Kinks vs Fetishes - What Is the Difference?

Kinks vs Fetishes - What Is the Difference?

One need not identify as being in the BDSM community in order to have a kink or a fetish, even though these two terms do fall under the umbrella of it. In fact, it’s really quite normal for individuals to have one or more kinks, and possibly one or even more fetishes

Even so, these two terms are often used interchangeably, which is incorrect. There is a difference between a kink and a fetish, so let us tell you how they differ and what they are today.

BLOG: Kinks vs Fetishes - What Is the Difference?

Difference Between Kinks and Fetishes

Here is a short definition of a kink and a fetish. We’ll expand more on these terms below.

A kink is anything that can be categorised as a non-conventional sex act that brings about sexual arousal. If you’ve heard of the term “vanilla” then a kink would essentially be the opposite of that. 

A fetish is an abnormal sexual desire for something such as an object, a body part (usually non-genitalia), a certain type of material, and more. In this way, almost anything can be fetishised. 

What Is a Kink?

To get more in detail, a kink is often dependent on what society deems “normal”  as well as other factors that can be unique to an individual, such as:

  • One’s social circle
  • Media exposure 
  • Sexual history 

For example, if an individual grows up in a more sheltered community and has not learned much about sexual exploration, they may see things such as 69, anal, or threesomes as non-conventional sex acts which bring them sexual arousal and thus, they’re considered a kink

Some of the most common kinks include: 

What Is a Fetish?

According to sexologist Carol Queen, there are three widely cited requirements for something to be a fetish:

  1. It falls outside of the typical boundaries of what society has deemed “normal” sexual activity.
  2. It’s arousing.
  3. It must be present for someone to experience pleasure.

On the other hand, these days it is less common for individuals such as sex therapists to reiterate that the fetish must be present to experience pleasure.

In other words, a lot of professionals believe that when the fetish is present, it simply enhances the experience.

An example: if someone has a foot fetish, being able to engage in foot play during intimacy will undoubtedly supercharge their eroticism but it isn’t always necessary for that component to be a part of playtime

This, however, may depend on the individual.

Some of the most common fetishes include:

  • Feet
  • Nylon 
  • Leather
  • Piercings
  • Uniforms
  • High heels
  • Latex

The Major Differences

In one sentence, what’s the major difference between a kink and a fetish? A kink is a sexual preference while a kink is a sexual need. 

As Taylor Sparks, erotic educator, says:

“Someone who finds wearing high heel shoes while having sex to be arousing has a high heel kink,” she says. “But someone who NEEDS high heels to be present during sex in order to experience arousal has a high heel fetish.”

Let’s look at two examples to make things even simpler…

In example one: Samantha and David have been play partners for a few months and they’ve decided to experiment in the bedroom. They’ve recently discovered that they enjoy bondage, such as using handcuffs and blindfolds. This has proven to be a great turn-on for both Samantha and David and thus is a kink for both partners.

In example two: a young man called Gareth finds himself completely aroused when he thinks about or can live out his foot fetish. For him, this is his primary source of arousal and thus anything else doesn’t quite come close to it, sexually. This is a fetish.

Are Kinks and Fetishes Harmful?

Almost always, no. Kinks and fetishes are often harmless and are merely specific and personal acts or things that bring about sexual arousal

Interestingly, there are some personality traits that are common in those who have kinks or fetishes

For example, it’s been shown that those who are in the BDSM community, practising kinks and possible fetishes, often have higher levels of socioeconomic functioning, are more intelligent, and are more in tune with themselves. 

On the other hand, there is such a thing called “fetishistic disorder” which means that there is clinically significant personal distress or impairment in one’s social or occupational life due to one’s intense sexual attraction to something.

Interestingly, fetishistic disorder is almost always found exclusively in males.

A Kink No Longer?

This is an interesting topic to explore as we look at how society has evolved over the years. You see, what was considered a kink ten, twenty, thirty, or more years ago, could very well be something quite mainstream today. 

For example, 15 plus years ago, Playboy magazine was a common source of arousal for many. In it, you’d see women dressed in lingerie, posing slightly provocatively. So those who grew up with Playboy, may believe that lingerie is a kink

Alternatively, in today's society, the effect for those who flip through Victoria’s Secret catalogues is not the same. Today, viewing this kind of imagery is merely to succumb to a form of marketing and these images are socially acceptable. So… is lingerie considered a kink today?

Another excellent example is that of Baywatch. When this popular television show aired, people all over the world flocked to see Pamela Anderson in her tight, red bathing suit with her cleavage exposed due to her large breasts. This was most likely because It was not all that common back then to see women with a large chest. Today, however, the world of plastic surgery has risen exponentially. It’s much more common to see larger (fake) breasts and deeper cleavage. 

BLOG: Kinks vs Fetishes - What Is the Difference?

Best Way to Start Exploring Your Kinks and Fetishes

Of course there will be different approaches depending on if you already know what your kink(s) and fetish(es) are or if you’d like to discover if you have any. 

If it’s the latter, it can be thrilling to discover something about yourself through experiences such as watching porn and/or movies, being with a partner who can expose you to new things, or engaging in solo play

Other ways you could find out if you have any kinks and fetishes include:

Creating a Yes-No-Maybe List

This is a fun one, kind of like a cheeky game whereby you find a Yes-No-Maybe list online (there are many out there, simply Google it to find one you like) and then answer the questions accordingly to find out what excites you. 

Some examples to answer yes/no/maybe to would be:

Sparks suggests that you return to your list and recreate it every few years. 

“As with any human experience, things and situations change,” she says. “Sometimes what turned you on in your 20s no longer has the same appeal. But as we get to know more and more about our own bodies and desires, as humans are naturally curious, we seek out different experiences.”

Taking an Online BDSM Quiz

Everyone loves a good ol’ quiz, so why not try a free assessment that’ll perhaps uncover something about you? It’s called the BDSM Test and it’s a good place to start when it comes to learning about kinks and fetishes

Online Kink and Fetish Spaces

Not everything is going to be your cup of tea, but in your online research, joining forums, social media sites, and kink-inspired events can be very helpful. 

For example, FetLife is like a social media platform for kinky people to explore, share, and talk about their desires, and to meet others. Here, you can talk to people, view images and videos, and read more about other others’ experiences.

Educating Yourself

For the information you’re getting to be valid and credible, we don’t suggest reading random blogs and sites on the Internet. By “educate” we mean consulting a professional such as a sex educator, sex therapist, or a sex worker. 

If you are more comfortable browsing the web, some reliable platforms include:

  • Sex Hacker Pro Course
  • Kink Academy 
  • Podcast: Why Are People Into That?!

Then, if you’re already familiar with a kink or fetish that you may have but haven’t had the chance to get acquainted with it yet, here are some ways to start exploring your kink or fetish:

Being Intentional About Who You’re Exploring With

While all sexual activity should be done in a safe, sane, and consensual manner, some kinks and fetishes can be considered a higher risk, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s very important to be intentional as to who you choose to experiment with—someone with whom you trust, feel comfortable with, can have an open and honest relationship with, and who will be patient and kind with you. 

Solo Exploration 

It is entirely possible to explore some possible kinks and fetishes during solo playtime. This might actually be a good thing as you can feel more comfortable alone before you decide to share your fantasies with others.

Some ways you can entertain your curiosity could include:

  • Following or reading erotica to transport you into the scene. Try to replicate the sensations and words, be creative.
  • Using sex toys such as floggers or paddles for impact play. Or use candle waxwarm lube or cooling lube for sensation play.
  • Trying orgasm denial whereby you bring yourself to the brink of orgasm then deny it over and over. You may set rules for yourself that you’re allowed to orgasm if you do a certain task or action. 

Voyeurism or Kink/BDSM Expos

If you want to see your kink or fetish in live-action before you give it a try, there are a few ways you can indulge. For example, you could visit a swingers club or a sex club that specialises in the kind of things you’re interested in. Or, you could visit a public kink or BDSM expo. There are many that happen around the world every year such as:

  • The Xbiz Show
  • AVN Adult Entertainment Expo
  • Fetish Celebration 
  • BoundCon
  • Ero Spain
  • German Fetish Fair

Bringing Them Up With Your Partner(s)

Have an Open Discussion

Learning about kinks and fetishes together is a great way to get an open discussion started with your partner. Talking to each other in a non-judgemental space, leaves room to be authentic and to communicate without shame. It also gives both partners the chance to feel safe enough to talk, and who knows—you may just be pleasantly surprised. 

Talk About Your Limits Beforehand

Before you dive into experimentation and enjoy your kink or fetish, talking about it in detail beforehand is vital. When doing this, both of your limits should be discussed and these should be non-negotiable. If you feel uncomfortable or pressured at any point, then we recommend not going through with it.

Choose a Safe Word

To further create a safe and pleasurable experience, a safe word is highly recommended during playtime. A safe word is a clear and effective way to communicate “no” to a partner during a sexual act. It’s the quickest way to end the current play in case of any discomfort or if anything is “not okay”. 

Safety Considerations

Lastly, for ultimate peace of mind and preparation, it’s important to discuss and be mindful of any safety concerns. Some kinks and fetishes do hold more risks than others, such as impact play for example. 

One thing you could consider is to experiment with a sex worker as you navigate your interests. There are some who specialise in certain things, so finding one whose interests are congruent to yours may prove to be invaluable as they may help you explore your potential kink or fetish for the first time.

According to Carol Queen, PhD, sexologist:

“Professionals may have so much more information about varying kinks, AND be so much easier to talk to and negotiate with, that it can be like a lab setting for exploring your sexuality.”

On the other hand, if you’re wanting to experiment with a partner, Queen says:

“Even before you get into different kinds of sexual play with someone, you can look for how comfortable they seem with sex, how easy they are to communicate with, and whether they express judgement about others’ sexual choices to determine if they’re a good fit.”


In summary, as we weigh up the differences between a kink vs a fetish, it’s evident that they’re two different things. 

Despite this, they’re both a part of the world of sexuality and arousal, and they’re both unique and personal to an individual. 

As long as one is exploring and immersing themselves in their kink or fetish in a safe, sane, and consensual way, then we say: go forth and enjoy your intimate experiences because we all deserve it.

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