Is It A Kink Or A Fetish?3 Min Read
Many people are familiar with the terms “kink” and “fetish” — whether or not they know that these are two different things. As taboo as these topics may seem, they’re gaining cultural prominence, and having a kink or a fetish is more common than you may think.
Therefore, we will begin by explaining what the terms mean, and how to differentiate them because being able to understand and explore either your own or a partners turn-ons can be both empowering and gratifying.
You can think of a kink as an umbrella term. The typical definition of sexual kink suggests that you have an interest in incorporating unusual or out-of-the-norm activities into your sex life (1). But research shows that as many as one in three people have at least one kink — which means the “unusual” is actually incredibly normal. Therefore, you can rest assured knowing your thoughts, feelings, and desires are totally valid (2).As explained by Laci Green in her book “Sex Plus” some of the most common kinks include: Anal stimulation or penetration, roleplay, erotic massages, or group sex (3). And while these are good examples, the list of kinky possibilities extends far and beyond. What matters here is that these interests are performed with enthusiastic consent, and that you and your partner discuss what’s up for grabs before engaging in any kink.
A fetish, on the other hand, is critical to someone achieving and experiencing sexual gratification. If a kink is something you express an interest in, a fetish is something you’re enthusiastic about.
This need is typically centered on the use of objects and activities that are generally not considered to be sexual at all (1). Object-based fetishes can be categorized in two ways: form and media. A form fetish is the sexualization of an object’s shape, such as a high heel, while a media fetish is the sexualization of the object’s feeling or texture, such as leather (3). Many people without a fetish tend to enjoy these additives in their sex lives as well, so the concept can be confusing. The difference is that a fetish places a particular emphasis on the item in order for the person to have a sexually gratifying experience.
Other fetishes can include an obsession with certain body parts, such as feet, toes, wrists, or ankles.
Can You Curb a Fetish?
In most people, it’s not necessary to hold back on your fetish — especially if your partner or partner is into the same things you are. However, if the fetish is causing harm or distress to you or your partner, you may have a fetishistic disorder (3). In these cases, it is understandable why someone would want to change their preferences.
Many experts have come to agree that fetishes can be formed through conditioning or by a particular experience (2). This conditioning, for example, can be a time where “an object [is] associated with a particularly powerful form of sexual arousal or gratification” (3). The link can cause someone to become dependent on this object, activity, body part, etc. to have the gratifying experience. Since these kinds of fetishes are conditioned, it is possible to correct them, but likely difficult.
If you want to look into methods to discover a more balanced approach to your sexual desires, it will likely require external help. Sex therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy are two great places to start.
On the other hand, if your kinks or fetishes aren’t causing any harm or distress, go with them. Embracing and engaging with your own kinks or someone else’s can be a great way to express your sexual individuality. Have an open conversation with your partner to gauge your mutual comfort level, and make decisions from there.
If you aren’t feeling comfortable with a partner’s kink or fetish, make sure to speak up and find ways around it with modified activities.
- Borresen, Kelsey. “Breaking News, U.S. and World News.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 2018, www.huffpost.com/.
- Martin, Scott F. "Fetishistic Disorder." Practical Guide to Paraphilia and Paraphilic Disorders. Springer, Cham, 2016. 155-169.
- Quealy-Gainer, Kate. "Sex Plus: Learning, Loving, and Enjoying Your Body by Laci Green." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 72.3 (2018): 124-124.