Sexual Fetishes: What You Need to Know The Difference Between a Fetish and Kink

The Difference Between a Fetish and Kink

To an outsider, it can be challenging to understand how fetishes are any different from kinks. In terms of the behaviors involved, the two can definitely overlap but they are distinct. “People who are in the kink community like to discriminate fetish from kink by saying that kink is more focused on the person but the activity is part of the fun,” says Devore. On the other hand, people who have a fetish are intensely focused on a specific object or ritual as part of their sexuality. They need whatever that is to experience any kind of sexual arousal or turn-on, making their sexuality more dependent on their fetish than on their partner.

Shoes and Feet

Both common knowledge and research show that foot and shoe fetishes are quite popular. This, however, is a good lesson in the illusion of the “common” fetish. “There are people who want to massage feet, they want to lick and kiss feet, people who prefer people with socks on, people who prefer people with boots on — the boots have to be of a particular kind or of a certain kind of dirtiness,” says Devore. “These things can become very, very, very specific.” Because of the way fetishes seem to develop — during a particular moment in childhood — specificity like this occurs in the vast majority of fetishes.

Parts of the Body

In drawing the line between fetish and other kinds of sexual attraction, it’s important to understand how body parts play a different role in the fetish world. Rather than merely being attracted to women with shapely legs or a large butt, someone with a fetish is hyper-focused on that singular body part and its particulars. It is necessary for their sexual arousal. Devore explains this in terms of people with hand fetishes. “They will come and they will talk about hands in a way that seems so overly determined, it’s just amazing to listen to the kind of tiny detail these men will look for in particular kinds of hands,” says Devore. “And that’s what makes a partner attractive.”


Many, many men (and women too) get turned on by lingerie. Again, it only becomes a fetish, per se, when it becomes about the specificity. “There is a whole range of lingerie that regular men are going to be able to get turned on with, that have lots of different styles, lots of different color,” says Devore. “For the guys who are true lingerie fetishists, they become focused on one very important aspect of how the lingerie has to be.” He says a fetish for black, lacy lingerie is common now but that these predilections have a historical context. At some point in time, men had fetishes for corsets, but some only cared about those with whalebone stays and those tied only with ribbon didn’t do it for them.


This is another fetish that gets a lot of attention. There are entire conventions and street fairs devoted to it. Like all fetishes, there is an unending range of leather preferences. Devore says some people are into the costume of it, others like how they look in it. Some like the smell and some need to feel it on their face. “When people talk about they’re ‘into leather,’ you’d better find out what that means because it can mean very, very many things,” says Devore.


This category of people with fetishes has gotten a lot of attention recently. These are people who dress up as animals as part of their sexual activities (there are also people in this community who don’t engage in the sexual aspect). People with this fetish generally prefer to have a partner who is into it too. Devore says it is common for people with this fetish to change up their furry persona, with each outfit potentially costing thousands of dollars.


People who have a plushy fetish get focused on stuffed animals as sexual objects, often modifying them into sex toys. Just as with a partner of someone without a fetish, people with fetishes can fall in love with their fetish object. For those who have a plushy fetish, this can be problematic, given that these stuffed animals are not designed for sexual activity and may wear out over time. If someone has fallen in love with a particular plush toy, they can’t merely replace it, just as you can’t replace a person. (This love of a particular fetish object can happen in other fetishes as well.)


Although this can be said for quite a few fetishes (and kinks), cutting definitely falls into a category of sexual acts that can be extremely dangerous, even deadly. People who have a cutting fetish have to be careful about their interests. Any partners involved have to be willing, and most prefer if their partner shares a similar fetish. They also have to know how to cut safely and what to do if something goes wrong. Cutting, even in a consensual context, has the potential to become illegal and lead to severe consequences.

Breath Play

Types of “breath play” often involve losing oxygen, sometimes up to the point of passing out, during sex. Devore says that people who have this fetish need to take precautions, particularly making sure they have an attentive partner. “If they pass out and don’t come back in literally a few seconds, that partner better be trained in CPR,” says Devore.