Ask Dr Mark

Fetishes And The People Who Love Them


Doctor Mark,

I am afraid of sexual relationships because I no longer believe I am able to get what I need out of them.

As a fetishist I find myself fantasizing about many seemingly impossible situations. Because I can’t imagine any of these scenarios becoming reality, I find myself receding more and more into a non-sexual role. To be blunt, anything I can get out of a ‘vanilla’ relationship, I can get from a combination of friendship and *cough* “self-love”.

I know it is both unrealistic and unfair to ask anyone to be everything, but how do I reconcile my intense desires with how impractical they are in reality without being totally frustrated all the time?

–I Know What I Want, And I Know It’s Too Much To Ask

I’m not sure this is a question about gaming and mental health, but it’s still a good question and undoubtedly comes from a gamer, so it may also represent concerns that others have. Not sure where you have been hiding lately, but fetishes seem to be “in”, as evidenced by the recent movie A Dangerous Method. (Yes, Dr. Mark paid good money to see Keira Knightly being spanked and I would do it again.)

Of course, I have no idea what your sexual fantasies involve and I can certainly imagine some so violent and destructive that they would indeed be practically impossible. Short of this, within the range of “normal” human sexuality there are many variations and predilections. It is possible to develop an erotic fixation on almost anything (body parts, articles of clothing, hardware, your iPhone) and if you have such, it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t someone, or even a community of somebodies out there who feel the same way. In fact, internet socializing has enabled communities of fetishists to find each other and both develop and validate their area of unique interest. A good example is the BDSM community which has a very vibrant web footprint and many regional gatherings where ideas and best practices are shared. Participating in these communities can be a good way to identify potential partners who might feel that what you want to ask is not too much.

The mental health field has a long history of labeling fetishes “perversions” and thereby denying that a whole range of activities that consenting adults find erotic and arousing are “normal.” This understandably leaves some people feeling ashamed and inhibited about their desires, and I haven’t found this to be very useful. People who overcome this may experiment with sexual variations as they try to figure out who they are – they may end up persisting in these practices, or they may move beyond them. There is also a quality of primitivity and aggression in sexual conduct that naturally emerges, and the experience may suffer if people are told there is a very limited set of “right behaviors” on the menu. This kind of restrictiveness pre-dates my own profession and goes back a long way into our history, in some case even excluding “self-love.”

But here’s the thing. If you have a variant sexuality and you feel utterly hopeless about finding a way to enact it, or at least some version of it, you’re going to feel pretty lonely, unfulfilled, and maybe even depressed. The human libido is a powerful force and for most of us, it seeks an object. Lacking such will often cause pain and despair. Not only do you need to embrace your fetish and find a community that supports it and someone to share it with, but you also need to think about how to develop a sustainable emotional connection with that other person that will allow you to reliably experience pleasure and intimacy. This is the hard part – while many of today’s young people are good at finding sex, they aren’t so good at relationships. A good relationship with the right person is the best way to reliably enjoy any fetish.

Of course some people have sexual tendencies in direct opposition to this, and endlessly seek novel experiences with different partners. I can accept that this is how they play the game, but I have often found that it results in a kind of emptiness and misery. My intuition is that we have a natural tendency toward attachment, and sex creates attachment for most of us. You can try to take the attachment out of sex, but you may find it ultimately dull, repetitive and meaningless, with or without a fetish.

So I hope you won’t give up. There is certainly good reason to believe you can find Someone to be Something, even if you don’t find Anyone who can be Everything.

Dr. Mark Kline doesn’t remember as much sex in the Game of Thrones books as he sees on HBO. Have a question for Dr. Mark? Send it to [email protected]. Your identity will remain confidential.

About the author