The benefit to growing older is that the more you mess up — and succeed, and mess up again — the more you learn your wiring. What makes you tick. What beckons you, what tempts you. The things that transfix you, over and over. A fetish that takes root and builds over time. Years, decades.

I’ve spoken about my fantasy addiction. But I’ve never specifically detailed the fantasies I fantasize. The fetishes I hold onto tightly and share with nobody.

The word “fetish” might cause you to recoil. I do think it’s kind of a gross word. Its most common definition reads:

a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc.

The word “fetish” actually originates from West African culture in the 17th century. Its original, lesser known definition reads:

an inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.

As a wordsmith, I find this secondary definition of “fetish” fascinating. Especially how it now relates to the more common one.

A fetish goes far beyond saying “abs are hot” or “I’m attracted to redheads.” Essentially, we sexualize something to the degree of worshipping it, idolizing it. Obsessing over it and fantasizing endlessly for it.

Not everybody has a fetish, I realize. Not everybody has an idolization problem.

But I do. I have a fetish, and I’ve had one for about as long as I can remember — since maybe fourth or fifth grade.

I have a “thing” that, in itself, isn’t quite sexual in nature. But I fetishize that thing. I idolize it a lot, fantasizing for this thing and experiencing this thing, turning what was never meant to be sexualized on a dial that was never meant to be dialed.

This fetish, these fantasies involve other men, and they provide me escape from a foreign world of masculinity where I often feel cut off and at the relational mercy of other men.

Escape. That’s really what my fetish is all about. A path to escape my powerlessness.

I’ve told my inner circle bits and pieces of my fetish. But I’ve never told anyone the whole story. Nowhere near it, in fact.

Shame says I cannot, and shame is surely a big reason why I don’t share. I bear much shame for my strange fixations.

But since a large percentage of my inner circle support network is other guys experiencing same-sex attraction (SSA), I feel legitimately limited by what I can share with them. What I can reveal to them.

What I can potentially trigger in them.

Years ago, another brother shared with me his biggest fetish. He meant well. He spoke sincerely in confessing to me.

But I’d never before heard of this fetish he described, and this intrigued me. Later that night, I opened up my laptop and searched the Internet. I found a couple videos relating to his fetish, but thankfully these did very little for me.

His fetish just wasn’t mine.

Still. That experience gave me perspective. I simply cannot share everything with everyone. Or even everything to just anyone.

There must be boundaries. For my sake. For theirs.

My fetish isn’t for other brothers grappling with similar sexual temptations and matters of masculinity.

As if we aren’t already struggling with enough off-color ideas in our heads, we don’t need someone else plopping another one inside.

It’s hard. Despite sharing so much of my story online and in person — despite making vulnerability my “brand” — I’ve always felt alone with my fetish.

Yearning to find just one person I can fully trust has intensified in recent months.

I’ve shared some of my fetish with opposite-sex attracted (OSA) guys, and while a safer move than sharing with other SSA guys, it also smacks of disconnect. At least with other SSA guys, there is a common male attraction to understand and empathize with, even if the fetish itself doesn’t resonate.

With an OSA guy, there is no relating. There is no relating of attraction to the same sex, and there is certainly no relating of attraction to the same sex with my particularly bizarre fixation.

I feel alone in my fetish no matter who I turn to or where I go.

Perhaps I’ll tell a therapist one day. Or a counselor. Somebody.

I want to write vulnerably, but I also want to do so wisely. My greatest fear in writing vulnerably is to be less of an aid to others and more of a “stumbling block” — please excuse the Christianese cliché.

The more I write, the more aware I grow of the power of story and words, and I want to be prudent with the ones I tell.

In many ways, I feel I said nothing today. But perhaps just admitting something is a starting point. For me and for you.

This isn’t a place for you or me to share the specifics of a fetish amid the company of others struggling. But it’s perfectly fine to confess you have a fetish.

An unhealthy obsession. A twisted fixation. Some secret that brings you crippling shame.

You can admit having a fetish, because you’re not alone in this shame. You’re just like me. Just like so many others here, too.

And it’s okay.

It’s okay to have baggage and bizarre fixations. It’s okay to have temptations and vices. Because we all have them.

The more I remember this reality, the less shame I feel; the more I forget it, the less connected I want to be with others, convinced I am some mutant undeserving of love.

And while I hunger for the safest of places to confess the specifics of my fantasies without shame and fear of judgment or triggering in others, I must do the best I can in the meantime.

To be bold. To be real. To be vulnerable.

But above all, to be wise.

Do you have a fetish or secret you’ve never told anyone? Do you worry about triggering others with similar vices or having someone else not understand? Feel free to admit you have a fetish in the comments below, but for the consideration of others please do not share any specifics.

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