a fetish I don't want
January 1, 2023 11:56 PM   Subscribe

I am a queer cis woman with a fetish that I don't want.

For almost my entire sexual life (over a decade), I have only been able to orgasm by thinking about a specific thing--humiliating someone for a particular quality. This is a niche thing a small number of people have as a fetish (there are some forums about it), but it's not something I actually want to do in person or role play, for a lot of reasons. Please trust me that that is not an avenue I wish to pursue; I have close friends into hardcore kink and bdsm, and I have dabbled in kink (in areas other than this fetish), so I am pretty confident that this is a well-informed decision. I know that kink, including very extreme kink, can be a positive and healthy part of people's sex lives, but this particular niche humiliation dynamic is just not one I want to be a part of mine.

One upshot of this is that I have never orgasmed with another person and it feels like (my) orgasms and genital pleasure are divorced from romance and/or connecting with another person. When I need the physical release of orgasm I masturbate thinking about this thing, looking at pictures or reading stories about it. (It's niche enough that there's not even a lot of porn.) I don't want to think about this thing while with a partner in the way I would while masturbating, because I don't even really want to rely on it while masturbating (but always end up returning to it when I try to avoid it for awhile.) It's also difficult for me to orgasm in general, and always has been; I need to use a strong vibrator in addition to thinking about this thing. As a result, the sex I've had with other people has generally been me focusing on my partner, on their body, relying on their bodily responses or enjoyment for the excitement. As a queer woman it's probably easier for me to navigate sex that relies on the other person's bodily responses than it might be for cishet people, and I do genuinely enjoy topping, but I feel stunted and limited vis a vis connecting with partners.

I know AskMe loves to recommend therapy, and I know that could be an option here, but I would like other ideas for how to work with this situation.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Fetishes are very difficult to get rid of and you're generally much better off trying to incorporate them into your life in a healthy way rather than suppressing them. Yeah, even the ones that creep you out. You've already seen what happens when you try to suppress it. It's hard to orgasm or really connect with your partners sexually, because you're not really being you.

Maybe it feels like it would be mean to tease somebody because of some quality they can't help, but the thing is, there are people out there who have spent years looking for somebody exactly like you to tease them. Whatever the fetish is, there are usually way more people who want to be humiliated than there are people ready to humiliate them. Subs always outnumber doms. Fulfilling somebody's fantasy would actually be a loving act on your part, and you'll probably find that it bonds you with a partner in ways you never knew were possible. If you've been wanting to tease somebody like that forever, and they've been wanting to be teased, when you finally get together it could be incredibly fulfilling for both of you.

If there's not a lot of porn about this kink, I'd suggest making some. Write some stories, draw some pictures, whatever. Explore it in a safe way and learn to have fun with it. Maybe you can even share your smut online, and delight people who are also on the lookout for this stuff. The problem is not that you have this kink. The problem is that you're afraid of a part of your own mind and you're treating it like a monster that needs to be caged, or exterminated. But it's not a monster. It's just you.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:13 AM on January 2, 2023 [4 favorites]

I cannot claim to be an expert on this topic, but here's some internet resources:

Fetishistic disorder - Psychology Today

What is fetishism? Can it be treated? - International Society for Sexual Medicine

Both these articles list similar treatments: cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of talk therapy and drugs. The Psychology Today one cautions:

While a number of therapy-based and medication-based treatments can help control symptoms of fetishistic disorder, patients should know that there have historically been limitations on the degree to which therapy and medication, or a combination of the two can help. These therapies typically treat the symptoms—anxiety, shame, relationship problems—that bring a patient in to be treated, but many people with fetishes may retain a desire for their fetish item long-term. A primary outcome of the various therapies is to help patients cope better.

Less encouragingly for you, here's an opinion article also from Psychology Today: No, You Cannot Eradicate a Fetish.
posted by davidwitteveen at 2:00 AM on January 2, 2023

It is entirely possible you could try to revisit the scene that served to give you the fantasy in the first place. Imagine yourself as a third-party observer of that scene and actively remind yourself that the act is not something that is your responsibility.
I believe humans bookmark and place significance over things that give a sense of control; even if we want to surrender to power exchange. The bookmark is a place of control. What if you just read and do nothing else. That act may help you push away the power of the words or images from being a shackle on your intimacy and reframe how you consume the fantasy. Would it be as exciting if you read it to a stranger; read it with your hands behind your head; hear it read to you in the disembodied voice of a machine.

That is not suppression, it is rewiring yourself. Fetishes are fun to laugh at when you come to terms with how specific, narrow, controlling one has to be in order to get everything exactly right for it to be 'satisfying'.
posted by parmanparman at 3:54 AM on January 2, 2023 [3 favorites]

trigger: SA / non-consent

i have/had/am having a similar thing (sounds very different in the actual nature of the thing, but very similar). Sadly mine is tied up with a historic SA issue and while i have processed a lot of that.. stuff, and recognise that this kink is possibly even trying to help me process it, i do not want to enjoy it or spend any more time back there thank you very much.

i read your question with interest and am excited to read commenters takes, although i would please caution/request commenters to consider NOT making suggestions along the lines of 'just enjoy it' or that it's somehow fundamentally who you are as a person - to me its abhorrent, upsetting and pretty much violating tbh and OP may or may not feel the same, but has been very clear in their question. i once had very intrusive thoughts around race humiliation which i think most could understand a person might not want to harbour or reinforce in their minds, for example. i also believe that sexual desire changes and is not a fundamental character thing, mine certainly has over the years.

to me it reminds me of a therapist i once had who talked about pathways in your mind, becoming well trodden over time and then the brain just defaults to those well trodden paths (to do with anxiety, but this is just how brains work, right?). with that in mind, i have tried to explore other avenues, start beating down new paths that specifically do not go THERE. so masturbating/fantasising/etc about new and wholesome and enjoyable things - such as a cute celebrity or a secluded beach scene. for me, my bad place is non-consensual scenarios, so now really making scenes full of loving kindness or mindless passion, but NEVER anything that crosses the NC line is very important to me. over time those pathways have started to arrive at the destination that is orgasm, although they very much didn't for a while and sometimes didn't go anywhere at all. YMMV of course. but thinking of it as new default pathways really helped with rewiring some of my 'automatic go-tos if you like'. i think of it as harnessing the power of neuroplasticity, so if you ever hear me saying that, you now know that i mean i'm wanking!
posted by eastboundanddown at 4:07 AM on January 2, 2023 [42 favorites]

I'm not sure fetish is the right word to apply here (fantasy and fetish aren't precisely swappable terms), but I'm sticking with your language. I'm also not entirely clear what the actual goal is, but I think it's either that (1) you want to be able to orgasm solo without relying on this fetish and/or (2) you want to be able to orgasm with a partner/more easily/in general without adding in this fetish.

In either of those cases, there are resources and strategies availale that come from the universe of people who have associated specific approaches to masturbation (most routinely men who masturbate traumatically, i.e. harder or with more friction or pressure than a partner's body can provide i.e. the death grip or by frottage, or men and women who have developed a solo masturbation routine that provides more stimulation than a partner can provide, i.e. a very specific kind of porn or fantasy). The main step is a frustrating one, because it's a process and not a quick solution. It's resensitization, which means letting go of the undesired stimulus (which you'll sometimes see referred to as a 'chronic masturbation routine') and no longer using it as a gatekeeper for orgasm.

In my case, visual porn became a necessity for orgasm. That was fine while I was married to someone who was deeply into porn, but when we split up I wanted to recalibrate. I talked to a therapist about it, and it the process was straightforward but a labor. The basic idea was that I had to stop the PMO (porn > masturbate > orgasm) routine. P wasn't forbidden, but I couldn't follow it with the M or the O. That meant making time for intentional M without P, which felt very odd and unatisfying at first, and that's an area where existing resources can give you suggestions that can be very helpful direct from a personalized discussion in therapy. For some people it brings up intense feelings that can be good to pay critical attention to (body shame, childhood shame, embarrassment, a lot of common themes come up in the PMO world when people recognize that maybe they were drawn to porn because it provided a source for sexual focus that was not themselves and not anyone else in the room and that is a heavy thing to deal with).

Be aware that the resources out there on this can be mixed with unhelpful doses or moralizing . Mind you, I think this is understandable to a degfree. Some people feel so freed from chronic masturbation habits (especially when it helps them recognize and resolve deeper traumas like what I mentioned above) that they feel compelled to call their former habits sick or shameful or to judge them in other people. If that kind of noise is something you might find upsetting, skip looking for resources on your own and go directly to a therapist. I guarantee you they help people address this very issue routinely. If you want to look on your own, there are a lot of useful search terms in this block of text. I don't want to link to anything that's inadvertently hurtful.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:14 AM on January 2, 2023 [11 favorites]

the answer by parmanparman is brilliant and i used both a similar approach in dealing with the trigger situation and also 'rewriting the story' which is something i think i first read about in a paul mckenna brain retraining book - he suggested changing the ending of scenarios, and also minimising things you want to think of less by making them small and black and white in your mind (as if watching on an old tv) and making things you want to pay more attention to large and colourful and all consuming and full of sense detail (smell touch etc).
posted by eastboundanddown at 4:15 AM on January 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

When I get an "earworm", a song stuck in my head. I can't just stop thinking about it, that never helps. In fact trying to "stop thinking about it", often reinforces the thing!

So what I do, is curate a list of earworm antidotes. These are songs that are incredibly catchy, not my favorites, but songs I don't inherently dislike or loathe. Then, when I have some crap hit from 2010 stuck in my head for some reason (or a commercial jingle, or insipid kids show theme), I can get through it by humming a few bars from All The Small Things.

Idk what suitable replacements for you might be, but I suspect there is something sort of tangential that may work for you. Maybe start close to the current thing, then gradually move farther. Jumping to something totally different is unlikely to work, but maybe it would help to find a thing like your thing but a little more popular and less problematic to you, then repeat. To be clear: I don't especially like Blink 182. But I don't hate them either, and they work better than whatever songs I currently highly enjoy for whatever reason.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:05 AM on January 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

I think you basically have two pathways you could take (or a combination of both). One option would be to work to reframe/redirect your sexual fantasy/solo sex/orgasm routine to stop having it focus on this fetish. A number pf comments above talk about this very well, I think.

Another option would be to find a way to incorporate some aspects of this fetish into a positive relationship with another person. But in a happy, consenting, and loving way, not a mean way, if that makes sense.

However, in your question you specifically state that you are not interested in finding a way to incorporate the fetish at all. If that's the case, then I think you are left with the first option and the process of "rewriting" the paths that turn you on. But, I do wonder if there is maybe some kind of middle ground or sideways approach where you get some portion of what you like and the other person gets a portion of what they like, and everyone feels satisfied, but without you directly humiliating or acting hurtful towards your partner. (Like, if the fetish was about humiliating them for their inadequate sexual performance, you could instead describe your fantasies of hot, hot and very adequate sex with other people -- leaving the comparison only implied, and never the focus.)
posted by Dip Flash at 6:56 AM on January 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

Your body works differently than mine, but when I didn't like fantasizing about a particular ex, I was able to slowly shift away from it- sort of like first I learned how to get off imagining him doing something that wasn't my favorite thing, then doing something that he wasn't very good at but my current partner was, then him being in the room while my current partner was doing the thing, etc. Eventually he was out of it and I was able to come without thinking of him, and in the process I'd introduced more variety in the things that aroused me. Even if you're switching to other politically incorrect fantasies, I bet the added variety will make it easier for you.

Another tactic: for a few years my primary options for sex were mediocre hookups, and I managed to learn how to get off with the bare minimum of touch that felt even a little bit good. I managed it by focusing solely on the physical aspect, no fantasy or even thinking about the person I was with, just the sensation. If you're able to step back and think only about what your body is experiencing it might be easier to find pleasure in different ways.

It's very hard for me to come via masturbation rather than with a partner, and I also need a strong vibrator for it. But I can get aroused through other sorts of touch, I just can't come. Trying to enjoy sensuality in a less orgasm-focused way might help.

A friend learned to masturbate in different ways by using his preferred method to take him ALMOST all the way there, but switching to something else right before he was going over the edge. Over time he was able to switch earlier etc. I imagine this method would be harder with fantasy rather than physical technique, but it's something to think about.

Finally, have you considered hiring a sex worker? It might be easier for you to orgasm with a partner if it's someone you only have a business relationship with, which removes some vulnerability, and it'll give you a lower stress way to experience things you can't get with a vibrator.
posted by metasarah at 6:58 AM on January 2, 2023

When I've had kinks that I didn't want to share with another person, I've found ways to link them in my mind to nearby kinks that were more socially acceptable.

In my case, one of my big ones was an incest scenario that I haven't felt safe telling most of my partners about. It's easier for me to say, like, "I want a dominant partner who can act bigger and more powerful than me and tell me what to do, but in a kind way," or "Let's pretend that you're not supposed to be having sex with me, but you can't help it because I'm too hot." Those are close enough to the Big Fantasy that I can sort of overlay it on top of them without feeling disconnected from what we're doing. It's like they're acting in daddy-compatible ways that let them be "daddy" in my heart and libido without either of us needing to say it out loud.

(Eventually, I found someone who I was comfortable saying it out loud with. But we got there by small steps, starting with the nearby kinks and gradually getting closer to the big one at a speed I was comfortable with.)
posted by flexible-footwear figurine at 7:18 AM on January 2, 2023 [6 favorites]

Also, I like the earlier suggestion of writing porn — not as a way to "learn to accept" this fetish (unless you want to), but as a way to explore associations and nearby kinks and figure out what [QUALITY]-humiliation-adjacent stuff still seems like fun.
posted by flexible-footwear figurine at 7:21 AM on January 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

I found "The Erotic Mind" by Jack Morin to be helpful-- it discusses the psychology of eroticism and where fantasies come from and what they do, and it's super non-judgmental about intense fetishes and people's differing attitudes to them (want to keep/want to change.) It might be a good way to explore how you could reframe or change the fantasy you don't like, in the context of the rest of this advice.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:56 AM on January 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

That is not suppression, it is rewiring yourself.

A big and thoroughly satisfactory part of that rewiring, for me, has involved letting go of goal orientation.

If we know a certain way to get to a certain place, the natural tendency is to go that way every time. This applies every bit as much to abstract internal destinations like orgasm as it does to actual physical locations in the real world.

But, just like for actual physical locations, there are many ways to get to anywhere and, just like for actual physical locations, routes we're less familiar with are almost always slower.

So if I think of what I'm doing as an attempt to get somewhere, and I have a rough idea what it feels like to be halfway there, and I've been moving for about as long as it usually takes to get halfway there and it doesn't feel like I'm anywhere near halfway there, the natural tendency is to conclude that I'm lost and getting nowhere, and that I need to start over and go the way I've always gone.

But it may well be that all I actually need to do is stop comparing where I am right now with where I've usually got to by this time. Often enough to be a really noticeable pattern, it's been my experience that this very act of comparison is the thing that turns me away from what's actually happening and dents the mood.

If I deliberately stop trying to get to a specific endpoint, especially one that I've hitherto only ever reached via a few highly specific routes, and instead pay really close attention to what I'm experiencing at every instant along whichever way I currently happen to be going instead, and try to notice as much as possible about that, then that opens the possibility of having some astonishing experiences that I would simply never have found my way to had I insisted on sticking to any of the familiar paths.

Applying this rather abstract and metaphorical thinking to sex, I've come around to a point of view where I don't actually seek to orgasm any more, mainly because it seems to me that coming would interrupt the frankly amazing time of it that I'm so intensely having right now. And what I generally find when taking this approach is that if an orgasm does happen to sneak up on me then it will almost always be way way better than any I've deliberately sought out.

Like most people I have a collection of fetishes and fantasies and I agree that once installed they're almost impossible to uninstall, but in practice I almost never bother wheeling them out now except during masturbation. For me, the basic thing that makes sex so much more fun than wanking is generous, permissive, improvisatory, sensual exploration of mutual pleasure with my partner. If I'm distracted by wandering about in my own little fantasy land then I'm not actually here so much, and that just seems rude and kind of selfish.

Fetishes are fine for a wank though, and because a wank is by its very nature a private activity, I don't need to care how degrading or distressing any of my fetishes would be if I described them to other people. Which I'm not at all interested in doing, because they're not for other people. They're mine and they'll stay that way. If you've currently got a very small collection and some of them bother you, try getting a few more. Spinning off variations on what you already have, perhaps knocking off a few of the rougher edges along the way, can be a good start there.

That said, at the age of sixty I already very familiar what I can do for myself and am mostly bored with it. I'm far more interested in finding out what we can make happen on any given day, so what I focus on during sex, rather than running any kind of internal fantasy or requiring my partner to behave in any specific way, is doing my level best to put all preconceptions aside and remain fully present while paying as much attention to every aspect of what we're doing together, right here right now, as I possibly can.

Sex is a huge and fascinating landscape, and getting thoroughly lost in it can be a good thing if we let it. Sticking to the same familiar trail on every single outing seems, by comparison, a sad waste of opportunity.
posted by flabdablet at 1:44 PM on January 2, 2023 [4 favorites]

One thing that might work is to modify the fantasy by making it more fantastic - one of the simple ways you can do that is to turn the characters, you and the humiliated other both can be depicted in your mind as cartoon characters performing the fetish acts. That way you can get the stimulus and yet by adding cartoon features to the images it moves it way from the ethically dubious part of the conditioning.

Alternatively you can modify the fantasy to include the aftercare in your mind. Envisage it not as happening but as two consensual people role playing it mutually supportively.

If you tinker with your fantasy you may be able to modify it in some way so that it becomes less troubling to you while still working. You can picture the scenario as being played out by two actors on a set while filming a movie. You can add a new ending to the story where the humiliated person manages to escape from the abusive situation. You can try switching roles.

You are unlikely to be able to switch from your fetish to vanilla just by wanting to, but you may be able to modify the fetish fantasy over time, by slow degrees to become one you are less conflicted about.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:11 PM on January 2, 2023

I know some folks have problems with Dan Savage, but on a recent podcast episode, he got a question from a Black man who has a fetish around race humiliation (at the hands of someone also spouting lots of ring wing stuff), and I wonder if it might be helpful for you to listen to the question and answer. (It's not listed in the description of the episode, but the question is on the free version of the episode I linked.)

Fetishes are so powerful because they are transgressive (not in spite of it). Yours is so transgressive, you feel unable to share it. That's a lot to work through!

Dan suggested the person hire a sex worker who was clearly not the things the worker would pretend to be. You said you didn't want us to tell you to indulge your fetish, but what if you paid someone to do that with you? I know money doesn't come easy for queer women, and I have no idea what the rate would be for what you'd want, but, in the spirit of expansive suggestions, here's one more for you to consider.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:41 AM on January 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

I think kinks are a rich and fascinating part of human life, not shameful defects to be laughed at or "rewired" away. I understand that the OP isn't eager to begin therapy, but I think it's called for here. A good therapist will be able to help them figure out if this is something they can incorporate into their life in a healthy way, or how they can begin the process of trying to de-kink themselves.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:11 PM on January 3, 2023

I wonder if you stopped thinking of this as a problem, would it still really even be a problem? Sexual pleasure and gratification is unique to everyone, and doesn't always have to be labeled as a kink or fetish. I would embrace it! Check out Dom Sub Living, they have some great resources on this.
posted by Peach81 at 6:46 PM on September 28, 2023

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