The word “fetish” comes from a Portuguese word for “spell,” which might explain the magical power sexual fetishes have over us. No matter how “vanilla” your sex life seems, you may have kinky little turn-ons: A lust for briefs, dirty talk, armpit smells or biting—those are pretty standard. There are some well-known, higher-level fetishes that require particular gear, like electric stimulation (e-stim or stimming), furries (yiffing), douching (klismaphilia) or role-playing as an adult baby (infantalism)—kinky, but still not particularly unusual fetishes.
Then there are far more rare fetishes, which almost never get discussed, like toe amputation and male pregnancy. To give them some love and wider discussion, we’ve explored each one in depth. Before we begin, however, allow us to point out a few things.
First, the psychological term for sexual fetish is paraphilia, meaning a form of sexual arousal that depends on uncommon sexual behavior and fantasies.
We’ve tried to respect each individual fetish by not mocking it or its practitioners. (Though we do make jokes here and there, especially about the farting fetish, because c’mon.) In most cases we’ve tried to help explain the erotic logic that makes each one so appealing.
Also, not all of these unusual fetishes are sexual; a person can enjoy aspects of each without ever reaching for their genitals, so it’s important to remember they don’t always involve intercourse or masturbatory arousal.
Lastly, we’ve also included links with each entry that connect to safe-for-work resources where you can learn and see more. When we link to something NSFW, we say so. Enjoy!
Check out our deep dive into 10 unusual fetishes below:
1. Looning (Balloon Fetish)
While “looners” are people who get turned on by standard latex balloons, other “inflatophiles” enjoy anything that can be inflated — pool toys, foil balloons, bounce houses or even everyday objects like rubber gloves, garbage bags and car tires. Looners typically get separated into those who enjoy popping balloons (“poppers”) and those who don’t (“non-poppers”); some poppers also enjoy other sorts of “crush” or “stomp” fetishes that sexualize trampling.
While some guys get turned on by the mere presence of balloons, others get hard watching their inflation or thinking about having sex with someone on top of a balloon — talk about bouncy time! But the loud noise and flying latex of burst balloons can harm people’s ears, eyes or skin, so protective earplugs, goggles or clothing helps.
The Psychology: Though armchair psychologists assume that all looners must have experienced a sexual attraction to a balloon handler early on in life, Dennis, a guy who runs a balloon fetishist website, explains its other allures:
First of all, it’s this relatively small object becoming so huge in a couple of breaths. The skin-like feeling of a big soft balloon — when you’re lying on it, it feels like lying on a cloud. The lively colors, the sounds of inflation, the smell of high-quality latex and of course the “bounciness” — basically more or less everything about that feeling.
Some poppers also equate balloon popping with orgasm, though non-poppers may equate popping with death, especially if they’ve formed an emotional attachment to the balloon, something you can relate to if you ever felt sad as a kid after your balloon popped or drifted upward into the sky.
2. MPREG (Male Pregnancy)
Although we’ve briefly covered MPREG before with videos of hunky, large-bellied cisgender guys in labor, we didn’t mention how often MPREG pops up in slash fanfic (imagine a pregnant Harry Potter being cared for by Draco Malfoy) or fan art (MPREG furries occur regularly).
While you might wonder how men get pregnant in the first place, first remember that some transmen indeed can get pregnant in real life. As for cis guys, some MPREG fetishists have dreamed up the idea of a secret “male vagina” hiding directly in the anus with its own female-like reproductive system, though some MPREG babies actually get delivered through the male urethra.
There’s even a fantasy taxonomy known as the “omegaverse,” where omega “carriers” are impregnated by alpha or beta “seeders.” The fantasy sex can involve “knotting,” where the top’s penis gets so engorged that it gets trapped in the bottom until climax, much like with dogs. There’s even a lesbian omegaverse where female alphas have female penises.
MPREG pops up occasionally in mainstream media — anyone remember Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1994 film Junior or that Futurama episode where Kip, the male alien, gets pregnant? MPREG even has its own entry in tvtropes.org under “Mr. Seahorse,” a reference to the fact that male seahorses give birth. (Isn’t biology amazing?)
The Psychology: For some, MPREG is entirely about emotional closeness and intimacy between men; MPREG videos and art show male couples being very sweet, vulnerable and nurturing, something rarely seen in porn. For others, MPREG remains inherently erotic and sexual as it involves literal daddies and breeding. MPREG fantasies can also bleed over into “feeder” fantasies of men growing large with food.
The MPREG fetish also contains a noteworthy gender component that idealizes sexual equality. Lyric, the administrator of MPREG Central (the internet’s largest MPREG community), explains:
There is a culture of people out there who are drawn to that idea — men and women who, on some level, wish men could really become pregnant just like women. Some women like the idea of having their man carry and birth their kids, while some gay men wish they could have kids together with their own bodies.
In fact, Lyric goes on to say that lots of men and women get into MPREG. His own interest in MPREG derived from a “fascination for stomachs and bellybuttons” and feeling drawn to “the mystery of pregnancy.”
3. Vorarephilia (Devouring)
Vorarephilia, or “vore” as it’s more commonly called, involves two kinds of fantasies: those of being eaten alive (usually consumed whole through someone’s mouth or anus) and those of residing within someone’s digestive system. (Think Pinocchio and Geppetto living in the belly of Monstro the whale.)
In vore, you’re either the “predator” or “prey,” and the fantasies are either hard or soft. In “hard vore,” the prey gets completely digested and dies; in “soft vore,” the prey sits mostly unharmed in the predator’s belly and eventually escapes.
Though it’s similar to sexual cannibalism (the literal or imaginative devouring of another person), vore largely exists in the realm of visual art through photoshopped images (like the one above) and drawings of anthropomorphized dragons, werewolves, ponies and other anime and pop-culture characters eating one another. Despite it being one of the more unusual fetishes, there are over 20,000 #vore photos on Instagram, there were plenty on Tumblr and a popular vore subreddit has nearly 5,000 followers.
Virtual reality technology has also helped some vore lovers live their dreams (like this vivid VR video of a viewer getting eaten). A more lo-tech method involves wrapping one’s self in a blanket to create a warm sensation of dwelling within someone’s fleshy gastrointestinal folds.
The Psychology: Since vore operates within a role-play framework of sadistic domination and masochistic submission, its participants revel in taking and giving up control. Predators get to intimidate their prey, filling them with fear as they’re stalked and devoured. Prey get to explore their vulnerability, the pain of being consumed and eventually a sense of calm or dying after they’re eaten.
While the predator receives the admiration of having a large belly, proof of their satisfying victory, the prey may feel a sense of safety inside the predator’s belly: They’re hidden from everyone, surrounded by warm flesh and able to cry, scream or emote without being seen by others.
Because it involves consuming people against their will, vore also functions as a kind of rape fantasy living next door to other big-bellied and eating fetishes like MPREG, feeders and inflatophiles. Also, vore can veer into other fetishistic realms like objectification, oral/anal fixation and even scat play, but it differs from real-life sexual cannibalism in that no one actually gets eaten.
Sploshers enjoy slimy tactile sensations or watching others get wet or messy (hence its alias as the “wet and messy fetish,” or “WAM,” for short). Wammers can WAM it up using anything from water, beverages, paint, mud, cream (shaving or whipped) or other foods and condiments. Some even wear special outfits specifically for WAM play, like neoprene wetsuits, work clothes or tuxedos. In fact, part of sploshing’s fun and eroticism can come from deliberately soiling, ruining or even destroying these outfits, a fetish known as salirophilia (the love of disheveling one’s object of desire).
Since each substance has its own texture, sploshers can enjoy an endless array of novel sensations as each new item gets drizzled, smeared, wiped or slapped upon them. If you can imagine globs of ice cream freezing your nipples, or ginger ale tickling your genitals, you might start to understand sploshing’s tactile pleasures. Some sploshing doms require their subs to wear blindfolds to help heighten the multi-sensory experience, though good doms will also take their sub’s food allergies into account and avoid any foods (like eggshells or hot sauce) that might tear or irritate the skin or orifices.
We should also make clear that sploshers don’t necessarily enjoy getting showered in bodily fluids — those are two totally separate and non-interchangeable fetishes. Rather, food-based sploshing has more in common with people who sexualize food (sitophiliacs).
The Psychology: Sploshing might sound humiliating in a Three Stooges S&M kind of way, and that’s definitely part of its appeal. Sploshing tops often take a prankster’s approach to their work and aren’t always interested in inflicting pain as much as teasing their bottoms with food.
Numerous psychological theories explain sploshing’s appeal. The “messy play theory” states that humans learn a lot about risk-taking, experimentation and processing unfamiliar info through interactions with non-solid objects. Sploshing may also be a sexualized form of sloppy play for grown-ups, especially those who enjoyed finger-painting and slinging mud as kids. A third theory says sploshers might get enjoyment from defying longstanding parental rules forbidding food play, mess-making and general untidiness — it’s anti-authoritarian in a childlike way.
Another theory suggests that sploshers might have sensory processing disorder, which is a reduced ability to feel physical sensations. Thus, they enjoy the “intense friction, pressure [and] slipperiness … because ‘regular sensations’ aren’t enough to induce the kind of sensory feedback their brain and bodies are craving.”
In an age of processed foods and table manners, sploshing can feel quite decadent. Directly handling your food can feel quite primal, and there’s a pleasure in using that food to sexually awaken a partner’s senses of touch, smell and taste. A skilled sploshing dom can create an intense sensual experience by artistically layering the different sensations upon one another, all through an intimate massage.
5. Toe Amputation
While toe amputation fetishists derive sexual pleasure from being an amputee (apotemnophilia), that’s distinctly different from getting turned on by amputees (acrotomophilia). Some toe fetishists irrevocably damage their little piggies by crushing them, deadening them with dry ice or using rubber bands to cut off their circulation so as to require medical amputation, making it one of the most unusual fetishes on our list.
But others prefer ritualistic removal as a way of achieving intense sexual pleasure or bonding to a supportive partner or group. Wild as that might sound, ritualized amputation as a means of sexually bonding larger groups has a long and international history. Circumcision is the most obvious example; all sorts of people fetishize “cut” penises as more desirable than uncut, and some African tribes amputate foreskins and clitoral hoods as a rite of passage into adulthood. As for feet and hands, Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters mutilated their feet in a botched attempt to join the royal family, and even today Juggalos and Yakuza members use amputation as a way to demonstrate loyalty.
In some cases the amputated toe even gets recycled as a special gift or, ahem, momentoe.
The Psychology: Some psychologists connect the toe amputation fetish to body integrity identity disorder (or BIID), a mental condition where someone wants to significantly alter their body’s usual appearance or functions. But people with BIID lack the sexualized component and are obsessive in a way that potentially endangers their own or other people’s well-being. Such diagnoses also pathologize body modification as a form of self-harming and sublimated anger. Lots of people get turned on by tattooing, scarring, piercing and other body alterations, so why single out toe removal fetishists?
Studies by mental health professionals consider apotemnophiliacs emotionally and psychologically healthy, though a 2011 brain scan study suggested they might feel less mental connection to their limbs, making apotemnophilia a neurological (rather than psychological) condition. For psychologists, the desire to become an amputee only becomes problematic when a person obsesses about it, isolating and feeling incomplete until they can achieve it.
While doctors disagree about the psychological benefits of elective amputation, toe amputation provides a small but powerful means of reclaiming the body and manifesting the sexual self. The amputation remains mostly discreet and hidden (until you remove your closed-toe shoes, anyway), and it is physical and permanent in a way that other sexual fetishes are not.
The bonding aspect of toe amputation holds some of its strongest allure. While some toe amputation fetishists are also acrotomophiliacs who get turned on by images and stories of other amputees, others get off on the idea of giving into their taboo desire. They eroticize the amputation as an intense, life-changing experience straddling erotic pleasure and searing pain. They also romanticize the connection formed through the healing process as well as the rekindled arousal that comes from having their nubs played with or lovingly sucked on. As such, this last aspect contains a seed of garden-variety foot fetishes.
6. Macrophilia (Giant Fantasies)
Anyone who has ever been turned on by Jack and the Beanstalk or Attack of the 50-Foot Woman understands macrophilia, the love of the large. “Large” in this case usually refers to actual giants rather than merely tall or big-bellied folks, though many macrophile forums say that a lover more than double your size fits the bill.
Macrophile fantasies often involve being chased around by giants who dominate the landscape. The giants catch tiny people and use them for their sexual, nutritional and entertainment needs, even if it kills them (though death isn’t necessarily part of the fetish). As such, most macrophiliacs are also microphiliacs to some degree — that is, people who sexualize smallness. They’re also commonly into crush, feeding and vore fantasies.
Macrophilia fantasies commonly fixate on hypertorphilia, an interest in exaggerated sexual features, often with scenes of naked, tiny people stimulating a male giant’s penis or ass, getting licked or ingested by the giant or swimming in their semen.
While some “littles” can find their own real-life “bigs” to love, giant fetishism exists mostly in the creative and fantasy realms of stories, drawings, trick photography (NSFW), photoshopped images and low-angle videos of giants terrorizing model-sized cities or manhandling play-sized action figures. Computer animation (NSFW) and virtual reality have also helped macrophiliacs explore their fetish, at least until science finds a way to shrink and grow people.
The Psychology: Throughout history, cultures around the world have told stories of tiny mortals serving or dominating supernatural creatures of giant size. The fantasies of power, vulnerability and domination reveal the god fetish at the heart of macrophilia. As such, the giants become objects of beauty and power to be loved, feared and adored … or else.
Helen Friedman, a clinical psychologist in St. Louis, theorized that macrophilia is less a fetish and more of an internal world of escapist fantasies created by people who felt overwhelmed by domineering or abusive adults as children. This world provides “disassociation from reality” where one can explore adult sexual feelings.
However, many giant fetishists report happy childhoods and attribute their attraction to early childhood tales and cartoons of giants, stories that stimulated their imaginations in entirely new and erotic ways.
7. Emetophilia (Vomit Fetish)
Also known as rainbow or Roman showers (after the fabled Roman practice of vomiting to eat more during feasts), emetophiliacs get turned on by vomiting or watching others vomit. While some vomit-lovers enjoy puking photos and videos, others try to find a real-life rainbow connection with a vomit top or bottom. The vomit doesn’t always have to go onto a body, but vomiting on mouths and genitals is totally a thing.
The practice can be real or imagined; independent or partnered; coincidental, assisted or forced — that is, a vomit fetishist can either enjoy the company of someone who just happens to be vomiting (say, a very drunk acquaintance), they can encourage someone to vomit, or they can force their partner to puke by gagging them or feeding them a medicine-like ipecac.
Emetophilia is not the same as bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by binge-eating and self-induced vomiting. (However, there is at least one documented story of a bulimic female who inadvertently turned on her emetophiliac boyfriend.)
Naturally, since vomiting and eating go hand in hand, some folks connect it to feeder fetishes. Others have drawn comparisons between rainbow showers and other sorts of sexual humiliation “panic” or “desperation” fetishes like the Japanese “omorashi” fetish of having a full bladder and self-wetting. Both share features of intense physical discomfort, emotional distress, eventual release and feelings of vulnerability, humiliation and relief.
The Psychology: Freud reportedly described vomiting as “a substitute for moral and physical disgust.” In other words, he saw it as a sublimated form of emotional release caused by extreme rejection of something internal or external. Sadly, few psychological studies exist to test his idea.
Nevertheless, interviews published in 1982 by American psychiatrist Robert Stoller said that emetophiliacs commonly experienced a sexually charged vomiting incident early in their childhoods: one fetishist, for instance, experienced unintentional vaginal stimulation when a concerned adult tried to comfort her after puking.
The intense emotions experienced while vomiting play a part, too. Some even say that emetophilia is based on emetophobia (a fear of vomiting) — some people fear it so much that they end up feeling drawn to it. Another theory posits that the “spasm, ejaculation, relief” sequence of vomiting imitates that of an orgasm; also, puking and climaxing both trigger hormones that provide a sense of calm and relief.
And never underestimate the power of humiliation. It stimulates the brain regions associated with physical pain, giving vomit bottoms the satisfaction of submissive masochism and tops the delights of dominant sadism. The humiliation can serve as a means of ego-reduction (self-humbling) or a way to release sexual inhibitions. Plus, sharing unusual fetishes like this can also provide intense erotic pleasure all in itself.
8. Entomophilia (Bug Fetish)
The Dictionary of Sexology defines entomophilia as a type of zoophilia (sexual attraction to non-human animals) in which erotic and sexual arousal come from having small creatures “like snails, frogs, ants or other insects creeping, crawling or nibbling” on a person’s body and genitals. The pleasure reportedly derives from the “tickling or stinging sensation, or the infliction of psychological distress on another person” as the bugs scurry about.
Some entomophiliac fantasies involve shoving bugs in a person’s anus or letting bugs lay eggs in someone’s body. While it’s unclear whether anyone has ever actually tried these fantasies, there are historical accounts of a form of torture called scaphism, which had people eaten alive by insects. A book by Dr. Brenda Love tells of a man who enjoyed having bees sting the head of his penis; Reddit has a rather graphic tale of a guy who lets roaches crawl on his penis; and we stumbled upon another site for people who want to share pubic lice. All give a new meaning to “bug chasing.”
Although many people and websites list “formicophilia” as the word for bug fetishism, that word actually refers to a fetish for ants rather than all insects generally. Also, all human sex with animals is rape (whether animals can conceive of consent or not). Some entomophiles also have microphilia (a love of the small), and there’s a two-sided seduction in being overpowered by smaller things that you could feasibly kill. Some people do kill the bugs as part of the fun, posting “crush” videos of smashing insects and other animals underfoot, a form of animal cruelty that feeds into domination fantasies.
The fetish has reportedly found expression through so-called “Genki Genki” culture in Japan, a pornographic style of erotic art depicting women getting it on with ocean creatures and occasionally insects.
The Psychology: Of all these fetishes, this one seems to have the least research behind it, and what exists clearly labels entomophilia as a mental disorder. Two studies published by paraphilia experts in the ’80s report “a young buddhist male” who developed entomophilia without any “influence by commercial pornography.” They tried to cure his fetish using an understanding of possible genetic influences and his life history. After a year of counseling and behavioral therapy, he reportedly exhibited fewer incidents of his bug lovin’.
We also found two fake news sites (that we refuse to link to) claiming that immigrants entering the UK enjoy entomophilia because the unsanitary dwellings in their home countries have habituated them to insects regularly crawling over their bodies. This unsubstantiated and frankly racist claim means only to inspire xenophobic disgust and serves as a contemporary example of how people use unusual fetishes and physical revulsion as a way to stigmatize and divide communities.
9. Ursusagalmatophilia (Teddy Bears Fetish)
In June 2015, a Cincinnati man was arrested for masturbating in public with a teddy bear. He had been arrested for the same offense three times before. Perhaps he had ursusagalmatophilia, an erotic attraction to teddy bears. While the attraction can express itself through super-affectionate cuddling, other folks strap dildos to their bears or insert Fleshjacks into holes sewn into their bodies. Sadly, Build-A-Bear Workshop doesn’t offer these adult customizations, but you can find them at bearmods.com.
Romantic attachments can also be formed to these bears. Some people will treat the bear like an imaginary friend, talking and hanging out with it, “feeding” it or imbuing it with personality traits and complex emotional feelings. Others will collect lots of bears, treat their stuffed animals as if they’re supernaturally alive or get pleasure from destroying them.
If all this sounds oddly familiar, it might be because teddy bear-lovers are also known as “plushies” or plushophiliacs, people who have a love of stuffed animals. Plushophilia is itself similar to asagalmatophilia (a love of statues, dolls and mannequins), something we’ve written about in the past.
But don’t confuse plushies with furries (those who have an attraction to people in animal mascot costumes or erotic drawings of anthropomorphized creatures); a 1998 survey of 360 self-identified furries found that less than one percent identified as plushies, though a 2008 survey put that percentage closer to 7%.
The Psychology: Anyone who has ever felt attracted to the titular fox in Disney’s Robin Hood understands this fetish a little bit. Children sometimes act out their pre-pubescent sexual fantasies on dolls, having them hump each other long before they themselves experience actual humping. For teddy bear fetishists, both of these impulses have “grown-up.”
Various interviews with ursusagalmatophiliacs reveal a shared shyness; unlike other unusual fetishes that require a partner, bear lovers can enjoy their desires alone. The one-on-one relationship adds a layer of safety, as a bear can’t hurt or reject you the way a human or other fetishes can. Furthermore, the bear’s soft fur and plushiness adds a soothing, comforting feel that allows the bear-lover to remain calm amid life’s other stresses.
Bear love also contains an aspect of bear worship. Many religions across the world worship personified animals (like Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god), human-animal hybrids (like Horace, the hawk-headed Egyptian god) or inanimate objects (like the kami spirit in Shintoism that resides in everything).
The northern Japanese Ainu tribe and the eastern Russian Nivkh tribe in particular both worshipped bears. They’d hold bear festivals in which they would capture a cub, let it suckle from a human woman (if it lacked teeth), feed it human foods from a ceremonial platter, let it live among the tribe (sometimes for two or three years), dress it in a ceremonial outfit and eventually sacrifice it, covering its corpse in wine and eating its fatty meat. The ritual itself contains several aspects of ursusagalmatophilia, albeit in ways that PETA would likely condemn.
10. Eproctophilia (Fart Fetish)
Usually when someone says they’re into bodily scents, they mean armpits and crotch musk. Eproctophiliacs enjoy the sounds and smells of a good fart, though not just any bout of flatulence. One fart-loving man named Brad, for instance, admitted his preference for sulfur-scented farts made with a deep, bubbling noise. He also wasn’t particularly interested in seeing bare asses or buttholes. He preferred clothed asses for the following reasons:
Firstly, the sound tends to be better with fabric, particularly jeans or nylons. Second, the smell lingers in cloth whereas in the nude it is a relatively quick blast of smell. Third, I like the look of butt cheeks better when they are defined by fabric.
Though fart-lovers aren’t necessarily into scat play, it’s certainly a risk when forcing out a fart.
Interestingly, eproctophiliacs might feel exclusively homosexual in terms of their sexual attraction but bisexual in terms of fart play. The gender can also change the erotic dynamic. Brad enjoyed the submissive aspect of being farted on by men, whereas farts from women turned him on because they subverted expectations of how beautiful, “proper ladies” act. In both cases, Brad had to first feel attracted to the person in order to enjoy their farts, but that is likely different for each person.
Eproctophilia doesn’t have a huge fan following because most people think farting is gross. As such, most farting porn has a humorous flair. The eproctophilia sub-reddit, gassy erotica and eproctophilic art all seem more funny than gross. If you haven’t seen it yet, please consider watching the “cake farts” video (very NSFW); it’s a modern classic.
The Psychology: Erotic fart-sniffing falls under olfactophilia (a love of scents), something that underlies our love of perfume. Neuropsychologists agree that the olfactory (smelling) nerves can create potent mental associations; more than any other of the five senses, a single scent can recall long-forgotten memories quickly and powerfully. Humans developed their evolutionary sense of smell as a way to attract sexual partners and repel us from toxic foods.
Fetish psychologist Dr. Mark Griffiths notes that most eproctophiliacs are straight men, and that attraction to farts undoubtedly comes from behavioral conditioning. By most accounts, eproctophiliacs are subs — you don’t often hear about “farting tops” who get turned on by farting on others. But the eroticism isn’t exclusively humiliation-based. Some people love farting’s brazenness and raunchiness, but farting also requires a degree of vulnerability and humanity (the only people who never fart are cold, unfeeling robots). Also, farts are a special gift: They’re always self-made and have a uniquely personal “style.”
As with most fetishes, eproctophilia has its own unique history, including a timeless appreciation for lowbrow fart jokes in cartoons and film (just check out these Japanese scrolls of illustrated fart battles). Our shared history of fart appreciation spans from the Innu culture’s fart god, Matshikapeau, whose farts controlled animals and contained secret messages, to the fin de siecle “fartiste” Le Pétomane, who famously played an ocarina with his farts at the legendary Moulin Rouge.
Did you know about any of these unusual fetishes? Any of them tickle your fancy? Or do you have any unusual fetishes we left off the list? Let us know.
This story was originally published on February 22, 2017.