In the world of kinks and fetishes, anything can go from a normal, innocent activity to a sexually-charged Super Activity. Some people consider doin’ it doggy style to be super kinky sex; other people’s fetishes are a whole lot more complex.
Some people even fantasize about going to New York City and having very public sex at the top of the Empire State building. Talk about niche!
What is a sexual fetish?
First off, you might be wondering if there’s a difference between a kink vs a fetish. Unlike a sexual kink, which is generally defined as an unconventional sexual preference or behavior, a fetish is in the realm of necessity, obsession, and overt indulgence. What are kinks? Basically, where a sexual kink is a nice-to-have, a fetish is a need-to-have. Sometimes this can create a barrier where without the fetish, there’s no sexual gratification.
In a relationship, it can be emotionally challenging if your partner isn’t into your fetish. Learning to accept, integrate, and be comfortable with your fetish and how to communicate about it in an emotionally present way are valuable skills. You want to allow others to join in and not yuck your yum.
(This is a good time to note whether you’re into folks of the opposite sex, same sex, or any other type of sex. Remember that what you like when it comes to your sexual activity is personal information, and someone should earn your trust to learn about you and your desires. Your sex life is sacred territory.)
Now, depending on the intensity of your kink, getting your partner on board might be easier or more difficult than anticipated. For example, if you’ve got a kink for watersports (pee play), an uninitiated partner might initially find it off-putting. It could be outside the scope of their normal sexual habits. On the plus side, there’s no risk of harm or bodily injury in that type of activity.
An activity like shibari (rope bondage), on the other hand, requires a different level of trust within the partnership because the tied party's physical safety is at stake. They’re literally stuck at the whims of the other’s skill and equipment for sexual gratification.
It’s important to know that sexual fetishism and/or sexual interest in a certain body part (like a hand fetish) or an inanimate object (like a sock fetish), can come about for a whole host of reasons. You’re not broken or somehow lesser for having your own brand of sexual desire. You don’t need to be analyzed by Sigmund Freud, and if you do indeed have a freaky, funky fetish that may or may not include adult sex toys, it doesn’t mean you’ve got deficiencies or mental disorders. The truth is, sexual behavior and brains are really weird, and we don’t fully understand the brain yet.
The only time to worry about your fetish is if it causes you or other people harm. If your fetish isn’t well-integrated and you carry a lot of shame about it, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy dating and romantic life. And if your fetish involves non-consenting bystanders, then experiencing it without buy-in is not OK, and could potentially get you in legal trouble. Only do freaky things with freaky and consenting people!
7 of the most most popular fetishes to know about
Being a kinkster and letting your freak flag fly is a great idea, especially when you find folks who are into the same sexual fetishes as you. There are some pretty common kinks and fetishes out there, and finding someone who matches up to a more popular fetish might be easier than you think.
The word fetish is kind of confusing because it can actually be used to describe two things: one, a sexual attraction to a thing, like spoons, stockings, or leather (having a stocking fetish, shoe fetish, or leather fetish is very much a real thing, it’s actually considered a common fetish.)
And two, the word fetish can be used for acts that have become sexualized, even when there’s not necessarily any inherent sexual exchange involved — for example, being tied up and having your booty bopped with a paddle while you’re stuck or splayed over your partner’s lap. This isn’t necessarily a sexual thing, but if that particular action really lights your brain up, it could be very, very exciting. It might just kick you or your boo into the realm of serious sexual arousal and sexual pleasure.
BDSM is one of the most common fetishes , and the easiest to point to when talking about kinks and fetishes. Love it or hate it, popular books like 50 Shades of Grey have brought BDSM even further into the cultural mainstream.
At its essence, BDSM is about consent and the exchange of dominance and submission. Some people get off on giving up power, while others get off on having power and making someone do their bidding. BDSM can be dangerous depending on the level of intensity of all the parties involved, but it can also be done well and safely. Kind of like sex itself, the success of BDSM play involves healthy communication, attunement, and common sense.
In BDSM scenarios there are usually two players: a dom and a sub. It can involve something as innocent as being told to stay in a chair and not move, and it can get more complicated with things like being tied up and hoisted in the air.
Then there are even more extreme acts, such as receiving small cuts and lacerations (knife play), or using controlled fire to enhance the dominant/submissive experience. Those are the more extreme sides of the sexual kink and fetish of BDSM and are practiced by a much smaller subset of kinksters. Much more common would be light bondage like handcuffs, impact sexual play like spanking or flogging, and the power exchange of having full control over someone else’s body.
With any type of BDSM, one of the core tenets is consent; anyone can opt out of whatever’s going on whenever they choose. It’s important to have ground rules and a clear way of communicating such that everyone involved is still having a good time.
One common and easy-to-remember method is the traffic light system: Green, Yellow, Red. Here, the Dom can ask the Sub for a check-in at any time. Green means everything is just fine, “I’m fine, keep going”. Yellow means something is amiss; maybe the body position the sub is in is making it hard to breathe, or a muscle is cramping. Attend to those needs and continue. Red means full stop, undo whatever contraption is being used, put away the handcuffs, and commence the post-BDSM actions like aftercare.
Shibari is a subset of BDSM specifically focused on the art and beauty of tying someone up. This art form can be a fun, erotic, and connective expression between partners of any gender and body type. Like the rest of BDSM, it requires trust and consent to get off the ground, as it were.
Shibari can be done on yourself if that’s your jam, but it tends to be cooler in a pair or a group. This is an art that, while fun, can also have hazards like constricting veins and nerves, affixing body parts in achy and painful positions, and in general, being stuck to something. It’s important to know how to practice safely. If you and your partner/pal are interested, there are lots of online videos on simple shibari ties like a chest harness and more in-depth courses or books to get all wrapped up in the artful world of rope.
In a lot of different circumstances, leather is freakin’ hot! Maybe you’ve got some delicious curves, and wearing leather pants accent them just right, or maybe the smell of leather really sets you off, or maybe you just feel really sexy in a leather harness or a nice comfy pair of assless chaps.
Leather has a tactical feel that is both soft and sturdy. Putting on some hearty leather can make you feel strong, rugged, and in your power. There’s a whole sub-culture built around leather, and people like it for many different reasons.
Sometimes a good foot arch or toes peeking out of a pair of sexy high heels really get your juices flowin’, ya know? People with a foot fetish have it for different reasons. According to Dr. Justin Lehmiller, author of the book Tell Me What You Want and research fellow at the Kinsey Institute:
"In the case of feet, it’s more about the visual aspect for some, but for others, it may be about sniffing, licking, or otherwise touching feet, including using them during sexual penetration. People may be interested in any combination of these activities, or any other activity in which feet are involved, including being stepped on or helping a partner take footwear on and off."
In the words of one 31-year-old man with a foot fetish, “I like clean, dry feet. For me, it’s more about kneeling down in front of a dom—showing them a form of “Thank you” for letting me be used.”
Group sex fetish
Having sex with one boo is already great, but for some, bringing more people into the experience makes everything that much naughtier. Group sex comes in different flavors, and doesn’t always mean having sexual intercourse with multiple people. It’s a more common fetish that might just mean two couples having sex side by side, watching and enjoying the sights, sounds, and energy of the other couple.
Threesomes also fit into this category. According to sex researcher Justin Lehmiller, threesomes were one of the most common sexual fantasies out there. The truth is, it's simply not possible to make blanket statements about why someone has a particular sexual fantasy, Lehmiller postulates that when people dream of a threesome with their partner and someone else, it could be because they want all the attention on them. Others might fantasize about seeing their partner be openly sexual with someone else in their presence. The possibilities abound!
Side note: polyamory is sometimes applicable to this category, depending on the relationship style chosen by those involved. However, more often than not polyamory is when someone has multiple separate relationships with different sexual partners, not one interdependent group that all fucks at the same time.
Observing others in their natural flow can be a big turn-on for some folks. According to the O. School, “If you’ve ever enjoyed watching a consenting partner touch themselves, or if you’ve ever caught a glimpse of them in the shower or undressing, then you’ve explored voyeurism.”
According to Kayla Lords the Loving BDSM podcast, voyeurism “is most often associated with watching other people engage in sexual or kink activities, but it can also be deriving sexual pleasure from watching attractive people (which is subjective and determined by the voyeur) exist in the world.”
It’s critical to note that consent is vital here. You never want to watch someone who doesn’t know they’re being seen, especially if there’s nudity involved — in many places, this is considered a crime.
But there are lots of fun ways to do it consensually! For example, your partner could agree to role play or pretend to be surprised at being “interrupted” after you come out of the closet after watching them touch themselves. Or someone could say yes to being observed at an undisclosed time (i.e. you’ve pre-agreed that they’re OK with you actually being hidden in the closet at some point). You could also play with a hidden camera if that’s cool with everyone.
Exhibitionism, on the other hand, is when you get off on being seen being sexual. Some couples like to attend sex parties where they can be observed doin’ the dirty in front of other people. Others have fantasies of being sexual in front of a huge plate glass window, where others can freely see them from the street.
Perhaps you’ve got an exhibitionism fetish and are looking for outlets to practice safely. You’re in luck! The Internet has endless possibilities, including sites like OnlyFans that allow for all sorts of showing off of sexual acrobatics.
Role play is the practice of becoming someone else for a little while. It is a broad category, with the facets of role play even showing up in BDSM, ageplay, and other kinks/fetishes. Maybe it’s easier to get into the desired sexual depravity if there’s less of a cognitive risk in doing so. It’s easier to do the naughty thing if it wasn’t you doing it; you were only playing a part (and clearly you did a great job)!
Other examples of role play include dressing up and going to a bar, then having your partner meet you there and pretend to pick you up. Having a bartender or other “witnesses” can add to the erotic play here since you can pretend to be on a business trip or dress more provocatively than you normally would.
Exploring your erotic side can unleash more energy, bring you closer to your partner, and surprise and delight you. It’s always worth trying new things when it comes to sexuality because it’s a way of feeling and affirming your own aliveness. Don’t be afraid to take some healthy risks and get out of your comfort zone — magnificence awaits. ;)