That’s a good question.
When is what you like in the bedroom classed as a fetish?
You can drool over women’s lingerie but not have a panty fetish, you can prefer to have sex outdoors but not be an exhibitionist and you can like feet but not have a foot fetish.
… Wait, can you?
Aren’t feet always a fetish? Can you ever just ‘like’ feet?
It’s hard to say.
The Free Dictionary describes a fetish as “something, such as a material object or nonsexual part of the body that arouses sexual desire and may become necessary for sexual gratification.”
Are feet nonsexual? Surely, as an erogenous zone, the feet are a sexual part of the body.
What’s more, isn’t the whole of the body sexual to some extent? Every inch of the skin contains nerve ending that can be stimulated by the touch of another person. Each of these tiny nerve endings is connected to the brain which is the only real sexual body part.
In absence of the brain, no part of the body is sexual. Mind blown right?
Without the brain, registering a sensation as pleasurable, or identifying stimuli as arousing simply could not happen. Our brain takes in the stimuli of our environment and identifies the context, which may or may not be sexual.
For instance, when a person (who is attracted to women) sees a beautiful woman in a hotel room wearing silky lingerie they’d likely be aroused. However, if that same person saw a beautiful woman on a beach wearing a bikini the person would be substantially less aroused because the context isn’t sexual.
How we process a situation can extend to physical contact also. For example, if someone who you don’t find attractive walks over to you and puts their hand on your crotch, you’re not going to find that contact pleasurable. Whereas if someone whom you find extremely attractive simply touches your arm, you’d likely be covered in goose bumps, your heart rate will speed up and you may even be a little turned on.
So, having established that any part of the body part can be a sexual, let’s look at why certain behaviours are seen as ‘normal’ and why others are considered to be fetish behaviours.
For the most part a sexual act is ‘normal’ if it’s received as pleasurable by your partner. For instance, if you’re giving your partner a massage, rubbing massage oil into their feet wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Then, if you went on to lick their feet and suck their toes because you knew they enjoyed the sensation,that still wouldn’t necessarily be fetish behaviour (though it could be).
However, if you desired your partner’s feet in your mouth regardless of whether or not they enjoyed it, that would indicate a foot fetish. The difference is that now the feet are being used as objects for your sexual arousal, much like if you had a fetish for an inanimate object such a balloon, car or tree.
This is not to say that every sexual act with an inanimate object is related to a fetish. It is perfectly ‘normal’ to use sex toys to emulate the feeling of sex when the real deal isn’t available or to enhance sex with your partner. Some people even use other people as sex objects with absolutely no regard for their pleasure. That wouldn’t be a fetish – that would just be rude.
But then again, sex toys can be a fetish depending on how they’re used; just look at men who collect sex dolls…
One of the reasons that we know so little about human sexuality, arousal and fetish is that the psychology is so complicated, sometimes contradictory and often varies from person to person.
Take two bothers raised in the same home with equally healthy parental relationships; one could marry his high school sweetheart and go on to have a couple of children, the other could wrap himself in duct tape every night and fuck a sponge cake whilst watching the Discovery Channel.
To try and give as general an answer as possible to the initial question, “Do I have a fetish?”, the answer isn’t so much about what you like in bed than it is about whether that object, or body part, is required for you to either become aroused or have an orgasm.
Sometimes however the object of your desire doesn’t need to be physically present to make you cum, rather, the fantasy can be enough. You may think you’re perfectly normal by having a good, old-fashioned wank or sex in the missionary position, but if you can’t finish without thinking about group sex with dolphins then, well… you probably have a fetish.