When it comes to integrating a fetish into a relationship, being up front and open is the only strategy that works long term.
Q. The other day I finally told my girlfriend that I have a foot fetish and I would like to focus on her feet during foreplay.
She balked at the idea, and made me feel as though there was something wrong with me.
Are we fundamentally incompatible?
A. Like most aspects of human sexuality, fetishes range in intensity from moderate to extreme.
The extent to which individuals rely on their fetishes for sexual gratification varies too. For some, they amount to a mild fascination. For others, they are an all-encompassing fixation.
We have become more broad-minded about sex in recent decades, and behaviours that were once considered fetishistic (sex toys, spanking) are accepted as merely experimental.
It is very hard to work out how many people have fetishes, because they are generally carried out in secret.
In a recent survey, however (conducted by the University of Quebec), half of those interviewed expressed interest in some kind of fetishism.
Although the Quebec study found few gender differences in the level of interest in fetishes, most studies find that animate fetishes (a fascination with body parts such as feet, hands or hair), and inanimate fetishes (fabrics, rubber, latex or silk) or objects (stiletto heels, underwear, gloves) are more likely to manifest in men.
Since most fetish behaviours begin to emerge in adolescence, you’ve probably had years to come to terms with your interests.
Your girlfriend, however, has only just been confronted with them, so she probably needs a bit of time to process what it means for her and your relationship.
One of the main concerns that women have about entertaining a partner’s special interest is it can turn out to be gateway behaviour, and once they agree to co-operate, their partner begins to reveal ever more complex sexual needs.
Ultimately, how much your fetish challenges your relationship depends on the extent to which it interferes with your capacity to enjoy sexual intercourse in its absence.
If you can’t live without your foot fascination and your girlfriend can’t live with it, then you may indeed be fundamentally incompatible, but the only way to establish that is to be completely honest with yourself and with her.
You need to work out how integral this is to the way you experience sexual gratification and then take the time to talk it through. If you can allay her fears and reassure her that your particular fixation on her feet will not dominate your sexual relationship, or undermine her importance to you, then she may be willing to give it a try.
Whatever the outcome, the fact that you have revealed your desire is a very important milestone for you.
In my experience, when it comes to integrating a fetish into a relationship, being up front and open is the only strategy that works long term.
Over the years, I’ve had several letters from men who did not feel able to share their interest with women they went on to marry.
These men ended up living double lives because they couldn’t tell their wives about their sexual predilections, but they couldn’t give them up either.
One man waited until his children had grown up and left home before finally confessing to his wife.
It was a huge moment for him and he wanted her support, but she felt completely betrayed and the marriage foundered.
He now regrets the decades he kept his secret and not telling his wife the truth from the outset.
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