Sometime last year — I really need to catch up with reviews! — I was presented with an opportunity to review Decoding Your Kink: Guide to Explore Share and Enjoy Your Wildest Sexual Desires by Galen Fous. The entire theme of the book is something that I think is not only helpful but is necessary for those who are discovering their kinky selves, especially people who are struggling with this fact either because of their upbringing or because their relationships don’t have room for kink.
It’s not the first time I’ve reviewed a book about discovering your kinky self, so I was curious how Galen Fous would handle it differently than other authors, especially with his history as a mental health professional.
Very shortly into the book, Galen name drops a survey on his website, and he does this multiple times thereafter. He also links to his Fetlife account, lecture series, personal website, and his professional website. While I commend Galen for actually utilizing hyperlinks in his digital book, the significance of the survey is unclear.
At first, it almost seems as if it will reveal something about the user. It is simply a way got Galen to glean information about sexuality from readers and visitors. Don’t get me wrong. I think this is important, and what better place to encourage users to vocalize than in Galen’s own book?
However, the numerous mentions imply there’s a greater usefulness to the reader. This is especially true in the chapter that discusses personal erotic myths at length. At the end, Galen tells the reader to find their own PEM and directs them to the survey, but it’s never clear how the survey will be helpful in doing so. Fous never says “Imagine the story that is so erotic to you that it never fails to get you off. Imagine the role you play in your fantasies and how power and kink play into it.” Although there is a small section in the survey that asks the reader to consider this, the book itself leaves the reader wondering.
At times, Decoding Your Kink almost seems like a vehicle manufactured entirely as a vehicle to get more responses (and clicks to his site). At best, readers deserve better and it’s mildly annoying. But I can see this turning off a reader enough for them to put down the book.
My second major concern is Fous’ use of the term “fetishsexuality,” which he has coined and introduces as a sexual orientation alongside straight, gay, bisexual, so on and so forth. It rubs me wrong for several reasons. There’s no doubt that living in a society that fails to be sex positive is difficult for any kinkster, myself included, but it does a disservice to those who have fought to marry and have been murdered to simply invent a sexual orientation like this. Furthermore, one can be a kinkster combined with any of those sexual orientations, and many people are fetish-inclined without it being a necessity in the bedroom.
Finally, I think someone who is really struggling with accepting this part of their identity might find this new term to be confusing. Baby steps, you know? Let’s open up their eyes to fetishes and how they can be awesome and positive without adding new definitions that are not (yet) wildly accepted.
But let me sing some praise for Decoding Your Kink. I think it’s important that a mental health professional is sex positive and kink positive. I think it’s important for those with kinks and fetishes to recognize that those sexual interests are not necessarily unhealthy. They can be enjoyed, and they may not be shamed for having those fetishes.
Anyone who encourages kinksters to be honest to themselves is doing important work. Galen goes one further by collecting data and trying to develop a treatment model for those clients who seek help but don’t need their kinks treated as problematic or symptomatic of an issue.
Galen’s own kinks might make the reader feel more comfortable. He speaks honestly about topics such as physical (not sexual) touch with his clients, especially men who might be disconnected with their bodies and who may not experience positive physical interaction other than sex.
I did find the chapter on Erotic Mythos to be interesting and potentially useful, too. A personal erotic myth is essentially a sexual personality, and Galen outlines a few archetypes: King/Queen, Tyrant, Lord, Daddy, daughter, etc. In this section, the reader becomes familiar with stories of a few clients whose “personal erotic myths” followed a specific erotic myth fairly closely. Galen also talks about how important it can be to find a partner whose erotic myth complements our own.
Fous also treads carefully on the subject of bringing up your kinks to your partners, negotiating and potentially finding satisfaction of your fetishes outside of your relationship. Similarly, he explains the difference between D/s and BDSM and the interplay between kink and romance in a way that can help to
Yet all these positives don’t manage to make me forget about the strengths. There are places where Fous lacks clarity and flexibility. As I finished the last page, I felt somewhat let down. I think because the title “Decoding Your Kink” implies a book that will be hands-on and provide the reader a way to deal with their own struggle in regards to sexual identity. But at the end of the day, the words within these pages serve more as a general insight into Fous’ research and work with clients while providing a way for him to glean more data.
Again, I find this all interesting but it’s not what I expected to get from this book. I am mildly annoyed at this fact because I am not in the middle of a struggle myself, but someone who is, someone who picks up this book looking for answers, is unlikely to find them in a clear way that encourages action. For them, I would suggest As Kinky As You Wanna Be instead of Decoding Your Kink: Guide to Explore Share and Enjoy Your Wildest Sexual Desires/