Ever wondered? How to talk to your partner about your fetish, according to a sexpert

FYI, studies have found that being able to communicate your sexual preferences can lead to better sex.

FYI, studies have found that being able to communicate your sexual preferences can lead to better sex.

Knowing how to talk about your fetish can feel tricky at the best of times. When's the right moment to bring it up? How much detail do you go into? I mean, you just got your head around introducing one of the best sex toys for couples into your relationship – how do you now navigate if your partner isn't into the same kinks as you?

If you're on the fence about bringing it up at all, this may convince you. FYI, sexual fulfilment is actually really good for you - one PLoS One study found that, of all the things that impact sexual satisfaction, being open and honest with your partner about your sexual wishes is key.

"Kinky have been found to be mentally healthier than the general population," shares sexpert Kate Sloan, author of 101 Kinky Things Even You Can Do.

"Some experts think this is because kinky people have to communicate more than vanilla people if they want sexually satisfying relationships. Better communication improves relationship health, sexual satisfaction, and mental health, too."

We bought you the best sex apps, dating sites and sex positions, not to mention a sex editor-approved round up of the best sex toys. For an expert run-down of what a fetish is, how to identify one, and how to broach the subject with your partner, keep scrolling.

What is a fetish?

A fetish is a non-standard sexual interest, explains Sloan. There are many different types of fetish, and fetishes can have different focuses - for example:

  • A body part (e.g. feet, armpits)
  • An object (e.g. corsets, gloves)
  • An activity (e.g. spanking, bondage, pegging).

"Some people’s fetish might be their entire sexuality, effectively playing the same role in their life that 'vanilla' (non-kinky) sex does for people who lack any fetishes," she continues. "However, for others, a fetish is just a special interest that they partake in some of the time."

How to talk about a fetish: Couple relaxing and talking on bed

How do you identify if you have a fetish?

You would likely know if you had a fetish, shares the sexpert. "In many cases, it makes itself fairly obvious fairly early," she says. "My spouse has an erotic hypnosis fetish, for example, and first noticed it when they were a kid and would feel deeply captivated and - yes, turned on - by scenes featuring hypnosis in movies like The Jungle Book."

A 'kink', on the other hand, is usually considered to be a milder version of a fetish. "Think of a non-standard sexual interest that isn’t as pivotal to your sexuality as a fetish might be," Sloan shares. FYI, kinks can be harder to identify.

Try this: if you find yourself feeling consistently drawn to particular kinky themes, perhaps in the porn you watch or the erotica you read, it could be worth doing some soul-searching. "Try and figure out whether your interest in that kink is just theoretical or if it’s something you actually want to try," she explains.

Why might the notion of 'coming out' to a partner about a fetish be scary?

Feeling a little anxious about discussing your fetish with your partner? That's actually pretty normal.

"Some people are put off by fetishes," Sloan expands. She reassures that a partner who cares about your pleasure and happiness will hopefully be able to see your fetish the way you do: as a creative, fulfilling, and fun potential component of your sex life together.

How to talk about a fetish: High Angle View Of Couple Lying On Bed At Home

How to talk to a partner about a fetish: 5 tips 

Keen to learn the best practice for disclosing your secret kinks? Keep scrolling.

1. Stay positives

Remember for the most part that kinks and fetishes are meant to be fun and pleasurable - so should be spoken about in the same way.

"When bringing it up, focus on explaining what turns you on about it and what you think you’d find hot about it if the two of you tried it together," she recommends. Why not start the conversation by asking, 'You know what would really turn me on?' or 'You know what I’ve been fantasising about a lot lately?'.

2. Use media references

That way, your partner will have more contextual reference points. If you want to ask your partner to spank you, for example, you could say:

'There was a jiggle balls scene in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie that I thought was hot. Have you ever used something like that?'

"This might make bringing it up easier and less scary," says Sloan.

3. Offer resources to your partner

Again, this is another easy way to help them understand. "You could show them a fetish book, like 101 Kinky Things Even You Can Do, or you could look up videos together on a site like Kink Academy that show what you’re interested in doing," Sloan explains.

FYI, many people get nervous about their partners’ kinks because they don’t know what they’re actually expected to do in order to fulfil those fantasies. "Showing them what you find hot can be helpful," Sloan highlights.

4. Take it slow

Remember that, no matter how long you've fantasised about it, that it's still new territory for both of you. "Don’t expect your partner to be some kind of kinky robot, fulfilling your exact fantasy in the exact way you imagined," recommends the sexpert.

Also remember that they’re a human being, not an actor for you to cast in your pre-existing erotic fantasy.

Try this: ask them what they find hot about your kink or fetish, if anything – or at least, which components of it seem less scary and intimidating to them. "You may have envisioned your partner playing the role of a strict disciplinarian, but maybe all they can muster at first is some mild bossiness – and that’s okay," Sloan says. "Try not to rush them."

5. Roleplay can be a good way in

Sloan points out that it's often easier to handle sexual uncertainty if you're playing a character. "Maybe you and your partner aren’t confident enough yet to do a full-on bondage and tickling scene. Why not do one while pretending to be a supervillain and superhero, or a drill sergeant and a new recruit, or a dominatrix and her client?" suggests Sloan.

"This can be an imaginative and low-pressure way to wade into a new kink together."

Good fetish resources

Want to read up a little before you talk to your partner, or simple keen to explore more? The following resources might help.

  • 101 Kinky Things Even You Can Do, Sloan's book, contains much more information about kinks, fetishes, and introducing them into your sex life, whether you have a partner or are single.
  • Kink Academy is a great website on which many esteemed sex and kink educators have posted videos of themselves explaining (and often, demonstrating) various kinks and fetishes.
  • Sex writer Violet Blue has released a number of books relevant to this topic, including The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Fantasy and Fetish Sex. Tristan Taormino’s The Ultimate Guide to Kink is also excellent.
  • Kink podcasts such as The Dildorks, which Sloan cohosts, Off the Cuffs, and Why Are People Into That? are easy-to-digest accessible resources for kink newbies.
Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.