Fetishes have become a lot more talked about in popular culture lately. From 50 Shades of Grey, which attempts to explore BDSM, to Crash, where the main character gets off on car crashes, more and more movies are exploring various components of non-vanilla sex. However, a lot of people who have fetishes still don’t understand why they have these desires and how to best explore them in a world that overall is not fully accepting or understanding of alternate sexual practices.
Why do we have fetishes?
One of the most popular theories for how fetishes begin is that early in life sexual gratification becomes “paired” with an object/experience. For example, my friend remembers that her first sexual experience was listening to her older sister fuck. She experienced arousal and confusion. Now later in life, she LOVES to watch and listen to people get it on.
I also spoke with my buddy who is aroused by farts and asked him about his story. I also asked him about when he first realized he had a fetish and he responded that in 8th grade, “An attractive and very femme classmate was in front of him going up the stairs. He remembers there wasn't really a noise but she suddenly stopped walking. Her butt was really close to his face. He looked up, not wanting to appear like he was staring. He noticed that she was blushing. He didn't understand why. She walked quickly away and he continued walking up the stairs. Suddenly he hit a wall of stink and understood why she was blushing. He fought an erection the entire rest of the day.”
Many people that I have spoken to about fetishes have similar memories from their younger years that involve either a trauma, or a strong association between their first experiences with sexuality and the fetish. The connections are not always obvious, but from my experience and the research there are often ties between younger year's experiences and later occurring fetishes. Most people have an experience relating to their fetish for the first time between the ages of 5 and twelv/e.
Think of a time that something turned you on that you didn’t expect. What was it? Although, for a lot of people younger experiences lead to fetishes, sometimes we are surprised by what turns us on, and we need to be in a certain situation or with a particular partner to realize what we are into. For example, based on the type of person that I am I never really thought that I would enjoy watching people have sex or being at a sex party. However, I recently started hanging out with a crew of people who go to sex parties and I was surprised to find out that I am REALLY turned on by watching the strangers fuck, so perhaps I’m a bit of a voyeur. But if I had not been in that situation I would never have learned that about myself. This is one of the reasons that experimenting with new sexy activities and partners can help us have better sex and learn about ourselves.
There are also biological explanations for some fetishes. Foot fetishes are very common and it has been shown that this is likely because the genitals are beside the feet in the brains body image map. To put it extremely simply, sometimes the wires get crossed and the arousal associated with the genitals carries over to the feet. This is one explanation for why foot fetishes are more common than nose or ear fetishes for example.
There are some fetishes that others have that we may not ever fully understand, and that’s cool, just try not to make anyone feel bad for what they are into. As I used to tell my students, “Don’t Yuck My Yum.” For some reason, I can’t fully understand the whole getting spanked thing. Nobody cums, its hurts my butt, I don’t understand the point. However, I have a lot of friends who LOVE a good whipping. I mean LOVE, and I am very conscious to support them in their desires even if it doesn’t do anything for me.
When are fetishes a problem?
For the most part fetishes are a fun addition to your sex life and there should be no shame or stigma surrounding them. There are only three situations that I can think of where having a fetish can be problematic. One would be if you are harming someone (without their consent). So, for example if you are turned on by living things that can’t consent and you are hurting them, that’s a big no no. Also, if your fetish is so strong that you can’t enjoy sexual encounters without engaging in it, this could be a problem. I think of my bud who was so into pee that he “needed” to have it involved for him to get hard with a partner. The issue here is that not everybody is into pee, and it greatly narrows your dating pool if you can only be with people who are into pee or if you can only get aroused when there is pee involved. Thirdly, a fetish can be problematic if it is disruptive to you. If you find you are thinking about it more than you would like to or you feel shame about it, that’s no good. However, as a society we are still really old school when it comes to talking about sex and accepting differences, so don’t let anyone make you feel bad for what you are into. As my bud with the fart fetish said, “I don't think that fart fetishes will ever really be normalized, but honestly, that's part of the fun and excitement of having one for me.”
What are the most interesting fetishes that you have heard about or that partners have asked you to do?
written by Niki D, our sex juju queen.