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The Cheese Fetishist, Redux

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The following is re-posted with permission from my brother-in-law’s blog, Confessions of a Hate Slut.

Not too long ago, Christian Pagano was arrested for cheese-related acts of indecency.  This is a good thing; if he is indeed the “Infamous Philadelphia Cheese Pervert” (and the odds seem good that he is–as another good friend put it, “because how many bitter, misogynistic cheese fetishists with hazy notions of consent can really be out there?”) then the man’s a creep.  But what gets me is the discussion surrounding this creep.  Almost everyone seems morbidly fixated on the fucking cheese, as if that were somehow the thing that matters.  And I want to make this as clear as I can: it doesn’t.

If a strange man were to approach a woman and expose himself, that would be unsettling and gross.  A man who, without invitation, offers women money for sexual favors, is likewise disgusting and disturbing.  Nobody really disputes this.  But while Pagano’s single-minded fascination with curdled dairy products makes his crimes noteworthy due to their tone of absurdity, they also seem to add an element of horror and distaste to the whole discussion.  To wit: no one I’ve seen calls him “The Philly Cheese Stalker” or the “Philly Cheese Flasher,” titles which name his actual crimes; it’s always “the cheese pervert,” because a man simply exposing himself or soliciting sex is so pedestrian as to not even merit our disgust; the only thing that matters to us is how aberrant his desires are.

As Dr. Slut put it in her original article on the subject:

“Okay, this is the point at which I say: Cheese Fetishist, people do not reject you because you have a cheese fetish. They reject you because you are a dick.The fact that your dick is wrapped in cheese just doesn’t help.”

And this is the point that I think a lot of people are overlooking.  There is a significant difference between the following two statements, that I feel is somehow being overlooked here:

  • Christian Pagano was arrested for exposing himself to women and asking them to service him with a slice of cheese.

  • Christian Pagano was arrested for exposing himself to women and asking them to service him with a slice of cheese.

But for some reason, the former is newsworthy and the latter is not.

Think I’m talking out of my ass?  Maybe.  But it’s been my experience that people are more frightened and unnerved by the weird and the gross than the legitimately threatening.  Want another example?  I could say “gay people,” but that’s low-hanging fruit.  Yes, there are lots of straight women who are offended and disgusted by the idea of two men getting it on, despite it being none of their goddamned business in any way whatsoever.  But let’s face it, if you’re reading this blog, you’re most likely thinking “Ha, I’m not like that!”


Pictured: Not that bad, really.

image: TJJSvdM via Wikimedia

Furries.  Furries are the redheaded stepchild of sexual minorities.  I’m not a furry myself, but I can think of few kinks more harmless than wanting to dress up in what amounts to a really elaborate Halloween costume, be it for actual sexual gratification or simply to assume an alternative persona; or even more simply, engage in some elaborate roleplay and a detailed inner life involving one’s zoomorphic alter-ego.  Hell, most of my kinks can’t even be described that innocuously.  Most of the furries I personally know are compassionate, friendly people, who just happen to have this other identity they often engage in–something any LARPer should accept without question, not to mention anyone who’s into almost any form of sexual roleplay (which, when you get down to it, is what a lot of kink is).  And yet when they get mentioned in casual conversation, it’s usually in tones of commingled disgust and derision.

And it’s not because furries are inherently threatening; almost anyone in a fursuit looks like the least threatening thing ever to me, with the fluff and the big cartoon eyes, and the mitts… it’s that people on the outside often just find the concept so weird.  And that, apparently, offends us.  The unheimlich is more upsetting to us than the merely menacing.  This is important, because it is possible that Chris Pagano is not the only man in the world with a cheese fetish, and we need, as an audience, to separate his odd little quirk (an obsession with cheese) from his unacceptable behavior (an inability to approach women in a manner that is not horrifying and overtly criminal).

If I were already in a way to play with a man’s penis, and he respectfully requested that I, from time to time, consider using a slice of Havarti as an aid to that end, then I’d at least seriously consider it.  Hell, I’m almost guaranteed to do it at least once, before I blacklisted the idea.  Because it’s harmless.  The worst I can get from that (as opposed to the exact same experience, sans sandwich slice) is a weird feeling from the awkwardness of it all, which I assume would probably quickly fade.

Which also makes me think that the Philadelphia wang-waggler’s problem was never his attraction to cheese, no matter what he likes to pretend.  To quote Slut, PhD again, wherein his old letter attempts to explain and justify his predilections:

“I got messaged—on okcupid—by a guy seeking my “professional opinion” about why people were so antagonistic towards him and his cheese fetish (let me hasten to add that I don’t think my professional credentials really qualify me to answer such a question…).”

Followed by his life story, as it were:

“I had a high sex drive, but I was over weight, and could not get girls at all, no matter how nice, romantic, or out going I was, girls were just more interested in looks over personality. I reach a point in my adolescents that masturbation simply was not enough……Later I did manage to find a girl friend and even got married, we had sex, but after having sex with Swiss cheese for so long, I just keep being drawn back to it. My partner was starting to get upset that I wanted sex with cheese over sex with her, and would refuse to do my fetish.”

It’s easy enough to imagine him like some kind of lost puppy, wandering through the streets of Philadelphia with his slice of cheese in hand as if it were a leash in his mouth, begging someone, anyone, to please satisfy his lonely heart and innocent little fetish in the same plaintive tones as a neglected dog begging for walkies.  And this, I suspect, is also incorrect.

I know, or at least have had conversations with, lots of guys who have submissive fantasies.  And one thing I have found is that the “creep” division is not based on the weirdness of the kink, but how it is approached.  As far as I can tell there are a few basic approaches.  Some people disclose their less traditional interests up-front, while others keep it under their hats.  Some lay a groundwork for easing others into their particular fantasies, while others ambush people with them.  Some choose to forego this entirely by seeking partners on places like FetLife, CollarMe, or Recon, hoping to find people who share their specific interests — either as a primary partner, or as side-action to a vanilla relationship.

The most responsible, in my opinion, are the ones who lay groundwork, are honest about their kinks as soon as possible, and who seek partners who share their interests.  For every guy who’s been arrested for harassment after offering to pay random pretty women on the street if they’ll only just kick his ass the way he dreams they would, there is another who, even if his girlfriend won’t kick his ass for him, knows a suitably athletic professional dominatrix who will kick his ass for him when he really needs it.  They have the same tools at their disposal, but their approaches vary.  One understands that women are individuals who have individual needs, and works to find the right woman (or women) to fit his needs, while the other assumes that any woman who fits the profile of his fantasies will also behave as his fantasies dictate.

But I think there is more to it than that.  There is also the exhibitionistic nature of this whole deal that everyone seems to be overlooking.  While some people genuinely enjoy being observed by consenting voyeurs and just love putting on a show, there are also many for whom an inappropriate public display of sexuality is a form of trolling, which is a different fetish.


“No, my Prince Albert is not in a can, if you take my meaning.

image: ComedyCentral

Some people are in it for the shock and disgust.  If your reaction is positive or dismissive, they up their game; if it’s negative, especially if you’re flustered or lose your composure, then they get to come.  And yes, I categorize trolling and griefing as nonconsensual fetish activity.  I have met people who literally jerk off to making prank phone calls, so if you’re going out of your way to make my day harder, I assume you’re jerking off to it when I’m not looking.  Some people always have to push the limits when it comes to acceptance.  In one Savage Love article, for example, a kinkster wears wrist restraints to her doctor’s office, but is “bewildered” when the doctor won’t physically examine her in the way she suggests (put his fingers down her throat), assuming it is a fetishistic request.

Emotional “testing” can take all kinds of forms, but at its base it is solipsistic: it treats one’s own emotions as ultimately valuable, and treats others only as agents to fulfill those emotions.  Most tests, because they are based on insecurity and poor self-image, are not designed to be fair.  They are designed to be failed.  On a success, the only thing to do is to find the limit of that success by testing again and again until failure occurs.  On a failure, the tester’s sense of persecution is finally validated.

People can come to fetishize the rejection, and to even set up one’s presentation of other fetishes in such a way that rejection is assured, either out of shame or self-sabotage, or actual fear of following through with a kink that is enticing yet frightening.  Other times, people, actually get off on the rejection itself. A quick glance at niteflirt‘s erotic phone lines, for example, reveals several wherein the customer calls in, only to be ignored completely.

So maybe the cheese-rapist’s real fetish isn’t for the cheese itself, but for a more complex process of sexual aggression.  Maybe what he really gets off on is the looks of shock and fear and disgust on his victims’ faces when presented with his cheese-wrapped member.  Perhaps he noted, as I did above, that people are more discomfited by the strange than the simply aggressive, and that perhaps the weirdness of it might also move reactions toward the confused and away from the violent. If so, the cheese is just a topping, as it were, to his creepy exhibitionism.  Or maybe it’s both; perhaps it’s strange even to him, and that’s part of what really gets him off.

What’s my point?  My point is that either way, we should stop talking about the cheese.  If I’m completely wrong, then the cheese is still irrelevant to the fact that he’s a creepy flasher and stalker.  But if I’m right, then all of this attention is probably giving him the biggest shame-boner of his life.

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