photo: Marissa dederer

Finding your freaky friends

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Believe it or not, there are still acts that most people won’t utter out loud. But the fetish community has found a home outside of theme nights in crowded cities — the internet. Robin Tarnowetzki reports

No matter what your kink is, you can find like-minded people on the internet. Go to Google, type in “[noun] fetish”, and there is probably a community where you can instantly connect with other people like you.

“It essentially used to be that people were isolated,” says George Giaouris, the owner of Northbound Leather, a retailer of leather apparel and other BDSM (bondage, dominance, sado-masochism) related items. “They didn’t know there were others like them.”

With the accessibility of the internet, people started discovering one another, and those with fetishes started to feel that they weren’t so strange after all.

Christina Ginden* is a member of an online forum where members talk about their sneeze fetishes. She says she no longer feels alone in her predilection.

“Having spent well over 20 years thinking that I was absolutely alone in the world with my unspeakable fetish and that no one could ever understand me, finding a fetish community was a huge relief,” she says.

Jacqueliene Paley-Paddy is an outspoken practitioner of BDSM, and doesn’t hesitate to talk about her fetishes with others. She points out that online fetish communities don’t necessarily make it easier to talk about fetishes outside of the internet.

“People have no problem talking about things when they’re on a forum or anything because it’s online and they usually don’t have to face the facts because it’s not like anyone they know will know,” says Paley- Paddy. Ginden admits that she has always felt shame about her fetish, as do the majority of members on the forum, despite the fact that they all feel the same way about sneezing. The shame isn’t helped by the occasional mockery of the site, which Ginden admits is a downside of having an online community.

“A fetish community like this sometimes draws excessive negative attention, like when years ago a mock site made a post about us. Some members, especially young ones I think, can be very deeply hurt by the mocking and negative attention,” she says. “I don’t exactly like too much outside attention to the forum either. In a way I can’t explain, it makes me feel a bit exposed,” says Ginden.

Still, despite the mockery that some fetishes get, it is impossible to deny that it’s becoming more socially acceptable to talk about fetishism.

“In a way I feel this sort of fetish forum works to ‘normalize’ sexual deviance — having and indulging a sexual fetish doesn’t necessarily make you a porn-addicted horndog,” says Ginden.

“We get a huge variety of people,” Giaouris says. “Everyone has a different kink.”

His assertion is proven in the store — a nice looking middle aged couple look at the leather apparel, while a nondescript younger man has a fairly long conversation with a salesperson about bunny fur floggers — a sex staff with multiple bunny fur whips attached.

For Ginden , the presence of an online community has had numerous benefits.

“It has helped me to feel more relaxed about my sexuality and explore it. It has significantly added to my self-understanding. It has given me a huge deal of sexual pleasure,” she says. “And I have found some fantastic friends.” *Names have been changed

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