A version of this article was published in August 2016.
The word kink might make you think of that “Sex and the City” episode where a shoe salesman offers Charlotte free heels in exchange for the freedom to caress her feet, or the BDSM scenes in “50 Shades of Grey.” And while “SATC” and erotic novels have done their fair share of educating the world on kinky sex, what lies beneath a fetish—and the challenge of having one in a world that’s still largely vanilla—tends to be a little more complex.
“A kink can be anything that is outside of the hetero-normative model,” says clinical sexologist and couple’s therapist Dr. Eve, author of the best-selling book Cyber Infidelity: The New Seduction. “As long as it’s practiced with consent and without harm to the fetishist or others, it’s not a problem. But some people can’t get aroused without their particular kink, which can lead to relationship conflict and dating problems. By normalizing kinks that aren’t intrusive to others, people with fetishes should be supported, not shamed.”
Sex therapist Chuck Franks, LCSW, CST, agrees with Wasserman. “A fetish is narrowly defined by one sexual attraction and need for an inanimate object to be part of the sexual act for the individual to get off. But I’d ask how can we incorporate anything into our sex lives that does turn us on, because our sexuality is a delicate mixture of turn-ons and turn-offs that work at the exact same time,” he explains. “So a better definition of fetish might actually be an individual’s ability to intentionally focus on one item that excites them in the midst of an overactive sexual inhibition constellation.” In other words, putting your attention on shoes, pet costumes, or any other thing that turns you on and gets you off is actually a great tool—assuming it’s not hurting you or anyone else.
Regardless of what underlying psychological factors or conscious motivations might be at play, the fact remains that fetishes are fascinating. Whether you have a kink of your own, are dating someone who does, or are just curious, click through the gallery to find out more about 10 sex kinks.