Fetish and kink – how do you use these words? For many people they seem to be interchangeable. When it comes to terminology, however, interchangeable essentially means redundant. In this post I describe the way that I personally use these terms. I am suggesting a distinction that I think makes both of these terms useful in the pervert’s vocabulary.

Two reservations: First, this is far from a universally accepted usage for either of these words. And second, this distinction comes from the perspective of a self-described kinkster who is not a fetishist. I confess that the word fetish is something I often use with some judgment.Image result for voodoo doll

Let us start with fetish, then. Despite the exotic sound, the word actually comes from Latin – through Portuguese, where it means magic or sorcery. Essentially the conventional use of the word in European languages denotes a physical object endowed with spiritual meaning, often literally believed to be the physical manifestation or habitation of a supernatural being. All others uses are essentially metaphorical. In psychology, however, the term has traditionally meant to endow a physical object (which can be a body part or not) with sexual power and meaning, often to the degree where the fetishist becomes incapable of sexually functioning in the absence of the fetish.

Kink, on the other hand, is a Dutch word meaning a twist in a piece of rope – how appropriate! When applied to sexual preferences, however, it suggests “deviance” from the norm. So any unusual, exotic, or transgressive sexual activity would qualify as a kink. Of course, what is unusual, exotic, or transgressive to one person, is normative or even dull to another. As I like to say, “fisting; it’s only the kinky the first time”.Image result for rope bondage close up

As you will see from these origins, a fetish has traditionally referred to something physical, where as a kink describes an activity or a practice. And this is the way I choose to use the words. For me, one can have a fetish for leather, rubber, or jockstraps. One can even have a fetish for feet, I suppose, or another body party. On the other hand, a kink would be a practice like spanking, electro play, sounding, and, of course, fisting. And, I suppose, foot worship would be a kink – but so would foot torture. Another example: bondage is a kink, but rope (or handcuffs, or chains) is a fetish.

Personally, I do not consider myself a fetishist. Yes, I own some rubber and leather gear, but mostly because I need to follow dress code for certain events. I don’t particularly feel sexier when wearing gear, except when I can tell that someone else is turned on by it. Additionally, while I enjoy looking at at sexy guys in sexy gear, during sex I believe that less is more – the gear I use during sex is tools and toys, not fashion or style. So, a harness is for bondage, and a jockstrap is a milder form of chastity – not fashion statements.

I admit that I use the word fetish most often in a judgmental, even pejorative sense. For me, fetish is fashion, not sex, and it is a consumer culture, rather than a sub- or counter-culture. There is nothing less sexy (and less tasteful) to me than spending thousands of euros in order to look exactly like someone else, but most fetishists essentially opt for some kind of uniform. I generally find the “the gear stays on” attitude of many people too fetishistic. Objectification can be sexy, when the object is a hot guy – but when the gear becomes a requirement, the sexy guy hasn’t been objectified – he’s been replaced. Essentially, fetishists bore me.

Of course, this is only a suggestion. However, it is congruent with the histories of the two terms, and I believe, useful, both as a description and as a critique of our culture around sex, fetish, and kink. How about you? Which do you consider yourself? Do you have your own uses for the terms, or do you just admit defeat and use them as synonyms? Let me know below.