The Learned Fetish

Please note: This piece discusses my personal sex life and sexual fantasies, in a whole lot of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read about that stuff — you really don’t read this one. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.

Fetish 101
Can fetishes be acquired?

There’s a truism among many people who think and write about sex. It goes roughly like this: Sexual desires, including sexual fetishes, are developed early in life. And they don’t really change much. They can’t be changed by social pressure or changing conditions or the personal wish to get rid of them, and they aren’t subject to the whims of fashion. Not even fashions in porn. Porn caters to existing fetishes and desires — not the other way around.

I’ve been thinking about this truism. And I’m coming to the conclusion that it isn’t necessarily true.

Here’s my problem with this truism:

I have, in recent months and years, acquired some fetishes that I never had before.

Now, these aren’t full-blown fetishes in the standard sense. They aren’t a necessary component of my sexual arousal and satisfaction. I’m perfectly capable of enjoying sex without engaging in them or thinking about them; I’m perfectly capable of enjoying masturbation without fantasizing about them. (I do think that core sexual desires, such as being gay or more deeply rooted fetishes, aren’t very malleable; and unless it’s a fetish that non-consensually hurts other people, I don’t see any reason to try.)

But my new interests are fetishes in the less-standard sense. They occupy a significant portion of my erotic imagination. (Translated: I think about them a lot when I whack off.) I deliberately search for them in my porn, and fixate on them when I’m — ahem — enjoying my porn. And the sight or thought of them often sexually excites me, even if they’re not coming up in a sexual context.

Specifically — I know my readers, you don’t want to hear about this in the abstract, you want the dirty lascivious details, and I’m happy to oblige — I’ve acquired fetishes for many of the classic tropes of modern spanking porn. Hairbrushes. Belts. Schoolgirl uniforms. Helpless victims being spanked by cruel authority figures. Tears; i.e.. people, especially women, being spanked until they cry. (That’s a rich and strange topic, btw: one that deserves its own post and will get one soon.)

I’ve always enjoyed these objects and outfits and tropes. But in the past, they were only a few among many that I eroticized. They weren’t even at the top of the list. Some were high on that list… but they weren’t at the top. They are now.

Now, the fetish for spanking itself… that’s a lot closer to a classic fetish for me. It’s not an absolutely necessary component of my sexual arousal and pleasure. But while it’s not absolutely necessary, it’s pretty darned central. I think about spanking a lot. If I go for too long without it, I get cranky. A majority of my masturbation fantasies involve spanking to at least some extent. (I switch around a lot in my mind — from bottom to top, from girls to boys, from participant to voyeur, from cruel force to cheerful consent — but it’s a good bet that if I’m having a sex fantasy, somebody somewhere is getting spanked.) When I look for porn — porn purely to get myself off, not porn to expand my erotic horizons or satisfy my yen for literate sex writing — I generally look for spanking porn. And most of this has been true for most of my life.

But these specific spanking tropes? Not so much. They’re definitely an acquired taste. A learned fetish.

There’s little doubt in my mind where these fetishes were acquired. I watch a fair amount of standard modern spanking porn. (Mostly on SpankingTube — it’s free, and I’m broke.) These images are well-worn standards of standard modern spanking porn, cliches even, and I see them a lot. So my lizard hindbrain connects them with sex and orgasm generally; and my more complex and twisted human libido associates them with the erotic imagery it’s already aroused by. Duh.

Thong 1
But it’s still a little puzzling. After all, there are other standard tropes of modern spanking porn that haven’t grabbed my libido at all. I’m obsessed with hairbrushes and belts… but I’m pretty “Meh” about leather paddles and floggers that you’d get at a sex shop. (I like them fine in person, mind you; I just don’t fetishize them in my fantasies or my porn.) Schoolgirl uniforms and maidservant costumes send my libido up a tree… but trashy tramp-slut outfits just seem obvious and clumsy to me. I’m fascinated by helpless victims getting spanked against their will by cruel authority figures… but I’m a lot less interested in smart-mouthed brats getting righteously punished for their own good. I love white panties and black lace panties and boy-cut panties that curve up over the bottom of the butt… but I find thongs boring to the point of actual turn-off.

And I am almost entirely uninterested in standard female-dom/ male-submissive spanking porn. (Although part of that may be that femdom porn mostly caters to a male audience, and little attention is paid to seeing that the male submissive is reasonably attractive. If I’m going to fantasize about dominating a guy, and if I’m going to watch porn to spark those fantasies, I want the guy to be easy on the eyes. Or at least, not actually off-putting. But I digress.)

I guess to some extent, even my acquired fetishes still feed into the old ones. My newfound obsession with hairbrushes and belts feeds straight into my long-standing fetish for reality: for porn and fantasies that seem like they could easily be happening in an everyday sex life. My newfound obsession with white panties feeds straight into my long-standing fetish for the moment of the reveal, the moment — drawn out as long as possible — when a clothed erogenous zone is unclothed and put on display. My newfound obsession with shy, frightened schoolgirls caned by a sadistic schoolmaster/ mistress feeds straight into my long-standing fetish for the abuse of power. (Which may explain why the righteous punishment of brats doesn’t do it for me. For a punishment fantasy to work for me, there always has to be a fucked-up element of “I’m using my power over you to satisfy my perverse whims” underlying the pretense of “I’m disciplining you for your own good.”)

Girls school spanking
I am a bit conflicted about this. (Naturally. I swear, I’m not this conflicted and overthinking about my sex life all the time. I just don’t usually bother to write think pieces about aspects of my sexuality that I’m completely comfortable with. It lacks dramatic tension.) On the one hand, I’m not crazy about my personal libido being shaped to this degree by commercial video porn. Commercial video porn is all too often a quagmire of conventionality, misinformation, body fascism, and cliche piled on cliche piled on cliche. Even in low-budget, micro-marketed niche porn like spanking porn. Sometimes especially so. For the same reasons that I don’t want my tastes in food shaped by the mainstream food industry, I don’t want my tastes in sex shaped by the mainstream porn industry. Like I wrote in my recent piece on the ubiquity of pubic hair shaving, it bugs me no end that commercial porn has become a primary trendsetting influence on sexual culture. It’s just not a very good one.

But I do enjoy the degree to which my libido is malleable. It makes me feel open to new experiences. For the same reasons that I like learning about new music instead of just listening to the stuff I liked in my twenties, I like learning about new sexual fetishes instead of just enjoying the ones I liked in my twenties. And if I decide that I don’t like how my libido is being shaped by conventional spanking porn, I can always turn it off. (The porn, I mean — not my libido.)

Anyway. It doesn’t ultimately matter; I’m fine with this however it turns out. But as always, I’m curious, and I’m nosy. So I’m wondering: Does anyone else have this experience? Has anyone else acquired new sexual fetishes later in life? And if so, have your newly-acquired fetishes mostly fed into existing ones… or have they opened up entirely different erotic avenues? Nosy minds want to know.

The Learned Fetish
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12 thoughts on “The Learned Fetish

  1. 1

    Cross-dressing. All from childhood into adult hood I had never even thought about it except thinking it funny when Monty Python did it. In the last few years, it started entering my mind more and more what it would feel like to where stockings and a dress. When I finally tried it, I found it incredibly arousing. I think it’s kind of lead me to another fetish, the desire to be a submissive to a female-dom, which I’d never had before.

  2. 2

    I think I have acquired a taste for BDSM where I never had before. Looking for SF sex culture-led me to being around it, reading about bdsm, being on Fetlife etc. While I know that its not core to my sexuality like it is for some where its the same as being gay, I now have d/s fantsies whereas 10 years I ago I was like what? who is into that stuff-it’s weird.

  3. 3

    Lactation. I never even knew it was a fetish until after I had given birth. I’ve always had a breast fetish but the interest in lactation got me many years after I breastfed. I also found hentai lactation porn and found it very arousing. I’ve read lactation-based porn and I love it so much (when it’s well written) that I am considering writing some of my own.

  4. 4

    I don’t know if I’m old enough to qualify for the “later in life” at 25, but I have definitely ‘discovered’ fetishes and turn-ons I never knew I had (or never had before). Mostly through the wonderful world of slash fiction – find a ship, notice slightly squicky warning, decide to read anyway, find former squick suddenly alluring.
    Also: pseudo-somnophilia. I don’t know where that came from, but I’m pretty sure my younger self would have found that not only not arousing, but plain disgusting. Now it’s one of my favourite things 🙂

  5. 6

    No fetishes to report, Greta, but “whacking off” anything sure sounds painful.
    This was a most interesting post, however, and quite well written. I’ll be back (sorry… Schwarzenegger is our Gov’na).

  6. 7

    Interestingly, I find that I lose the appeal for certain fetishes I’ve had once I’ve gotten to try them in real life. Must not have been a true fetish but a curiosity for this to happen, I would think.

  7. 9

    Well, I’ve been getting off on spanking (from a sub position) since I started masturbating (at about 4 or 5 years old). So there’s a pretty early and firmly established fetish right there.
    Possibly this is too early to qualify, but in my late teens I developed a major turn-on for cross-dressing men, which is when my family really started wondering about my sexuality (I had already been know to favor men they and others considered “feminine”–I just thought they were “hot”). My family constantly reminded me, hysterically and insistently, about how all men who wear women’s clothes are either homosexual or repressed homosexuals. My sister’s last boyfriend didn’t help matters either.
    Over the last couple of years (I am 30 now) I have begun to develop an interest in the dom position in spanking, which is something that has never appealed to me before. I find myself looking at certain prettyboys on TV and in movies–Bam Margera, or DiCaprio as King Louis in Man in the Iron Mask–and being overwhelmed by a desire to take them over my knee. Jackass 2 nearly drove me mad when I finally got to see it, what with Bam constantly baring his pretty little butt.
    Come to think of it, my female-on-male dom fantasies have a bit of the “brat” element in them, dont’ they? My male-on-female sub fantasies never really did. I hadn’t thought about that before this post! There’s another recent variation, I guess.

  8. 10

    What an interesting entry. I am the same way, only that my learned fetish is Female Domination (with me being dominated by women). My wife and I have played at it and I love it. In fact, I love it so much that I get depressed when we don’t do it.
    The problem we have is that she doesn’t want to be mean to me and I do. I want to be pushed and “forced” to do disgusting things I normally wouldn’t. I think it’s exciting as hell and I can totally understand why that guy in England left his wife to live as a woman’s slave.

  9. 11

    I seem to be coming to this a bit late, but I don’t really have any “fetishes” in the strict sense (anal play probably comes closest). I have, however, found that the already substantial range of fantasies I find arousing that squick most people expanded rapidly during my teens, in tandem with extensive access to (mostly written) internet porn (with, oddly, some of the weirder ones mirroring themes I found “thrilling” as a prepubescent with no meaningful concept of non-reproductive sex). Another thing that was definitely acquired during and sense my teens is a tendency to fantasize from the perspective of a (usually submissive, but tomboyish) female, despite being otherwise comfortable with my real-life gender.

  10. 12

    I have a really frustrating kink, which is basically, I like to see boobs getting played with. This in itself is not too bad, but what frustrates me is the way it has progressed from seeing boobs, to strip teases, to seeing people playing with nipples (which is my primary means of getting off, anything else just hurts or is too tickly), to seeing only girls playing with each other’s nipples, to strip teases and lesbian nipple play, and it is so hard to find free easy lesbian porn that does not involve cunnilingus or vaginal penetration.
    I also have like… weird contradictory things. Like, I like to surreptitiously watch porn, but I get uncomfortable if I feel like my partner wants me to, and then I get uncomfortable if he doesn’t… And the porn I like has to be like, women OBVIOUSLY pretending to be hesitant, or it has to be obviously staged to look unstaged. I like to see younger women, but if they look underaged, I’m totally turned off. I like the “girls experimenting” trope, but only if it’s (once again) obviously staged.
    My boyfriend has a public masturbation kink (which seems to just be the product of his being naked in public kink mixed with his love for seeing ladies get off). He has a lot of stipulations as well, relating to tattoos (a big turn off) and use of toys (evidently a total buzz kill). Things that are a product of our relationship: at least some pubic hair, larger breasts (or at least, the same size as mine), and some of my kinks have rubbed off on him- mostly seeing things I would enjoy having done to me and applying them to female masturbation porn 🙂

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