Where Have All The Fetishes Gone?

Seriously, littles are creepy.

Did you see that ropework? Sooo gorgeous!

I just don’t understand anyone wanting to be a human ashtray or footstool.

Look how beautifully obedient His slave is.

Why in the world would a man submit voluntarily to chastity?

We have wide-ranging views on fetishes. Some we seem to embrace readily while others we revile openly. We can be quick to make judgments about those we don’t understand. And sometimes, we may mock a few because they pique the interest of the darkest places inside of us.

The 50 Shades book and movie series sent a flood of new male Dominants and female submissive to the BDSM lifestyle but may have inadvertently ended up pushing edgier fetishes into the dark.  So, I ask you, where have all the fetishes gone?

How can we get them back?

Peruse the pages of Fetlife or any BDSM site, and the predominant fetishes you’ll see will be of the classic D/s variety. While Dommes are shown and greatly revered, their male submissives often linger in the shadows. Fetishes on the furthest edges away from the mainstream seem almost impossible to investigate. Case in point; the Leather Fetish Community developed to provide homosexuals a community of their own at a time when masculinity had one dimension. Now, this subculture remains much more under wraps and does not comingle much with classic D/s practitioners.

“The subculture is thought to have grown out of the post-World-War-II biker scene, which tended to be dominated by uniforms, buzz cuts, and military honor codes. It was an aesthetic that resonated with gay men who couldn’t identify with the more effete stereotypes of the time. Those gay men formed motorcycle clubs like the Satyrs in Los Angeles and the Warlocks in San Francisco. They covered themselves in leather, conforming to a look of masculine independence that came to mainstream attention by way of Marlon Brando’s 1953 film The Wild One.” – Matt Baume, Rolling Stone


Here, a fetish became a haven for exploration and growth during a time when gay males had few safe outlets for such things. Fetishes, even the ones we don’t relate to or understand, often have deeper roots than we realize or respect.

Even as early as twenty years ago, before the internet was at everyone’s fingertips 24/7, BDSM clubs were fiercely private, and dungeons were havens for Dommes and their male submissive(s). There was no “mainstream” BDSM; everything was under wraps and subversive. It was a whole counterculture. People stumbled into the lifestyle and fumbled around until they found the facets and fetishes that appealed to them. It was more about discovering yourself and less about the latest fad.

As BDSM has become more acceptable within the mainstream, have we diluted the pool of fetishes to pick from? Have we put limits to our curiosity? Have we shortchanged exploration to allow for greater acceptance?

How do we deal with the ramifications of a shifting culture?

In watching Nick Broomfield’s 1996 documentary, “Fetishes,” I was struck by how different BDSM appeared twenty odd years ago.


While still staying on the safe side, Broomfield attempts to show his viewers the world of Pandora’s Box, an upscale dungeon in Manhattan run by Mistress Raven. His bias and ignorance towards the lifestyle creates an undercurrent throughout, and scenes depicting a human ashtray, socio-political roleplay, and rubber/breath play are shown more to titillate than honestly inform. He never experiences any of it and frames the scenes as if to liken them to a carnival oddity that we pay a dollar to leer at and scoff.

We, as a society, are still pointing and furrowing our brows over the odd and unusual options found in the BDSM lifestyle. However, twenty years ago, every aspect of BDSM was kept carefully under wraps. Practitioners protected one another with a vengeance. In the film, you can witness Mistress Raven chastise Broomfield for his smug, ignorant attitude. Flash forward twenty years, and we are still pointing fingers, but now we are doing it to one another.

In this 50 Shades day and age, it seems any man can slap on the label “Dom,” pen a marginal erotic spanking scene, and end up with a horde of submissives flinging their virtual panties at him. Submissive females end up thinking this is the path to sexual glory. The road they are straying down is more like a well-groomed, suburban road instead of the gritty city street where lessons abound at every corner. The choices are generic. A little pain play, some flogging, a beautiful corset, and a “perfect” submissive female is born.

Right? Are we really creating an environment for exploration with this Disneyfied version of BDSM? Is the price to pay for becoming mainstream the very things we came to BDSM in the first place?

Some people never venture further than this, and that is okay. However, in going more mainstream, we may have limited these same curious individuals from exploring their desires into darker and more divergent ways. Behind that pretty submissive may beat the heart of a hardcore sadomasochist dying to get out. The all black boot-kicking Dominant may harbor a panty wearing fetish. How will they ever know what else is out there?

What about the adult diaper wearer? The needles aficionado? The sissy? Have we left room for the fetishes that don’t fit into our mainstream appetites? Or have we continued to leave them behind to hide in the closet behind the handmade whips and floggers?

When I began learning about BDSM, I had a long list of hard limits. It included some things I knew nothing about, but did not seem like any fun. One of my Doms expressed enjoyment of water sports. Because I was curious, I investigated the fetish as well as asked him loads of questions. My curiosity led me to a scene I will treasure forever and an appreciation of my own inquisitiveness. This is what we need to instill in people entering the BDSM Community as well as in those that are already here.

Tastes and desires change over time. It’s a regular part of the evolution of things. Today’s young, lithe rope bunny may grow into a compassionate, yet sadistic Domme as her tastes mature and advance. Fetishes that seemed abhorrent may become acceptable and commonplace when we allow ourselves the time and space we need when we explore this lifestyle.

That tutu wearing male submissive? Embracing his fetish may lead him to great leadership and change within his Vanilla World. The harried mom that colors and plays with glitter with her Dominant Daddy may be healing the abandonment of her own father. The embrace of those offbeat parts of ourselves genuinely can lead to greatness in other parts of our lives.

This is the beauty of BDSM. The balance that we can individually achieve. Those strange fetishes? They are still out there, and new ones emerge all the time. The courage to be curious about our sexual selves is a lifelong experience. Lift fear from the equation and look beyond just what sits flooding your internet searches. Go deeper and see what you find. The awareness of the rejected and unusual parts of ourselves leads to significant discoveries and healing.

About the Author

LaBellePutain discovered her love of writing and her submissive side during a tumultuous divorce in 2011. From 2011 to 2015, she honed her skills as a writer and explored her sexuality and love of BDSM. Her adventures as a sex-positive single mother have also been featured in Scary Mommy and several personal blogs.

You can find her adventures in divorce and dating at http://cynthiaprose.blogspot.com/

Her musings as she finds and fixes her middle-aged shit can be found at https://medium.com/@CJBleau

The really smutty stuff can be found on Fetlife at https://fetlife.com/users/1076417

Her memoir chronicling her evolutionary 40’s, Good Girl Bad, is set to be released in early 2019. If she can ever get her act together…


  1. Christmas_bunny says:

    This is great! Lots of food for thought.

  2. MissBehavingJae says:

    This is a must read for anyone who is dipping their toe in the scene. It is incredibly important to know where we have come from. The battles others have fought to get to where we are today. Excellent piece!

    • LaBellePutain says:

      I agree! Once we know the origins of BDSM, we can share a deeper respect for the value in exploring it. Thanks for reading!

  3. This was an outstanding piece that scratched the surface of a bygone era, one that helped usher in this broader era we live in today. Leverage today, do your stint teaching local community classes, do your bit to teach the promising new people you come across that do share the kink ocean at your depth, advocate and stand up and speak out when its necessary. BE who you are and own it. Those of us who have gone before you HAVE, now its the new generations turn to carry it forward expanding on what came before.

    I still see the same human failings in critical judgementalism, of the quick to point, quick presume, quicker to try and shame and silence those whose kinks don’t agree with their own views of BDSM. That’s rather sad because while the vanilla population has accepted our existence as ‘ok’, we are now often busy attacking our own in a frenzy of ‘kink correctness’.


  4. subkrissive says:

    Excellent article. Very well written and thought provoking.

  5. Highlander37 says:

    Excellent post.
    I’ve seen the pervasive trend of using the Old Guard as a standard for all BDSM protocol by people who have little or no understanding of it’s origins. It is a good playbook for some, but not everyone. And it has evolved and adapted over time to suit larger range of practitioners.

    The idea of learning the craft before assuming a title or role has lost traction over time. Making for a potentially dangerous setting.


    • LaBellePutain says:

      Thank you! I was fascinated to better understand the origins of some facets of the community. My biggest goal in the piece was encouraging others to stray off path, learn something new…see what happens!

  6. Fi-Fi LeFemme says:

    An excellent article and gives a lot of food for thought. I’m not really a ‘scene’ person but I understand what is out there, further from the light that “50 Shades” has shone. It almost seems like the whole world of fetish is becoming weirdly polarised by this effect. And anyone who is seeking further exploration may indeed struggle to find it as it retreats from that spotlight.

    • LaBellePutain says:

      Thank you for your support. Yes, in becoming more mainstream, we may have destroyed the intended growth and awareness we seek.

  7. From 1975-1999, Drummer magazine was the bible of leather and kink folk. Drummer helped create the very kink culture it reported on. More BDSM info: http://www.DrummerArchives.com Serving the BDSM community since 1995. Cheers.

    • LaBellePutain says:

      Thank you so much for the resource! Another friend found a vintage Seventeen magazine with an amazing article on consent. So enlightening to revisit the past and gain more perspective.

Speak Your Mind