What Are Kinks & Sexual Fetishes? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

We break down everything from what a kink is, where kinks come from and how to find out what works for you and your partner(s).
kinks, what is a kink
If you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the world of kinks you’ve come to the right place.

In 2022, “group sex” was the third most searched category on Pornhub (with “reality” coming in at number one). “Threesome” grew by 34 percent worldwide and “orgy” grew by more than 113 percent. There’s no denying it, the pandemic made us horny. People are craving novelty and the world of kinky sex is the best place to find it.


But what are sexual kinks? Does it only entail group sex? Is BDSM different? Is it weird I get turned on by being called a “breeding bitch”? No, yes, maybe. Just kidding. Kinks are common. But it is important to understand what you are signing up for. If you don’t do your research, you could end up doing something you’re not that comfortable with. 

Whatever the case, if you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the world of sexual kinks you’ve come to the right place. Speaking with experts in the field, we explore everything you need to know about kinks: what are kinks? where do kinks come from? And how do you ask your partner to spit in your mouth?

What are kinks?

There are a lot of different ways to define “kink.” Ranging from extraordinarily broad to super-specific

“Outside standard couple sex involving two monogamous partners is Kink and BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism),” psychologist and sex therapist Barbara Santini told VICE.


“The former is an umbrella term for any non-traditional type of sex that does not have to involve power exchange, while the latter is a non-traditional type of sex that involves more power exchange. This tells us that although kink and BDSM are used interchangeably, they are different.”

Basically, “kink” means different things to different people based on cultural backgrounds. But in most contexts, the definition encompasses anything that falls outside of romantic, intercourse-based sex between two people. This can include a variety of things. Check out this kink list for some examples. 

What’s the difference between a kink and a fetish?

Kink vs fetish semantics are easily muddied. Fetish is a more narrow term that describes people with an erotic or intimate interest in specific non-genital body parts, fabrics, smells, costumes, and objects.

"A fetish is something that primarily defines and is inextricably linked to one's sexual behaviour," said Santini. 

Fetishes are often all-encompassing and the focal point of a person's erotic life. For example, a person with a foot fetish would not only get pleasure from touching or seeing feet during sex. They’d also get a kick out of interacting sexually with feet to the exclusion of other things. 


"They may not engage in any penetrative act at all but will still draw sexual gratification from the act [of interacting with feet]," said Santini.

Where do sexual kinks come from?

OK, the answer to “what is a kink?” isn’t as straightforward. But we can summarise and say it's associated with non-traditional desires and fantasies. So, what about where kinks come from? Are kinks hereditary? Can you blame your childhood for your obsession with public sex

“There are two ways people gravitate toward kinks: either innate and realised as a child growing up, or as an interest picked up later in life,” Renee Mayne, the Principal (Madam) of The School Of Somatic Kink, told VICE.

“Kinks and fetishes formed in early childhood years are, a lot of the time, completely non-sexual. For example, say a boy of two or three-years-old sits by his mother's feet as he plays with his toy. Over time, he associates women's shoes with those happy memories and develops a foot fetish.”

“Kinks can evolve from something we didn’t receive as a child, because often that is what we are craving the most. Say you’re craving attention, you might love getting spanked because that was the only time your parents gave you attention as a child.”


On the other hand, kinks developed later on in life can be birthed when our brains pair a non-sexual body part, object, or situation with a sexual context. 

“For instance, if you always masturbate on a blue couch, seeing blue coaches can make you feel aroused,” adds Santini.

Why explore kinks? 

Psychological researcher Samuel Hughes determined five stages of kink identity development: early encounter, exploration of self, evaluation, finding others and exploration of others. On a global scale, Hughes suggests that studying the identity development of kinks can help us to better understand resilience. 

“Identity development is critically important for sexual minority mental health. Failure to overcome stigma, and especially internalising that stigma, can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicidality,” said Hughes. 

It’s an idea that Renee Mayne echoes.

“Everyone has a kink profile, and although a lot of people reject that fact, it’s human nature. It’s embedded in our human psyche,” said Mayne. 

“By identifying the kinks inside the body we are able to unlock information blocks. We can identify suppressed desires and help them evolve. Exploring kinks can help people meet themselves, get emotional relief and empowerment, and feel like they’re taking control back into their lives.”


Different types of kinks

The list of kinks out there for you to explore is never-ending. But to get you started here is a basic A-Z list of kinks and fetishes. If your kink isn’t on the list, don’t stress. Just because it’s not a common kink, doesn’t mean there’s not someone out there keen to try it.

Not sure what you’re into? Here is a list of kink examples to help spark some inspiration.

Dominance and submission kink

Part of the BDSM kink area, people who are dominant or submissive inclined get pleasure out of either having control or yielding control to their partner.

Erotic asphyxiation kink (breath play)

Choking is a common kink, where the deprivation of oxygen produces a head rush, heightening the sensations of sex. It’s more on the dangerous spectrum of kinks, however, and introducing it to the bedroom should not be taken lightly.

Restraint kink (bondage)

Again under the umbrella of BDSM, restraint can be as simple as a scarf tied around one partner’s wrists, or as intricate and risky as kinbaku. People with this kink enjoy the relinquishing of control to the other partner, and vice versa.


Cuckolding kink

Where one partner gets off on watching their partner being fucked by another person, either in the same room or over Facetime or video call. This can be delicious for various reasons, but most commonly, pleasure is gained for the cuckolded partner through humiliation.

Humiliation kink (degradation kink)

Some people derive pleasure from degradation in the bedroom, and therefore humiliation can encompass a wide range of kinks, including name-calling, cuckholding, spitting, slapping or being mean.

Spitting kink

People who enjoy spitting in each other’s mouths or on each other’s bodies.

Breeding kink

People who are aroused by the thought of being impregnated or impregnating someone. 

Homewrecker kink

People who get turned on by somebody else’s partner cheating.  

Mommy kink

A type of roleplay where one partner is a maternal figure, or, “mommy”, and the other plays a submissive younger person, or, “little”.


Different types of fetishes

The list of sex fetishes is never-ending: there is no limit to human desire. One man even invented his own fetish as an experiment – and of course, it took off. For inspiration, here are a few of the most common sexual fetishes you might come across.

Foot fetish

Possibly the world’s most famous fetish, a person with a foot fetish will have a pronounced attraction to feet. This is a varied fetish which can be comprised of or broken down into different attractions: big feet, small feet, dirty feet, clean feet, cock trampling and ball busting… the world of foot attraction is wide and wonderful.

Navel play or belly button fetish

Known as alvinophilia, people with this fetish will achieve sexual pleasure through a focus on the belly button area. Stimulating the belly button, admiring it, teasing it, torturing it… all conceivable types of belly button play may be enjoyable for a person with this fetish.

Nylon or stocking fetish


A nylon fetish could fall under or be related to the foot fetish category, but the attraction here is the stockings themselves. Attraction to these objects could be related to the feeling or look of compression, obfuscation of sexy body parts (feet and legs, namely), or even simply the feel or look of the fabric itself.

Latex, rubber, leather or PVC fetish

People with latex, rubber, PVC, leather or other textile fetishes are attracted to people wearing those garments, or the garments themselves. The tight, shiny, rubbery materials form a second skin around the wearer, usually compressing the genitals or other parts of the body. It’s no wonder why this could be attractive – the sight of your partner (or the feeling of yourself) being trussed up in a skin-tight garment elicits a similar erotic vibe to sexual bondage.

Vore fetish

People with a vore fetish are turned on by the idea of being swallowed, or swallowing. This is often inspired by visuals from childhood books where protagonists are swallowed whole by giant animals, creatures or villains. Vore fetishists might fantasise about being the prey, swallowed by a hungry beast, or the predator, being full and happy after eating another creature.


OK, I’m keen to start having kinky sex. How do my partner(s) and I get started?

Research shows that openly communicating your kinks to your partner can do wonders for your relationship AND your personal health. So, the first step to asking your partner if they are down for kinky sexy is communication. Clearly outline your desires and ask them about what kinks they are interested in. Remember, consent is sexy. And it’s not written in stone. You or your partner can change your mind at any time about what you are comfortable with and what’s not OK. 

“Check in with each other, and make sure that the other person is comfortable before you start playing. Get comfortable speaking clearly, honestly and openly about what you desire, how you feel and your boundaries,” suggested Mayne. 

OK, you’ve told your partner that you want to spit in their mouth, cover each other in food or try out some weird and wonderful BDSM toys. What’s the next step? 



The internet is a bottomless pit of resources for any kink questions you might have. Some good places to start are taking the BDSM Test, the Erotic Blueprint and the Love Languages Quiz.

But if you want something a little more personal, don’t be afraid to reach out to kink communities and professionals in the field. There are numerous courses and workshops you can do to work out your kink profile and find what works for you and your partner(s)

How do I learn about my own kink(s) and sexual fetishes?

Having a kink checklist is a good starting point for evaluating your own sexuality and a springboard for conversations with someone you are intimate with.

“Once you have an idea of what you want to try, start setting goals for yourself. This will make you start to think about what it is YOU like and want. Once this is clearly outlined,  you can start working towards achieving it,” said Mayne.

“There’s always different events and different things happening in the kink community that you can go to and explore.” 

Does kink always have to involve sex?

“You can be kinky during foreplay, kinky over the phone, use kink language or create a kink scenario,” said Mayne. “You don’t have to touch to get kinky. You don’t even have to orgasm! Have fun with it and just explore what flavours are available to us.”

How to explore kinks safely

Above all, communication and trust are the most important things when it comes to kink sex. If you are not completely unashamed and honest with your partner(s) there is a lot of room for things to go wrong. It goes without saying, all parties must always consent

“To begin your kink journey safely, it’s important you first empower yourself. Educate yourself as to who you are, what you want and what things you might want to explore,” said Mayne.

“If you take the trust, non-judgement, pure love and openness felt during kinky sex into every area of your life all your relationships change. It can be a thing of beauty and thought that will have a ripple effect throughout generations to come.”

Now that you know the answer to the question, what is a kink? You’re set to start identifying your own kinky desires. Be it getting tied up or joining a sex club, the possibilities are endless.

For more advice on safely identifying your desires reach out to a kink-friendly educator, therapist or sexuality professional.

This article was updated for clarity. It was originally published on June 20th, 2022.