Do you have a kink or fetish? How would you even begin to find out? More and more, the two terms are used interchangeably. Both fall out of what is considered “normal” by society (who needs normal anyway?). But there is a big difference between them. We talked with holistic sex therapist Renée Burwell about the differences and how you can introduce more of the unique into the bedroom and change up your routine.

Before we dive in, Burwell says it’s important to keep in mind that “everyone has different things that they like and it’s not really for anyone to pathologize it as long as it’s consensual.”

If you’re considering exploring your kinky side (and Burwell says it’s great for people in long-term relationships) then discover if it’s right for you below.

What is a fetish?

Fetishes are not as common as you think. Burwell says, “Fetishes are usually more diagnostic because it is something that you need in order to have sex.” For example, in order experience pleasure, you may need a certain kind of shoe or fabric to enjoy sex.

Burwell says one of the most common examples, a foot fetish, isn’t really a fetish because it is part of the body, but that many may consider it a fetish because it’s not as mainstream as being turned on by boobs or the butt. Here are some examples of fetishes:

  • Water play: getting sexually excited by the thought, sight, taste, or feel of urine
  • Voyeur: receiving sexual gratification from watching or listening to others who are naked or engaging in sex
  • Zoophilia: a sexual fixation on non-human animals
  • Scat play: being sexually aroused by fecal matter
  • Rainbow play: sexual interest in vomit

What is a kink?

While kinks are still classified as “out of the norm” sexually, they aren’t necessary for the person to have sex, they’re just a great addition. Burwell says kinks are often “more classified as BDSM.” Most people think this breaks down to four words, but there are actually six: bondage, dominance or discipline, submissive or sadistic, and masochism. Within BDSM there are all sorts of kinks you can explore. Here are some examples:

  • Rope play
  • Feathers
  • Bondage
  • Food
  • Wax play
  • Anal play

Kink Communication

Now that you know the difference between kink and fetish, you can decide if you want to add kink into the bedroom. There are several ways you can approach the topic. Burwell recommends watching a movie around kink, purchasing some fantasy items and telling your partner you want to try something new, or gradually introducing new things. Trying new things is good for your health and can prevent or delay dementia. Here’s what you should keep in mind when trying a new kink.

Ground rules

Before you begin, talk with your partner about boundaries. Always have a safe word or, if they are gagged, a gesture prepared. When it comes to kink, many love using the Red, Yellow, Green method as a means of communication. If you or your partner says “Red” that means stop right away. If you or they use “Yellow” that means slow down or give them a second to catch their breath. “Green” means keep going. This is a super simple way to make sure everyone involved is comfortable.

Communication doesn’t stop when you start playing. Burwell says you should be attuned to your partner and check in consistently.

Introducing items

You can start your kink adventure with simple household items that explore sensory play. Try running an ice cube down their back or tying them up with scarves or sheets. If you find that you enjoy being tied up or tying someone up, check out Bed, Bondage & Beyond, which is easily hidable, or the Onyx Handcuffs, which have a removeable clasp.

When adding to sensory play, try accessories that can tease and please your partner or you. Start with an item that is versatile like the Tickle & Whip. Also, add the Onyx Blindfold since taking away a sense can create different forms of arousal.

If you’re looking to get into kink but have some mobility issues, the Frequent Flyer Door Swing is a great option. Burwell says this swing great for anyone with lower back issues and will help with proper positioning. She adds that the Sexy Spreader is also good for accessibility and can create more tension and flexibility with what you’re doing.


When trying a new kink, aftercare is a very key part of the experience. Check on your partner and have them check on you. This could include anything from talking to cuddling to massaging. Burwell says that after multiple orgasms, the body resets and this could cause a depressed reaction. So, make sure you’re both ok after each sexual experience.

When exploring a kink or a fetish, Burwell says there are many aspects that are good for any relationship, like communication and adding fun and novelty. The number one rule is to stay safe and keep it consensual.

Check out the entire conversation on fetishes and kinks with our holistic sex therapist on our Instagram.

Tori Tromblay

Tori Tromblay

Special Projects Producer
Tori Tromblay (she/her/hers) is a book enthuisiast, cat lover, and Cincinnati native. She graduated from Ohio University with a degree in journalism. After traveling to New York, D.C., London, and Tulsa, she settled back home, where she lives with her husband and two cats. She has worked for Pure Romance for two years and loves to learn and teach about sex education.