Are kinks hereditary? Are my kinks learned? There is no definitive answer to this question and it is true that kinks can be hereditary and even learned.
There’s growing evidence to suggest our genes might play a much larger role in the development of our erotic selves than previously thought.
What is a kink? Is Kink and Fetish the same?
A kink is any type of nonmainstream sexual interest while a fetish is a specific subtype of kink defined by a heightened fascination with a certain object, body part, or bodily fluid.
In other words, fetishes tend to have a sensory component wherein people are drawn to the feel, taste, smell, or look of a particular thing. All fetishes are kinks, but not all kinks are fetishes.
Kink describes the use of props and role play in erotic interaction, but those elements aren’t required in order to get off. Moreover, kinky encounters don’t necessarily involve sex—the experience can be gratifying with or without it.
Fetish, on the other hand, connotes a sexual interest that is extremely narrow and fixed. This fetish has to be incorporated in order for the person to get off and feel sexually fulfilled by an encounter.
Are kinks hereditary?
There is no proof that our genetics are directly related to our sexual interests. But it is not completely wrong that people think that they may be genetically predisposed to developing kinks and fetishes. Although there might not be a direct connect between sexual desire and genetics but our personalities are somewhat heritable.
Based on surveys and researches, it has been established that our sexual fantasies can be read, at least in part, as a reflection of our personalities. Extraverts, for instance, were especially drawn to group sex and nonmonogamy fantasies. The fantasies of highly conscientious individuals tended to be more detailed, with a particular emphasis on sex in unique settings like the beach. What researchers also found was a pattern of interest in kink and BDSM among those with a penchant for sensation seeking, another personality trait shown to have some genetic basis. Often, high sensation seekers require a more potent stimulus in order to experience arousal or to reach orgasm.
It’s important to remember that our erotic interests are the product of many factors. On the biological side, those factors can include our genetic predispositions, unique brain chemistry, and the way our bodies are laid out.
For some people, nipples are extraordinarily sensitive, while for other people, there’s just no sensation whatsoever. And if your body just happens to have that heightened level of sensitivity, you might be very drawn to various forms of nipple play including more intense BDSM versions of it with nipple clamps and so forth. So I think part of it is that general sensitivity in different parts of our body. That could also have a genetic component to it.
Psychological factors such as our personalities, previous experiences, and general attitudes toward sex represent another piece of the puzzle. And there are environmental factors to consider—the cultural context that, in part, determines the partners we choose and the opportunities available to us.
Whenever we’re talking about sexual interests, we need to talk about it from a biopsychosocial perspective. Two people can develop the same sexual interest for very different reasons, depending on the confluence of all of these factors.
How are these kinks and fetishes created?
Many people can pinpoint a specific childhood experience as the source of their kink or fetish. For some, it feels like a fact of life from birth. Others find their kinks later in life through solo or partnered exploration. Younger generations are becoming aware of their kinks earlier in life thanks to the internet. But in some cases, the culture of silence and shame around sexual kinks can delay the discovery process by decades.
You don’t necessarily realize who you are until you’re in your teens or maybe even your 20s or maybe even your 50s, not because it’s totally out of the blue. But you don’t realize what kink is or what it is to be kinky. Or that some of your private sexual fantasies actually align with kink.
Often the kink’s emotional and sexual resonance is reinforced through masturbation.
We know that the connection between the smell centers of the brain and the memory centers of the brain and the emotional centers of the brain are very close, and so things that we would consider to be classic kinks, like a foot fetish—or rubber or leather or things that are evocative, especially through smell—can become connected with emotional content and memories to form a kind of cycle where you smell it and you have this stimulus in this memory that’s very emotional. You might reinforce that through, say, masturbation to the point where it becomes a very firm pathway in your brain. Some people are primed to develop a kink or fetish under the right conditions.
Are my kinks my sexual orientation?
Kinks aren’t hobbies— they are your sexual identity or at least a big part of it. In one case throughout a woman’s life, relationships that didn’t align with her kinks would inevitably fail. The kink was never explicitly discussed or cited as the reason for the breakup—that discovery would come later. But in retrospect, it makes sense that certain power dynamics weren’t tenable for her.
The data supports both possibilities. For some, it is a leisure activity. For others, an interest in kink can have very deep roots. A kink is very persistent, it’s enduring, it has some of the other features that a sexual orientation does. It’s not malleable. For some people, there does seem to be the sense that kink is more of a sexual orientation for them. But again, we don't fully understand exactly why that is.