With recent explorations into the realm of friends-who-also-have-sex realm, something that has come to my mind recently is what kind of distinctions I can draw between fetish, kink, and sex. There are actually so many things that make up what we usually call in one pathetically limiting word “sexuality” that this is actually a very difficult thing to piece apart. So much of fetish is sex after all, kink is fetish in a way, and sex can certainly be kinky. But again, not always. Where’s the line?

In my experience, this line varies so wildly that I’m not surprised it’s so difficult for people to draw distinctions between them. What are the distinctions though?

Contrary to what many people believe, my experience has been that fetish, BDSM (kink), and sex are each distinct realms, separate from one another. This is true in both a cultural sense—because the fetish scene doesn’t actually always mingle with the sex-positive scene doesn’t always run in the same circles as the BDSM crowd doesn’t always rub shoulders with the swingers, and so on and so forth—and a personal sense, because these three distinct parts of my sexuality developed in wholly distinct periods of my life.

While you will never get any argument from me that there are large sections of the three that overlap with each other, I maintain that these three things are different enough from each other to warrant observation and thought as distinct entities. I have been also been making bigger strides in cross-polinating with other groups, and the variations in etiquette and general tone is surprising (and refreshing!) to even me. (This is supposed to be impressive because I’m one of the younger, “Yes, I’ve seen it all types.” And I have actually seen quite a bit.)

Ultimately, the point is not that one’s sexuality must be thought of in terms of distinct components, but that it is very helpful in getting what you want when you know that what you want is a mix of different things you can put together in any damn way you please. This freedom to pick and chose what you like is absolutely essential to making a sexual experience rewarding, and it’s bafflingly undercommunicated for some strange reason.

The public BDSM (heterosexual) scene, for instance, seems to have some kind of taboo against sex. Sex is so frequently the after-thought in BDSM meetings, that recently TES-TiNG did a whole meeting asking the question, Where’d our sex go? In fact, the blurb for that meeting is so appropriate to this post, I’m going to quote it:

A little confused about where the ‘sex’ went in ‘kinky sex’? Want to get it back in there? Heard rumors that people used to play and have sex — in public! Wonder why the “Scene” isn’t quite like that anymore? (Was it ever?) Confused about how sex & BDSM could be separated in the first place? Concerned with safeguarding the spaces we still have?

Surprising, right? Well, the taboo’s not against sex, of course, but it certainly drives the point home. Indeed, when I first began to get into the scene, I divorced sex so completely from BDSM that it actually surprised me when Eileen started playing with me sexually a couple years ago. Now, with (somewhat) non-kinky explorations of sex (which is almost a first for me), I wonder if there’s not new and ever more interesting possibilities to play with by mixing and matching elements of fetish, kink, and sex to my liking. Will I create something entirely new? Will that even matter? I’m just going to have a lot more fun!