By Corinne Farago
Let’s quickly define the difference between fetishes and kinks. Kink is an umbrella term that encompasses fetishes, which are objects or body parts (often non-sexual) or acts that play an integral part in someone’s sexual arousal.
I view kink as primarily activities that include a relationship dynamic with one or more people, and fetish as more of an object-based arousal that may, but doesn’t necessarily involve another person.
Feet are the fetish and foot worship is the kink.
The smell of hemp rope is the fetish, and rope bondage is the kink.
Women’s clothing and accessories are the fetish, dressing up is the kink.
Fetish sexuality is worth a post of its own. It’s a fascinating subsection of kink that will often have its roots in early life experiences that, for one reason or another, have been eroticized, and therefore inextricably embedded in our sexual brains. Fetishes can range from an enjoyable preference, to a necessary ingredient of our sexual fulfillment.
I was speaking with someone not long ago who has had a lifelong love of rope. As far back as 10 years old, he remembers tying himself down in one way or another. He’d wait for his parents to be out of the house and he’d pull out his ropes to explore what, to him at the time was an unexplainable arousal and desire to feel bound with rope.
He also remembers feeling sexually aroused by images of women, on TV or movies, being restrained in some way.
Those of a certain age might recall Jane Fonda playing Barbarella being confined in a creature-like machine called the Orgasmatron. That’s bound to plant some kinky ideas into a young brain. We saw our share of female stars on shows like Star Trek or even Get Smart being tied to a chair looking helpless and very sexy.
Since our young rope enthusiast had no one available to tie up, he learned to tie himself up. He developed a penchant for bondage that would last his lifetime.
It became a theme of his sexual style. The experience of submitting and having control taken from him are key ingredients to the context of his erotic encounters.
What came first, the desire to be tied up, or the imagery of sexy women being tied up? Was it the chicken wearing a ball-gag, or the egg bound in chains?
What brain science is now showing us is that the areas of our brain that control our genitalia and sexual impulses are located alongside areas that control other non-sexual parts of the body, and also other non-sexual emotions.
What’s truly fascinating is that seemingly distinct regions of the brain can engage in cross-talk or overlapping activity. For instance, the region of your brain associated with your feet is right next door to the region of your brain that gets sexually turned on.
If your brain associates feet with arousal, you may be one of the millions of people in the world who have a foot fetish, which may extend to shoes, and stockings and boots.
Repeated exposure, or even one impactful event connecting non-sexual objects, scenarios or sensations to sexual arousal can create a lifetime link between the two.
In that sense, we’re not responsible for what turns us on. We just know it does, and societal disapproval isn’t going to change it.
When I was a teenager my first boyfriend decided to sew himself a pair of brown leather pants. I lost my virginity to that boy, and I still find the smell of leather to be arousing.
How many sexual fetishist have spent their lives feeling shamed, judged and misunderstood because they prefer to include an object, a scenario, a sensation or otherwise non-sexual body part into their sexual play?
How many fetishists have been called freaks or perverts because they didn’t fit into the sexual norm of their day?
We’re pleasure-seeking, and pleasure-creating machines. Fetishists will tell you that their fetish creates a built-in excitement that heightens their erotic pleasure.
So let’s look at some of the fetishes I’ve included in this section of Your Erotic Menu, as well as a few others I didn’t include:
- Cross Dressing (enjoying dressing in clothing of the opposite gender)
- Dressing up (costumes, uniforms, leather, latex)
- Body piercing (as a form of arousal)
- Corsets (body modification)
- Furries (dressing in full furry animal costume for sex)
- Non-sexual body parts (feet, armpits, neck…)
- Foot worship (and other non-sexual body parts)
- Sensory deprivation (blindfolds, gags, hoods)
- Medical fetishes (examinations and medical practices)
- Food fetishes (eating, being fed, sploshing)
- 1950s decorated kitchens
- The smell of cigars, body odor, perfume
Anything can be fetishized given the right circumstances.
Some of these fetishes you may have already explored and enjoyed. There may be others you just can’t wrap your mind around, and that’s because you literally can’t wrap your mind around it. Your brain has no dialogue between those regions of your brain, because if it did you’d understand why it’s arousing. Makes sense right?
How can we understand what we’ve never experienced ourselves?
This doesn’t mean we can’t be curious and explore new additions to our arousal.
We may have been particularly susceptible as hormonally-driven adolescents to link things that are sexual and seemingly non-sexual, but our sexuality doesn’t stop developing in our teens. Our sexuality changes throughout our lives. Our desires and interests continue to grow as well. We can form new fetishes at any stage of our life.
Your sexual evolution depends on one thing — Curiosity.
A sexually curious person is open to new experiences, they’re free of judgment of themselves and others, and they acknowledge that for many people sexual tastes and preferences fall well outside of our current society’s perceptions of what’s ‘normal’.
In the 1800s, the rare sight of woman’s ankle was a common fetish. Many fetishes date back hundreds of years, each relating to the customs and taboos of their era.
Now that we can get online and ask questions with anonymity, fetishes can be researched, explored and shared within a community of like-minded people. We all want to be understood in our desires. We want to know there are others out there like us.
If you or your partner consider yourselves fetishists, you may have your own suggestions of how to bring a fetish into a relationship.
May I suggest that if your partner has been brave enough to share their fetish with you, be careful to not shame them. Shaming can happen in a long silence, a sideways look, a rolling of the eyes. Talking honestly about our sexual desires can be one of the most vulnerable conversations we can have with our partner.
If you discover your partner has a cross-dressing fetish for instance, sit down and talk about it together. If you love your partner, you can learn to accept them for who they are. Learn about what cross-dressing means to them and how they would like to express that side of themselves in an honest and open way.
Fetishes don’t end relationships… a lack of understanding ends relationships.
In Your Erotic Menu, I recommend asking questions similar to:
- What kind of feelings are you hoping for when you engage in that fetish?
- What insights do you have about it?
- When did you discover this part of yourself?
Feeling like we’re safe to share every part of who we are with our partner, creates a deep bond and intimacy that strengthens a relationship.
Negotiating how your partner’s fetish might fit into your sexuality together is the second conversation. If that makes you nervous, it helps tremendously to bring in a third person to help guide you in that conversation.
Human beings are constantly pushing sexual edges. We’re wired to seek the thrill that comes with pushing those edges. Those who were called sexual freaks in their day, led the way for the rest of society to expand the definition of eroticism.
If you’ve suffered from being shamed, ostracized or closeted because of your sexual tastes and preferences, let me encourage you to let your freak flag fly high and proud.
With every new generation, the world is catching up to you, slowly but surely.
It’s my hope that tolerance, compassion and awareness will guide us to see the day when the freedom of authentic sexual expression will be the norm, and sexual shame and judgment will be seen as unacceptable.
If you need some coaching on how to live an empowered and authentic sexual life, where you find acceptance from others as well as yourself, I’m happy to guide you on that journey.
Schedule a Discovery Call with me, and let’s talk about your sexual authenticity.
Stay well and love deeply,
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Be sure to download my list of 186 erotic activities that I outline in my new e-book, Your Erotic Menu.
It may be the single most impactful step you take toward your sexual evolution. (I can confidently say, your dates nights will never be the same!)
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