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What is a fetish? How common is it? Where do they come from?

Foot / Hose fetish

A fetish is an insatiable attraction to a particular object or sex act to the point where it’s practically essential for the fetish to be involved in some way during arousal and orgasm.

How is a fetish different from a kink or turn on?

A kink or turn on is more like having an interest in something, like if you enjoy adding a bit of bondage, roleplay, or impact play to your routine. It’s fun for you and adds some novelty and excitement, but you don’t usually need it in order to enjoy or amplify sex and pleasure.

A fetish, on the other hand, is something that almost always greatly enhances your arousal and desire — sometimes you might even need it in order to enjoy sex. If you need to be bound up in order to become aroused and/or climax (or just feel fully satisfied), or if it's something that always sparks sexual desire, that’s a fetish. Fetishes tend to revolve around body parts, scents/body fluids, and articles of clothing. A few common fetishes include feet, panties, nylons, and shoes.

Bra lingerie

Am I weird if I have a fetish? / Is having a fetish weird or wrong?

No! As long as everyone involved is consenting, involving your fetish in your solo and partner sessions is fine.

It’s easy to feel like you’re weird and alone if you have a fetish. After all, it’s not something that most people openly talk about, and there’s a certain stigma or taboo when you do bring something up. But you’re more than likely not alone in your interests. According to studies that have looked into the matter, having a fetish may be more common than you think.

In one Canadian study, 44.5% of people had a desire to experience some form of fetishism (in this case, defined as arousal by an inanimate non-sexual object, not including vibrators). And that’s from people who were willing to say yes! Granted, this isn’t scaled out to worldwide samples… but to get a sense of that, we can take a look at data from google searches to see how common different fetishes are searched monthly:

Google search fetish keywords

A smattering of the more popular monthly searches related to fetishes in the U.S.

While I can’t say that 44.5% of the world is interested in some form of fetishism, I can say that we’re certainly not alone in our fetishes.

Anecdotally, I can speak for myself — I have a fetish. I’m a college graduate from a good school and intellectually know that it’s weird and might not really make sense, but feelings from certain sensations or associations are strong, especially when they’re ingrained from when you’re very young. Honestly, it makes me feel weird even writing it here—exponentially more than sharing my own masturbation data with the world with my experiences with the Lioness Vibrator—but I think it's important to note because a lot of people who you might not expect have fetishes, kinks, or other interests in their sexual lives.

If you have a fetish and you feel ashamed or weird about it, it can be tough to work through. I know. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten was when I bumped into a fetish expert at AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists). She told me that as a therapist, she’d see people come into her office who knew they had a fetish, weren’t happy about it or otherwise felt ashamed or embarrassed by it. They tried to do things without the fetish, kind of like trying to kick a habit, but they often didn’t enjoy it, and the fetish lingered as a desire anyway.

Her advice? As long as everyone is consenting and enjoying things, it’s O.K. Embrace your fetish and enjoy your time! Don’t try to forcibly ignore it — you’re more likely to experience enjoyable sex with and without your fetish involved that way. On the plus side, you know what you like, which is great because some people haven’t really explored what they’ve liked or have difficulty articulating their desires. You, on the other hand, know something that you like a lot.

Swing playground

Fetishes could be hardcoded starting at a young age

Finally, one more angle to consider is from a very interesting study on rats. I came across it via Dr. Justin Lehmiller's blog a few years ago and it put into perspective a lot of what I had been thinking about for myself. Here’s the basic gist of the study:

“[Of 40 male rats] half of the rats had their first 9 ejaculatory mating experiences with sexually receptive females while wearing tiny jackets. The other half had their first 9 mating experiences in the buff (i.e., without wearing jackets). For their tenth mating attempt, all of the male rats were randomly assigned to either wear a jacket or not. This means that on the tenth try, some rats that were used to wearing jackets didn’t have them on, while other rats that had never worn jackets were suddenly wearing them.

Brown rat

“The researchers found that 100% of the males in the control group (i.e., those that did not wear a jacket for their first 9 mating attempts) successfully mounted, penetrated the female, and ejaculated multiple times on their tenth trial, regardless of whether they wore a jacket or not. So, for rats that had a typical sexual history, putting the jacket on made no difference in their later sexual performance.

“Likewise, 100% of the males that trained with the jacket on successfully mounted, penetrated and ejaculated on the tenth try, but only if they were wearing the jacket on that attempt. For the males who trained with the jacket on but had the jacket off for the tenth trial, 80% mounted, 70% penetrated, and just 60% ejaculated. In other words, when the jacket was taken away from those rats that had grown accustomed to wearing it during sex, their sexual performance was impaired.”

Basically, the scientists were able to train the rats to develop a fetish, so to speak. They were associating the jacket with having sex, and not having the jacket affected their performance.

Although rats and humans are different animals, it’s not uncommon to hear people describe how their fetish developed from an experience they had when they were young or experience or memory that became ingrained behavior. Like any basic human behavior, especially one that is based on something as basic and primal as sex, it can be hard to shake off certain associations once they’re there.

Enjoy pleasure

Enjoy pleasure, however you may experience it

Sex and pleasure are some of the few things in life that anybody is capable of experiencing. Although your desires might seem silly to others or even to yourself, they’re desires all the same. Don't be afraid to explore them, and definitely don't ignore them, as long as everyone involved is happy and consenting.

Everyone’s desires are different ("fetish" or not), and having a fetish is just one of many aspects that make people different. Don’t feel ashamed enjoying them, and find partners who either also appreciate or are open to indulging your desires. Life is tough already as it is, so we all deserve a bit of pleasure in our lives.

Curious to learn about some common fetishes? Check out this list I compiled of common fetishes based on Google searches.


Want other ways to learn about what you like? The Lioness may be able to help!
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