By Jess Milton
Jenna Zuschiag’s latest forum for sexual experimentation in in her fridge.
She and her boyfriend had plenty of rosemary and garlic, both natural aphrodisiacs, on hand when they rang in the New Year. The self-confessed fetishist also uses food such as whipped cream and chocolate sauce for stimulation. “It just makes you feel good,” says the first-year radio and television arts student.
She says cooking with certain foods is “scientifically sexy.” One of her favourite books is InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. “You’d be surprised,” Zuschiag says. “[Food] is more than enough to get things started.”
Zuschiag gets erotic ideas everywhere. Last year, she read in Cosmopolitan that Altoids, the “curiously strong mints” from britain can add stimulation during oral sex. She immediately went out and bought a box.
“It got a bit sticky,” she says. “But it was good. When he blew on me, it lit a fire. Everything was tingling.”
Fetishists are turned on by non-living objects. Their erotic encounters may included masterbating while holding or rubbing the fetish object, or enlisting their partner to wear or use it, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Scientists don’t know what part of the brain fetishes steam from, but they’re restricted to sexual areas, says Ryerson psychology professor Gordon Emslie. Sex fetishes usually aren’t an addiction, he says but people who are excited by objects find them hard to resist, and the success rate for treatment is low.
It may not be for everyone, but Zuschiag doesn’t consider fetishism strange. She says experimenting with sex games and practices can help a relationship, especially in its early stages.
“For me, it’s just about getting to know the person you are with,” she says. “You get so much closer and you lose so many of the inhibitions you would have.”
Zuschiag isn’t alone in her taste for the exotic Fetish sites abound on the Internet.
One site, called Kinky Sex Fetishes, has a message board, tips, chat rooms and a photo album. The site’s 623 members can post messages about their sexual desires and receive responses from other fetishists.
One member, writing under the pseudonym Lady Luck, described her urine fetish. She loves it on, around and even in her.
Her message got 10 responses in six hours.
Popularization of the internet has helped to expose fetish culture, but Georgie Giaouris, manager of Northbound Leather on Yonge Street, says fetishes are nothing new.
Northbound has been in business for 20 years and is Canada’s largest leather and fetish retailer. The front of the store, with its velvet-lined displays and hardwood floors, looks more like a Bloor Street boutique than a hard-core sex haven.
Electronic music resonates in the background as staff, tastefully dressed in leather vests or Victorian corsets and black boots, help both the virgin and veteran fetish customers.
The front of the store is tame, offering Northbound’s line of leather, satin and PVC clothing that is manufactured on-site.
Enter the back end of the shop for a taste of what Northbound has become known for.
This isn’t your regular sex store. Dildos look like child’s play next to the toys for sale here. There’s silicone vagina plugs for $534, anal telescopes for $226 and the “Paradise” electric shocks stimulator for $545. Each looks like a surgical instrument from a bad horror flick.
Walk farther into the store to find the best-selling items—gags, eye blinders, whips, leather straitjackets and restraints.
The clientele isn’t what you’d expect. “We get people aged 18 to 88,” Giaouris says. “Both men and women.”
Maria Kypriotakis just started working at Northbound and says she was surprised by how “normal” the clientele is.
She says fetishes have become fashionable under the influence of mainstream videos and pornography. But for some it’s not a passing craze. “It’s not about the look but the feel, what it does to them” Kypriotakis says. “It’s a way of life.”
But is it healthy? Emslie says the lifestyle is initially harmless. Long-term problems can arise not from an addiction to sex fetishes, but from their effect on the relationship.
“It’s not harmful to society, but it may be harmful to the person’s spouse,” Emslie says. “If the husband can only have sex with his wife if she is dressed up, then the wife may become alienated the relationship will sour.”
Emslie says it’s important to find a partner who accepts one’s fetishes. And sexual experiments are only destructive if they interfere with your life.
“It is possible to experiment too much,” Zuschiag says. “You can lose sight of why you are actually doing it—the whol purpose of making love.”