How to Navigate Your Partner's Fetishes

Since Fifty Shades hit almost a decade ago, fetishes and kinky sex are experiencing a trendy revival. Humans have always been kinksters, but now that kink has gone mainstream, more people are feeling comfortable with sharing their deepest turn-ons.

By definition, a fetish is a very specific desire for an object, a body part, or a sexual act. If you ask your partner to cuff you to the bed and strap a blindfold over your eyes, then you’re dabbling in kink. However, if you salivate at the mere thought of the smooth, shiny surface of the cuffs and the coolness of the metal digging into your skin, then you probably have a handcuff fetish.

All kinks and fetishes, no matter how seemingly unusual, are perfectly healthy as long as they’re practiced between trusting, consenting adults. However, even the most open-minded couples can stumble upon a surprising fetish desire from a partner. Happy relationships stay happy through constructive conversation, and navigating fetishes is no different. Stay positive, informed, and willing to listen, and your partnership can grow through the connecting experience of kink.

Discuss Your Sexual Needs Early

If you’re embarking on a new relationship, make sure you both get your fetishes out in the open as early as possible. It might seem a bit like jumping the gun, especially if you haven’t slept together yet, but this is especially important if you’re serious about your fetish. Waiting until you’re head-over-heels to spill the fetish beans just makes things more difficult down the line. For example, if you can’t live without spanking, but your partner is extremely sensitive to pain, it could get uncomfortable if the two of you figure this out in the middle of a romp session. Communicate your kinks early to avoid any serious mismatches in sexual tastes that can’t be fixed through compromise later on. (And just think – you might find that you both dig a lot of the same things!)

Educate Yourself

If you’re unsure of how a fetish will work out in practice, read up! Make sure to canvas as many online resources as possible: medical articles, advice from kink-focused sex educators, amateur experiences, and accounts from serious fetish lifestylers. Like everything you read online, take it all with a grain of salt and double-check your facts. Some rather extreme practices are only easy for a chosen few, and others might be willing to dismiss and bash anything beyond the missionary position. Fetish “lifestylers,” a term often used to describe those in the active kink community, are generally very friendly and open to answering questions from curious newcomers. Check out online fetish communities of like-minded souls and seek out knowledgable, respected members. Be open and willing to be educated, and many experienced fetishists are happy to help.

Start Slow and Speak Often

No matter how soft or hard your fetish, always introduce new kinky activities slowly, and preferably without a mouth gag until you’re solid on other types of communication. You might have heard of a “safe word,” which is a single word discussed prior to play time that unmistakably communicates “stop activity immediately!” It’s also helpful to come up with a “safe action” if your activity involves inhibited speech through a ball gag or other material covering the mouth. For example, if you’re gagged and you need a break, you could agree that tapping three times with a hand or foot is the signal to stop. However you choose to communicate, both partners should do it often, especially when testing out new fetishes. The more you engage in fetish play or roleplaying while explaining how it feels, the better your partner will understand how to make the fetish enjoyable for both of you.

Communicate and Compromise

Though it’s rare between committed, loving partners, some couples might hit a wall when trying to find a comfortable middle ground for their sexual needs. Try as you might, your partner’s fetish could be too painful and rough, physically or mentally, to endure. Indulging a partner’s foot fetish, even if it’s a turn-off, is a lot easier than, say, more extreme fetishes like fisting or strap-on play. Engaging in certain acts just isn’t going to work for certain people. However, what you don’t want to do is close the conversation completely. Fetishes don’t disappear out of love, and forcing your partner to give up their fetish isn’t fair. If you’re polyamorous or in an open relationship, encourage your partner to see others who enjoy the stuff you’d rather skip in bed. For monogamous couples, explore every possible avenue of compromise. Fisting might be too much, but four fingers below the knuckles could be your meeting-in-the-middle. And don’t dismiss the power of porn. What you cannot do, you can always watch, and then everyone wins.

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How to Navigate Your Partner’s Fetishes
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Colleen Godin

Colleen Godin

Seasoned pleasure product professional. From the adult boutique counter to traveling the country for major toy manufacturers, she's seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of sex toy design. She now focuses on the luxury toy market, and specializes in trends, tech, and good ethics. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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