What’s a Fetish?
The most useful definition I’ve come across for a fetish is that it’s something that someone desires for no reason.
For example, suppose someone likes to be tied up. OK, so, why do they like to be tied up?
Perhaps, for instance, they love being tickled. But, if they get really tickled in the way that they like, they might flail around and hurt themselves. Bondage is a way to get tickled safely.
Thus being tied up might not itself be a fetish. It could just be a tool to get what they want. Or, it might also be a fetish as well. Someone might like being tied up for its own sake. And like to be tickled. Ooh! Double pleasure!
If you keep asking “why”, eventually you get down to a desire that has no “why”. There is no reason.
Someone desires something, just because.
People love to come up with explanations for fetishes. Childhood experience, mental illness, a sublimated desire for harm, internalizing oppression… lots of explanations.
Yet for every person that you can find who has a particular fetish and has some other attribute, issue, history, or problem, you can find someone else with that fetish who doesn’t have that problem, history, issue, or attribute.
Fetish desires can be more binary.
Often someone who doesn’t have a fetish doesn’t want it at all.
And not infrequently, to not merely have a mild preference against the fetish (“Oh, that’s not something I like”), but to be repulsed, maybe even disgusted or grossed out by the fetish.
Such that it can be hard to even imagine why anyone would desire such a thing.
The only way they can imagine themselves wanting something like that is if they were mentally ill. Suffering from unresolved trauma or abuse. Deeply confused. Or brainwashed.
And, even they have no problem with someone else having a fetish, someone who doesn’t have a fetish often will have zero desire to participate in the fetish themselves. No interest whatsoever.
Maybe, sometimes, someone might to be willing to help a partner satisfy a fetish they don’t have themselves because they love and care for them and they don’t mind helping out. Other times, just no.
For someone who does have a fetish, desire for the fetish can ebb and flow. Someone may find they strongly desire the fetish at times and no so much at other times.
Because a fetish has no “why”, has no reason, it can be a uniquely powerful desire.
There may not be a substitution. Sometimes, there can be. Other times, someone may find that they can either satisfy their fetish, or not.
To satisfy a fetish can take a lot of work. To find a compatible partner, perhaps to take a class to learn how to do it safely, to run the risk of being mocked or outed (if you’re in a situation where you need to keep your sexuality private).
And, if satisfying a fetish turns out not to be practical, or safe, or would have some negative consequence, someone may need to deal with their unrequited desire.
Perhaps to see a therapist if their situation is making them unhappy.
Or perhaps to simply indulge in their fetish through the power of imagination, through fantasy, roleplay, or fiction.
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