Kink… Fetish… Two words often used interchangeably. But as lifestyles once shunned as “deviant” become more acceptable in mainstream popular culture, kink and fetish will continue to appear more and more in general conversation, and people want to know: Is there a difference between the two words?
These words must mean the same thing on some level. Calling someone a kinky fetishist or a fetishistic kinkster seems awfully redundant. It’s like saying, “The wet rain fell from the sky.” Yet, by definition, these two words actually mean two different things.
Definitions for kink can be as varied as the author creating the definition, so for this particular discussion, I’m going to simply define kink as a word used for uncommon sexual concepts, activities, and practices. For example, someone might ask, “What kind of kink turns you on?” Someone can be labeled as kinky, a word used to describe people and their unconventional sexual tastes. A person could be considered kinkier than another person, or even considered the kinkiest in a group of people. On a scale of 1-to-10, the level of kinkiness would rate very high for a kinkster—who a person who enjoys kink and kinky activities.
The word fetish has a fascinating origin as the name given to the mystical objects collected from Africa by European travelers in the 16th and 17th centuries. With a belief that these simple objects might possess supernatural powers that could enchant and enslave a person, it is not surprising that the word fetish would evolve to also include the very sexual arousal and gratification received from nonsexual objects, activities, attributes and/or stimuli. A person who possesses a sexual fetish or an erotic fetishism might be described as having a fetishistic nature. A fetishistic person is called a fetishist.
Are they the same?
Human sexuality experts seem to agree that there are clear differences between kink and fetish that should be noted despite the lack of consensus pinpointing exactly where one falls in relation to the other. After all, fetishism is finding sexual pleasure in the nonsexual, which is not exactly commonplace, and by definition, any uncommon sexual practice is kink. Alternately, some could perceive any regularly practiced kink that involves nonsexual objects to elicit sexual arousal as fetish.
Some lifestyle participants believe the difference between kink and fetish is determined by whether the erotism focuses on the human or the objects or rituals surrounding the scene, and which elements are subject to change – the partner, the object/ritual, or both. If the participants can change, but not the objects and rituals ultimately used to find sexual gratification, then we’ve entered fetish territory.
Others say kink and fetish is the difference between wanting and needing, desired or required, and whether one has the ability to find arousal and completion when forced to go without. In essence, if you want it, and it arouses you, but you can still achieve an orgasm without it, it’s probably a kink. If you need it, you require it for arousal, and cannot find any satisfaction without it, then it’s probably a fetish.