy - Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC)
Yep! Future versions will likely have more embellishments, and more terrain as well. :)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)
This is amazing...I love it. I think it's a lot easier to read than Gates's map.

I'm a little confused; are the things above or below the Lesser Barrier mountains supposed to be more intense?

Also I believe it's spelled capsaicin, if you're talking about the active component of chili pepper.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 06:44 am (UTC)
I'm a little confused; are the things above or below the Lesser Barrier mountains supposed to be more intense?

I got the impression that the region *in between* the lesser and greater barrier mountains (i.e. the region directly across the channel from Mundania, including "Locations") is intended to be the "less intense" region, with things getting more intense as you cross either mountain range.

(no subject) - wherever - Oct. 3rd, 2008 09:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wherever - Oct. 15th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Oct. 15th, 2008 03:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:29 am (UTC)
Coprophagia, not "corprophagia," I think.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:26 am (UTC)
Hee hee.

Yah, corprophagia is different.
(no subject) - tacit - Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:29 am (UTC)
This is great, easy to read and even some terms I'm going to have to research. Wonderful.
It does make me want to fold it up and stick it in my glove box for future reference. Or maybe stick it up over my desk and put push pins in the places I've been.
Note to self: get more push pins

Edited at 2008-10-03 03:29 am (UTC)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 01:38 pm (UTC)
Heh! ^This I like! :D

Its an excellent map tho :D Tha
(no subject) - tacit - Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - apestyle - Oct. 3rd, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - argonel - Oct. 3rd, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:39 am (UTC)
Holy Crap, this is brilliant. I've never seen anything like it and can't imagine how you've done this. But we thank you.
I too was struck by the notion to print it out and spend time reviewing and researching.
I want to go everywhere.
I love the push pin idea!
Um, there were lots of suggestions made.
Are you actually open to those??
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
Icon love! :) And I'm always open to suggestions.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:47 am (UTC)
I wonder if this map might be used in couples councelling? His and her push pins. His and hers 'want to go to' flag pins.

Think too of the possibilities at kinky birthday parties! Pin the kink on the map!

Another thought: this isn't meant to be comprehensive, right? Where would dacryphilia fall, for instance? Under the 'Sploshing' or under the 'bodily fluids fetish' or the 'humiliation' or even 'activity fetish'?

Oh, and another thought... there may be an isthmus or a bridge or two between some islands, or even across the Straits (it amused me that it was Straits, and not Straights)

Edited at 2008-10-03 03:56 am (UTC)
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:52 pm (UTC)
It's intended to be as comprehensive as possible. Dacryphilia would probably be in its own section (and I need to add it); it's not necessarily a bodily fluid thing because (at least for me) it's not the tears themselves so much as the emotional response they signify. It's also not quite humiliation, but its close.


You know what's interesting is that now that I have the first version up, I'm already thinking of things I've forgotten, and some of them are fetishes of mine! And I somehow neglected to add "sex games," as well. Oh, the irony.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:49 am (UTC)
A few minor spelling tweaks -- "Coprophagia" and "Gigolos" jump out at me right away.

And I'm "LMFAO" about "Urban Dictionary Bay" ;D

Love it -- and it's SO much easier to follow than the other map, although I understand that the other one was meant to illustrate overlaps and connections as well as just being a list of similar types of fetishes and sexual expression.

I'm enjoying the hell out of this! Haven't gone through everything because K's ready for bed, but I will tomorrow :D

-- A <3
Oct. 3rd, 2008 12:41 pm (UTC)
Seconded on Urban Dictionary Bay! - ZM
(no subject) - tacit - Oct. 3rd, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashbet - Oct. 3rd, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Oct. 3rd, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ashbet - Oct. 3rd, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 3rd, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)
Franklin, you're a sick man, and a brilliant man.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
Why, yes. Yes, I am. :) *snerk*
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
Neat :)

My first known masturbation aid was a highlighter marker. I got off once with my mom's vibrator, and for some reason was then convinced that I had to have some kind of utensil. It didn't occur to me to use my fingers until I was 16.

I still kind of have a fondness for highlighters.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
Mmm, hilighters. That's pretty hot.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)
Love it!

I, too, had vague notions of printing it out. I think I'll try to come up with some creative uses for a large printout and when you think it's pretty nearly complete (I understand you might never think it's actually done), I just might do that.

The Gates map serves a different purpose, which is to illustrate the relation between various fetishes and such, but this one has just that endearing touch of whimsy that is your trademark. You add a sense of fun to the topic and the ability to connect to those who view the map, where the Gates map is far more clinical and disconnected - more like something I would have come up with.
Oct. 3rd, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
I really, really want to print out a wall-sized poster of this map and hang it up in my room. And I particularly like the push-pin idea above.
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