Kink vs. Fetish: What am I?

Feb 27, 2023

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Do you have sex cravings outside of the norm?

Every person has their own unique sexual preferences. Kink and fetish are phrases used to describe a wide range of sexual preferences and behaviors that occur outside of mainstream adult sexuality standards. However, both are relatively common and are only a concern if they interfere with your life.

What Is a Kink, Exactly?

A kink is any sexual activity outside of “conventional” or “ordinary” sex. Kinks may vary considerably. Therefore, here are some of the most common:

Role-playing is about being turned on by portraying characters during sex.

Exhibitionism: having other people watch a couple perform a sexual activity in order to experience sexual pleasure.

Impact play is a type of sexual interaction in which lovers use items to spank or hit one another in order to achieve sexual satisfaction.

BDSM—you’ve probably read or seen “Fifty Shades of Gray,” right? Bondage and discipline (B/D) and sadism and masochism (S/M) are two sexual activities that use power imbalance for sexual pleasure. With mutual consent and clear boundaries, one partner is dominant, and the other is submissive in BDSM activities.

…And What is Fetish?

The word “fetish” is used to describe sexual behaviors in which a person is dependent on an object or behavior in order to feel sexual pleasure.

Fetishes can include a wide range of objects, behaviors, or parts of the body that a person requires to achieve sexual stimulation and pleasure. For example, for some, fantasizing about a fetish is enough to generate sexual arousal and pleasure, whereas for others, interacting with a fetish in some way is required to feel sexually stimulated.

Some of the most common fetishes include:

Bondage is both a fetish and a type of kink that happens when one partner restrains the other during sex with rope, handcuffs, or other things.

Foot fetish, sometimes called “foot partialism” is the need to engage with feet in order to achieve sexual pleasure. Watching, imagining, touching, kissing, smelling, penetrating, or placing feet in high heels, accessories, or jewelry can all provoke sexual desire.

Wearing nylon or asking a partner to wear nylon during sex is an example of a nylon fetish.

Kink vs. Fetish: How they Differ from One Another?

Most people use the terms “kink” and “fetish” interchangeably. Still, they are not exactly the same thing.

While a fetish is similar to a kink, the primary distinction between the two is that a fetish is something that must be present in order for you to experience sexual arousal or pleasure.

For instance, if you went out to a party one night and had sex in public, and this immensely turned you on, then this would be considered a kink. But if you need to have sex in public to feel aroused, that’s fetishism.

So, the important thing to remember is that a fetish is something (an object or an act) that must be present for a person to get aroused.

How to Stay Safe

The standards of sexual behavior are determined by society, which might lead to the stigmatization of kinks and fetishes and the discrimination of those who don’t adhere to the accepted norms.

So, our sexual desires might make us feel uncomfortable and ashamed, which could stop us from loving ourselves and getting close to other people. In addition, the shame we feel about our fantasies may prevent us from making them happen in real life.

But our sexual fantasies and preferences are a great way of understanding and, more importantly, accepting who we genuinely are. Furthermore, our sexual fantasies and reactions to them might impact how we interact with others, feel about our bodies, and accept our vulnerability.

So, it’s perfectly normal to have sexual fantasies that you wish to carry out in real life. However, what matters most when it comes to out-of-norm sexual behaviors and preferences is the safety of you and your partner.

Consider Safety

To ensure that everyone involved feels safe and comfortable, finding a partner with whom you can feel at ease and secure and keeping risk-aware consensual risk (RACK) in mind is crucial.

Have an Open Conversation

It’s crucial to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your individual and mutual sexual fantasies and preferences, whether they be kinks or fetishes. An open discussion can help set mutually acceptable boundaries, explore the possibilities, and keep you aware of the potential risks of kinks and fetishes.

Talk to a Professional

Some kinks and fetishes can be dangerous, interfere with your relationships, or cause you distress. Sex therapy counseling may be a good place to address these issues. Consider consulting a sex therapist if you struggle with feelings of insecurity around your sexuality or if you have issues regarding sexual behavior or enjoyment in the bedroom.

As a marriage and family therapist and clinical sexologist, I specialize in sex therapy and the unique difficulties that someone is facing as a result of a lack of emotional and intellectual stimulation. Let’s connect soon so we can set up a consultation.

Filippo M. Forni, LMFT is an individual and couples therapist in Los Angeles, CA. His goal is to provide high-quality and effective goal-oriented therapy services to the Los Angeles and Century City community. He has extensive training in sexuality and multiculturalism and serves as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology.