Breaking Down Sexual Fetishes in 5 Answers
We hear about them, perhaps we laugh about them awkwardly, and think “Why do I feel so turned on right now?”. These are the things that tickle a fancy for anyone in their sex life, adding some gusto to the libido in the bedroom… Yes, I am talking about the non-erotic helpers that make everything more steamy- FETISHES! There usually is a common way on how people see fetishes in mainstream society- they are reserved for the “ultra-freaky" kinky people. Believe it or not, according to the Journal of Sex Research, 1 in 3 people have experienced a sexual paraphilia in their time (themselves or with partners), though fetishes are a subcategory of paraphilia, they make up a great amount of that statistic
1. First off… What IS a fetish?
A fetish is described in the dictionary as a “a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, [activity], etc.”. A fetish is really only a little piece of what makes up your sexual preferences. A fetish is listed under paraphilias- the act being played is the sexual fixation on the certain object/body type.
Having a fetish basically helps “enhance” your sexual experience, with extra arousal towards your fetish coming out to play!
The DSM V also considers that a fetish only constitutes as a non-living object, while the sexual desire towards a certain body part is listed as “partialism” under the category of paraphilias.
2. What is the difference between a fetish and a paraphilia?
The media likes to confuse everyone by sometimes listing off a paraphilia as a fetish. A paraphilia is a larger category, an umbrella term if you will. Usually involved with the ACT of some sort of “abnormal” behavior, a paraphilia is “any intense and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically normal, physiologically mature, consenting human partners.”, as described in the DSM V
There is a lot of different opinion on what is necessarily considered “paraphilia”, as something that we fixate on that can be considered “abnormal” is really only the implication that it deviates outside the pre-conditioned borders of what our mainstream society considers as “normal”- an ever-fluid perception. As stated in one article, “Paraphilia as a concept is ‘vulnerable to societal pressures rather than advances in science’, making it subjective. “
Going back, until 1973, Homosexuality was listed as a form of paraphilia according to the DSM II, showing that the psychiatric view on human behaviors is a huge influence towards societal attitudes.
The only time paraphilias are DISORDERS, is when the paraphilia is…
(i) “feel personal distress about their interest, not merely distress resulting from society’s disapproval”; or
(ii)“have a sexual desire or behavior that involves another person‘s psychological distress, injury, or death, or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent”.
Usually 6 months or more, paraphilic disorders place psychosocial distress upon both the individual’s present daily life and relationships. Types of paraphilia disorders include fetishistic disorder, pedophilic disorder, exhibitionistic disorder, ect.
3. How are fetishes created?
Because there is very limited research on fetishes, we cannot exactly say how much of our fetish origins come from, between our genetic make-up and our life experiences. As from the psychological point of view of classical conditioning, a theory exists in the age of childhood/puberty experiences is when we first “fertilize” our sexual fetishes. These fetishes can arrive from an event where the object/act was involved at a time where some sort of sexual gratification or arousal is given. Another study suggested that fetishes can be linked to sexual “imprinting” as well, in the same sort of way that you watch your caregivers interact with each other is how you see relationships, what you observe in your early years could determine what you associate with as sexual in your later years.
That isn’t to say that you were literally fondling yourself at the age of five to a bondage scene in the cartoons that you watched every Saturday (or maybe you were!), but more so the fact that, as a child, you may have felt some aroused feelings about it, that as an adult you unconsciously classified as “sexual feelings”!
Fear can be included as one of these “aroused” feelings you have experienced when you were young, as it has the same adrenaline effect on your physical body as sexual arousal does!
4. How do I come into acceptance of my fetishes?
Sometimes, we experience having sexual feelings around a certain fetish that society would consider outside the realm of “normal”, or perhaps even it goes against societal values. Some of these fetishes you may feel some sort of guilt over, or perhaps worse, shame. Because fetishes are something that is cultivated through your own life experience,
YOU DO NOT CHOOSE WHAT FETISHES YOU HAVE, BUT YOU CAN CHOOSE HOW TO ACT UPON THIS FETISH DESIRE!
It is much like sexual orientation. One study published in 2007 recorded multiple data of over 5000 people through online fetish forums. What they found was that…
33% of fetishes are in concern to body parts alone (feet, ect.)
30% was objects that are associated with the body (stockings, ect.)
18% of fetishes towards another person’s behavior (watching someone smoke a cigarrette, etc.)
7% had a fetish of their own behavior (brushing hair ect.)
7% fetishised social behaviour (daddy/little girl dynamics, etc.)
5% of fetishes were towards objects unrelated to the body
One major thing that will help you come into acceptance of your fetish is talking about in a safe space to someone. If you do not have a relationship in your life at the moment where you feel that you won’t be judged upon coming forward, that is where sex coaches and therapists (like me!) come in; we will help you open up about the topic and normalize the experience for you, with our goal being your fetish is normalized, understood, and perhaps even a plan created for you to safely and consensually explore it (schedule a session today!) If talking about it, even in a confidential setting, still wracks your nerves, I suggest either writing it down or creating some piece of art about it in your own privacy.
5. Fetishes that Instagram is curious about?
From a popular response from my Instagram, I have received many curiosities about a WIDE range of fetishes, from primal play to rape scenarios! Some of these require a whole blog post dedicated to that one particular fetish, as the farther they deviate away from the societal default line, a lot more explanation is required. These fetishes below are explained only through etiological hypotheses, as there is no empirical research that has concluded a solid theory on most fetishes.
Generally when someone is sexually aroused by breast milk or the expelling of milk from the breast. The act of suckling from a breast and becoming aroused is called lactophilia; this can be involved with the paraphilia (as listed in the DSM 5) of infantilism (the act of dressing up as an infant and acting/being treated like one).
Those that are aroused by lactation milk generally have been found to be male identifying. Though each fetish is cultivated through one’s own unique life experience, there definitely exists a widespread social point of view of seeing breast milk as a connection to nurturing and care-taking. Perhaps feeling nurtured is healing or comforting for those that idealize breast milk, which can in turn provide an erotic fixation upon the experience....
Because what else can be described as comforting and healing? SEX!
The act of gagging someone or being gagged lies within the attraction to power dynamics, such as Dominant and submissive. One professional Dominatrix listed off some of the early experiences her clients had that may have led them to have a gag fetish:
Being an outspoken child who was constantly told to keep quiet
Being unable to speak due to being a shy or introvert child
Being physically abused
Opinions being treated less seriously due to gender difference
Others may simply like gags for the fact of the muffled speech, or perhaps they carry a spit fetish- gags create drool, to say the least.
Otherwise known as dacryphilia, these people get turned on by tears and/or sobbing, from either themselves or others. Because it is most commonly seen as a form of sadism (enjoyment of others pain), it is considered a paraphilia (though let’s remember to distinguish a paraphilia from a paraphilia disorder!). This fetish provides physical proof of someone being in either emotional or physical pain, which excites the fetishist and also implements a more stronger power dynamic. Since most crying is done at times of intense distress/arousal, be sure that it is okay with your partner(s) to continue play. Safety words are encouraged.
There you have it, a piece of cake that you fantasize about eating when it comes time for your meal of sex- fetishes! The most important thing to help progress our society into a sex-positve and kink-positive one is to approach the fetishes of others without judgement. As long as the person with these fetishes (or paraphilias) do no harm to both themselves and others unconsensually, it is considered simply a sexual preference- something that we are all able to empathize with, whether it be you can’t stop eyeing those nylon stockings or perhaps the leather mask that encompasses your whole head!
Any questions or wanting to further explore your fetishes? Contact me!
Love and light,
Sex + Empowerment Coach
Creator of Femme Forth