America is Kinkier Than You Think

What are you into? Thanks to some new research, many may find this question easier to answer.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Indiana University and the University of North Carolina, more than a quarter of men, and more than 10% of women, have sucked or licked a partner’s feet or toes. Nearly half of Americans have had sex in a public place, and more than a fifth of Americans have been tied up or tied their partners up during sex.

The study, one of the most comprehensive surveys to date on sexual behavior in the Unites States, was by no means an exhaustive list of sexual behaviors that people are into. The researchers said they wanted to keep the survey at a manageable length, to maximize the likelihood of receiving answers. But it sheds light on the diversity of sexual behavior by covering all age groups and sexualities—something that may help people feel more comfortable about having fantasies or fetishes that are considered outside the norm.

“As some individuals who engage in kink behaviors may experience shame or stigma, these data may help to contextualize diverse behaviors as normative in contemporary America,” the study said.

By its very nature, “kink” is a constantly evolving concept. “Kink can vary between communities and people depending on self-perceptions and social norms,” said Luna Matatas, a Toronto-based sexuality and kink educator. “What society sees as ‘kinky’ changes over time because of social values and what’s considered ‘normal desires.’”

There are a growing number of communities in which people can freely discuss their kinks and fetishes, such as chat rooms and websites like The popularity of titles like “Fifty Shades of Grey,” although not the “best example of kink,” have also helped expand the scope of what can be deemed “mainstream” in sexual behavior,” Matatas said.


But persistent stigmas around perceived unusual sexual behaviors still drive many to do discuss their desires under a shroud of secrecy. “I’ve had a foot fetish since as far back as I can remember, before the Internet,” said a 43-year-old aerospace engineer from Connecticut. It was difficult for him to discuss his love of stinky, sweaty feet with people, including his college girlfriend, who stopped him every time he reached for her feet during sex.

Being able to connect with others through online communities now makes it easier, he said. Knowing how common his fetish is, he feels more comfortable talking to his friends and to women. “You don’t feel alone anymore. You feel relieved, like you’re not some freak,” he said.

Still, he asked to remain anonymous because he believes publicizing his fetish would have a negative impact on his career.

Stigmas exist even within kinkster communities, where foot fetishes are considered common but other fetishes or kinky fantasies are considered extreme. “People will put content warnings around certain kinds of kinks, which further stigmatizes of differentiates them against what is more acceptable,” Matatas said. “I teach a workshop on pee play–golden showers, water sports—there’s definitely a stigma [about that] within the kink community.”

When she gets questions about any kink or fetish people are uncomfortable with, Matatas encourages her students to take an empathetic approach. “If the thing is an outright trigger for you, hurts you in some way, or causes your to feel unsafe or at risk…it could be a hard no,” she said. “But if they don’t get it, and are just wondering why someone is into that, I try to help them expand the way that they connect to whatever the person is into.”

This article was sponsored by Peachbooth. Eavesdrop on the calls of phone sex operators, because it’s okay to take a peak.

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