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Kink vs Fetish: What’s the Difference?


person exploring kink vs fetish

In everyday conversations, the words kink and fetish may be used interchangeably when discussing any sexual desire that may fall outside of mainstream ideas of sexuality. However, there are some noteworthy key differences.

What Defines a Kink vs a Fetish


The word fetish refers to a sexual interest or fixation on a particular act or object that is absolutely vital for sex in order for a person to achieve sexual fulfillment. In other words, there is a connection to having a psychological need for these items in order to achieve orgasm. Often times, fetishes can include shoes, certain sex toys, body parts such as feet, nylons, inanimate objects, behaviors, or a soft blanket to name a few.


As for a kink, this is a broader umbrella term that encompasses sexual acts or interests usually considered out of “mainstream” sexual activities. Examples may include impact play, BDSM, rope play, orgasm control, role play, golden showers, etc. Think of kink as the ability to enhance the sexual experience, whereas a fetish is something that is necessary to complete the sexual experience.


According to HuffPost, all fetishes are kinks, but not all kinks are fetishes. For example, what may be a kink for one person within the kink community, could be a fetish for another. Fetishes generally develop early in a person’s life and can be based on experiences during childhood and adolescence.


Sex Therapist and Sex Educator, Shannon Chavez, states that the developing of fetishes and kinks are reinforced by both sexual arousal and pleasure while engaging in that behavior while we are growing as sexual human beings and learning what brings us pleasure. However, that doesn’t always have to be the case.


Kinks and fetishes can be developed later in life when our brains learn to pair a non-sexual situation/event/object with sexual gratification. For example, if you tend to have sex on a soft red blanket, every time you see soft red blankets, your desire may skyrocket.


Presentations of Various Kinks vs Fetishes


Kinks and fetishes don’t always have to involve the actual act of intercourse. For example, you can have kinky phone sex, enjoy a kinky fantasy, or use kink during foreplay. Maybe you’ll try learning how to properly tie a knot with your partner(s). You don’t even have to achieve orgasm while engaging in this play. There is no right or wrong scenario. Below are some examples of kinks:


  • Bigs/Littles – consenting adults entering a scene taking on roles/ages that are not their own. Someone may want to play in a crib, wear a diaper, use a pacifier, or enjoy their partner taking care of them and calling them “mommy” or “daddy.”
  • Praise kink – can also be known as “affirmation play” – where one enjoys being called a good boy/girl and gets further aroused by compliments, applauded, or recognized
  • Degradation kink (erotic humiliation) – This can occur in a dominance and submission relationship – where the dom calls their sub a “slut” or “a dirty little whore” during sex (consensually, of course)
  • Orgasm Control – Also occurring in a dom/sub relationship, where the submissive partner permits the dominant partner control when they can/can’t orgasm.
  • Voyeurism – obtaining excitement from watching others engage in sex or sexual acts


Some popular fetishes include:


  • Feet – having a desire to worship someone’s feet (through kissing, massage, or even providing a pedicure)
  • Nylons – requiring nylons to obtain arousal/pleasure (you are enjoying the look/feel of nylons, or need to wear nylons yourself to reach climax
  • Being spanked – obtaining pleasure from spanking
  • Trichophilia – the sexual attraction to human hair
  • Agalmatophilia – the attraction to inanimate objects (e.g. dolls, mannequins, poles, carnival rides)
  • Hematolagnia – obtaining pleasure from drinking blood (in a sexual and SAFE way)


How to Explore Kinks & Fetishes


Many individuals have interests geared towards kinky, and it is as though each and every one of us has a kink profile as well as an erotic blueprint. There are benefits to exploring this side of ourselves or finding a partner to explore with, if it is something that piques some interest. For example, it can help you get to know yourself and your needs in a more intimate way, gain empowerment, achieve some sort of emotional relief, and feel some sense of taking back control of your life.


The possibilities of exploration are endless. Now, go get kinky, and try to have some fun with it and remain judgment free to yourself and all parties involved.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Raquel VanLoon, LCPC, CSAT, CADC, is a Clinical Associate for Modern Intimacy. Raquel feels passionate about helping individuals through their journey on becoming their most authentic selves in any relationship or setting. Raquel works with people to develop and maintain healthy boundaries.



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