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Questions and Answers

What’s a Fetish? What Should I Do If I Or My Partner Has One?

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A fetish is something specific that turns a person on. Sometimes, a person with a fetish might have a hard time getting turned on unless they’re engaging in their fetish. There are lots of different kinds of fetishes. Some are relatively common, while others are less so. Just like with all sex acts, fulfilling a fetish should always be consensual.

Some definitions state that in order for something to be a fetish, it has to be about an inanimate object. But, the term is also commonly used to refer to being really into a specific kind of sex act, situation, or idea.

How do I know if I have a fetish?

You might have a fetish if you find yourself thinking of or doing the same things every time you masturbate or have sex. Not everything that turns you on is a fetish, though! Usually, people define a fetish as something that is integral to their sex life. What that means for an individual depends on the person. You can define your own sexual preferences whatever way works best for you.

A fetish is different from a sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is about who you’re attracted to. Sexual orientation doesn’t tell you anything about a person’s sex life. A fetish is much more specific. It can describe a certain part of someone’s sex life.

Is having a fetish normal? Is it okay to have one?

Lots of people have fetishes. If you and your partner(s) are excited about it, it can be just another part of a healthy sex life!

Sometimes, people fetishize things that make other people – or themselves – uncomfortable. If you’re into something that you don’t feel good about, it can help to ask yourself why that arouses you. If a partner isn’t comfortable with something you’re into, it’s not okay to pressure them into it. You can ask them what they think, and try to understand their feelings.

No one is really sure what causes someone to have a fetish. Some people feel like they’ve always been into the things that turn them on. Other people can trace it back to certain events in their lives. Most experts agree that it’s not a disorder unless having it causes you distress, or drives you to hurt yourself or another person. If this is the case, talking to someone like a therapist can help you work out your feelings and find ways of approaching sex that make you and your partners feel good.

What should I do if I have a fetish? If my partner has one?

Communication is important in any kind of relationship. It’s especially important when you’re doing something sexual with another person! This goes for all kinds of sex. If you or your partner has a fetish, the first step is talking about it with each other. You may find that you’re into the same thing! You may need to negotiate boundaries and limits around a specific fetish. The only “right” way to have sex is the way that you and your partner feel excited and good about.

Just because a partner is really into something, doesn’t mean you have to be into it, too. And you never owe someone sex, including sex that involves a fetish. Sometimes people have sexual desires that don’t match up. That’s okay! You can talk about it and try to find something you’re both into, or you can decide to not have sex.

I heard that some people have a fetish for [X]. Is that real?

There are lots of different fetishes. Sometimes it can feel hard to understand what it is that someone enjoys about a specific thing! Lots of people keep their fetishes private for this reason. You don’t always need to understand why someone gets turned on by something. If you’re not having sex with them, or planning on having sex with them, it might not ever come up!

Some common fetishes include:

  • Feet
  • Leather
  • Certain types of sexual roleplaying
  • Spanking
  • Voyeurism (watching someone else while they do sexual things) or exhibitionism (having someone else watch you while you do sexual things)

But there are countless fetishes out there! There’s no real way of telling how many fetishes there are, or what they could all be. If you’re asking yourself if someone could really have a fetish that sounds weird to you, the answer is usually “yes”.

That being said, sometimes people exaggerate or make up fetishes as a joke. They might do this and not realize that they’re joking about a real thing. Or they might just want a reaction! It’s fine if you don’t recognize a certain fetish. It’s also fine if you’re not sure what a specific word or phrase means in a sexual context. Sometimes, people use slang terms to talk about fetishes. If you don’t understand something that you think might have a sexual meaning, you can ask someone you trust about it.

For more on fetishes, check out the resources below!

More info:

  • Fetishes & Philias – Ask Alice

    A list of commonly asked questions about fetishes and paraphilias, including bestiality, urine, feces, breast milk, and more.

  • What is a fetish? – SMART Youth Answers

    Defines “fetish” and “paraphilia” and the challenges of disclosing a fetish.”

  • Sexual Fetishism

    A wikipedia article explaining the history, prevalence, and types of fetishes.

  • FetLife

    FetLife is a popular social network for people interested in BDSM and fetishes, often a source for Montreal events and discussion boards where you can learn more about different practices. Accounts are required to access and it is only for ages 18+.