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Completely Mad

In the Guarniad on Monday, a reporter Angelique Chrisafis has a lengthy article about her interview with Max Mosley. The headline writer unfortunately gave it the title Feel my pain, but perhaps that’s only the on-line headline. Anyway.

Mr. Mosley is famous for being the son of Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford, British Fascists and Nazi sympathizers. He is also famous for being the head of FIA, the organization for car racing in Europe. And now he’s also famous for being into S&M.

I don’t particularly want to talk about the details of the case. I have very little sympathy for either the Mosleys or the Fascist Mitford Sisters; I have to say when Adolf Hitler is a guest at your parents wedding, you do just have to put up with some shit about it for the rest of your life. And Mr. Mosley in this interview is clearly self-serving and not entirely honest.

But what really shocked me was the way in which it was a grown-up conversation about a sexual kink. It’s clearly written as if most people don’t have that kink, and I suspect it is a minority of people who do have that particular kink, although of course there’s not really any way to know. But other than the sense of foreignness of the kink, the article startlingly lacks either moral outrage or prurient nudgery. Mr. Mosley is quite straightforward about the fact that he is into S&M, and that it’s a kink. “As soon as you stand back from it, it’s completely mad”, he says, but of course, that’s true of a lot of things. Sex in general. The idea of French kissing, for instance, is completely mad, until you’ve done it. Also fellatio. And lots of other stuff.

And there are other things that people enjoy that appear completely mad, as soon as you stand back from it. Baseball, for one, either as a spectator or an athlete. The Sims. Editing Wikipedia. Round singing. Religion.

I don’t mean to suggest that these activities are morally or ethically equal. But the ability to look at something you like to do and realize that other people not only may not want to do it but find it ridiculous, and then still be able to enjoy doing it…

Well, there’s something I quite like about that. Perhaps it’s the science fiction conventions in my teenage years. Perhaps it’s being in a religious minority. But I started reading the article expecting to loathe Mr. Mosley, and found myself just a trifle moved.

This is the part where I say that I can’t imagine an American daily newspaper printing anything like that, and of course I can’t, but I don’t know that there’s some deep cultural superiority across the pond that accounts for it. I can certainly imagine any number of American weekly newspapers printing such an article, for one thing. Ah, well. I suppose I didn’t wind up having a point after all.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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