One of the most common newbie questions on forums is “What is the difference between a kink and a fetish”

Someone might do a copy/paste from a website of some definitions. Another person sees this as an opportunity to lay out the “one true definition” as a way to gatekeep everything. Intentionally or otherwise.

So, it’s true that the two have meanings, but they’ve become rather interchangeable.

As well as being interchangeable, some of their more strict definitions also ignore those who enjoy kink activities without a want of any form of sexual element.

However, this post does have a slight sexual bias.


What is a kink? Something which is not vanilla! What is vanilla? Something which is not a kink!

The answer lies a bit more in what could be politely be discussed in social circles, and that’s something which may vary by territory.

So for example if we imagine a group of friends discussing recent dates they’ve had.
Talking about whether they kissed their date, had sex, had oral, so on would all seem relatively normal.
Equally commenting about the other persons bum, breasts, genitals, again, relatively normal.

“She had the most beautiful feet I’ve ever seen” probably is going to cause bemusement.
Equally discussing anal or pegging might be more out of the ordinary. And certainly most friend groups might not want to hear if you pissed on each other.

Things like blindfolds and light bondage might vary between regions.

But in some, more religious, circles discussing sex outside of marriage might be a no no.


In it’s strictest definition, this is something which is outside of “normal” sexuality that the person finds arousing, and MUST be present for someone to experience pleasure.

There are some folk who often get frustrated if they have a fetish by this definition they cannot easily do.
For example in our group of friends from above. If someone had a foot fetish, and their date wouldn’t touch feet (and/or let theirs be touched) then they may struggle to even get aroused.

There are a lot of folks like this and some with slightly more niche fetishes. Though, it might be an explanation for any form of “the boots/shoes/heels/nylons/leathers stay on during sex” trope.

But of course this is something that had relaxed in definition.
So for example someone with a fetish for, say, suits might still be able to get aroused and have sex without them – but with them it enhances the experience.


At it’s simplest
A fetish is a sexual need, a kink is a sexual preference.

So if you need high heels to be involved in some way during sex – it’s a high heel fetish
if you can have sex and arousal without heels, but it’s heightened with them – it’s a high heel fetish (but some would argue it to be a kink)
if you enjoy high heels being involved – then it’s a high heel kink

This could also involve solo play. Like for example either having high heels present or watching clips which involves them as a focal point.


Then it’s probably under kink. For example if you enjoy impact play for the sub space.
Like the above point you still probably can’t discuss enjoying being caned under “polite discussions with peers”.


Especially in modern times these, and other, terms have become interchangeable.

Sites like Fetlife have sections where you can add/list fetishes. To be honest, most people are not going to have more than a couple of actual fetishes. Some will have zero. But a lot will have different kinks.

And it’s probably daunting enough to newbies. Imagine getting a popup “you added watersports. Is this a kink, a fetish (strict definition), fetish (relaxed definition)” so using “fetish list” as a simple way to group everything makes sense.
So fetishes, kinks, things you like to do, porn you like, things you’re curious about, etc. can all go under one umbrella.

So, yeah. Now you know the technical difference between the two. This could make things easier to understand. But, like, if someone does get the two confused you don’t have to be a dick since making things a little easier for folk isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


Just to ruin everyone’s day before I go. Most fetishes come from conditioning. It’s almost Pavlovian.
That it’s something your brain has associated with arousal.

One of the reasons a lot of Adult School stuff is popular is because people first went through puberty and noticed sexual urges while at school.
We could probably add in the amount of bondage in supposed kids shows (the whole Damsel in Distress) as a driver for some. And also that a lot had the concept of kissing someone’s feet as being either disgusting a sign of respect, or a sign of affection.