You’ll often hear people refer to these interests as sexual kinks or fetishes, but what exactly are fetishes and sexual kinks? And why do people have them?
You’ve definitely heard of foot fetishes and bondage, but, there’s basically a bottomless well of things that turn people on.
Sex therapist, Kelifern Pomeranz, PsyD, says that all fetishes are kinks, but not all kinks are fetishes. A fetish is a sexual attraction to inanimate objects, body parts, or situations not commonly viewed as being sexual in nature, [while] a kink is a broader term that includes a variety of sexual interests, behaviours, preferences, and fantasies that are thought to be outside of the mainstream.
According to Justin Lehmiller, PhD, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and the author of Tell Me What You Want, fetishes and unusual sexual interests develop gradually. A person might see a particular stimulus like, say, a boot while they’re sexually aroused, and eventually come to associate arousal with boots.
Or, Lehmiller says, grouping an object or body part together with orgasm might prompt a person to seek out that same object or body part in the future because the brain expects the same reward. (Orgasms, of course, floods the brain with dopamine, the neurotransmitter that regulates motivation and pleasure.)
Fetishes get stigmatized because they’re reasonably rare, there’s a lot of sexual shame in our culture, and because they often involve impulses that puzzle the masses: Bees all over your genitals? Unbounded attraction to vomit? But the brain wants what it wants.
If you’re interested in exploring a kink or sexual fetish with your partner, communication is key. Dr. Pomeranz recommends setting aside time to talk about it. Set aside time for this conversation when you are both relaxed and when you are getting along. And make sure to come informed, she adds. Do your research and share well-informed and reliable information. Share articles, videos, books, and information from sex researchers, academics, educators, and therapists normalizing and supporting your interest. You essentially want to put their fears and anxieties at ease. Exploring any type of sexual kink or fetish will always require consent and patience.
If you want to learn more about different forms of sexual play, here’s a list of 21 sexual kinks and fetishes you may not have heard about before.
Carole Queen, Ph.D and author of The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone describes bondage as a type of activity where you restrain your partner with things like rope, non-stick tape, or cuffs.
2. Age Play
Age play is a kind of fetish that involves an exchange of power, says Jill McDevitt, PhD, a sexologist at CalExotics . In this activity, partners will role play and act as if they are different ages than what they actually are. Age play can also be categorized as a form of dominance and submission play, where the partner playing the younger person is often the submissive. This isn’t to be confused with autonepiophilia, where the person gets sexual pleasure from dressing up or acting as a baby, not necessarily the act of role playing as someone of a different age more on that in a bit.
Quirofilia can also be known as a hand fetish. And since any eroticization of a specific part of the body is often referred to as partialism, quirofilia is sometimes referred to as hand partialism. A person into quirofilia is especially drawn to fingers and hands. Quirofilia may involve an attraction to certain parts of the hands, manicures or certain acts performed by the hands, from washing dishes to handjobs.
4. Foot fetishism
A foot fetish means you’re sexually aroused by feet, also referred to as foot partialism. People with foot fetishes may be attracted to seeing feet in certain footwear such as high heels, they might enjoy interactions with feet including massaging or toe-sucking, while some prefer embellishments on the feet such as a fresh pedicure or a tattoo.
Somnophilia, sometimes referred to as sleeping beauty syndrome, is defined as getting arousal from a person who is seemingly asleep or unconscious.
A fascination with mirrors, or more specifically, watching yourself in sexual situations is known as katoptronphilia. In other words, katoptronphilia essentially means you enjoy having sex in front of a mirror.
7. Sensation Play
“The one overarching thing often said about kink is that it is erotic play that includes the whole body, not just the genitals,” Queen explains. “Sensation play can definitely include the genitals, but it is also common to engage parts of the body we don’t think of as erogenous zones–like the back.” In sensation play, there’s a focus on the body and the many sensate experiences we can have, so flogging, massage, temperature play involving ice cubes or candles that melt at a lower temperature, tickling and other kinky play can all fall under the category of sensation play.
Electrostimulation can be considered a subset of sensation play. It involves creating arousal through a sensation of electric shock. “Electricity play uses toys/devices that issue a mild shock or sometimes a zappy-feeling pulse. This is different from vibration and can get fairly intense-feeling. Most are below-the-waist only because it’s important to keep electricity away from the heart,” says Queen.
Sexual kinks like gagging can fall under the umbrella of dominant/submission play, says McDevitt. “[It] is a vehicle for increasing the helplessness of the sub by making them drool, unable to speak, and humiliated.” Again, the practice of gagging should involve consent and communication. “Approaching a partner with a desire to explore a kink together should be clear, respectful, and I recommend also, with a sense of curiosity instead of demands,” says McDevitt. While you might think of these practices as purely sexual, they’re not. As with anything, there is emotional risk, so if you aren’t comfortable talking about gagging, electrocuting, or whipping your partner, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
10. Scene Play
A scene is a preplanned story including roles that you and your partner will commit to during foreplay and/ or actual sex, think: school teacher and naughty student.
Going into scene” means partners have talked about what they want to do (or their roles and preferences are baked into their relationship and this info is already known by both). Those involved in scene play often negotiate what their desires and limits are or use signifying titles such as ‘mistress or sir.’ Scene play is a contained activity, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that partners continue to play out their roles out in the real world. The scene often ends when both partners are satisfied, someone uses a safe word or they’re simply out of time.
11. Consensual voyeurism
Consensual voyeurism involves consensually observing others undress, have sex or engage in other sexual acts. This isn’t to be confused with spying on people without their consent, which is definitely inappropriate, not to mention illegal. Instead, in this scenario the person you’re observing should enjoy being watched and may even be putting on a show.
Sadism is typically defined as arousal at the thought of causing pain, but not just any kind of pain. “‘Pain’ is a tricky word in BDSM. Instead, this sensation of pain will bring on a rush of endorphins, which to put into context, Queen compares to a runner’s high.
Otherwise known as paraphilic infantilism, this one describes someone who derives sexual pleasure from dressing up as, or acting like, a baby.
Lactophiles, according to Lehmiller, are “people who either want to watch a woman whos lactating or consume her breast milk.” A Lactophilic relationship might involve man and a woman who’s expressing breastmilk the latter derives sexual pleasure from suckling the former in what’s referred to as a “nursing relationship.”
Uropholiacs are people who are sexually aroused by being urinated on, also colloquially known as ‘water sports.’
There may be a BDSM element at work here. The person getting peed on is clearly submissive to the other, and having someone’s pee drip down your body might also evoke some feelings of humiliation.
It is a fetish for or sexual dependency on either the smell and/or taste of urine, or the sight and sound of someone urinating.
Necrophilia is sexual excitement or attraction towards dead bodies.
Vorarephilia is often shortened to “vore,” and can also entail fantasies about eating someone or watching someone being eaten, chewed, or swallowed whole.
This cannibalism-influenced sexual interest involves getting eaten alive
People might indulge this niche inclination through role play, or through watching (simulated) live-action or animated vore porn, an increasingly popular adult subgenre.
Macrophilia “sexual attraction to giants or giantesses. Particularly arousing niches within this sexual interest include: being squished against a giant’s breasts, being crushed by a giant, being dominated by a giant, or being physically harmed by a giant.
This is sexual attraction to vomits. This can mean you’re attracted to your own vomit or someone else’s; turned on by watching and listening to the vomit, or doing the vomiting yourself. There’s only been one major scientific investigation into “erotic vomiting,” in 1982. Which is to say, knowledge on emetophilia is scant, but the themes of dominance, submission, and humiliation are self-evident within this fetish.
Zoophilia is sexual attraction, excitement or arousal from animals.
Formicophilia involves arousal dependent upon small insects or creatures crawling on the body, especially the genital area, sometimes biting or stinging in the process.
Omorashi involves arousal from having a full bladder or witnessing someone with a full bladder. This kink might be related to submission, humiliation, or the sensory experience of the act. As with other fetishes, practicing omorashi safely requires communication and consent.
23. Double Penetration
Double penetration involves simultaneous penetration of two orifices, such as the vagina, anus, or mouth, with any combination of dildos, hands, or penises. Double penetration can be pleasurable due to the sensation of fullness and increased stimulation.