When I first became interested in sex, I was instinctively very secretive about it. I didn't talk about it to my friends, to my parents, to anybody. I snuck into my father's Playboy collection, I hit the sexuality section of my middle school library (yay, liberal private school!), I rifled through the racier novels on my parent's bookshelves, and I kept my mouth shut about it. Fundamentally, I did not believe that the people around me were having similar experiences. I felt utterly isolated.
Eventually, in my mid-teens this illusion dissipated somewhat--I realized that my peers (the male ones, that is) had libidos too, that they masturbated,that they too were hoarding porn, I joined, in a small way, the underground economy of glossy porn magazines circulating at my high school.
A little further on, I caught on that most people weren't quite as obsessed with sex as I am--it's a bell curve, and I'm neither at the apex, nor out in the windswept plains of the statistical anomalies.
Sex advice columns are constantly filled with people anxious to know "am I normal?" The columnists nearly always reassure them that they are. Sometimes, the more accurate (though probably less comforting) response might be, "No, but there's nothing wrong with that." You have a footie pajama fetish? Well, that's relatively uncommon, but so what?
I have idiosyncratic tastes in female appearance. What are they? Well, you see it's not that simple. I mean, I can tell you some of the obvious markers. I have a thing for women with short hair, for women in men's clothes, particularly if they have curvy, feminine figures. I'm often drawn to women with glasses, women who bite their lower lips when they're thinking. But I've also been attracted to many, many women who had none of those qualities, and been left cold by women who appear to match all those criteria. A map of my attractions would be some sort of fractal shape with nodes and splittings, dead patches, spinkled islands, intricately folded coastlines.
Is everyone like that? I don't know--I've never been anyone else. Lacking data to the contrary, I've ventured to assume that other people are more like me than unlike, As a starting place, it leads to a few interesting places.
For one thing, it makes hash of the notion of sexual orientation as some sort of essential quality. An interest archipelago (I think Delany uses 'rhizome' for similar configurations) may straddle the gender International Date Line or lie wholely or mostly on one side. To try t assign a fundamental essence to the owner on this basis is absurd, and no less absurd when a gay activist does it than when a homophobe does.
A great many people, especially men, espouse a sexuality wholly congruent with our cultural standards. People who resemble this year's crop of actresses and models are pretty, all other people are icky.
I'm a little skeptical. Some subset of these people are certainly telling the ugly truth. Their erotic universe is really that circumscribed, and that malleable. The rest, though, are driven, not by desire but fear. They have desires that they won't acknowledge, perhaps even to themselves, because they're so anxious to be normal.
What are the proportions of these two groups? I wish I knew.