A list of the UK's top sexual fetishes and kinks explained

What is a fetish? A list of top sex kinks explained

In the past, having a specific type of fetish was very much stigmatised. However, changing attitudes towards sex, means we are now becoming more open-minded when it comes to antics in the bedroom.

See our research on the UK’s top fetishes

According to a study published in The Journal of Sex Research, approximately half of us have an interest in sexual behaviour that is considered “anomalous” – with one-third of us indulging in it at least once.

So, what are sexual fetishes? And what does it mean to have an erotic fetishism?

What is a sexual fetish?

A fetish is a form of desire which is typically sexual. Often linked to a certain area of the body or a specific object, whether fantasising about or physically touching, the result is usually becoming sexually aroused, often leading to an erection and orgasm.

It’s important to recognise that fetishes are not just something men have, but that many also have their own unique turn-ons too. 

Now, no longer the taboo subject it once was, more of us are experiencing such fetishes – and often beyond our bedroom door.

In fact, ever since the appearance of the phenomenal Fifty Shades series, the embarrassment linked with fetishes has begun to fade.

The common cause of fetishes

Many experts will tell you there’s no cause as such for most fetishes. However, some will claim that several of them can be traced back to childhood.

Some will even claim that many fetishes develop before a person has even become aware of their own sexuality.

Certified sexological bodyworker & somatic sex educator, Anna Stella Sonnenbaum says fetishes arise from past experiences, whether that be trauma, which according to Sonnenbaum, “a stethoscope or nurse uniform fetish can be linked to children being traumatised by medical treatments, and turning their strong emotional response into sexual pleasure to come to terms with it.”

However, Sonnenbaum stresses that it’s important to also realise that “not all fetishes are linked to trauma. The sensation area of feet on the cortex is just next to the one for genitals, so it makes sense that a lot of fetishes focus on feet.”

For most, the concept of a fetish is that of kinkiness and a move away from what is considered traditional or normal sexual activities. But, most fetishes do not indicate a mental illness.

Though a riskier type of sexual conduct for some, it moves beyond the stage of simple intercourse. Therefore, fetishes allow those to explore their desires further without fear of shame or judgement.

Popular types of fetishes

Here at Vivastreet, we’ve done our own research into the more common types of fetishes in the UK.

Taking place in many a bedroom and, of course, beyond, our data suggests many fetishes, particularly those sexual, are more common than you may initially think.

Here’s a comprehensive explanation for each fetish below.


BDSM – Otherwise known as bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism, and masochism. BDSM is all about power between two consenting adults with the submissive doing what the dominant requires.
Foot fetish – Referred to by some as foot worship, a foot fetish is considerably common and takes the concept of massaging to the next level with kissing and smelling involved as well. Did you know some people also have a hand fetish?
Cross-dressing – The act of wearing clothing and accessories that belong to the opposite sex. Hugely popular for many, cross-dressing allows those dressing up to do so without judgement from the rest of society.
Swingers – A most enjoyable fetish for many couples, swinging involves partner swapping with full consent on both sides. Whether engaging with individuals or other couples, it’s also commonly known as wife swapping and is a type of open relationship.
Group sex – Having sex with more than one person, whether a threesome or an orgy, is a common group fetish held by many. This works in a safe environment whereby all parties are consenting.
Edging – A way of controlling an orgasm, edging works for all genitalia and allows a submissive partner to be brought to the brink – but stopping just before climax. This can be done repeatedly.
Golden shower sex – Though still not as openly discussed, being aroused by the act of urination is a common fetish. It also has its own term – urolagnia.
Voyeurism – One of the most popular of all fetishes, voyeurism is an observation fetish. This sees people becoming turned on by staring at naked bodies or watching other people having sex. With internet porn at its highest level, this is often a fetish most are unaware they even have.
Masochism – A fetish involving a person deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, masochism can be in the form of physical or emotional. The result is a high sensation that is usually gained through spanking, humiliation or even getting spat on.
Gagging – This is the act of lightly choking on something, usually a penis. The arousal stage here is the concept of a man being big enough to induce such gagging sounds in their partner during oral sex. Likewise, the partner in question may find the act of gagging on something far down their throat enjoyable.
Exhibitionism – Preferred by many for its element of risk, exhibitionism is all about outdoor sex, and the thrill of getting caught out at any moment by those nearby.
Leather / Latex / Rubber – Whether being turned on by the feel of latex, leather, or rubber, or by the smell, such material can derive much sexual excitement for those with latex, leather, or rubber fetishes. This is usually used as a form of bondage.
Role PlayRole playing is a way to take on characters that exist outside of our everyday lives and increase sexual pleasure through some fantastic imagination skills. This is a fetish that can accommodate those, be it classical, common, or outrageous, as you please.
Uniforms – Similar to role play, those with a uniform fetish become aroused by those men and women dressed in specific uniforms. From police to firefighters, nurses to teachers, role play can be referred to here to increase the fixation.
Anal – Though not considered a fetish to many as such, many people become sexually aroused by the concept of anal sex. For this reason, it has become more socially acceptable with both men and women enjoying the act.
Choking – Often, the more problematic of fetishes, choking is used increasing more during sex, but at any level is dangerous. Considered edge play, choking involves giving up all control, so needs consent, understanding, and extreme precaution.
Used Underwear – Some people, particularly men, like the concept of smelling ladies used underwear. Whether pants, tights, or other items of underwear, the act of sniffing such worn items can sexually stimulate many.
Humiliation – Not all fetishes are physical, and humiliation is an example of using language to heighten sex. This can range from name-calling to verbal abuse, but when agreed beforehand can make for powerful impact play sessions.
Spanking – Another popular fetish, when finding that most erogenous zone, spanking can be an erotic experience. This means doing so with just the right amount of pressure and frequency to keep it sensual.
Dogging – Dogging is also referred to by many as car park sex. This involves the age-old act of having sex in a car but is now more known for its voyeurism element by those wanting others to watch signalling so with their car’s internal light.

Are fetishes safe and normal?

Fetishes still may not seem such a widely talked about subject. However, many of us have them and act on them safely.

In fact, fetishes are more common than you may think. But it’s only in recent years with the internet and social media that more people are becoming aware of them.

For many people, it’s a healthy way to release their desires in a controlled environment and often with partners who share the same needs. Ultimately, this ensures people don’t suffer in silence or feel ostracised because of such desires.

However, having said this, there are times when some people can make fetishes problematic. Thus occasionally, some fetishes go beyond the accepted boundaries.

This means those involved aren’t consenting, or the desires in question lead to distress, physically and mentally, and in some cases, potential death.

Certified sex coach and sexologist Gigi Engle says practising safety when exploring a fetish is “knowing about your fetish and how to bring it into sex in a safe way.”

Sex-positive events facilitator and curator, Marti Birch reinforces the idea of staying safe, while stressing the importance of exploring a fetish with someone you trust, advising to “stay away from engaging in any sexual activity with people you don’t know.”

She goes on to stress: “Building a connection, intimacy, and trust are the keys for a successful and sustainable relationship with your sexuality.” 

Enhancing your sex life with fetishes

If all those taking part in a fetish are fully consenting, and if it harms no one else, a fetish should be fine to play out.

It goes without saying though that some of the riskier ones, such as dogging and exhibitionism, should be thoroughly considered due to potential consequences.

However, many fetishes can be a great way of encouraging two consenting adults looking to experiment further in their relationship.

Provided comfort levels are discussed beforehand, safety is paramount, and an essential element of trust is involved – a fetish could just be the ideal way to take your sex life to the next level.

Have a particular fetish? Check out our adult service to see the range of specialisms on offer.

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