We always wonder what others like in bed, but with S&M quickly entering the mainstream, our views on fetishes have become a little blurry. Do they still exist? Suzie Kidger likes to think so, you just need to look in all the right places…
There isn’t much left that can shock us when it comes to sex. If your friend tells you her new boyfriend likes to have his hair pulled or gets hard when she nibbles on his balls we accept this information with a smile on our face. After all, there is no reason why we should do anything else but welcome these sexual preferences with open arms. Whether we are comfortable or not with what we get up to in the bedroom, this doesn’t stop us wondering what others are doing behind closed doors too. We continue to question and compare our own experiences with those around us, what we read in mainstream magazines and on social media. If you haven’t broken the Internet with a picture of your behind then you’re clearly going wrong somewhere.
Historically a fetish is thought of as a sexual attraction to body parts that aren’t typically sexually attractive.
Do you like nibbling on toes or sucking your partner’s elbow? Well, then you probably have a fetish for it. But today we are a lot more open as to what falls in this category, and we have a right to express this sexual behaviour safely, as supported by The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), who fight for sexual freedom and privacy rights. We no longer think of a fetish as explicitly related to our body parts, and instead take notice of certain clothing, scenarios and a variety of bondage.
It has always been questioned as to where they even come from, as Dr Brandy Engler, psychologist and sexuality expert explains that they can frequently originate from childhood, “formed during developmental experiences, children and teens often eroticise various emotions. This paired with masturbation, which provides orgasmic reinforcement,” she says. Columnist Christina Wellor agrees, “Our experiences shape us and our desires, some people are simply intent on pushing boundaries for the sheer hell of it, they’re just that kind of person. A rebellious type,” she concluded.
Since the release of Fifty Shades, Ann Summers have seen a 200% increase…
Out of the millions that have seen or read Fifty Shades, many have considered it the tame side of S&M, working to tell a love story with a kink, rather than truly representing a side of sex that has existed for years. Since its release, Ann Summers have seen a 200% increase in sales of eye masks, 270% in metal handcuffs, 250% in ticklers and an odd 103% increase in nipple covers according to Retail Week. Around the time of Fifty Shades’ release, Ann Summers’ Valentines week online sales increased by a radical 84% compared to 2014. It has almost become a trend to be into a few whips and chains, as Christina explains that a fetish these days has to be “deemed pretty weird” to even be considered. “Our open-ness to sex comes down to the emancipation of women and that previously we would not openly review our sex lives like we do now. I don’t think it could be openly discussed when it was seen as crude for a woman to talk about it. Now the playing field is levelled, it’s not so taboo,” she expressed. But the chance of these fetishes becoming mainstream is slim, according to Christina.
Not everyone is used to an ‘ordinary’ sex life frequently discussed in mainstream media…
As Vanessa Jameson, 23, explains that from a young age she had a love for being controlled and choked during sex. This type of play, otherwise known as breath control play or erotic asphyxiation has existed for years and has been blamed for multiple deaths including that of INXS front man Michael Hutchence in 1997. In Vanessa’s case, her desire for mind control stemmed from innocent films including The Jungle Book’s hypnosis scene. Unsure at first whether this was a popular feeling, it took many years to find what she was looking for, experiencing multiple vanilla relationships made her realise it was not what she wanted, or needed.
Meeting ‘play’ partners online and having no physical intimacy for some time, Vanessa continued to socialise in BDSM communities, meeting a man under the name “AmHypnotic” who held workshops only an hour away. Having admitted to faking physical enjoyment in previous relationships and left feeling too embarrassed to introduce fetishes into her sex life, it was her online presence and friendship with AmHypnotic that was the starting point of her involvement in the New England Erotic Hypnosis Unconference (NEEHU). There she met a much older man by the name of “DaSade” with whom she is now living with, along with his wife, in what she describes herself as “the switch in the middle: 24/7 his property and 24/7 her dominant”.
Porn is regularly linked to what we like in the bedroom. But sometimes it isn’t an influence at all.
We don’t necessarily look at it for reassurance or even inspiration, but education, according to sex therapist Rae Dolman, “I think many people view porn and use it as sex education rather than entertainment. Doing this can have a detrimental impact on our sexual relationships.” While it opens us up to new possibilities, it also narrows our scope she explains. As someone who feels she has experienced all kinds of sexual feelings from a young age, here Vanessa agrees that porn isn’t usually the culprit. “People blame it for what others like in bed, especially if they consider it weird, when in fact that seems like an easy way out. Let’s blame porn, they must have got it from there,” she defends.
We are no longer shocked by what we see in pornography, with 24 hour access online it has never been quicker to satisfy our sexual needs. Christina tells me that “porn has probably desensitised us more than anything, it is making things that perhaps were once seen as fetishes, seem more normal”. Our ability to discuss sex has increased over recent years, with what is considered the ‘norm’ gradually changing, allowing us to not be afraid to delve into discovering where our kicks really lie.
Our sexual inferiority and our desire to explore isn’t always associated with porn however, as Christina feels magazines play a part too, “the whole ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is a big issue for many people, they compare their sex lives to others and try to live up to a false ideal that magazine perpetuate,” she explains.
And while we are quick to compare our sexual encounters and experiences, this keeps fetishes very much relevant in our sex lives today, with the mainstream media acting as the platform for discovering more and experimenting with what feels good. Vanessa agrees that fetishes will always exist, “They are the usually found in many, many people. They just haven’t always found what really gets them off yet when they say they don’t have a fetish. There will always be sex clubs and underground parties keeping the communities alive, they will just never become mainstream like Fifty Shades has, because that’s far too soft,” she says.
Comparing and questioning our sex lives will always continue for as long as sex is being discussed, with women’s glossies challenging our experiences and questioning whether we should be doing more. For as long as we discover new positions and new thrills, new types of fetishes will always develop and grow in the background. Those that consider what they like as a fetish or are looking to discover more will truly understand just how large a community this involves, with far more niche areas to discover. The definition of fetish we once knew and recognised as specifically about our bodies, a particular object or even an item of clothing has changed dramatically over recent years, allowing us to all discover what really gets us off, and despite some negative responses to Fifty Shades, its presence has brought this debate into the mainstream.