Fetishes: Where are the Numbers?

BDSM Fetish-gear

BDSM Fetish-gear

Earlier this week, I was curious about finding statistics on fetishes of any kind. Guess what? It’s pretty hard to do for a few reasons.

The biggest one is that data from sexual studies is self-reported by the participants. Of course, these participants can easily lie. Maybe they’re ashamed of their fetish, or unwilling to give that information to a complete stranger. (Side note: I personally find it easier to lie to someone I know compared to someone I don’t, but that’s just a personal preference.) Either way, there’d be a large margin of error since the studies can’t account for those unwilling to tell the truth, and so fully participate.

The only way to get around this would be to subject male participants to a penile plethysmograph, which measures bloodflow to the penis. But this would obviously take a lot of time and investment into new practices. There’s also no female equivalent, so there’d be no way to compare.

Another reason is that something a study identifies as a fetish might be pretty vanilla for someone else. So there can be gaps between what two people believe to be fetishes, and that may play into their answers.

With the answers, part of the problem may lie in how the questions are phrased. If a question is leading, a participant may get flustered and answer the question in a way that diverges from what they actually feel and/or do.

But the overall question is: what is “normal” sex? There’s no agreed-upon baseline, so what exactly constitutes a fetish is hard to determine.

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