Is it possible to get rid of a fetish?

Is it possible to get rid of a fetish?

Throughout the ages, many people have tried to rid themselves of their non-normative sexual desires. Even more often, inhumane "treatment" has been forced on fetishists in an attempt to "cure" them of their proclivities. But is it actually even possible to rid oneself of a fetish?

It has been posited that for many kinksters, fetishistic interests develop during childhood, and may stay relatively fixed throughout their lives the way any sexual orientation would. We know from the history of conversion therapy – the pseudoscientific and barbaric practice of trying to turn a gay or bisexual person straight, using aversion techniques and other methods – that it is impossible to forcibly change someone's sexual orientation, and it seems likely that the same is true for changing one's kinks.

Some research has found that cognitive behavioral therapy, Pavlovian conditioning, and other psychiatric methods can help reduce a person's fetishistic desires. Some medications, including antiandrogens and antidepressants, are also used to suppress the sex drive and thereby suppress potentially harmful fetishistic behavior. Usually these are reserved for people whose fetish is demonstrably harming themselves or the people around them (such as by spurring them to commit violence), and who have found their self-control to be insufficient in dealing with their fetish-related problems. But these people are a tiny minority within the overall fetishist community.

Ultimately, the more relevant question is: Why would a person want to get rid of their fetish?

One key reason, for a lot of kinksters curious about this subject, is the potent combination of stigma and shame. If you've been told all your life, whether implicitly or explicitly, that your sexuality is weird, gross, broken, or immoral, it's easy to understand why you might long for a more "normal" sexuality. This may be particularly true if you are, or have been, in relationships with people who shamed you for your sexual desires, or who simply didn't share those desires.

It's important to remember, though, that a mere fantasy cannot be said to be either "good" or "bad." What matters is what you do about that fantasy. Thoughts cannot really be unethical; actions can.

You might, for example, have a fantasy about roughly "ravishing" someone sexually in a way that might appear violent – but if you're an ethical kinkster, you'll only ever act out that fantasy with people who've given their informed consent to be part of that scene. You'll pursue your desire in a way that respects the needs and wants of your partner(s), whether that includes using condoms, applying lube, setting aside an hour for aftercare, or anything else that the two (or more) of you deem necessary. There's a big difference between this type of thoughtfulness and the actual violence enacted by some people who don't understand (or won't accept) that their fantasy is no excuse to infringe on other people's rights and freedoms.

If a fetish of yours is causing you interpersonal problems – such as by making it hard for you to find suitable dating partners, or by stirring up tensions in your relationship – you may want to pursue solo or couples' therapy with a kink-savvy practitioner. Or you may want to simply accept that even if your fetish makes your dating life more complicated, ultimately it's a unique facet of yourself that renders your life more interesting and your sexuality more singular and special than many people's. When it comes to fetishes, it's important to find a balance of indulgence and moderation that works for you – but in a world that shames kinksters as much as ours does, it's common for us to lean too hard on the "moderation" side of things out of sheer shame, not realizing that our desires are part of what make us beautiful and unique.

It may not be easy to accept your fetish as a healthy and lovely part of yourself, but the work involved in getting to a place of self-acceptance is well worth it. Having a sex life that fulfils you can make your entire life feel brighter, happier, and more purposeful. Don't shortchange yourself of that experience just because a few people have made you feel like a freak in the past. Your fetish is a vital part of you, and a vital part of the diverse rainbow that is human sexuality. Accept it, adore it, and use it wisely.