Why do people have sex fetishes? What makes someone love the feel of leather against their skin, while another finds it repulsive? Is there something that happens to us at a young age that sets on neurons a-flurry with sexual urges? Or are fetishes ingrained in us by society? Seriously, where do fetishes come from?
Unfortunately, science still isn’t sure how humans categorize something as sexy and another thing as ho-hum, but there are some prevailing theories, all fascinating. Be forewarned, not everything contained herein comes from the mouths of neuroscientists, sexologists, or psychologists. Some of it's just good ol' fashioned postulating. To learn why humans have sexual fetishes, and to possibly jog some memories from your childhood. push ever onward. And maybe wait until your boyfriend isn’t looking – unless he's very cool.
The science of sex is a taboo subject because so many find it to be icky or perverse. Yet, the more we know about ourselves sexually, the better equipped we are to deal with the harsh realities of life (and know who to bonk at the sex club). Imagine knowing exactly how you could disconnect from life for a few brief moments after getting in from a hard day at the office. Slipping into a rubber suit and looking at some feet or perusing a list of sea animal penises sounds a heck of a lot better than checking Facebook.
There are no definitive answers on this collection of theories about how we build our sexual fetishes, but each theory offers some insight into how the brain works. And who knows, maybe you’ll learn something about yourself while you go down this fuzzy-handcuffed rabbit hole. Time for your spanking, daddy.
Many researchers have come to the conclusion that there's at least some connection between early arousal and the object in question. One study from the '60s details a guy who developed a leather fetish after an experience with his uncle's shoes: "I was home alone and saw my uncle's new penny loafers. I went over and started smelling the fresh new leather scent and kissing and licking them. It turned me on so much that I actually ejaculated... and have been turned on [by leather] ever since."
At least one study has been conducted for the sole purpose of determining whether men can acquire fetishes late in life. Janet Hyde and John Delamater’s Understanding Human Sexuality discusses this study, which found it's possible to condition adult men to associate arousal with boots.
Some psychologists believe that, under the right conditions, somebody who vaguely associates a non-sexual stimulus with sex will be able to get arousal out of it, which further strengthens the association and the arousal gained.
For instance, imagine you like watching porn and someone folds a paper crane in the middle of a video that's really fueling your rocket. Your brain picks up on the crane as something new, and novelty is a big factor in your brain's reward system. By the time you've apexed, you've formed a subconscious sexual association between folding a paper crane and orgasm.
Some fetishes may be as simple to explain as "it's the thing you want most in life but can't have." As one Redditor said, "Years ago I saw a video clip on an S&M documentary where a dominatrix was describing one of her usual clients. Guy was apparently head of cardiology or neurosurgery or something like that at a major hospital. Lives on the line, he asks people to jump and they ask yes-sir-how-high-sir, that sort of thing. All day every day. So for entertainment, he liked to come and be treated like a dog for an hour."