College, as we know, is a time for experimenting (and not just in Biology lab). We make a lot of discoveries about ourselves during our college years. Through this experimentation we are able to figure out our own likes and dislikes on a range of topics, including our sexual desires and kinks.
Understanding sexual preferences is hard, and accepting them is even harder. Unfortunately, fetishes and kinks are highly stigmatized in our culture. To be clear, according to the Kinsey Institute at the University of Indiana, a fetish is “a strong sexual preoccupation with an object, material, or body part,” while a kink is a term used to encompass a variety of “atypical” sexual preferences. There is an entire spectrum of fetishes and kinks from admiring feet to popping balloons to wanting a stranger to break into your house, wear a swimsuit, and soak in a bathtub full of ramen noodles.
Here’s the thing, we live in a great time to have “differing” sexualities and the number one reason is the Internet. The Internet is an amazing resource for all things sexual. It not only has an abundance of stories, pictures, and videos to indulge fetishes, it also is a great resource to find a community of people with similar interests. The Kinsey Institute notes that online forums have revolutionized the way people are able to communicate about their kinks. In the past, fetish magazines were created so people had a resource to understand their sexuality. Now, there are podcasts (“The Big Little” podcast is my personal favorite), blogs, forums, and even social networking websites, such as FetLife, so that people can create communities.
Fetishes and kinks are becoming increasingly prevalent in the media and are presenting a variety of messages to viewers. Shows like TLC’s “Strange Sex” present real people and their unique preferences, and James Franco’s documentary “Kink,” about the website Kink.com, illustrates the inner workings of the fetish pornography industry. Even though both “Strange Sex” and “Kink”, purposefully or not, create an “other” of people who have an atypical sexual preference. However, more positively they create a means for people to learn about sexualities other that exist and allow people to become more aware of their own preferences.
Talking about sexual preferences, regardless of what they are, is difficult at first. When discussing fetishes with senior Socrates*, they explained the difficulty of negotiating their own kink in their relationships.
“It is hard to find the balance,” they said, “between making sure your partner feels comfortable and respected while still maintaining the integrity of your desires and fulfilling them.”
Having a kink on a small college campus complicates matters. Given our school’s environment, “students might be afraid to [out themselves] for fear that their kinks will come to define them,” Socrates said. Although sex-positive clubs oncampus are considered safe spaces to share and discuss these preferences, there aren’t many ways for people who have similar sexual interests to mingle on campus.
Differing sexual preferences may sometimes cause a person to feel shame or guilt. Although Socrates does not feel this way, they recognize that it does happen.
“People learn what they like,” junior Aristotle* said, “and they either come to terms with it and love it, or it haunts them.”
But seriously, kinks and fetishes shouldn’t be given a bad rap; they are fun, exciting, and unique. Ultimately, it’s problematic to call sexualities abnormal since there is no normal. Things that you might like in the bedroom might seem strange or odd to someone else and vice versa. As long as you are not offending or hurting anyone (without consent) then keep doing what you’re doing. Let’s embrace all sexualities!