Often times in my office and in my classrooms, clients, students, and general practice therapists struggle to identify the difference between a kink and fetish. To begin, a kink is any type of atypical sexual play that you enjoy. This can be anything from BDSM (or some type of play using or manipulating power for pleasure purposes) to chastity. Alternatively, a fetish is a type of sex play that is required for sexual arousal or gratification. This typically focuses around excitement toward an object or body part that is not traditionally identified as sexual in nature. A commonly thought of example is a fetish pertaining to feet, where seeing, touching, or smelling a foot (of some particular variety) would be necessary for arousal. Fetishes are wide sweeping and can range from leather to exposing oneself sexually in public (exobitionism).
Most fetishes, when play is consensual, are completely legal and not pathological in any way (e.g., with the exception (in WA State) of Frotteurism, Bestiality, Voyeurism, Exobitionism, Hebephilia, Ephebophilia, and Pedophilia).
Many individuals, couples, partnerships, and play partnerships regularly enjoy both kink and fetish play. Working toward incorporating this play can be challenging if a partner is inexperienced, the play is new, or there is confusion around the impact of the play on the relationship.