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.

  • Confession is powerful. And though it may feel like vagueness keeps the confession from being genuine, know that opening up while withholding certain triggering details still aids and helps you and your brothers. I’m proud of the vulnerability you have displayed here. But remember that you are not surrounded by only brothers who need you for support. You also have brothers surrounding you to support you when you need it. Thank you for sharing this today, Tom.

  • Right there with you Tom. I tend not to be *too* forthcoming with my YOB posts as I feel uneasy in my own degrees of vulnerability. For me, I think do have a sordid love/hate “relationship” with my fetish. Of course, this relationship goes hand in hand with M&P. This association started back in my early high school years. It has been with me ever since. I could possibly discuss it with another, but like you said it could be a stumbling block for someone else. I would hate to be the trigger for another person becoming addicted to such a proclivity. I don’t think about every second of every day. If so, I don’t think I could reasonably function in my daily life. Is it like a drug? It’s like a recreational drug when I’m in the mood from time to time.

    • I definitely draw parallels to drugs and intoxication. Sometimes it just hits me and I feel powerless to resist. Glad you sense that “conflict” to hold back and be prudent with your sharings. Grateful for your presence here with us, Eddie!

  • I wonder if you worry needlessly about triggering others. You said that in your own experience you were not triggered by the other person’s fetish. And if you were, how is it any different from anyone confessing ANY sin to another person? (Forgive me if I speak from a Christian perspective, but that is the perspective that I hold.) There is always the possibility that the other person will be triggered, but I know of no other way to rid one’s self from the shame that tends to drive us back to the sin (or fetish) that you or I are trying to overcome.

    • Forgive me, but I don’t think it’s that simple. I would never talk to an alcoholic in recovery about the drinks I had with my friends the other night because that would be triggering to them. To just throw my hands in the air and say that anyone could be triggered by anything — so why not say everything? — feels careless. When I write for a general audience, I’m not going to be super specific because I have no idea who’s reading. I’ll certainly get more specific with the people in my life, though, sharing what I feel is appropriate for each person to hear. Knowing others’ backstories and contexts is huge in confession.

  • I have a fetish. I feel shame about it. I feel shame that I occasionally visit it. I turn it over and over in my head. I create different circumstances concerning it, but the outcome is always the same. I hate it, yet I always seem to come back to it. There are very few I share with about it, even with SSA people. I want it to go away, but it is a part of me. In many ways it is like a drug, and the high I get off it makes me feel loathsome. I swear I will never visit it again, but about once a month, like some dog returning to his vomit, I go back. I HATE IT!

    • I feel you there, Bradley. That feeling that your fetish is like a drug. It’s intoxicating and numbing all at once. You’re not alone, brother. Thanks for being bold with this comment and confessing.

  • Hello, my name is Randy G. This is my first time commenting on here, even tho ive been subscribed to YOB for close to a year. I myself have a few fetishes and Ive shared too much about them. Some with ssa and osa christian guy friends. How do I keep from oversharing, and stop others from oversharing too? Thank you and God bless.

    • Hi, Randy. I know what it is like to want to share, to feel the impulsive need to do so. I was sexually abused as a boy. Now I’m in my forties and it has all come crashing down on me. Opening up has been both hard and relieving at the same time. I’ve shared some things with some of my closest friends. None have rejected me, but I could pretty much immediately tell which ones “got it”, and which ones didn’t. So, basically, you learn through trial and error. Here is something I wrote recently about this urge in me to tell my story (almost drives me crazy, sometimes):
      My Dilemma
      How is it that the one thing I wanted no one to ever know about me now seems so easy for me to tell? I spent decades running from it. Now I find that it, a marathon runner of mercurial capability, has caught up with me at last. (Who gave it the direction I was traveling?) I buried it deep inside of me, covering it over with layer upon layer of better experiences and positive memories. Now it stands before me, resurrected in all its ghastly hideousness. (Who called it forth?)
      I am left to deal with it. And the fact is, I don’t know how to.
      I can no longer run. My stamina is exhausted. I can’t cover it over again. The shovel is broken, and it is a stubborn thing. It won’t go back to the hole where I had buried it.
      So what to do? The only reasonably thing one can do when they are being chased by a monster. Shriek and cry unto the strong for strength.
      In nightmares, it is often impossible to perform the simplest tasks to extricate oneself from fearful situations. You open your mouth to scream to those nearby, but no sound comes out. You try to run, but are reduced to crawling on hands in knees in slow motion. That’s the silly unreasonableness of dreams. It is frightful for a moment, and then you awaken.
      But this is no dream. I wish it was, but it isn’t. It is all painfully real and isn’t ending anytime soon. I open my mouth to utter the deep forebodings of my soul and find…my voice!
      Suddenly, the thing I tried desperately to forget and keep from even those dearest to me is on my tongue all the time. I find myself wanting to tell anyone and everyone about it. I want everyone (okay, almost everyone) to know what happened to me. I feel this disconcerting impulse inside me to blurt it out to co-workers, to perfect strangers.
      I want to stand on the housetop and shout it out for the entire world to hear. “Listen up people! This happened to me! Don’t you understand? This happened to me! Help me! Do something so it doesn’t happen to others!”
      Mercifully, I have just enough restraint to stifle the rising of my voice. At least, most of the time.
      Of course, it isn’t appropriate to share with just anyone, but that fact doesn’t calm the unnerving urge to do so. That is my dilemma. Do I continue to keep the secret? I can no longer bear it alone. With whom do I share it? The desire to tell is overpowering.
      The runner reaches forth to take me. The monster stands before me with sinister intent. It is a living nightmare. Do I cry out or do I forbear?
      What would you do?

    • Hey Randy! Glad to have you here. Thanks for stepping out. The awareness of oversharing takes practice. Trial and error. If you build deep levels of trust and bonding, the risk to overshare lessens. I always go with my gut, but I realize that may not be a sound strategy for everyone. Pray about it, journal about it, process those decisions to share however best works for you.

    • I know this is old (I’m sorry). I’ll just mention what I’ve learned, as you’ve already got some great stuff here. I’ve said before that I’m more like you; I’m very quick to spill my life’s problems on anyone who will listen, and it took me only 3 months before I was telling people, as opposed to others decades (heck I’ve only been knowingly struggling for less than 2 years now, though the actual struggling goes back further).
      Ok, to the point. When you do share, be very wary of sharing with those who aren’t saved. This is almost all of my friends, many of whom know because I’ve told them. If they aren’t saved, they will not be able to understand the balance between your struggle and your relationship with God, and they will try to push you either way, usually in my experience towards being gay. It’s not that you can’t tell them, but really think about if it would be helpful.
      Also remember if you tell someone that you have feelings for them, you are essentially handing them that baggage. Sometimes it’s selfish to let someone know this, as it actually hurts them. Be careful, and in general I’d say it’s not a good idea to share your feelings for someone unless God is straight up telling you that they will understand and be able to build you up in a safe way.

  • This post really resonates with me Tom. Especially the part about shame. Luckily with the help of trusted men and effective therapists I’ve been able to release the shame I’ve delt regarding my fetishes.
    While the details are different, the truth is the same — fetishes are common and while intoxicating and addicting, they don’t define us, our sexuality, or our masculinity. I agree with Dean, there’s power in confession (and wisdom in discretion of what you share with whom).
    Thanks for the post Tom!

  • I lived out my fetishes and indulged in many other guys fetishes for years but they never lived upto what was in my head fully, sometimes they felt like the best thing ever but then after, I needed it to become more and more and I put myself in many more vulnerable situations that lead me deeper into darkness and further away from God, the more I lived for it the more I strived for it until going for that buzz took over my life
    It took me further away from being able to experience real intimacy and it still affects me today
    I now am forgiven fully by Jesus but I can also romanticise these experiences
    when times are difficult but I have to say the reality never fully lived upto the expectation
    God has proven to be more faithful than anyone else I’ve ever experienced or met and is slowly teaching me about what real love and fulfilment is, I’m so far away from where I should be in him, but I am slowly learning how to have friends and relationships that he has given me and they are starting to become part of my healing and my journey of love with him
    I wish now that I’d have not hidden my shame because it allowed it to grow and turn into reality and took me into some places I never should have been

    • God bless you, Stuart. Keep going in Him. I appreciate the way you wrote this and what you said. I think this is why the Bible uses the phrase “pleasure in sin for a season.” It doesn’t last, nor does it fulfill. Glad for what the Lord has done for you, and confident that He who began a good work in you will fulfill it until Jesus comes again.

    • Great perspective, Stuart. The times I’ve attempted acting out my fetishes…also haven’t lived up to the fullest expectation. A deflation of those expectations always occurs somewhere in the process of acting out.
      Indeed, God is faithful. Let’s keep running back to Him.

  • I appreciate your honesty Tom and totally respect your boundaries. I too have a “fetish” and prefer not to share any details with recovery friends/acquaintances I meet. I have told counselors and even a couple priests (say what you will about the Catholic Church, but confession with a priest is amazing). I still get obsessed by it. Lots of work to do…

  • I’ve thought about this often. I think I agree. It’s just that the “details” seem like a broad spectrum. At times I’ve questioned telling osa guys about my struggle with other men. Could it cause them to be curious? Could I be missing out on something by not being more specific about the very specific thing I’m struggling with this week?
    Is this why we need to pray for wisdom? 🙂

  • Having a fetish is common in the LGBT world. Years of using an app on and off, I found guys were looking for different things
    I’m not just talking about sexual things here. A very common question is “what are you looking for?”. The hope would be to find someone to fill that need or desire. This can be done through hooking up, viewing porn, or chat rooms. I found that the more I viewed different kinds of porn, the more I honed in on what really satisfied my cravings. I’ve realized that I can get into the psycho babble of what need I am trying to meet with a particular “fetish”, but I’m realizing that it’s as simple as me trying to take charge and do things my way instead of God’s way. I either trust God with my sexuality or I don’t.

    • Oh gosh. “What are you looking for?”
      That’s convicting. I remember seeing that same line. I’ve used it myself. A void that looks to be filled with a fetish and a false substitute. I feel the tension.

  • My confession: I kind of laughed when I read this post.
    Not because of what you said, Tom, but because of what I’ve said in the past. Your post was great, and it sounds like a great first step towards getting rid of that shame that surrounds the fetish. I’ve also dealt with a lot of shame around fetishes, desires, and well, if I look at it honestly, everything.
    I’ve been going to counselors for most of my adult life. One of my counselors I had been going to for about a year, we were very close, we had talked about most things. I broached this topic with him. I wanted to talk about it, but was afraid of talking about my deep desires, and I told him this.
    He told me, ‘I’ve seen many people as a therapist- one thing everyone talks about- the thing that always comes up- they all want to talk about sex.” And he laughed. To him, it was a everyday topic. He went on to say how, in this culture, we are in equal measures obsessed with sex, and ashamed of it. “Everyone carries it on their backs like it’s something they have to hide, something they discovered- like they are the only ones, in the entire history of the world, who have ever had sex.”
    Needless to say, he had a lot of anecdotes about questions people ask, common experiences, and how common it all is. Later in that conversation, I spilled my secrets. It was refreshing. He wasn’t alarmed, shocked, or surprised. He didn’t see me any differently, and I didn’t feel ashamed. He doesn’t personally struggle with SSA, so he was compassionate towards me, but not tempted by my confessions.
    But back to real life- not every conversation is with a therapist- so it’s wise to be cautious about how to share. But it’s also possible to share it all, in a way that’s both helpful and healing. Sharing doesn’t have to trap or hurt the person sitting across from you. And there can be great freedom in confessing- not just your sins, but your shame, too.
    So be hopeful! You can find that place of honesty and safety. Maybe it’s with a therapist, but maybe it’s here with your SSA brothers, too. You don’t have to be everything for everyone- this community is here for you, too. Peace to you, Brother!

    • Glad my fetish could make you laugh!
      But in all seriousness, thanks for sharing some of your journey with shame and counseling. Looking to get more honest in the right ways.

  • We don’t often talk about this particular kind of tension when it comes to vulnerability and I’m so glad you’ve started the conversation. As always, your honestly and wisdom are refreshing and encouraging. Thank you for sharing, Tom.

  • I knew this one was coming and I’m so happy it did. I relate so hard, man.
    This in particular started way before my SSA, and I am of belief is part of the “cause”. I used to have a belief that SSA was actually itself a fetish, but as my SSA progressed (it barely existed at that point) I realized the difference: SSA isn’t primarily a sexual brokenness, only a small part that. For me at least. A fetish is pretty much a sexual brokenness.
    However, I find it interesting how both can be traced to certain things about ourselves. I could write you a book on why I think SSA and fetishes specifically exist in my life, down to the psychology of my own brain, and I mean that very deeply and sincerely. It’s honestly interesting, but not worth spending too much time thinking about as you’ll only deepen your problems unless you turn the focus off of YOU and towards GOD. That’s what I actively work on.
    Fetishes are an area specifically hard for me. It’s almost as bad as “you name it, I have it” with fewer exceptions than matches, which is unfortunate. Posts like this give me hope in feeling less alone.
    And oh my goodness I just can’t help it. I have to wonder if it’s the same as mine. I don’t need to know, but I do wonder. Thanks for posting. Seriously, helped me feel less alone.

  • Hi Tom, a couple ways to help in this area of confession… the best confession medium I have seen to a human is in Freedom Session. Part of the 9ish month course is telling your whole story to another person that has been through Freedom Session/is someone you can look up to and feel safe with. You tell them your basic story plus all the ways you have been hurt and all the ways you have hurt others (including yourself). Everything comes up and it has a specific purpose… To tell someone everything so that satan doesn’t have any more shame he can hold over you. Bring it to the light and receive Jesus forgiveness, in person through another Christian. It feels terrible to drag someone through all your sin over the years… but it is incredibly humbling. It is the kind of humbling that builds a resolve to clean out the garage in a healthy way.
    For the times this comes up as you continue to struggle with sin the only person that is always appropriate to confess to is of course Jesus. The interesting thing about him that many haven’t thought of is that the consequence of all our sin was assigned to him. That means that he actually felt the shame and separation from God for whatever your particular sin is__ I can’t even write that without crying. He knows the worst part of what you are going through, no matter who you are or what you have done. And he was with you while you were doing it… and still chose you. That is the kind of love that cleanses our conscience unlike any attempt to “do better” or comfort ourselves. And then if we attempt to turn from our sin to what God has for us He promises to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is a promise I have counted on when I have lost all faith in myself. He will finish what He started in me. I know you know this so I mostly just saying it for anyone else who is curious 🙂

    • What’s up Steve. Thanks for sharing what’s worked for you. I’ll admit, I’m very intimidated by the notion of telling EVERYTHING to any one person. I’ve shared bits and pieces with various folks and obviously write publicly about a lot of stuff. But telling one person the entire behind-the-scenes story overwhelms me. I’d like to get there one day. I think that’s actually exactly what I need. A chance to confess all without judgement and fear and shame and the possibility of being cast away. Terrifying. Yet tantalizing.
      I hope to get there one day.

  • Thanks you Tom…one of many things I appreciate about YOB…and you, is being real and not hiding behind a mask of perfection. Personally, I’ve never shared about 99.99% of my experiences and thoughts in life with anyone (not that I have anyone) as I tend to be a very private person…and am sensitive…perhaps way to sensitive…to being a burden to anyone…or the concern about rejection. I’ve always put up that front of “I’m okay” to others…and I believe God wants to work in me on this…thanks again.

    • Even though I’ve shared a lot of my life with others, publicly and personally, there’s still an unbelievable amount tucked away. I believe God wants to work in me on this, too. Onward, brother.

  • Thank you for sharing. I can totally relate as I have been dealing with a strong fetish for years. Maybe it is best that you find the root of the fetish and why you are triggered by these items. Are these fetishes truely fulfilling to you? Have you ever acted out on these fetishes in any way and how have you prevented them?

    • Finding the root of the fetish has been extremely illuminating and helpful. I don’t fully understand every aspect of mine, but I have way more understanding today than in childhood. And with increased understanding comes a little bit of ammo to fight back and surround myself by true and genuine things, not falsities.

  • I’ve been revealing more and more over the years and especially the last year as Christ deals more thoroughly with my waywardness and loves me in the midst. There is no sin he cannot deal with, and dealing with it may be a life of fight.
    I never thought of some of my “stuff” as a fetish, but I see it is. Things that especially get me aroused, uniqueness of the situation or surroundings. Often it’s a memory I keep rehearsing that I did not realize it happens a lot and leads to other experiences that I did not connect.
    Thanks Tom for opening this up, I’d love to share more.

  • Thomas Mark Zuniga

    When I don't wander away for weeks at a time, I live in Asheville, North Carolina – the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our two podcasts. I've written a couple books, including a 2013 memoir in which I came out to my readers. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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