Just when you think you’ve got your guy pegged, he drops a bomb: He’s into feet (or bondage, or sex in public, or, um, doing it in a furry animal suit). You don’t consider yourself prude, but girl-on-top is as wild as you usually get. Does that mean it’s time to call it quits?
By definition, a fetish is a sexual attraction to an inanimate object or material, says Patti Britton, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist and sexuality educator. Though we often use the term "fetish" to describe a turn-on, there's a big difference between a person who likes to use handcuffs and someone who can’t get aroused without certain behaviors or materials, she says.
“If it’s a fetish that’s required for arousal or erection, then this is something that really needs to be addressed, and you need to be mindful of it,” says Britton.
Here’s how to deal when your bae admits he’s an actual freak in the sheets.
1. Keep an Open Mind
Fetishes are more common than you may think, so he’s not that weird. A study published in the Journal of Sex Research asked over 1,000 people about their wildest sexual fantasies and found one in three acted on their unusual sex interests at least once.
“Because we have so much more access to what people really like sexually through reality shows and the internet, there’s a normalization that’s occurring,” says Britton. So what might have been considered extreme 10 years ago isn't today. The definition of what constitutes a “normal” fetish is up for your interpretation. But if the fetish doesn't freak you or your partner out, then have at it, says Britton.
2. Gauge the Intensity of His Fetish
Think about fetishes or paraphilia, the scientific name for unusual sexual behaviors, in terms of where they lie on a spectrum. “Lots of normal, vanilla couples like being held down during sex," says Britton. But that becomes a different story when you’re tied up to the bed posts, blindfolded, and gags get involved. Learn about the extent of his fetish, and if you’re not cool with what he’s into, say so.
3. Find Out What’s in It for You
Just because your partner is the one with the fetish, that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and indulge him. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What’s in it for me?’” says Britton. You might not find his obsession with your feet a turn-on, but maybe you are intrigued by the idea of pleasing him or connecting with him on an emotional level, says Britton. If you can find a way to make it pleasurable for both of you, it’s a win-win in the kinky department. Just don’t do anything against your will or where danger exists, Britton warns. Safety first!
4. Avoid Feeling Objectified
If he’s got a foot fetish, you may think he’s only got eyes for your slender, freshly painted toes. But that’s probably not the only thing he’s attracted to, says Britton. “In other words, don’t think that he doesn’t enjoy all of you,” she says. Framing up the fetish as part of a big-picture attraction will help you feel more respected as a woman and not just as a chick with 10 toes and killer heels.
5. Know This Isn't Just a Phase
That clichÃƒÂ© relationship advice that you won’t be able to change him holds true here, too. “The really bad news is you don’t get rid of a fetish,” says Britton. “It becomes a hard-wired part of what turns you on in your arousal matrix.” So if you just can’t handle his fetish, that’s a perfectly good reason to part ways. If you try to bury it and he turns to porn (or other women) to feel satisfied, eventually the fetish will resurface in ways that are destructive to your relationship, says Britton.