Ask the Dean of Sex: Fetishes and Relationships
By Gene Kelly Associate Dean of Intercultural Development/Director of Gender and Sexuality Programs
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 00:03
Hello faithful readers! I apologize about last week, but life took over and I didn’t get my column done in time. On the other hand, what I’m happy to report is that I received my first submitted question that I’ll respond to this week: “When a person discovers that their partner has a particular sexual fetish, what is the best way to be supportive and understanding while still balancing their own discomfort with the fetish?”
Well, my first suggestion is to consider the fetish itself. In all honesty, in my opinion, we each have our own things that may turn us on, some of which have been fetishized and others that have not. Random House defines fetish as: “any object or nongenital [sic] part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.” Take for example, clothing. Some individuals have an intense response to shoes, boots, lace (e.g. lingerie), or even uniforms. Another example might be hair. Some people are really turned on by a natural looking pubic region while others might be by a lack of hair (or even the process of removing the hair). Both of these might be considered pretty “normal” in terms of sexuality. Other things like an interest in post-operative transsexuals or even significant age differences (e.g. sex between a legal adult and someone of a typical grandparent’s age) might be considered deviant. I will argue that as time progresses, what was once considered deviant slowly becomes normalized.
If the fetish is something that you don’t understand, seek to understand or explore within your own limits. Read up on it and be open in your communication with your partner in terms of why it turns the person on. If it is something that makes you slightly uncomfortable, but you might be willing to try to experience it with your partner in a safe atmosphere (i.e. without coercion, pressure, or expectation to complete the act with disregard to your feelings), then consider trying it.
If the fetish is a complete deal-breaker—there is no way that you will ever consider engaging in the activity—you need to be honest with your partner. If your partner cannot fully enjoy sexual intimacy with you without engaging in the fetish, then perhaps it’s time to consider that both of your needs are not being met and discuss ending the relationship or modifying the expectations that you have of the relationship. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to not judge anyone for what their particular interests may be. Every person deserves to explore their own sexuality.
Thanks to the person who submitted the question! If you’d like to contribute a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org or drop your question in the box in front of Farinon 124. You can also join the conversation at www.thelaf.com. Until next week!