How To Change Any Fetish
Here’s the process of how to change your fetish:
- Understand how it formed.
- Get to the root cause.
- Stop making it worse.
- Change the root cause.
See also: Can Fetishes Even Be Changed?
How To Change Your Fetish: Step 1: Understand How It Formed.
If you want to know how to change your fetish, you’ll first have to work out how it formed. It’s probably formed from a mix of some or all of these 3 mechanisms:
- Conditioning. This is when a link is formed in the brain between *something* and sex due to repeated experiences. This is most common for fetishes towards objects and clothes. Your brain forms an association between that thing and pleasure.
- Imprinting. This is where a link is formed in the brain between *something* and sex due to an experience, usually in childhood.
- Emotional shielding. This is most common for fetishes for concepts or scenarios – as opposed to objects. This is when a deep-rooted emotion is turned into sexual pleasure. We find pleasurable validation from situations involving particular emotions.
Almost always, it will be a mix of all 3. We all form associations, we all have early experiences, and we all have deep-rooted fears and feelings.
How To Change Your Fetish: Conditioning
Common for all fetishes, especially in strengthening the fetish, but particularly for fetishes for body parts, underwear, or sexual items.
By repeatedly seeing one thing alongside sex/pleasure/affection/love/arousal etc, you can develop a fetish towards that thing by creating an association in the brain.
Researchers in the 1960s showed a group of men pictures of naked women alongside non-sexual images of boots. The researchers thought that after a while of repeatedly showing these men boots next to sexy pictures, their brains would begin to form a link between boots and arousal. Sure enough, after repeatedly being shown boots in a sexual context, they managed to give these men a boot fetish – just by creating a link in their brains between the boots and arousal. (They then removed the fetish from all the subjects.) (Rachman 1966, Rachman & Hodgson 1968)
If you are repeatedly exposed to something during times of sexual arousal, then your brain will associate that thing with sex and pleasure, and this is one way to form a fetish.
Usually, this is most likely to happen during puberty – this is when we are discovering our sexual nature, and learning most about sex, but this can happen at any point, just from repeatedly being conditioned into linking something with arousal.
Conditioning plays a role in EVERY fetish – the more you associate something with sexual arousal, the stronger that association becomes.
In fact, it plays a role in every sexual desire – the reason why someone might like blondes more than brunettes or butts more than boobs is largely due to their associations.
How To Change Your Fetish: Imprinting
Common for ‘weird’ fetishes towards non-sexual objects, such as the foot fetish.
Essentially, this is when we form an association between the fetish and either sexual arousal, love, affection, or acceptance. It differs from conditioning in that this association can be formed from as little as one experience, especially if that experience occurs in childhood.
Childhood is the most impressionable time in our lives, because we’re learning EVERYTHING about being in this world. If, during that time, we form an association between one thing and pleasure/love/affection, that imprint will stay with us forever.
The foot fetish is an example of this. A leading theory for the formation of the foot fetish states that a baby crawling around on the floor would repeatedly see their mother’s feet – and they associate their mother with love/affection/acceptance. In this way, an imprint forms in their brain between feet and love.
I’ve heard of a man who claimed to have a balloon fetish. He claimed it formed from an early experience of being fascinated with balloons, and associating that material with pleasure.
Fetishes for leather and latex, can be formed due to an early experience where the material was linked to pleasure.
But it’s not just pleasure; an association with love or affection can also form a fetish.
So, to understand how to change your fetish, you should first think back to your earliest experiences with whatever your fetish is. Do you have childhood memories of liking it non-sexually? Do you associate it with pleasure/love/affection?
How To Change Your Fetish: Emotional Shielding.
This likely plays a role in all fetishes, but is most common for scenarios or concepts, as opposed to objects. This could be bondage, domination/submission, sadism/masochism, public sex, humiliation, incest, snuff, rape, cuckolding, etc.
These fetishes turn emotional pain into sexual pleasure. We all have some deep-rooted emotional pain, whether it be a fear of abandonment, a need for control, a fear of powerlessness or a sense that we’re just not good enough. These things can be formed in early childhood and can dictate the rest of our lives.
Our brains find pleasure in situations that recreate this pain, in order to protect us from the painful emotions it may trigger. By either surrendering to the pain, or acting it onto someone else, we can find pleasurable validation from confronting these deep-rooted fears and painful feelings.
So, a person with a fear of powerlessness could develop a fetish for being tied up – and being powerless. Their deepest fear is turned into their greatest pleasure – as a way to protect themselves.
Similarly, someone with a fear of powerlessness may develop a fetish for tying someone else up, because by taking on the role of the aggressor they also disconnect from the pain that it may trigger. Someone with a fear of exposure, vulnerability, or public disapproval could find pleasure in public sex. A person with a fear of inadequacy could find pleasure in situations that incite inadequacy – such as humiliation. These situations would be painful, so our brains turn them into pleasure as a survival mechanism – to protect ourselves from having deeply hurtful feelings triggered.
Commonly, we’re also turned on things that are ‘taboo’. As young children we are repeatedly punished for being naughty and learn that naughty behaviours are bad. This can create a life-long emotional imprint around doing any behaviours that’s seen as naughty – and that’s why ‘taboo’ things can be pleasurable. The brain finds pleasure in naughtiness in order to protect us from triggering the same emotional pain experienced in childhood.
(References: Stoller, 1979; La Torre, 1980; Langevin, 1983; Stoller, 1986; Morin, 1995; Rosen, 1996; Sawyer, 1996; Kaplan, 1997; Lowenstein, 2002; Siegel, 2011; Baumeister, 2014)
IMPORTANT NOTE: Fetishes can also be a way to deal with unmet needs. Are you socially fulfilled, for example? Do you feel like you belong? Are you getting your needs for love, respect, and acceptance just as you are? Or are you trying to be something else?
How To Change Your Fetish Step 2: Get To The Root Cause
Conditioning and Imprinting
With conditioning and imprinting, the root cause is an association between the fetish and arousal. That’s the root cause – your brain has formed a link between the object and arousal – instead of seeing it in its normal way, you instead see it in a sexual way because you associate it with sex. Simple.
Then, if you can, try to understand how this formed. Think back to your earliest memories with the subject. Maybe you had an early experience with leather, leading to a leather fetish. Maybe the first times you masturbated were with a Victoria’s Secret catalogue – leading to a fetish for stockings/panties/fishnets. And maybe over time that fetish got worse and more specific. Or, perhaps you associated high heels with sex after seeing a woman wear them in bed. Work out where it started. Some things can be formed in early, early childhood – perhaps even before you can remember. So don’t be too worried if you can’t isolate the origin. The important thing is knowing that you have a mental association between that thing and pleasure.
With emotional shielding, the root cause is the emotions themselves. This could be powerlessness, rejection, inadequacy, helplessness, guilt, abandonment, loneliness, vulnerability, shame, anxiety, and much more. Identify exactly what emotion your fetish revolves around.
For the more ‘submissive’ fetishes, you can do that by asking yourself ‘How would any normal person feel in this situation?’ Humiliation fetishes create a sense of inadequacy – a deep-rooted sense of shame and a sense of inferiority. Being tied up creates feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability.
For the more dominant fetishes, it’s the same thing, but opposite. Instead of taking on the victim role, you take on the aggressor role, and the situation is still turning subconscious emotions into pleasure. So to tie someone up is an attempt to heal your own sense of powerlessness and vulnerability, by acting it out in the role of the aggressor. To humiliate is about your own sense of inadequacy. To rape is about helplessness, etc.
Urination can eroticize shame/guilt/powerlessness (as well as your associations with urine). Asphyxiation = helplessness. ABDL = Inadequacy, helplessness, emptiness. Incest = guilt/shame, rejection/inadequacy. Body parts = weakness, numbness, emptiness, vulnerability. Objects/clothing = fear of hurting others, detatchment. This list is all according to one author/psychologist (Siegel, 2011) so take these with a grain of salt; ultimately, you should be able to work this out for yourself based on how you feel.
Bear in mind that we often seek to find validation in sexual experiences. In what ways does your fetish provide you with validation? I once helped a man who had a ‘BBW’ fetish – he liked fat women. He discovered that it made him feel safe and could bypass his fears of rejection – because he thought fat women would never reject him, as they were too ‘flawed’ themselves. He looked down on fat people, so fatness became a ‘safety net’ where he could have the illusion of feeling truly loved and accepted, because his brain associated fat women with zero chance of rejection. Therefore, fat women became erotically validating.
His root cause: low self-esteem & insecurity, combined with wrongful associations with fatness and fat women.
Look into the emotions behind your fetish. Look for the pain. And then use that as a guide for what to search for in yourself. That’s the root cause.
How To Change Your Fetish Step 3: Stop Making It Worse
This is CRUCIAL but so often overlooked.
Conditioning and Imprinting
Every time you get sexual pleasure from your fetish, you STRENGTHEN the association in your brain. That’s the complete opposite of what you want! So stop! See my article on porn addiction if you’re struggling to stop watching porn. Otherwise, use all the willpower you have to STOP reinforcing the sexual association! Because every time you get aroused by your fetish, the mental link between fetish and arousal becomes stronger. So to start changing your fetish, you need to stop making it worse.
For emotional shielding, it’s a bit more difficult. Deep-rooted emotions have the power to dictate your entire life. They can influence every decision that you ever make. You may already be living your life in a way that strengthens the emotions.
For example, someone with a sense of inadequacy may be unable to believe they’re good enough, and sometimes they may be confined to a life of never achieving anything significant, never leaving their comfort zone, never taking a leap of faith, because they don’t believe in themselves. This in turn will make their lives literally more inadequate. To deal with this, they may try to escape by immersing themselves in video games or TV shows or films/books/internet, which in turn will not make their lives any better. Perhaps they’ll try to cope with alcohol, or drugs, or by eating recklessly or developing any other addictive behaviour, which obviously makes them even less adequate, leaving them in an endless spiral of continually self-reinforcing inadequacy (compounded by the fact that their fetish makes them feel inadequate too).
In other cases, this deep-rooted inadequacy can cause them to overachieve, to think that by becoming more intelligent, successful, kind, muscular, rich, then they’ll finally be good enough. Of course, that doesn’t change their deep-rooted feelings, so they will continually pursue a never-ending road to self-improvement, without ever being good ‘enough‘, strengthening the sense that they’re inadequate. In this way, a deep-seated emotion can dictate your whole life with self-reinforcing behaviours. So, stop making it worse. Interrupt the cycle.
Another example: someone with a sense of helplessness may feel that they are unable to take care of themselves. This may lead to them living with their parents until well into their adulthood – by which time they miss out on gaining valuable independence skills and so they literally become even more helpless. Or, they may enter co-dependant relationships where they depend on the other person because they feel helpless, and that dependency makes it very hard to escape those relationships (even if their partner becomes abusive!) meaning they literally become even more helpless, and locking them in to a pattern of ever-increasing helplessness. Or perhaps they’ll go the other way, attempting to gain control over everything in life. This still won’t change their deep-seated emotions, and no matter how much control they get, they won’t feel any less helpless (because this is a SUBCONSCIOUS emotion), and after gaining so much control and realising it’s still not enough, that will surely lead to even greater feelings of helplessness.
Someone with low self-confidence doesn’t talk much in social situations, doesn’t meet new people, or doesn’t put themselves out there. Guess the effects! They become more isolated and even worse as a result.
Deep-seated emotions can reinforce themselves. Stop making it worse. Get on top of your deep-rooted fears and beliefs. Once you’ve identified them, take a long hard look at your life and determine which aspects of your life are driven by these deep-rooted emotions, and which aspects REINFORCE these deep-rooted emotions – and then stop making it worse.
How To Change Your Fetish Step 4: Change The Root Cause
Conditioning and Imprinting
For conditioning and imprinting this means changing your associations. There are a number of ways that you can do that.
The first is by repeatedly exposing yourself to the fetish in a completely non-sexual way. By doing this, you start to see the thing in its normal role, as opposed to a sexual role. This may mean looking at the fetish in a non-sexual context, AFTER sexual climax (where you can’t become aroused). Look at the object in its normal setting.
Researches have found success with a number of these methods. Some methods involve continuing to masturbate after orgasm (if you’re male) where you literally can’t get aroused. You have a flaccid penis and are trying to masturbate, while looking at your fetish – and it’s not arousing, very awkward, and kind of ridiculous. By doing this, you change your associations. Similarly, researchers found success with getting people to verbally describe their fantasies out loud, into a microphone or recording device, in such detail that it became boring, arduous, and they became self-aware of what they were saying. It wasn’t ‘dirty talk’, it was descriptive and objective, to the point of satiation. Then, they kept going. This made them get sick of their fetish.
The second, more extreme method, is to start to associate that fetish with NEGATIVE things. Imagine something disgusting involving your fetish. Or imagine something horrible. The more you do that, the more your brain will form a negative association.
Be aware that by associating the fetish with a forbidden nature, you can unintentionally see it as ‘taboo’ which itself can become arousing under a subset of the emotional shielding method.
For emotional shielding, changing the root cause means tackling the deep-rooted emotions themselves. Once you have identified the correct emotion(s), and identified the ways in which they continually get worse, you can work on healing those emotions at their core. The method for doing this depends on the emotions.
On this website, I tell you how to change a fetish that causes a lot of people a great deal of psychological pain: the cuckold fetish. Cuckolding is the eroticization of a deep-rooted sense of inadequacy. It’s an emotional shielding type of fetish, which you can change by tackling the root cause and healing that. I wrote a separate article on the psychology behind the cuckold fetish in particular.
For some reason, people think it’s as simple as ‘believing in yourself~’ or ‘trying to believe that you’re good enough~’. It takes more than that to change a deep-rooted part of your brain, it doesn’t happen overnight! In fact, the process of overcoming inadequacy has a lot to it. There’s a lot that can go wrong, and a lot that people overlook, especially when it comes to creating long-lasting change. Particularly because most of these things are formed in childhood, and they mostly determine the actions in the rest of your life, occasionally becoming self-reinforcing.
For the last year, I’ve been teaching men this process, and if you have a cuckold fetish and want to change, I’m opening up my coaching to the public, sending out free guidance (sign up below) and developing an online course to take you through this process and deliver life-long results (again, sign up below to hear about that).
- Investigate your associations. Does your urination fetish come from seeing urine as humiliating and shameful?
- Investigate the emotions. Does your fetish involve being victim or victor of some fears and hurtful feelings? Does it provide validation – making you feel better about yourself – in combination with your associations, and being victim/victor of fears and feelings?
- Investigate the origin. What made you form those associations? What is your earliest experience with those things? When did those fears and feelings form? How were you treated in childhood?
- Stop reinforcing the associations and emotions. Get your life together; get friends, get adequate validation from social sources, take responsibility for meeting your needs, including sexual needs.
- Change your associations.
- Heal your deep-rooted fears and feelings.
I make it sound much simpler than it really is, and that’s unavoidable. This should be more of a book than an article, because this process is long and complex. But, whatever your fetish, I want you to know that there is hope.
Some people try to argue that fetishes shouldn’t be changed. There are elements of truth and good intentions to this: there’s really nothing wrong with having a fetish, they’re normal, they can add another layer to your sex life. But, when that fetish causes you to feel shame and sadness, or interferes with having a normal sex life, you need to do something. One thing you can do is accept it. It’s true that if you truly accept it, that will remove any shame or sadness. But sometimes, acceptance is hard. It’s impossible for some people. Change can be an easier solution, even if it takes years to work it out on your own. If you have a cuckold fetish and want to change, sign up below:
How To Change Any Fetish – Article Date: April 2018
Baumeister, R. F. (2014). Masochism and the self. Psychology Press.
Kaplan, L. J. (1997). Clinical manifestations of the perverse strategy. Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy. 14(1), 79-89.
Langevin, R. (1983) Sexual strands: Understanding And Treating Sexual Anomalies In Men, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum
La Torre, R. (1980). Devaluation of the human love object: Heterosexual rejection as a possible antecedent of fetishism. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 89, 295–298.
Lowenstein, L. F. (2002). Fetishes and their associated behavior. Sexuality and Disability, 20(2), 135-147.
Morin, J. (1995) The Erotic Mind. New York: HarperCollins
Rachman, S., (1966). Sexual fetishism: An experimental analogue. The Psychological Record, 16(3), pp.293-296.
Rachman, S. and Hodgson, R.J., (1968). Experimentally-induced “sexual fetishism”: Replication and development. The Psychological Record, 18(1), pp.25-27.
Rosen, I. E. (1996). Sexual deviation. Oxford University Press.
Sawyer, D. (1996). An attempt to repair: The meanings of a fetish in the case of Mr. A. Issues in Psychoanalytic Psychology, 18, 21-35
Stoller, R. J. (1979). Sexual excitement: Dynamics of erotic life. London: Maresfield Library.
Stoller, R. J. (1986). Perversion: The erotic form of hatred. Karnac Books
Siegel, S. (2011) Your Brain On Sex. Sourcebooks Casablanca.