(1/13/14) During our coverage of sexuality trends in 2013, we touched on the generally positive direction toward more open and candid dialogue in several of our articles. While that’s certainly encouraging as far as trends go, it made us wonder about particular areas that might be lagging and could benefit from some attention. The broad topic of fetishes appears to fit that bin, so let’s give them a little love.
Here’s the thing about fetishes: The subject often tends to hinge on notions of “normal” v. “abnormal” and that’s problematic in and of itself. When snap-judgments of “good” or “bad” are attached at the outset, more critical and pertinent elements become buried and any resulting conversation is likely to be unproductive. Once it’s fruitless–or even worse, if it opens a person up to attack or shame–it presents a disincentive to future discussion and causes the person to feel as though they need to hide from an impending label, ridicule or outright rejection. No one should be made to feel that way and there are much better ways to handle the fetish topic. Considering that most people have one (or more) to varying degrees–most of which are benign–they’re really not all that unusual. It’s the specific interest of any given person that makes it somewhat unique, but when you think about it, that’s not really all that different than any other aspect of attraction and compatibility. The willingness of the people involved to keep an open mind and focus on ways to succeed rather than to judge will determine whether communication is possible or not.
Beginning by establishing common ground along the lines of, “If it’s not harming anyone, then let’s not automatically pin the “bad” ticket on,” is a viable strategy to get the ball rolling. Here’s an abstract example: You might thoroughly enjoy strawberry yogurt on your fries. If no one else does, but you’re not forcing yogurt-soaked fries down anyone’s throat, then why should you be made to feel bad about your preference? Plan on enjoying your fries in peace and let the universe unfold as it will, we say. Twice. Now, if your fast-food partner is genuinely squicked at the premise, then perhaps there’s a potential compatibility issue to be resolved, but that doesn’t make your preference harmful or any less valid. Discussing it rationally, respectfully and without judgment is the ticket to moving the ball forward. In actuality, the more that a “matter-of-fact” tone can be established in the conversation, the more “normalized” (for lack of a better word) the process will be. In other words, it’s not a defect so don’t treat it like one.
The bottom line: It may take significant courage to bring up a fetish-oriented conversation with a partner, but that’s the only way they’ll have an opportunity to develop understanding. Handled properly and confidently, it can actually become a bonding experience that leads to all kinds of other benefits and brings partners even closer together.
Besides, it might just turn out that they like strawberry yogurt on their fries too.