What is a Fetish?
Sexual or erotic fetishism is defined as a sexual fixation on an object or non-genital part of the body. The spectrum of sexual fetish is vast and they manifest in different ways for everyone. Some people become aroused by a part of the body not traditionally considered sexual, like feet or hair. Others develop a particular lifestyle that allows them to live out their fetish on a temporary or full time basis. Fetishes and erotic lifestyles come in all forms and variants, from common to extreme.
How are Fetishes Developed?
There are a few theories on how sexual fetishes are developed, yet they all gravitate around the idea of experiences and how we process those certain experiences. A lot of people develop fetishes during childhood and adolescence when hormones are developing and causing sexual impulses. There is an association made between sexual arousal and a particular item, body part, or experience. They find it pleasurable, so they continue using it in a sexual way until a habit is developed.
Certain sexual fetishes can also be linked to personality traits. A great example of this is BDSM. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality did a study on 270 BDSM practitioners and found they had common personality traits of empathy, honesty-humility, conscientiousness, openness to experience, altruism, and agreeableness.
Fetishes are a by-product of humanity’s biggest evolutionary advantage: adaptability. A notable example of this is foot fetish. The rising commonality of foot fetish seem to climax during times when the rate of sexually transmitted disease is at its highest. Perhaps foot fetishes have been most prevalent during these times as a way to avoid direct sexual contact that could spread infection, yet still enjoy a comparable sensation. The areas of the brain that are stimulated during genital arousal are similar to those stimulated when feet are touches and rubbed. Ever get aroused after a sexy foot massage? This neurological connection could be the reason.
Not all fetishes are directly related to sexual release. Exploring fetishes for some can be more about relaxation, comfort, and stress relief. Indulging in these fetishes allow people to reminisce about the simpler times of childhood, where these fetishes most likely developed. This is especially apparent in age play and ABDL (adult baby diaper lovers).
Can Fetishes be Harmful?
There are some theories that fetishes are a result of sexual trauma, however this isn’t always the case. A lot of mentally sound people have fetishes, and exploring them is considered healthy. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, states that most people with atypical sexual interests do not have a mental disorder.
What if your fetish is an occurrence of a mental irregularity? No sex should be painful, physically or mentally. If a certain sexual fetish or habit you have is uncomfortable or upsetting, causing distress or impairments to your usual function, it maybe time to seek help.
Almost anything can be fetishized. It gets problematic when the fetishization of objects or activity is traded for people. Fetishizing someone because of their race, body, or age sexualizes them in a way that is discriminatory and dehumanizing. Breaking down the multi-dimensions of a person down to one attribute to be fetishized is harmful.
If you find yourself harboring a sexual fetish that you think is harmful to you or others, there is professional help in the form of talk therapy, hypnosis, and regressive therapy that can break down unwanted associations. Cognitive behavioral therapy is most popular in identifying, deconstructing and substituting unwanted fetishes.
Tips on How to Explore a Fetish?
If you have a fetish, you probably know it or will discover it in a natural way. Though you may not label it as such, it may be something you naturally incorporate into masturbation or sexual activity. If you’re looking to explore different fetishes and kinks as a whole, you’re more likely to be a kinkster or someone who finds erotic stimulation from the naughty, social taboo, or the previously unexplored. Either way, here are a few tips on where to get started in your exploration.
You can find a lot of kink and fetish videos right on Youtube. It takes time, effort, and skill to master handling a flogger or finding the perfect latex outfit, and people want to show off their hard work.
Watching fetish videos is also a great way to understand how you want to explore your fetish. Love the idea of latex but can’t stand the thought of sensory deprivation? Maybe your latex fetish would be best explored through clothing and visuals, rather than restrictive blankets and hoods that focus more on the texture. A lot of fetishes are incorporated into porn but keep in mind your explorations don’t have to follow to typical sexual narrative if you don’t want them to.
If you can think of it, someone has probably written a book about it. The same can be applied to literature about fetishes. There are a multitude of books of books on fetish as well as great kink manuals. A well rounded kink guide is ‘The Ultimate Guide to Kink’ by Tristan Taormino.
Having a fetish you want to explore but having no immediate friends or partners that share the interest can seem isolating. Seeking a community can be a great way to normalize your fetish as well as learn tips and build friendships. There are large communities that range from city or statewide BDSM scenes to smaller, special interest groups.
Fetish sites like FetLife are great starting points to find these communities. Remember when dealing with anyone via the internet, especially concerning meetups, opt for large groups in public spaces and let a friend or loved one know where and when you’ll be attending.
What’s your sexual fetish?
“I get pedicures just because my girlfriend wants my toes inside of her.”
"I remember as a child getting candle wax on my hand. After the momentary pain subsided, I was obsessed with the way it looked on my skin- smooth and soft. I've been hooked every since."
“She wanted to reach around and hold my dick while I peed.”
“Spanking. I never understood why you'd want to get hit. I didn't understand how that could be pleasurable at all. My boyfriend and I tried it playfully once and we both loved it. Now, it's a huge turn on.”
“I like electro play. With a violet wand or similar setup you have to hold a small rod that turns you into a conductor, from there anyone that touches you or any metal that grazes you will spark at different levels. The bench I decided to try this on happened to have a large metal bar reinforcing it inside the cushion and backing, I touched the rod and got shocked hard from my asshole all the way up my back to the neck.”
“Dated a girl who was really into The Dark Knight. Next thing I know she's bought us costumes and I'm sweating profusely in a rubber Batman mask while giving it to a female Joker. Enjoyed roleplay ever since.”
“Feet and I don't really know how, my earliest memory of it was in fifth grade I had a crush on a girl and she took her shoes off during math and I could not take my eyes off them for almost two hours.”
“I like when I feel eyelashes on my buttcheeks.”
“Rimming. I thought it was gross, until I tried it. As long as your partner maintains good basic hygiene, and takes a shower beforehand and washes it out well, I feel that it’s no more "germy" than any other orifice on the human animal. That being said, I now fucking love eating ass.”
“Latex glove fetish. Worked in the medical field for years.”
“Tickling. Not 100% sure where it started. Being tickled always made me feel "funny," so I hated it when family members would do it, just felt too intimate. When I was young a friend of mine pinned me on her bed and made me hold my arms over my head while she tickled my armpits, and scolded me every time I pulled my arms down. I’ve loved it ever since.”
“Balloons. Simple as it sounds. I really enjoy blowing up and popping balloons in various ways. It was originally a severe phobia. As a child I would avoid parties, and any place were balloons were likely to be around. Sometime during puberty I discovered that this crippling fear would cause an adrenaline rush. I don't remember much of the process but I remember one day I was tired of being afraid so I started blowing balloons up, convincing myself that I needed to get over it. Next thing I know I'm sitting on them, bouncing repeatedly until they bust and I'm so turned on I can't help myself. The balloons weren't the only thing that exploded that day.”
All images by Paula Andrea @Soft_when_ripe