Q. I just discovered unfortunately that my boyfriend has strange sex fetishes. He accidentally left his email open on my computer and I found an email from him to an escort describing the type of fantasy he wanted with her. He said that he wanted her to take him hostage and use him for her pleasure. He wanted to serve her. He said that he enjoyed strap-on play, golden shower, boot, foot and rear-end worship. I am so shocked by all of this and am trying to look for answers as to why and how someone develops fetishes like this. With me he is most gentle and loving and this is a completely different person than the one I know. Please help me to understand this. Does this mean he is gay or bi-sexual? Is he deeply disturbed?

A. No one knows why people develop certain fetishes. But what I can tell you about his fetishes, while they are shocking to you, is that they are in no way uncommon. His sexual interests also do not indicate that he his gay, bisexual or deeply disturbed. It is quite the opposite. His fetishes are quite normal and actually common among many men.

Strap-on play, golden showers, boot, foot, rear-end worship, the idea of serving a female — all these fantasies fall under the umbrella fetish category of domination and submission (D/s) or sadism and masochism, referred to simply as S&M. Your boyfriend seems interested in the idea of sexually submitting to a dominant female. Men with these fantasies are aroused by the idea of giving up power during sex to their dominant partner. Studies of men’s sexual fantasies consistently report this to be a popular fantasy — domination by a powerful woman.

Interestingly, studies of people who engage in these types of sexual activities show that the majority are upper-class individuals. In particular, Roy Baumeister, a human sexuality researcher found that men who like to be dominated or submit to a woman are generally men who work in high-powered jobs. They tended to be highly educated and earn above average incomes. Vocationally, these men tend to be the decision makers, bosses, CEOs, or hold other highly successful positions.

These high-powered jobs also tend to be stressful. They require an individual to be in constant control of their self and their surroundings. In their role as a decision maker these individuals tend to be burdened with shouldering all the pressure, being the one that everyone counts on or calls on for help or advice and assistance. Some researchers speculate that because these individuals hold highly stressful jobs, psychologically, their sexual submission allows an escape or an outlet for their stress. They enjoy the complete role reversal and often find it deeply satisfying. This is the most common theory as to why individuals, men in particular like the idea of submission.

Many women who find out that their male partner is interested in S&M or D/s have the same reaction you had. They find it disgusting and proclaim it as “sick.” This is the reaction that many men fear and this is why they feel they must hide these types of fantasies from their girlfriend or wife.

Elise Sutton has a website dedicated to this topic. She is an author on the subject of the S&M lifestyle and advises couples on how to have a loving and healthy alternative lifestyle relationship. She contends that initially women view their partner’s interests as strange and unnatural, just as you did. She has found that women who learn about and ultimately engage in this lifestyle with their partner eventually come to love it and see it as natural.

The biggest concern in this situation is not that your boyfriend has these interests; it is that he is e-mailing escorts. Is he setting up meetings or are these just e-mails? You want to find out why he sent these e-mails and put a stop to this practice. It might be the case that like some men, his fantasies include a desire to submit to a sexually dominant woman. If this is the case, I would encourage you to investigate his fantasies. This investigation can include reading psychology research and theory about this sexual fantasy as well as include a therapist who has knowledge of or perhaps specializes in sexual counseling.

Also remember that fantasy is far different from reality and that what people fantasize about is often much, much, more than they would actually do or find pleasure in doing. You should not jump to conclusions. Do your research and make your decisions when you have many more facts. After you truly understand this situation, you should ultimately do nothing that goes against your deeply held beliefs or that you feel is not acceptable to you. People do have sexual fantasies. People do have hidden sexual thoughts and desires. People do have sexual fetishes. This does not meant that they are sick or even abnormal. You are finding out about his sexuality. You are shocked. Does he know all of your sexual thoughts, fantasies, secrets? Would he be shocked? Perhaps.

Please see a sexual counselor, become informed and then do what you find to be best for you. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Feb 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Just Found Out My Boyfriend Has a Fetish. Can You Help Me Understand?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/02/24/just-found-out-my-boyfriend-has-a-fetish-can-you-help-me-understand/