Kink vs Fetish: What's the Difference?

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Kink vs Fetish: What's the Difference?


Let’s talk about kinks and fetishes, shall we? These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but are they the same thing? The short answer is no, not really. The longer and more interesting answer is that while both sexual behavior descriptors can apply to fantasies, scenarios and acts that tend to fall outside the realm of more traditional sexual activities, they actually have two different, distinct meanings. 

So what is a kink? What is a fetish? And most importantly, what's the difference between a kink and a fetish? Where does bondage and BDSM or sensation play fit  in? We’re going to tell you all you need to know about kinks and fetishes, what they are, why they are not the same thing, and, if you’re intrigued, how you (and possibly your partner(s) can explore kinks and fetishes safely.


What Is A Kink?

Let’s dive right into kinks for beginners. The term kink is actually an umbrella term, and a whole lot of activities fall into that list of kinks. Generally speaking, things relating to sexuality that may fall outside of mainstream activities or desires are labeled as “kink.” Don’t shy away from asking questions about what you may be interested in. Such as “what is cnc kink?” or “what is wax play?”, because if you don’t ask you’ll never know! Popular sexual kinks include BDSM, role playing, cbt kink, spanking, group sex and voyeurism but there are many, many more. 

Keep in mind that kinkiness is extremely subjective. Some folks might find vibrators kinky, while others think they are a pretty typical part of their sex life. For some folks, kink involves bondage whips, chains, and leather masks, and others might find sex with the lights on to be just kinky enough for them. None of these people are wrong. Kink means different things to every person, and that’s okay!


What Is A Fetish?

While a sexual fetish is similar to a kink in that it’s usually a less ‘traditional’ sexual interest (popular fetishes include, but are by no means limited to, masochism, group play, sadism, feet, humiliation, and whipping), there's one key difference between the two. When someone has a sexual fetish, whether it’s outdoor sexual play, cock and ball torture, whatever, the sexual act or object is necessary for sexual arousal to occur. In other words, what makes a sexual fetish a fetish, is the need to focus on that object or act or specific fantasy, etc, to get turned on. 

For some folks with fetishes, thinking or fantasizing about their fetish could be enough, but others need to actually  touch a foot, have sex outside, have their balls flogged, etc to get turned on at all. 


How Are Kinks And Fetishes Different?

While people sometimes refer to kinks as "fetishes" and vice versa, they aren't the same. A kink can be any object(s), act, or fantasy that enhances your sexual encounters. Fetishes, on the other hand, are specific scenarios, fantasies, objects, acts etc. that you require to become aroused/turned on. 

Here’s a simple example: if your partner spanks you and you enjoy it, that’s a kink. If you can’t become aroused unless your partner spanks you, that’s a fetish. Again, no one thing is inherently a fetish, it’s the focus on that particular act/object/scenario that makes a fetish.


Can You Have A Kink And A Fetish?

You absolutely can, and lots of folks do! For example, if you enjoy role-playing (kink) and need to be restrained to get off (fetish), you have a kink and a fetish. You can even play with the intersection of the two by, for instance, role playing as a sexy spy who has been captured by the enemy. Kink and fetish exist harmoniously! 


How Can You Explore Kinks And Fetishes Safely?

Both kinks and fetishes might exist outside of what many consider typical sexual behavior, but that doesn’t mean exploring your specific sexual desires is wrong or dangerous. As with any sexual activity, one key to exploring your kinks or fetishes safely is consent from all involved. If you and your partner are into it, then game on! This does mean, however, that kinks or fetishes that involve doing things in public can be tricky. For instance, if you think it would be sexy to walk your partner on a leash through a shopping mall and they consent to it, that’s one thing. But here’s the problem: everyone else in the mall has not consented to being a part of your kink.   To act out a kink or fetish safely and ethically, it must not include anyone who has not explicitly agreed to be part of it. 

Another key to safe kink or fetish play is awareness. Be conscious of what your sexual interests are and how they impact your life, and also, be aware of how those interests may impact the lives of others. Kinks and fetishes are totally normal and very common, but when people get so caught up in pursuing their own desires that they ignore its impact on others by, for example, indulging in exhibitionism by having sex outside with no regard for people who did not consent to see you have sex, that’s when things become problematic. A good rule of thumb is to make sure anything you do is consensual, legal, and doesn’t inflict bodily or mental harm on yourself or anyone else.  

Safely exploring kinks or fetishes is, in many ways, the same as safely experimenting with any other kind of sex; instead of judging whether your desires are “normal,” focus on how you go about pursuing them. If you are conducting yourself honestly and safely, with shared values, consent, and mutual pleasure, and without exploitation of any kind, then your behavior can be healthy, even if it’s unique. 

Finally, when it comes to actual physical safety, the acronym RACK comes in handy. It stands for “risk aware consensual kink” and tends to be used in kink communities to ensure all participants are comfortable and safe. Finding partners you trust and doing some research (where can you safely spank someone without causing nerve damage? How do you properly tie a knot? What is a safe word? etc) are huge steps towards enjoyable kink experiences. 
Whether you have a kink, a fetish, or both, there are lots of fun ways for you to explore. If you’re looking for some accoutrement to bring your kink or fetish to life, Pink Cherry is here for you! Check out our extensive selection of bondage gear and fetish toys, or explore our entire collection of sex toys for couples!


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Written By: JoEllen Notte

JoEllen Notte is a writer, speaker, sex educator, and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead as well as for Glamour, The BBC, Bitch, PsychCentral, and more. JoEllen is the author of The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression, and the Conversations We Aren’t Having.