What’s the Difference Between a Kink and Fetish?

With the rising popularity of BDSM, people are becoming more comfortable talking about kinks and fetishes. Though casual conversation of BDSM helps bring awareness and promotes sexual expression, we tend to throw around the terms ‘kink’ and ‘fetish’ around, thinking they’re the same. And while these two terms are used almost interchangeably, they actually hold their own definitions and differences. By knowing the differences between the two, next time you’re having a kinky chat with your partner, you’ll know what you’re talking about. So, what are the differences between a ‘kink’ and a ‘fetish’?


What is a fetish?

In general, a fetish is a sexual obsession to a specific body part or object, not inherently sexual in nature. For example, someone may have a foot fetish or shoe fetish, neither being sexual objects. A fetish is essential to an individual’s sexual identity, meaning their fetish must be incorporated into their sex lives.


What is a kink?

A kink is a broader term than a fetish. When an individual has a kink, it means they’re attracted to a variety of sexual interests that go beyond vanilla sex. This includes BDSM, impact play, and roleplaying. Essentially, kinks are beyond conventional sex acts, and include but aren’t limited to:


  • Bondage
  • Spanking
  • Strap-on sex
  • Fisting
  • Male Chastity
  • Furry
  • Voyeurism
  • Foot Worship
  • FemDom
  • Ageplay


So if you thought sex in doggy style was kinky, think again. When it comes to kinky sex, it’s all about adventuring outside “normal” sex.


What are the differences between ‘fetish’ and ‘kink’?

Though they share similarities, having a kink and fetish are two different things. You may find that they overlap, and that’s because it’s true. When it comes to kinks and fetishes, there is a grey area between the two – no one said sex was black and white!


The best way to understand the differences is to think of it like this: all fetishes are kinks, but not all kinks are fetishes. For example, someone’s kink could be seeing their partner in high heels while having sex, but this can also be another person’s fetish.


  • Fetishes are psychological

The main difference between a kink and fetish is the psychological connection someone has with their fetish. Someone with a kink can have a sexual experience without performing any sexual acts that are outside of mainstream sex. In other words, they’re able to have sex in the missionary position, for example, and receive sexual pleasure and gratification. Whereas, someone with a fetish is psychologically and sexually dependent on a specific act or object. A fetishist will not be able to become aroused without their fetish; they’re psychologically dependent on it for sexual pleasure.


  • Most fetishes develop from early life

Like we said above, fetishes are connected to an individual’s psychological state. Now, having a fetish doesn’t mean someone is unhealthy or mentally unstable. However, it’s believed that fetishism develops from childhood experiences.


If someone has a fetish for a specific object, they had a strong sexual connection with that object during childhood. The desire of a particular object is developed through reinforcement. If they received sexual gratification from leather pants or shoes during childhood, for example, the behavior will continue to develop sexually in their adult years. Whereas an individual’s kinks can develop through sexual experimentation, etc.


  • Kinks are not necessary for sexual pleasure

Unlike fetishes, people who have kinks can have them for a variety of reasons. If someone is engaging in spanking, S&M, or role-playing, it doesn’t necessarily mean they become aroused from it. For many people, kinks allow them to release or gain control and experiment with role reversal. That’s what creates the arousal. The act itself isn’t necessarily providing sexual pleasure; rather it’s the emotional release they experience while performing it.


  • Fetishists cannot be aroused without their fetish

If your partner has a foot fetish that you can’t stand, the odds are you two aren’t going to last long. Fetishes aren’t kinks. A person with a fetish isn’t able to become aroused unless they incorporate their fetish into sex. Many people assume that a fetish is something that can be “dropped” but unless the person attends therapy to overcome their fetish, they’re not going to change.


  • Kinks are subjective

The term fetish is pretty defined, not leaving much room for interpretation. However, when it comes to ‘kink,’ it’s very broad. In reality, there are no defining factors that make someone kinky. The mainstream community decided that S&M, bondage, and spanking are kinks; however, what’s considered “normal sex” is a social construct. Kinks are subjective as they’re sexual behaviors that don’t fall under a social norm.


Though kinks and fetishes share many similarities, there are also clear differences. If you were wondering which category you fall under, by knowing what each term means, you’ll have a clearer picture of where you stand.


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