If you've been using the terms "kink" and "fetish" interchangeably, you're not alone. But the truth is, kinks and fetishes are not the same thing! In fact, each term describes a specific facet of someone's sexuality, and the difference between them is probably bigger than you think.
Follow along as I breakdown the main differences between a kink and a fetish, and how to explore both safely.
What is a Kink?
Outside the context of sexuality and BDSM, the word kink is defined as a sharp curve or twist in something that's otherwise straight. And that's a good way to think about kink in general. A kink can be anything that someone might consider off the beaten path of societal norms.
In the context of sex specifically, the word kink is an umbrella term that describes a broad range of sexual practices and desires that are considered unconventional, or outside the realm of "normal" sexual behavior.
Kink is a subjective term, which means that what one person finds kinky, another person might consider totally normal. For example, some might think it's kinky to use sex toys with a partner while others might consider it standard practice.
Incorporating kink into sex — whether it be a solo session or partnered play — can supercharge arousal and create a more satisfying experience. There's no limit to how many kinks a person can have, and it's typical for people to have many different kinks under one larger umbrella kink.
For example, if someone has a humiliation kink, they might also have a kink for bondage, power play, and domestic servitude — three kinks that feed into the primary kink of humiliation.
So, how does a kink differ from a fetish? Let's take a closer look.
What is a Fetish?
A fetish is an intense desire or fixation on an object, body part, or activity that may or may not seem expressly sexual in nature, but has powerful erotic appeal for the person who experiences it.
Fetishes vary greatly from person to person, and are often influenced and developed as a result of personal experiences. As with kinks, fetishes are often deemed sexually deviant or outside the realm of societal norms. Any kink you can think of can also be a fetish.
Learn: What Is a Dominant and Submissive Relationship?
While exploring a particular kink can be a fun way to amp up excitement or occasionally spice up your sex life, a fetish is not quite as casual. In fact, a fetish is something that must be present for a person to experience true arousal.
The Difference Between a Kink and Fetish
The big difference between a kink and a fetish is that one is a want and the other is a need.
If you have a kink, it can be a fantastic way to explore your sexuality and create a more satisfying erotic experience. If you have a fetish, you generally can't become fully aroused unless that fetish is incorporated in some way.
For example, if Joe has a kink for feet (very common, by the way!), then he might look at pictures of feet while he masturbates to feel extra turned on. But if Joe has a foot fetish, then looking at foot pictures or being otherwise stimulated by feet is mandatory for arousal.
Video: Watch me explain the difference between a kink and fetish!
Simply put, exploring various kinks can be a super fun way to experiment with different sensations and turn-ons, but they're not needed to have a sexually gratifying experience. Fetishes, on the other hand, are.
Now, there is one common thread that kinks and fetishes must always share: consent. Let's dive a bit deeper into the world of kinks and fetishes and learn how to explore them safely.
How to Safely Explore Kinks and Fetishes
To explore kinks and fetishes safely, it's important to establish open communication with partners and prioritize informed consent.
This means having honest conversations about wants and needs, learning about risks associated with particular kinks and fetishes, establishing boundaries and safewords, preparing an aftercare plan, and regularly checking in during play.
More: What is Consensual Non-Consent Kink?
Remember that negotiation is necessary when exploring new sexual territory with a partner, but that never means compromising personal safety, boundaries, or consent. No matter the kink or fetish, sex should always be fun and respectful for everyone involved.
Not sure how to pick a safeword? Wondering about the difference between hard and soft limits? Check out my guide to BDSM safety for a more detailed discussion of how to explore kinks and fetishes safely.
Now that you know more about the differences between kinks and fetishes and how to explore them safely, you're ready to go forth and give it a try. Once you're fully armed with safewords, aftercare strategies, and informed consent, you might want to browse our full BDSM collection to add some fun toys to your kink arsenal.
In the meantime, be sure to reach out if any questions arise — I'm always here to help. Oh, and don't forget to follow Delicto on Instagram and TikTok for more sex education, product reviews, and tutorials. Play safe, everybody!