You’ve definitely heard of foot fetishes and bondage. But, there’s basically a bottomless well of things that turn people on.
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?
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, behaviors, 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. Plus, there’s a lot of sexual shame in our culture. And 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. “Set aside time for this conversation when you are both relaxed and when you are getting along,” Pomeranz suggests.
And make sure to come informed: “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.
t’s okay if it’s a bit awkward at first, says Holly Richmond, PhD, a certified sex therapist based in New York. “People can get in their heads about whether it’s weird, but let yourself off the hook about any judgments.” As long as it’s consensual and pleasurable, you’re doing it right.
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.
Cuckolding is a form of BDSM and power play, says Richmond.
The act calls for one person to watch their partner have sex with someone else or listen to stories about their partner having sex with someone else. The goal here is usually humiliation. The person watching or listening is turned on by their partner desiring someone else over them. They enjoy the stimulation of being cheated on and experimenting with an act that’s considered taboo.
And while it’s not a rule, cuckolding typically involves a man whose woman partner, whether that’s a wife or girlfriend, has sex with another man and cosplays desiring the other man over her husband or boyfriend.
This turn-on is one experienced by people who find enemas arousing, says Richmond. A Greek term, klismaphilia, refers to the pleasure someone experiences from relieving themselves while using an enema, they enjoy the pressurized feeling. For others, it’s the feeling or knowledge of having their bowels cleaned. And in other cases, it’s all about giving someone an enema or preparing the body for an enema. Most klismaphiles discover their fetish after having a doctor-recommended enema in childhood.
“If someone has a fetish for nylons it means they’re attracted to someone wearing nylons or putting them on,” says Richmond. “The tactile part turns them on.”
Men usually, she says, report enjoying the feeling of sitting on their mothers’ laps and feeling her nylons underneath their legs. For others, they felt pleasure watching someone put nylons on in a film, and sometimes people just enjoy the feeling of putting them on or peeling them off.
This one’s exactly what it sounds like—some people are aroused by pregnant people. The starting point is usually porn, says Richmond. There are numerous sections on popular porn websites dedicated to it—even dating websites dedicated to men connecting with pregnant women.
But sometimes, simply seeing expecting mothers, particularly during childhood, is what sets things off. An older sibling watching their mother preparing to deliver their younger sibling can manifest itself into this fetish later in life.
And what people consider pleasurable about pregnancy differs. For some, it’s the “glow” pregnant women have. Sometimes, is seeing a large round belly (the bigger the better) and heavy breasts filled with milk (more on that fetish later). And for others, is the fact that it seems taboo—though pregnant women can have sex.
Considering how mainstream whips have become in media portrayals of kink and fetishism, this one might not be so surprising.
Richmond recommends, however, starting slowly if you’re new to using whips. This kind of power and punishment play is really fun, but can get painful very quickly if you and your partner don’t talk it out first. Ask where they’d like to be whipped and discuss a scale to assess pain, 10 being the hardest whip and 1 being the softest.
It’s also a good idea to come up with a safe word other than “stop.” Go for something totally random that you’d never say during sex. Maybe try: “sticker” or “asphalt.”
Wax play is another common part of BDSM often depicted least on television, books, and film.
It involves dripping wax onto someone or having wax dripped on you, says Richmond. The biggie here is using appropriate candles. The scented ones you’ve got around your house will likely not do the trick and might even burn you or your partner. Opt for paraffin or soy candles that slowly pool wax as they burn and don’t instantly harden when poured onto the body—this way you can have bit of fun moving the wax around before it stiffens.
Carole Queen, PhD, 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. “Bondage is a trust exercise above all, and can be done for its own sake—Japanese bondage, in particular, is aesthetically beautiful and sexy to do—or to add to other kinds of sensation, from intercourse to spanking and more,” says Queen.
She warns, however, that it should be practiced with caution as any kind of bondage that is too tight is not only uncomfortable but can cause permanent nerve damage. To make sure you’re practicing bondage safely, it’s best to school yourself on best practices and most importantly set boundaries to ensure the safety of all those involved in the practice. One common practice is the use of a safe word, which signals that the bondage needs to end immediately.
8. 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. “A common combination is an adult and a ‘baby’ who would be cared for like an infant or young child,” says McDevitt. 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. Queen says that this fetish really isn’t too surprising, since hands are such significant sexual tools. “Many of us have daydreamed about the feeling of hands all over us, so this just takes such an erotic focus a few steps farther.”
Quirofilia may involve an attraction to certain parts of the hands, manicures or certain acts performed by the hands, from washing dishes to handjobs. If you have a hand fetish and want to explore it with your partner, you should talk to them about ways you can introduce it into your sex life, maybe as a form of foreplay.
10. 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.
In certain cases, a person may appreciate the feet more than the person they’re attached to, says Queen, but [feet] should really be looked at as an added source of a turn-on, not a substitute for a real connection with another person. “In fact, you can think of any kink basically this way: a “cherry-on-top” erotic treat, or a way to focus desire and arousal.”