Why are unusual kinks and sexual fetishes considered 'highly arousing'?

To those who have an interest in them, not to the general population.

Not sure if there’s a big distinction between a kink and a sexual fetish but anyway; Fetishes like latex, scat, feet urine, BDSM, spanking, ‘rape’, adult-baby are quite common in some who the vast majority wouldn’t show any signs of psychological disorder, have experienced childhood trauma or be debilitated in their day to day normal lives from partaking in their fetish. Sexual fantasies between people of odd relationship types and in uncommon situations can also be very erotic.

Why is this though, if not everyone is insane what could be a reason for gaining such sexual pleasure from thinking or taking part in these fantasies?

According to evolutionary biology/psychology says sexual pleasure is powerful in order to ensure a continuation of species. sexual attraction to young women (16-30) with neotenous features and softer bodies is due to fertility. Height and well defined jaws, shoulders are considered attractive on men because they signify strength and protection.

So what purpose do wild fetishes have? Why are things like latex so arousing for some? What does it satisfy?

They don’t serve any adaptive purpose that isn’t served by the sex drive in general. Any behavior that causes a population to produce more viable offspring is going to be selected for; anything that reduces it will be selected against, all other things being equal.

My un-scientific WAG is that almost anything that produces physiological arousal can be associated with sexual arousal by early imprinting or association, and thus eroticized. The fact that practically anything can trigger sexual arousal is a feature of the human psyche.

It’s like homosexuality. 95+% of the time, people fixate on the opposite sex for their sexual behaviors, and cultural taboos and pressure negate most of the 5% (historically), so most of the time, it “works”. The evolutionary advantages of an easily triggered sex drive outweigh the small disadvantages of the times when it goes awry, evolutionarily speaking. If we as a species were less likely to be turned on in general, we would be less likely to be turned on by spanking or whatever. But then we would copulate less and thus produce fewer viable offspring.


I agree with this. I mean, I’ve heard Pavlov’s dogs could get conditioned to salivate upon hearing the bell that got paired with the savory food they’d craved; and I’ve been a young and hormonal guy who got uncontrollable erections at seemingly random times while my personality was still a work in progress; and if I’d gotten my first erection while getting spanked, I’m guessing psychology would’ve ensued.

Also anything outside of the norm or even slightly taboo, always seems to gain a little appeal somehow.

Bolding mine.

I want to call this into question. I realize it’s easy to figure that a huge percentage of the population have some sort of oddball fetish or kink but I think that’s yet to be determined. Such things get outsize media attention because they make good stories - a story about people who are strictly vanilla doesn’t merit ink or airwaves - and things that are different seem to pop up in pornography.

But still, I’d want to see some double-blind research before I’d accept the premise that such are ‘quite common’.

I’m not sure what realm this falls into, WAG, IMHO, or just personal observation, but, it seems to me that the great majority of people I know, or have known, fall into the category of straight, normal, rational people who hold conservative and “Christian” principles as their ideal – and that does not translate to the percentage of people in the general population who engage in activities that are contrary and inconsistent to what a reasonable person would consider conducive to the continued proliferation of goodness in the universe. I’m talking about any irrational behavior - committing crimes, endorsing hate-based philosophies (racism, homophobia, misogyny) or on a larger level, waging war.
The connection is tenuous. I know many men and women raised in supposedly moral, Christian families who blithely endorse or participate in any of the aforementioned behaviors, and I wonder why. Learned behavior?
When it comes to sexual fetishes or kinks, in supposedly “normal” people it is good to remember that it is a surprisingly small percentage of people who reached adulthood without some bit of traumatic, or deviant, or just odd event influencing their sexual outlook. The number of women, mostly, (but also men) who were, in one way or another, sexually abused, molested, or introduced to sexual behavior at a young age is (maybe) surprisingly large. I say maybe because in my experience the greater majority of women I’ve been intimate with have admitted to such a thing, but maybe I’m an exception to the norm.
I’ve had many conversations with my therapist about “nature or nurture.” She is adamant that a certain amount of curiosity and experimentation is normal, but that extreme expressions of fetishism is usually connected to childhood trauma. I tend to disagree with her. Much the same as I believe a gay person is born that way (as opposed to a choice) I think just about any other sexual deviance from the norm is also part of being “human.”
Then, combined with childhood experience, parental example, and the type of society in general one grows up in, almost anything is possible.
And of course, there are more than a few old clichés that apply: “variety is the spice of life,” and/or “taboo is tantalizing.”

Yeah, I think that Shodan is right- it’s some kind of inconscious association that grows in you. The brain is a funky place.

There’s the transgressive theory. The basic idea is that if you already feel the sex is “wrong” then you heighten the sexual feeling by doing things which violate additional social bounds. So, for example, having sex in a public place is more exiting than having sex in the bedroom.

ISTM that asking this question is like someone who dislikes mushrooms or seafood, asking why some people like mushrooms or seafood. At a certain point, it becomes about impossible to explain why. Some people just like it and some don’t. A liking is a liking.

There might be a “notch filter” effect; when you find something that seems “perfectly tailored” to your tastes, it will affect your emotions more than other things that are more ordinary.

Miss October is attractive to me, but the Geriatric Albino covered in Caramel Sauce is aimed right at the center of my soul!

I think you need to break the OP down into two questions:

[li]Why are these things arousing to anyone?[/li][li]Why are they highly arousing to those who are aroused by them.[/li][/ol]
IMHO there is no answer to the first and no need for an answer. It’s a minority of people who get aroused by these things, and what with natural variation among people there’s always going to be a minority of people who vary WRT all sorts of things, sexual or non-sexual.

As for the second, it works backwards. Meaning, it only seems to be true. If you have someone who is aroused in ways that society considers deviant, and is equally aroused in ways that society considers normal, then that person is going to suppress the former and focus on the latter. So an outsider - or even the person themselves - won’t consider them as being aroused by those fetishes. The people who actually act on these “deviant” desires will generally be those who are highly aroused by them, i.e. more than from conventional attractions. So the world of those who are devotees of those things will consist primary of those who are highly aroused by them.

You have several things mixed in together here.

In no special order…

It’s all too common for a basic misunderstanding of evolution to occur, because it is so very sloppily taught in schools, and spoken about in the various media.

Specifically, lots of people use the phrase “serves a purpose,” or some variation of it in association with evolution, and that strongly implies that some power or entity somewhere CAUSED creatures to evolve in a certain way, in order to accomplish some goal.

That’s NOT how evolution actually works. There should be a loud buzzer that goes off, every time someone again says that the “reason” for a given characteristic or behavior, is that it improves the species chances of continuity/survival.

**Survival is a RESULT, not a GOAL of evolutionary change. **

With that clearly understood, therefore a question such as "So what purpose do wild fetishes have? " becomes obviously specious.

Weird sex doesn’t “serve a purpose,” because sex itself doesn’t “serve a purpose,” in the true sense of those words.

Another true aspect of ACTUAL evolutionary theory can help as well. That is, that since evolutionary change is the RESULT of survival, and since survival is NOT a directed or guided thing (excepting individual efforts such as animal husbandry and purposeful breeding), it is true that when existence is continued, that ALL of the traits of the survivor are passed on, not just the ones that served to allow their survival.

Think of it in another example, such as financial success in business. We have seen all sorts of individuals succeed wildly in business over the ages. Some of them are very good at buying and selling, and so they live long enough, and find mates, and make lots of babies to carry on their genetics.

But when they do so, ALL of their genes are carried forward, not JUST the ones that helped them get rich. Hence we see people who are great at business, and are also very weird sexually, and sometimes a few people get confused (by their misunderstanding of both evolution and of success) and think that the rich person succeeded BECAUSE they are weird sexually.

So. There is no need at all, to ask “what purpose” sexual fetishes and so on serve.

Now. As to the opening questions. I suggest that they can only be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. remember, lots of people who have such fetishes, are not comfortable with them psychologically, because they know they are in the minority, and so have formed alliances, and formulated intricate philosophies and concepts specifically to comfort themselves or others.

 It's my OPINION, that this subject area is most accurately understood, with an eye to the same basic answer for ALL questions relating to human behavior.  That is, that we are simultaneously **physiological,** and **psychological, ** and **sociological, ** and **conceptual,** and **sexual** beings, all at the same time.  Most of the details of what each person turns out to be, are due to elements of all of those facets intersecting, rather than to only one in an isolated manner.

In the case of becoming sexually excited, I’ve found that I am very complex. And I am certain that I am far from alone in this. What I mean is, for example, that for most of us, seeing a member of the gender who we are drawn to, naked, CAN be a sexual experience. But it can just as well be entirely asexual, even “anti-sexual,” depending on the details. And if each person carefully observes themselves, they can learn all sorts of interesting details about WHY a given thought, or experience, or sight, gets them excited, or “turns them off.”

 And I've seen enough, that I know that one person's "normal," is another person's "fetish."  The most glaring example of that, is probably the common idea that guys like to look at porn more than women do, and don't think of porn as a distraction from their interest in their mates.  But lots of women think (or at least claim to think) that all porn is a fetish.

Some basics I’ve experienced, as well as read about and witnessed: common and simple “fetishes,” such as seeing someone naked on purpose, are stimulating because the implication is that we the observer are declared to be extra worthy and desired by the person who allows us to see them nude. The turn on isn’t the nudity itself, the turn on is the MESSAGE of the nudity.

In the case of people who are turned on by voyeurism, especially the ones who get off on seeing people naked against their will, are again, not so much excited by the nudity itself, they are excited by the sense of power they get from the involuntary aspect of it.

I personally don’t think that Freud and others were correct, that mothers and fathers are ever true sexual interests for offspring, even psychologically. I think that’s a confusion of what actually is involved, and that the people who are messed up about parent-child relationships, actually caused those psychologists to confuse themselves.

Personally, I’m voting that human sexuality works on a similar system as imprinting, in birds.

As a principally vision-oriented species, there’s no chemical/hormonal pathway for sexual instinct to be triggered. Somewhere in the brain is a knob that adjusts sexual attraction, that by default isn’t really connected to anything, where in other species it would be hardwired to a pathway that leads through the nose. Instead, for us, the pathways have to be built through a learning process (though, once built, it’s probably undoable).

And so where you can get, in ducks, the possibility that chicks will come to think of a shirt as being their mother, in humans you have the possibility that we’ll get turned on by the feel of wool, someone of our own gender, or whatever else.

My inclination on seeing the thread title was to say “If they weren’t highly arousing, they wouldn’t really qualify as kinks, now would they?”

Most of it is a combo of “symbol that represents the whole experience” and “proximity to the real target of desire causes accoutrements to become sexualized”, such as someone having sexual feelings when they see the underwear generally worn by the sex to which they’re attracted, even when that particular underwear is uninhabited.

Paraphilias are mostly a male phenomenon, with masochism being one of the few exceptions.

My personal evo-psych just-so speculation is that there’s an asymmetry for the purpose of spreading genes where it’s better for a man to be aroused when he doesn’t need to be versus not being aroused when he needs to be. So the male brain casts a wider net on what might be considered arousing stimuli.

One idea I’ve read is that male sexuality is inherently objectifying, so it makes sense for men to be attracted to related objects. Reminds me of the Big Lebowski line about treating objects like women. Women who go on testosterone treatment sometimes report their sexual outlook changing in the way they view targets of their desire. Less focus on fantasy narrative building, more on body parts or relieving sexual tension.

Women’s most common paraphilia is masochism, and their most reported fantasies are various degrees of rape, being controlled by a man, or having sex with multiple strangers. I wonder how much of this is a coping strategy in reaction to patriarchal culture (radfem view) or more of a submissive streak of female psychology (traditional view).

Many fetishes are considered disgusting, but some just seem silly. Like balloon fetishists. The forbidden fruit idea says people are attracted to what society says is wrong. I find it hard to believe the balloon community would expand if society started saying only deviants like popping balloons.

I vaguely recall some study that said those with higher IQ tend to have unusual sexual interests, perhaps due to novelty seeking behavior to relieve boredom, or because they’re more creative, or because they tend to be more widely read and exposed to new ideas. That sounds like a nice rationalization. Honey, I’m not a pervert, I’m just super smart.

IMO this is most of it.

The rest is IMO pretty simple.

Most aspects of our individual personalities are heavily socialized. How outgoing, generous, neat, organized, sloppy, introspective, emotional, honest, trusting, loquacious, left/right-leaning, etc., you may be was definitely subject to lots of feedback, both deliberate and implicit, with your family and friends and playmates and such. And all this was going on from infancy and is still going on today.

Contrast this with sex. At least in US society it’s the Great Unmentionable. Your individual mind figures it out all on its own. And the whole thing is dormant until age 10-ish then rapidly crescendos by age 14ish. After which most folks pursue their particular rut with little or no conversation beyond (maybe) their SO of the moment. Who’s equally a sample grouping of one cluelessly stuck in his/her rut.

There is literally nothing in common between the lifetime development of your sexuality versus damn near any other aspect of your personality.

It seems pretty obvious to me that whenever we’re dealing with something subject to social feedback there’s going to be a collective pressure to drive most of everybody into a relatively narrow mainstream niche. Lots of other folks are going to be clustered not far away from the mainstream. It will be a very bell-curve shaped distribution.

Absent that social pressure, folks are going to be all over the ranch, heading off in every which-way imaginable. instead of a bell curve we’ll have what looks like an airburst firework: an identifiable center, but lots of sparks flying in every direction.

My pet theory is that sexual kinks are kind of a Nash equilibrium. If everybody in the human competes for the same sexual ideal, then it’s nothing but conflict and competition. If people can imprint on some idiosyncratic thing, then everybody can be happy.

Of course that leads to the question of why Google has multiple million idiosyncratic images for a gas mask hooked up to someone’s ass, but you’re on your own there, chap.

I dislike shell fish sea food, because I was raised in the 1940s in the UK some 80 miles from the sea, and therefore fresh shellfish from salt water was totally likely to be spoiled by the time it reached us. People we knew had had food poisoning from it, so we didn’t eat it.

Sexusl fetishes are presumably similar. My wife considers all oral sex to be “dirty” so she was presumably taught that as a child.

Who teaches children about oral sex?

Not too many folks. At least not directly.

But lots of parents push the idea that peeing & pooping are dirty. And that playing with your own private parts is bad or evil. Frequently using the word “dirty” in another of its many meanings. Meanwhile, only provably clean things should go in our mouths; many people are real squeamish about eating food that’s fallen on the floor for example. Or refuse to eat fresh fruits or veg that haven’t been given a ceremonial rinsing of nil practical effect.

Put all that together and it’s easy to see how the idea of oral sex triggers lots of eeww, ick! associations in some people. Associations that are direct consequences of childhood training on different but closely related issues.