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!)