Have you been looking for ideas on how to spice things up in the bedroom, came across the terms ‘kink’ and ‘fetish’ and don’t understand the difference? Fair enough. Kink and fetish are very similar and can overlap. Often these terms are used interchangeably – they are not exactly the same though. Both terms describe something considered outside mainstream sexual activities. 

Before you start exploring, make sure all parties involved feel safe and comfortable and give consent. 


A kink is something sexual that does not fall in the category of traditional sexual and intimate desires, fantasies or practices which can be done with oneself or a partner. To be a bit more specific, BDSM (bondage, sadism, dominance and submission, masochism) as well as group sex, pegging, cuckolding, polyamory and pony play are all kinks among others. 

It is subjective what is considered kinky. Your grandmother might think that sex toys like dildos are kinky, while your sister might find them pretty conventional. The definition of an individual’s definition of kink is based on their generation, religion, cultural background. 

Okay, what is a fetish then? 


A fetish can be an act like sex in public or an object like high heels for example. Some people just fantasize about fetishes, others need to actually engage with the object or behavior when having sex. 

Psychologists believe that a fetish is learned – we can develop associations between certain body parts or objects and sexual arousal through experience. Therefore, a fetish becomes a specific requirement for sexual arousal. 

There are form fetishes involving inanimate objects such as shoes and media fetishes involving materials like silk or leather. They can be focused on body parts like breast and feet or specific types of behaviors or partners. 

Having said that, what are the differences between kink and fetish? 

Like vs Must-have 

While kinks are more about variety and exploring, a fetish is a sexual necessity. Whatever the fetish involves must be present for the person to achieve sexual arousal and enjoyment. 

Often, fetishes are described as ‘obsessions’ or ‘fixations’ even though most people would say that they still enjoy having sex even when their fetish interests are not satisfied. This depends on how strong the fetish is developed. 

Sex partners engaging in kink do not necessarily need the kinky behavior to enjoy their sexual interactions. 

Wide vs Specific 

Kink as a term is wider, fetish is more targeted. Kink as an umbrella term comprises all non-traditional, alternative sexual interests. In fact, most fetishes are kinks – though not all kinks are fetishes. 

In summary, a fetish can be more extreme due to the requirement to engage in the behavior or with the object for sexual pleasure. In the past, fetishes were classified as a sexual disorder. Nowadays, we know that having a kink or fetish is nothing unhealthy or the sign of a psychological disorder. 

People often have more than one kink or fetish. If there is honesty, consent, safety and shared values given between all parties involved, the sexual behavior is healthy – even if it might be ‘extreme’ and rare. Most individuals with kinks and fetishes do not experience any problems in their lives due to their sexual interests. 

In case of violation of laws, risk of harm to oneself or others when engaging in a kink or fetish, or the sexual practices not being consensual, it might be time to seek professional help. 

Some fetishes require psychological treatment when impacting on the individuals relationships or bringing about illegal activities. Should you experience any kind of distress about your own or your partner’s sexual interests, feel free to reach out. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Franziska Richter is a transcultural counsellor with Willingness Team, offering counselling sessions to individuals and couples. She is particularly interested in sexuality, relationship issues, trauma and general mental health.