I talk a lot about fetishes and kinks on Sexpressed. A lot of people have difficulty coming to terms with their fetishes and kinks, especially when they are really “out there”, and they come to me (and others, I’m sure) to find out if they are “normal” or not. But what is “normal”? What’s the difference between a fetish and a kink? What fetishes and kinks are most people weirded out by and not weirded out by? If you don’t really have fetishes and kinks are you boring?

These are all great questions. Let’s start at the beginning with defining fetishism and kink:

kink: practices which go beyond conventional sex with the specific intent of heightening sexual arousal or intimacy.

fetishism: when a person uses a physical object and/or specific situation to create or enhance their own sexual arousal.

As you can see, there’s a lot of overlap here. If someone is kinky they are probably a fetishist, and if someone is a fetishist they are probably kinky. The distinction between the two terms is that a specific fetish may not be that kinky. For example, men who have a fetish for female breasts would not be considered that kinky by most people. Most men like breasts and find them sexually arousing so if one man really finds them sexually arousing, to the point where they have a fixation on breasts over the rest of the female body, most other people would not find this that “out there”. So what the difference between fetishism and kink really comes down to is that society decides what is kinky and not, and you yourself decide on what your fetishes are.

The idea that what’s kinky and what’s not kinky is decided by society at large is fascinating. Let’s take oral sex for example. There is nothing “conventional” about oral sex, i.e., one does not have oral sex with the specific intention of procreation. Oral sex is strictly for pleasure. So at some point oral sex was probably considered to be kinky…maybe not super kinky, but kinky nonetheless. Now oral sex is pretty much a standard activity for most sexual partners. Men getting blowjobs and women getting eaten out probably doesn’t even raise the eyebrows of most people nowadays, and if a lady came up to you and confided in a hushed tone that she likes when men lick her clitoris, most people would just be like, “Yeah? So what?” What was once kinky is kinky no more.

Certain fetishes that were once kinky are likewise no longer kinky. According to a sexual study done over a 20-year period, nearly 60% of the subjects cited certain types of clothing brought them erotic satisfaction. A long time ago if someone were to say, “I really like seeing my girlfriend in white cotton panties”, people may have been shocked. Now that seems mild and tame in comparison to the other fetishes out there. Even leather objects and outfits, which only 11% of the subjects confided turned them on in the aforementioned study, are considered to be a tame fetish by most people’s standards.

Kink in general is becoming more and more accepted, probably in large thanks to the internet. Hair pulling, spanking, light bondage, use of sex toys, role playing…all of these are in general looked upon as fairly normal by sexually open minded people. Shit, piss, blood, simulated rape, beastiality, fisting, and general violence, are all still looked at as pretty extreme by even the most sexually liberated of people. Who knows what we will still consider kinky in 100 years time?

Is any of this “normal”? If you read the Sexpress Yourself section of this site you’ll find a lot of questions people ask about whether or not the kink or fetish they have is “normal”. A lot of people feel terrible about their kinks and word their questions in a way that says, “Can you tell me how to make this stop?” Almost universally I tell them to not try and stop it, just accept it. People are much too concerned about whether or not their specific kink or fetish is normal and in doing so miss the whole point: everyone has a kink or a fetish. They may not have YOUR kink, but they have one. So the person who has a fetish for cross-dressing men and the person who has a fetish for uncircumcised penises are both in the same boat; sure, the former may be less common than the latter in their specific culture or social circle, but they both are fetishists. Instead of looking at yourselves as different from one another because of your fetishes, think of yourselves as part of the same kinky club.

What if you don’t have any fetishes and don’t consider yourself to be that kinky? You just like plain ol’ vanilla sex: two people in their bedroom in one or two positions and then done. That’s fine. What’s interesting is that with all the kinky people being open about their kinky selves they are making it more “normal” to be kinky than not. Being kinky is slowly becoming the de facto way to be, and being vanilla is becoming…well, kinky.

The important thing to take away from all this is that kinks and fetishes are just part of life. Don’t fight it: embrace it.