We all have our fantasies. Nothing wrong with that! In this article, we will discuss the most common fetishes and popular kinks around the world. Read on:
Fetishes – we might not admit it, and we might not even know it yet, but most of us have one special thing that really gets us going in the bedroom.
Or, for some of us, it’s a few different things all at once.
From leather whips and ballgags to group sex and armpits, we’ll cover the most common fetishes around the world, and in the U.S. Our research explains where fetishes come from, how they vary by gender, when/if you should worry about them, and much more.
If erotic statistics are your thing, check these data points out first:
- The most Googled fetish in Idaho is erotic electrostimulation.
- Having a fetish for feet (or something related to feet) is the most common fetish in the world.
- Balloon fetishists – called “looners” – enjoy inflating and popping balloons for sexual pleasure.
- About 1 in 50 Australians (1.8%) said they had engaged in BDSM activities in the past year, from 2001 to 2002.
- A Swedish study found that over 1 in 10 (10.8%) of respondents were aroused by either exhibitionistic or voyeuristic sexual behavior.
- A study in Quebec found that more than half of men (53.5%) fantasize about being dominated.
- According to one survey, 89% of people have fantasized about some form of group sex.
- Cross-dressing is not indicative of a fetishistic disorder.
Table of Contents
What Are Sexual Fetishes?
Fetish. In the past, society has given the word a nasty vibe… but what does it even mean?
It’s not as scary as it sounds. In layman’s terms, it’s just something that turns you on that isn’t biologically supposed to. These data points go into more detail:
- A sexual fixation on an object or non-genital body part is called sexual or erotic fetishism. (Wikipedia, 2022)1
- A fetish is an object of an individual’s sexual fixation. A person with a fetish is called a fetishist. (Very Well Mind, 2021)2
- Body parts, such as feet, and body features, such as piercings, obesity, or tattoos, make up the most common fetishes. (Web MD, 2015)3
- Feet are the most common by far.
- Hair, body size, and body fluid fetishes are also popular.
- Clothing can also be fetishized: (Web MD, 2015)3
- Stockings and skirts, or other clothing worn on the hips and legs, top the list of clothing fetishes.
- Footwear and underwear are also very popular.
- Some fetishes are the feel of a certain material, such as rubber or leather. (Web MD, 2015)3
- Some people (“furries”) like to dress themselves and their partners in furry animal costumes. (Web MD, 2015)3
Where Do Sexual Fetishes Come From?
For a long time, the psychological community was dead set on proving that fetishes were disorders bred from trauma. While that’s true in some cases, it’s not indicative of most fetishists.
In reality, sexuality isn’t black and white. Here’s what some researchers have to say about the origins of fetishes:
- Sexual fetishes can come from early life experiences: (Healthline, 2019)4
- Sexual experiences during or around puberty can lead to fetishes.
- Objects that were pleasant or prominent in our early sexual development may continue to be associated with sex in our minds.
- Preference and personality both impact fetishism: (Healthline, 2019)4
- Sexuality is a broad spectrum, and some people simply have different fetishes the way that different people enjoy different foods.
- People can happen upon objects, leather, dolls, or non-sexual parts of another human (like a foot or a toe) by accident. If they find it pleasurable, they may continue using it sexually.
Kinks vs. Fetishes: Know the Difference
All right, we’re going to get a little bit technical here. Kinks and fetishes are close but different.
Kinks are preferences, and fetishes are sort of like super-kinks. Here’s some psychological theory on the distinction between the two:
- A kink is something that is arousing but falls outside the boundaries of what society considers “normal” sexuality. (Healthline, 2021)5
- Many experts describe a fetish as a sexual need and a kink as a sexual preference. (Healthline, 2021)5
- How can you tell the difference? (Healthline, 2021)5
- Someone who gets aroused by their partner wearing high heels during sex has a high heel kink.
- Someone who can’t get aroused without their partner wearing high heels has a high heel fetish.
- Some experts also describe fetishes as “erotic superchargers” that aren’t always necessary for sex but make it much more special and erotic.
What Happens When a Person Has a Sexual Fetish?
If you discover that there’s nothing more erotic to you than seeing your partner in a polka-dot sundress, what’s next?
As long as he’s okay with wearing it during intercourse, you might as well embrace it. Here’s how individuals usually engage with their fetishes:
- Many people with fetishes need to have their fetish object with them or fantasize about it to get aroused, get an erection, and achieve orgasm. (Web MD, 2015)3
- A fetishist may masturbate while holding, smelling, rubbing, or tasting their fetish object. They may also ask their partner to wear or use it during sex. (Web MD, 2015)3
The World’s Most Common Fetishes
While foot fetishes and BDSM may not surprise you, balloons and sports gear might.
This list doesn’t indicate which fetishes are the most popular (that’s coming later), but it does show the world’s most common fetishes.
- Podophilia – The technical term for a foot fetish – is one of the world’s most mainstream kinks. From porn to foot pics, feet are frequently fetishized. (Psychology Today, 2014)6
- One survey found that 14% of people have had a sexual fantasy where feet or toes play a prominent role.
- Masochism – While it traditionally falls under BDSM, getting aroused from pain is incredibly popular as a standalone kink. (Betches, 2019)7
- One study found that 19% of people get sexual gratification from being physically or emotionally abused – also known as masochism.
- Group Sex – Orgies, foursomes, or even just threesomes involving single people and/or couples. (Independent, 2018)8
- One survey found that 89% of respondents fantasized about threesomes or some form of group sex.
- Sadism – Also falling under BDSM, sadism is deriving sexual pleasure from inflicting pain on another person. (Future Method, 2020)9
- Sports Gear – Pads, cleats, uniforms, or other sports equipment being worn by an individual or their partner for sexual pleasure. (Future Method, 2020)9
- Armpits – Some people get sexual pleasure from kissing, licking, or even penetrating armpits. (Future Method, 2020)9
- Balloons – Sometimes called “looners,” many people enjoy blowing up and popping balloons during sexual activity. (Future Method, 2020)9
- BDSM – Consensual erotic roleplaying involving bondage, domination, discipline, submission, sadomasochism, and a whole world of other sexual roles. (Future Method, 2020)9
- Suits – Suit kinks are when a person gets aroused from wearing or seeing someone in a business suit or uniform. This can be associated with a sexual power dynamic. (Future Method, 2020)9
- Used Underwear – Some people love wearing, tasting, or smelling used underwear for sexual pleasure. (Future Method, 2020)9
- Voyeurism – A voyeur gets sexual gratification from consensually watching others engage in sexual activity. (Future Method, 2020)9
- Watersports – “Golden showers” and other sexual activities involving urine play sound wild but are far more common than people think. (Sexologies, 2015)10
- One study found that 23% of participants had seen urophilia (urine fetish) porn, suggesting significant demand for it.
- Latex – Wearing latex, being bound by latex, or just seeing others in latex can be sexually arousing for some people. (Mystery Vibe, 2021)11
Which Fetishes Are Most Popular?
Surprise, surprise, it’s feet. Well, technically, it’s the category of feet and feet-related accessories that currently wears the crown as the world’s most popular fetish.
Stockings and skirts aren’t far behind, though. Take a look at these numbers and see for yourself:
- Feet and objects associated with feet are the most common sexual fetishes. (International Journal of Impotence Research, 2007)12
- One study found that the following percentages of people with body part fetishes prefer the following fetishes: (International Journal of Impotence Research, 2007)12
- Feet (podophilia) – 47%
- Bodily fluids (urophilia, scatophilia, lactaphilia, menophilia, mucophilia, etc.) – 9%
- Body size – 9%
- Hair – 7%
- Muscles – 5%
- Less popular groups fetishize navels, legs, body hair, mouth, nails, and other things.
- The following percentages of people with clothing fetishes prefer these fetishes: (International Journal of Impotence Research, 2007)12
- Clothes worn on legs or butt (stocking, skirts, etc.) – 33%
- Footwear – 32%
- Underwear – 12%
- Whole-body wear (e.g., jackets) – 9%
- Less popular fetishes are headwear, stethoscopes, wristwear, pacifiers, and diapers.
- In a study of 48 cases of clinical fetishism, the percentage breakdown is as follows: (The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1983)13
- Clothing – 58.3%
- Rubber and rubber items – 22.9%
- Footwear – 14.6%
- Body parts – 14.6%
- Leather – 10.4%
- Soft materials or fabric – 6.3%
- The highest percentages of people report having fetishes toward body parts (33%) and objects associated with the body (30%). Here are the statistics on the remaining fetish categories: (International Journal of Impotence Research, 2007)12
- Fetishizing other people’s behavior – 18%
- Fetishizing one’s own behavior – 7%
- Fetishizing social behavior – 7%
- Fetishizing objects unrelated to the body – 5%
- 1.8% of sexually-active people (2.2% of men and 1.3% of women) reported that they had participated in BDSM in the past year. (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2008)14
- A Swedish study found that over 10% of participants were aroused by either voyeurism or exhibitionism. Here are the numbers: (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2006)15
- 3.1% said they had been aroused at least once by exposing their genitals to a stranger (exhibitionistic behavior)
- 7.7% said they had been aroused at least once by spying on others having sex (voyeuristic behavior)
Roleplay, Sex, and the Global Rise of BDSM
BDSM – the fetish so nice we mentioned it twice. Eight times so far, actually, and we’re going to keep mentioning it because there’s so much to talk about.
In terms of popularity, BDSM can be tough to pin down because it’s an umbrella term. Bondage, masochism, sadism, etc., each count as their own kinks/fetishes, and most studies record them that way.
That being said, the following data points are all about BDSM:
- Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, and Sadomasochism (BDSM) fantasies are common – between 40% and 70% in both men and women. (The Journal of Sex Research, 2019)16
- About 20% of people report engaging in BDSM. (The Journal of Sex Research, 2019)16
- In Belgium, one study found that almost half of their population had engaged in BDSM at least once: (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2017)17
- 46.8% of respondents had engaged in BDSM activity at least once, and an additional 22% had BDSM fantasies.
- 12.5% said that they performed BDSM activities regularly.
- Despite most participants having tried or fantasized about BDSM, only 26% claimed to be interested in it, and only 7.6% self-identified as BDSM practitioners.
- Submissiveness was slightly more common than dominance:
- 9.5% reported submissive acts.
- 15.3% reported masochistic acts (specifically, being hit by a partner).
- 8% reported dominant acts.
- 11% reported sadistic acts (hitting a partner).
- Paraphilic behavior is defined as atypical or unusual (many BDSM acts fall into this category), but one Quebec study found that almost half of its respondents had paraphilic interests: (The Journal of Sex Research, 2016)18
- Over 45% had a desire for at least one paraphilic behavior.
- 33.8% had engaged in paraphilic behavior at least once.
- Sadism, masochism, and fetishism percentages were all above the statistical rarity cutoff percentage (less than 2.3%).
- Sadism was the only statistically unusual preference, with less than 15.9% of respondents indicating sadistic interest.
- One study surveyed women who were already active in the kink community and identified some interesting sexual trends: (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2015)19
- Over 50% of women in the kink community had engaged in sadomasochistic activities such as breast play, whipping, flogging, caning, paddling, and pinching.
- Over 50% said that they had participated in at least one of the following activities for their sexual gratification:
- Verbal or physical humiliation
- Sensory deprivation
- Physical punishment
- Obedience training
- Breath play
- Domestic service/submission activities
- Forced activities
- More than 87% took part in at least one of the following scenarios, ordered from most common to least common:
- Fear play (e.g., kidnapping)
- Occupation (boss, teacher, etc.)
- Animal play
- Medical play
- Age repression
- Age progression
- Roughly 75% said they were aroused by an object in at least one of five fetish categories (clothing, body parts, fabrics, uniforms, bodily fluids).
Most Common Fetishes in the U.S.A.
God bless America, the land of the kinks and the home of the bondage play. Here we break down the most popular fetishes by state and region in the U.S.
If you’re into BDSM, there are quite a few states with like-minded people. If you’re into erotic electrostimulation, there’s just Idaho.
Here are the most popular fetishes in the U.S. by state: (Future Method, 2020)9
- Alabama – Yoni egg
- Alaska – Fisting
- Arizona – Latex
- Arkansas – Voyeurism
- California – Wax play
- Colorado – Masochism
- Connecticut – Sadism
- Delaware – Group sex
- District of Columbia – Masochism
- Florida – Piercings
- Georgia – Hair fetish
- Hawaii – Masochism
- Idaho – Erotic electrostimulation
- Illinois – Roleplay
- Indiana – Armpits
- Iowa – Group sex
- Kansas – Sports gear
- Kentucky – Scene play
- Louisiana – Sadism
- Maine – BDSM
- Maryland – Masochism
- Massachusetts – Nylons
- Michigan – Humiliation
- Minnesota – Edge play
- Mississippi – Sports gear
- Missouri – Used underwear
- Montana – Sadism
- Nebraska – Group sex
- Nevada – Armpits
- New Hampshire – Sounding
- New Jersey – Group sex
- New Mexico – Chastity belts
- New York – Leather
- North Carolina – Suits
- North Dakota – Cuckolding
- Ohio – Uniforms
- Oklahoma – Impact play
- Oregon – Used underwear
- Pennsylvania – Balloons
- Rhode Island – Foot fetish
- South Carolina – Dominance
- South Dakota – Masochism
- Tennessee – Suits
- Texas – Whipping
- Utah – Voyeurism
- Vermont – Edging
- Virginia – Balloons
- Washington – Gagging
- West Virginia – BDSM
- Wisconsin – Sports gear
- Wyoming – Bondage
By region, these are the most searched fetishes on Google in the U.S.: (Future Method, 2020)9
- Midwest – Group sex and sports gear
- Northeast – Balloons, BDSM, edging, foot fetish, group sex, leather, nylons, sadism, and sounding
- South – Suits and masochism
- West – masochism
Do Men and Women Have Different Fetishes?
Fetishes do vary significantly between men and women, primarily between dominant and submissive roles.
Even with the variance, though, a large percentage of each sex fantasizes about both. Here are the numbers:
- One study found that men were generally more sadistic and women more masochistic: (Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 2014)20
- Percentage of men who report arousal from:
- Fetishism – 28%
- Sadism – 19%
- Masochism – 15%
- Percentage of women who report arousal from:
- Fetishism – 11%
- Sadism – 10%
- Masochism – 17%
- Percentage of men who report arousal from:
- 64.6% of women fantasize about being dominated, while only 53.5% of men do. (The Journal of Sex Research, 2016)18
- 59.6% of men fantasize about dominating someone, while only 46.7% of women do. (The Journal of Sex Research, 2016)18
- 52% of men find voyeurism to be at least slightly arousing, while only 26% of women do. (Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 2014)20
- Less than 1% of women are aroused by urine, but 8% of men are. (Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 2014)20
- 2.8% of men and 0.4% of women say they have tried transvestic fetishism – cross-dressing for sexual arousal – at least once. (Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 2005)21
How Gender Affects Sexual Fetishes
As society becomes more open-minded, we learn more about gender and sexuality every day.
These data points illustrate how sexual fetishes function across gender lines:
- Non-binary people generally have similar sexual fantasies to cisgender people; however, they are far more likely to include non-normative genitals and less likely to refer to themselves as the object of desire. (Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 2020)22
- Males are much more likely to have a fetish than females. (Psychology Today, unspecified)23
- Between 2% and 4% of men have a fetish arousal pattern, and most viewers of online fetish porn are men. (ABC, 2009)24
- Many women within the kink community (women who actively engage in kink or fetish activity) report voyeuristic tendencies. (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2015)19
- In a study of women in the kink community, 75.44% said they had been sexually aroused by at least one object in one of the five fetish categories. These are the percentages by category: (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2015)19
- Clothing (lingerie, shoes, corsets, etc.) – 75.92%
- Specific body parts – 61.91%
- Fabrics (leather, rubber, vinyl, etc.) – 56.54%
- Uniforms (military, medical, etc.) – 51.55%
- Bodily fluids – 26.43%
- Oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation are common among both men and women; rimming is common for men but uncommon for women. (Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2015)19
Is It Normal to Have a Sexual Fetish?
While it may feel taboo, many fetishes are so common that they’re statistically normal behavior – even if society doesn’t always view them that way.
Consent and community are the most important factors that make a fetish healthy and normal.
- Fetishes can be considered normal variations of sexual behavior, so long as they don’t involve non-consensual force, children, public sex, or self-harm. (Greatist, 2012)25
- Unhealthy fetishes can impair social lives, occupational activities, and personal relationships. They often involve a great deal of secrecy and shame. (Greatist, 2012)25
- Some people embrace their fetishes and search for partners who accept and understand them. The internet helps these people feel less alone by providing online communities for fetishists. (Greatist, 2012)25
Do People Typically Have Multiple Fetishes?
One fetish, two fetish
Red fetish, blue fetish.
How many fetishes does the average fetishist have? It varies, but these data points give some insight:
- One study of 48 clinical cases of fetishism found the following results on the number of fetishes per person: (The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1983)13
- 17 participants had one fetish.
- 9 had two fetishes.
- 12 had three fetishes.
- 6 had four fetishes
- The remaining 4 had between five and nine fetishes.
- Once they arrive, fetishes tend to last, and it’s normal for people to have more than one at the same time. (Shape, 2014)26
- New fetishes won’t replace old fetishes, and for many people, they can be interrelated (like having fetishes for feet, shoes, and stockings at the same time). However, not all of an individual’s fetishes have an obvious connection. (Shape, 2014)
Can Fetishes Become a Problem?
Because sexuality is such an integral part of the human consciousness, it can cause issues similar to mental or physical health problems.
These data points explain how and when the experts view fetishes as a problem:
- An intense sexual attraction to body parts or inanimate objects that aren’t traditionally viewed as sexual that causes or accompanies significant impairment or distress is called Fetishistic Disorder. (Psychology Today, unspecified)23
- Fetishistic Disorder is almost exclusively found in males (Psychology Today, unspecified)23
- Fetishistic Disorder can be diagnosed by the following criteria: (Psychology Today, unspecified)23
- The person has consistent intense sexual fantasies, impulses, or behaviors involving inanimate objects, or a hyper-specific focus on nongenital body parts, for at least six months.
- The fantasies, behaviors, or sexual urges lead to serious distress or impair social, occupational, or personal function.
- The fetish objects are not pieces of clothing used in cross-dressing and are not designed for sexual pleasure/stimulation, such as a vibrator.
- Fetishistic Disorder can be treated in the following ways: (Psychologist Anywhere Anytime, unspecified)23
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Based on the idea that fetishism is caused by conditioning or imprinting, CBT aims to change negative behaviors and replace them with healthy ones.
- Psychoanalysis – Assuming that fetishism was caused by a traumatic experience, psychoanalysis tries to pinpoint the subconscious cause and deal with it directly.
- Reality Therapy – Instead of focusing on the past, Reality Therapy focuses on what the client can do here and now to improve their present and future.
- Medication Treatment – Certain drugs can inhibit the production of sex steroids, as well as male testosterone and female estrogen, to reduce sexual desire.
Fetishes come in all forms, to all kinds of people, for all kinds of reasons. And let’s be honest, many of them are at least a bit weird.
Being weird, though, is part of what it means to be human. The unique bits and pieces of our sexualities set us apart from others, but they also empower the relationships we forge with like-minded people. They make those relationships even more special.
Fetishes of any kind and in any amount are normal and healthy, so long as they don’t harm others or yourself. The foundation of sexuality is pleasure, and pleasure can’t exist without consent. Fetish groups often build consensual online and in-person communities that allow individuals to explore and healthily engage with their fetishes.
Fetishistic disorder, however, is a real problem that primarily targets men. A good litmus test for knowing whether or not a fetish is healthy is the idea of self-consent; if your fetish causes you to compulsively do things you don’t want to do or are unhealthy for you, it’s imperative to seek help as soon as possible.
That’s no reason to shy away from a fetish, though. Many studies show that more people fantasize about certain kinks or fetishes than actually engage in them. Talk to your partner, join an online community, or find another way to experience your unique interest. There’s nothing to lose and a world of pleasure to gain.
- Wikipedia, 2022. An online encyclopedia entry defining sexual fetishism, its characteristics, and its background.
- Very Well Mind, 2021. An article medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD, that defines fetishism and details its different aspects.
- Web MD, 2015. An article medically reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD, that describes fetishism, many common fetishes, and the psychological origins of fetishes.
- Healthline, 2019. An article on the psychological causes of sexual fetishes that cites data from sexuality counselor Jessica O’Reilly, Ph.D.
- Healthline, 2021. An article medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST, that analyzes and explores the differences between kinks and fetishes by citing erotic educators.
- Psychology Today, 2014. An article authored by Mark D. Griffiths, Ph.D., that investigates the prevalence of foot fetishism by using data from several doctors and sexual experts.
- Betches, 2019. An article on common kinks that uses data from the Journal of Sex Research to estimate the percentage of people interested in certain kinks.
- Independent, 2018. An article on common sexual fantasies in the U.S. that uses data from social psychologist Dr. Justin Lehmiller’s survey of 4,175 Americans.
- Future Method, 2020. An article by Dr. Evan Goldstein, founder and CEO of Bespoke Surgical, on America’s most common fetishes and kinks.
- Sexologies, 2015. A study of online kinks and fetishes in heterosexual Swedish and Italian university students conducted on 847 participants.
- Mystery Vibe, 2021. A sexual lifestyle article that analyzes and explains 8 of the most common sexual fetishes.
- International Journal of Impotence Research, 2007. A study on the frequency of specific fetishes conducted by observing 381 discussion groups containing at least 5,000 total individuals.
- The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1983. A 1983 study that surveyed discharge records of the London Teaching Hospital for over 20 years and uses data from 48 cases of sexual fetishism.
- The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2008. A study of BDSM kinks conducted on 19,307 Australians ages 16 to 59 from 2001 to 2002.
- Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2006. A study of exhibitionistic and voyeuristic behavior conducted on 2,450 randomly-selected Swedish adults interviewed in 1996.
- The Journal of Sex Research, 2019. A current overview of research on BDSM studying 3,915 separate articles associated with the topic.
- The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2017. A Belgian population study on the prevalence of BDSM fantasies and activities conducted on 1,057 participants.
- The Journal of Sex Research, 2016. A study on paraphilic interests and behaviors in the population of Quebec using data from 1,040 people.
- Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2015. A study of behaviors in women who were already active in the kink community using data from 1,580 non-clinical and non-criminal women.
- Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 2014. A study on the prevalence and causality of paraphilic behavior conducted on 305 men and 710 women.
- Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 2005. A study on sexual arousal from cross-dressing using data from 2,450 Swedish adults ages 18 to 60.
- Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 2020. A study on the differences and similarities between the sexual fantasies of cisgender and nonbinary individuals using data from 44 adults, 22 of whom were non-binary.
- Psychology Today, unspecified. An article on fetishistic disorder facts, symptoms, statistics, and DSM-5 criteria.
- ABC, 2009. An article on the potential for traumatic sexual experiences to shape arousal patterns and fetishes.
- Greatist, 2012. An article on the overall healthiness of fetishes in theory and practice, citing input from couples therapist Dr. Barry McCarthy.
- Shape, 2014. An article on the growing trend of sexual fetishes and how they proliferate that cites input from Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., a sex educator and research psychologist at Harvard University.