Sexual Fetishes: Is It Normal If You Have Any, and How to Explore Them Safely

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All About Sexual Fetishes - Are They Normal and How to Explore Them SafelyLet’s dive right in. Sex can be a difficult thing to talk about, in and of itself. And when it comes to unusual and unorthodox sexual activity – like sexual fetishes – no one knows where to start.

Are sexual fetishes right? Are they wrong? What are they exactly, and what do you do if you have your own sexual fetish?

For a long time, sexual fetishes were thought to belong to the realm of depravity and disorders. Does your sexual fetish mean you’re normal, or a bit freaky?

And what in the world do you do if you have one?

What are sexual fetishes?

The word fetish comes from the Portuguese word, “feitico”, which means “obsessive fascination.” When it comes to sexual fetishes, it’s a condition in which an individual becomes sexually aroused by an object, or by a body part that isn’t sexual.

For example, a common fetishized body part is the foot. Non-sexual objects that are popular fetishes are adult diapers. As we’ll see, sexual fetishes can be far more extreme than this.

But where do they come from, and how do they develop?

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How do sexual fetishes develop?

Sexual fetishes are a controversial topic, even within the world of psychology and sexuality studies.

Are sexual fetishes pathological?

On the one hand, trauma or mental illness may be a predictor in developing a fetish. However, while it might be easy to lob everyone with a fetish into a “mental illness” box, researchers find that people who practice fetishes are not necessarily at a disadvantage to others.

In one study, people who practice sadomasochism actually operate on a higher level of socioeconomic functioning compared to individuals who don’t.

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However, another study found that some individuals with an adult baby diaper fetish reported high levels of anxiety. Additionally, their behaviors were associated with attachment styles and parental relationships.

Therefore, their sexual fetishes were a form of comfort in adulthood.

Sexual excitement for non-sexual things

There are hundreds of sexual fetishes and this is due to the fact that there’s such a wide variety of individuals who have them. Dr. Richard Krueger, associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, says that,

“Generally speaking, a typical case may be somebody happens upon an object by accident or through exposure to leather, or dolls, or part of a human that’s non-sexual, such as a foot or toe, and finds it pleasurable, so they continue using it in a sexual way.”

This can explain the wide variety of sexual fetishes out there.

Early life experiences may lead to sexual fetishes

Experiences that individuals have as children or adolescents can also contribute to the development of a fetish. And the more we associate an object with being sexually aroused, the more these two things become deeply connected.

Therefore, fetishes can be formed through repeated experiences.

Fetishes versus kinks

You may have heard fetishes and kinks discussed interchangeably. However, most people consider them to be two different things. Kinks spice things up in the bedroom. Yes, they can be strange or unorthodox, but they’re optional.

When it comes to fetishes, it may be impossible for the individual to get aroused or even climax without the fetishized item present.

Different types of sexual fetishes

Due to the wide variety of individuals, sexual fetishes can be incredibly varied. Here are just some of the many fetishes that increase sexual arousal and which might make you feel like you have a sexual deviance in you:

  • Partialism, or getting aroused by a body part that’s not a reproductive organ, like feet, etc.
  • Spanking, or being spanked
  • Wearing a diaper, or having someone wear a diaper
  • Urophilia, or arousal by being peed upon or by peeing on others
  • Wearing a collar and leash
  • Being tied down
  • Feeling leather on your skin
  • Being aroused by feces
  • Exhibitionism, or getting aroused by exposing sexual organs in public spaces
  • Frotteurism, or getting aroused by secretly touching another person in public
  • Masochism, or getting aroused by pain (either physical or psychological)
  • Sadism, or becoming aroused by causing pain
  • Necrophilia, or getting aroused by the sight of corpses
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When fetishes are a problem

Sexual fetishes are not included in the DSM 5 – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – which is basically the bible of mental health.

Fetishes used to be included in the DSM 5. However, studies found that fetishes aren’t correlated to pathology.

However, in reviewing the list of sexual fetishes above, some might have stood out to you as problematic behavior, particularly exhibitionism, frotteurism, masochism, sadism, and necrophilia.

Not only are these fetishes abnormal, but they may also place one or more individuals in danger, either physically or psychologically.

Therefore, fetishes may become problematic if they become more about the object and arousal that comes from it, rather than the other individual involved in sexual activity.

Furthermore, if fetishes are enacted against the other person’s will, this can be a sign of a mental disorder, rather than a healthy fetish.

Similarly, if these fetish activities place the other person in danger, like masochism or sadism, they can be sexual behaviors to address.

Fetishes can also be a paraphilic disorder if it causes the individual distress, and not just because society disapproves of it.

How to safely explore your sexual fetishes

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One thing that many psychologists agree on is that in general, fetishes aren’t inherently good or bad, and as such, they should not be repressed. Repressing fetishes may cause psychological damage.

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If you have a fetish, it’s important to encounter it without shame. It’s there for a reason, and instead of shaming, ignoring or repressing it, it’s worth exploring it or at least exploring the root cause of your fetish.

If you have your own sexual fetish, you may not know how to deal with it – especially if you’re ashamed to bring it up to your partner.

To explore your own sexual fetish safely, consider the following tips:

  • Do your own research on your particular fetish, and get to know any risks involved with it.
  • Find a community where you can discuss fetishes openly and without shame.
  • Explore slowly! Your sexuality is important and you might do yourself more harm than good by diving too deep into a fetish all at once.
  • Introduce the idea of fetishes to your partner and get a feel for their opinion.
  • Suggest trying your fetish with your partner, but never force it upon your partner.

The most important thing when it comes to fetishes is to remove the shame you feel around them. Our society, while obsessed with sexualization, is still pretty scared about sex, and it’s still a pretty shame-filled topic.

So, don’t be scared of your fetish and follow the tips outlined here to explore it safely. if you’re not feeling comfortable about your fetish, consider speaking with a licensed coach.


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