Arielle Greenberg realized very early in her life that her sexuality didn’t match up with the masses. Today she identifies as a fetishist, and she wants others who have similar types of desires to feel less alone and have fun as they embrace their sexuality.
By listening to Arielle’s story, you’ll also learn what it means to be a fetishist, how powerful role-playing can be for eroticism, what’s involved with a “stability fetish,” common myths about kinky folks and more! You’ll also hear about Arielle’s new book, Superfreaks: Kink Pleasure and The Pursuit of Happiness.
“Fetishism, Role-play and Stability Kinks: Arielle Greenberg”
a Girl Boner podcast transcript
Arielle: I think role play can be really intimidating. It feels like, oh, do I need to go to acting school for this or something? But the truth is, anybody can role play. It can feel a little awkward at first. It might feel a little scary at first.
The first time we really tried role-playing we were both kind of, thinking we were on Broadway or something and having to deliver a great performance. And it felt like pressure and it felt awkward, but the more we did it, the more we got comfortable with it. And now we can kind of go into that space very quickly. And then you’re sort of not yourself for the moment. You can leave all that other stuff behind and just be in this really erotic space.
Arielle Greenberg is the author of the new book, Superfreaks: Kink, Pleasure and The Pursuit of Happiness. And these topics have been a part of her life for a long time.
Arielle: So when I was a junior in high school, I sort of chose this guy to pursue, really because I wanted a prom date. I wanted a date for prom. [laughs] And so I identified this guy who was shy and smart and attractive to me who was in some of my classes, but he was so shy and I’m sure he would’ve never asked anybody out maybe. So I went after him and basically was like, you should ask me out. You should ask me to prom.
And he did. And we started sort of dating but we didn’t really mess around much and. Both of us were sexually inexperienced and we didn’t really do very much together.
And then over the summer, I remember there was a day when he came over, my parents weren’t home and we were hanging out.
She’s pretty sure they were both trying to inch their way toward a sexual encounter.
Arielle: But neither of us really knew what we wanted or what to do. And he ended up kind of putting his head in my lap and calling me mommy jokingly, I think. But you know, it was this kind of role play moment and I was completely flabbergasted because I think first of all, you know, we were both sexually inexperienced and it felt like I, but I already knew that I identified as kinky, you know, internally.
And I didn’t really know what that meant. I didn’t, you know, I, I had some idea of what it meant for me, but I didn’t really know what it meant in the larger world.
I certainly had never tried any kinky play with any partners. I had hardly done anything at that point. And I found it, I think both very exciting that he called me mommy, because I had some inkling of what that could mean and also terrifying and bizarre, you know.
And I think part of what put me off about it, I mean first of all it was just surprising that this very shy guy kind of came out with this like role play before we, I mean, I think maybe we’d kissed a couple times. That was it. But I also think I was very clear in that moment that I was interested in the idea of role play, but that I didn’t want that role, the role of mommy.
Looking back, she has a sense of why that role did not appeal.
Arielle: …the fact that I was like a pretty parentalized oldest child. My parents had a third child when I was 11 or 12, my mom was kinda like, I’m bored. I wanna have another baby. And then had a baby and was kind of like, uh, nope, that wasn’t it. That’s not really what I wanted. And kind of handed my little sister off to me.
Arielle was expected to do a lot of childcare, and was also a babysitter for other families in the summers.
Arielle: And I think I already had the sense that I don’t wanna be a mommy figure in my erotic life. That’s something I already do in my regular life, and it feels like a lot of responsibility. This is not, this is not a fun escape for me.
I don’t think I could have articulated it that way back then but looking back, I had this layered response of kind of titillation excitement, arousal, and also, you know, pushing it away and kind of like, wait, what, what, what, what, what is happening here?
Plus it wasn’t negotiated. He never asked her to play “mommy.”
Arielle: Yeah, there was a lot wrapped up in that one little moment, which I can completely remember. You know, it was like sitting on the floor of my den in my parents’ house and, and him lying in my lap and saying, mommy.
August: Oh my goodness.
Today Arielle identifies as a fetishist. She described fetishism as a kind of kink that’s not talked about as much as things like spanking and bondage, she said. For both of those reasons — the lack of discussion and her personal connection — fetishism is a big focus in her book. It’s also far more than a sexual interest.
Arielle: So for me, like many fetishists, it really feels like an orientation, you know, much like knowing that you’re queer when you’re young.
From the time I was very, very young, pre-pubescent, my fantasies revolved around things that most people don’t consider typically sexual. And this is true for many, from what I’ve read from my research, this is true for many fetishists. So a lot of people who are into, let’s say a shoe fetishist or something like that, know that from the time they were very young, they were drawn to shoes.
References to such fetishes go far back through history.
[“Vienna Blood” playful classical music]
Arielle: There are stories about how Leopold Von Masoch, who famously wrote Venus and Furs and other kinky erotica in the late 1800s. He was a masochist, but he was also really into fur. He wanted his dom to always wear fur. And there are stories about how when he was a little boy, he saw a painting of a woman in fur and he had a cousin who wore a fur coat and he just was like, yes, like this, this is my thing.
And for the rest of his life, he fetishized fur.
Arielle’s main fetish doesn’t have a simple or universal name.
Arielle: From the time I was very young, my sexual fantasies or sort of what I thought was arousing, was basically other people, the object of my desire or whoever, indulging in kind of vice-like behaviors, taboo behaviors.
So that is mostly about kind of like overindulging or overdoing it in food or sex or, you know, hedonistic pleasure, basically. Encouraging and witnessing somebody else’s hedonistic pleasure is my fetish, which there’s no shortcut, name for it, unfortunately. There are sort of related terms, like in the gay community specifically, somebody who wants to encourage someone else to gain weight.
That person’s known as an encourager, or feeder. And the person being encouraged is called a gainer.
Arielle: And my fetish overlaps with those, but it’s really about the psychology of that indulgence.
So when I was a little kid, you know, if there was a cartoon of Hansel and Gretel eating all the sweets in the witch’s house, that turned me on. When I was a teenager later and was, you know, dating somebody seriously, who I was very attracted to, and we had Thanksgiving at his family’s house and he kind of overate and was kind of proud of it. That’s another part of it for me is like I want the person who indulges to be sort of proud and smug of their indulgence, not humiliated or shamed, which there are people with that fetish that’s sort of related.
But for Arielle, it’s more about that vibe of, “I get to do whatever I want.”
So when my boyfriend at the time said, you know, like, “oh, I ate too much. I’m so happy about that,” I immediately sort of pounced on him.
It’s one of her core fantasies, after all. Though he didn’t know that yet.
Arielle: I think I did kind of come clean about it after that because I think he was shocked by the fact and he was talking about it even over dinner. He was sort of saying at the dinner table, like, I’m gonna take a third slice of pie or whatever.
And I was surrounded by his extended family. It was a very wholesome Thanksgiving meal and I was kind of slipping under the table because I was so aroused by him going for that third slice of pie.
August: Oh my gosh. I love that so much.
When did you start to realize that you are a fetishist? Like how did you come to identify that way?
Arielle: I think I just knew from the time I was very young and so I would masturbate to these fantasies of indulgence and…you know, I watched enough TV shows and read enough books to know that that’s not what most people were supposed to get excited about. And so I sort of knew that my sexuality was other, right? It was different, not “normal.”
And the fact that I could be in these — and a lot of fetishists talk about this, that you could be in these wholesome settings, you know, watching TV with your family or walking down the street and somebody, let’s say you’re like
Somebody who has a fetish for people smoking cigarettes. You know, if you are just walking down the street and you see somebody putting their cigarette out under their shoe and that’s your thing, you are kind of like, whoa, I, this is like porn you know, for me.
And I think it’s, again, very similar to knowing you’re gay when you’re young. The culture is telling you you’re supposed to be attracted to this gender and, you know, deep within yourself you’re not. You’re attracted to this other gender and think you’re not supposed to be, or that that’s not what your family considers normative or whatever. And it’s just very clear to you.
Clear that you’re seeing the world through a different kind of lens, sexually, than most of the people around you.
Arielle: And so I think, it really colors your whole experience because you’re aware that it’s not what’s expected.
August: Yeah. Oh, that makes so much sense. Do you remember when you first even heard the term fetishist?
Arielle: That’s a good question. I think probably in high school, is when I heard that term. And then I am, I’m of the age that I came of age at the same time as the beginning of the internet.And so when I got into college was sort of the birth of, you know, internet access. There was something called alt sex.. I found my way to alt.sex as a college student, and then immediately sort of found community, or at least knew that I was not alone in having these kind of other sorts of fantasies. And not even just fantasies, just like mine, although I did find people who had fantasies a lot like mine.
But also just realizing there were other fetishists out there helped chip away at shame she’d been feeling.
Arielle: Yeah, it was so healing, and helpful.
And also? Fun.
Arielle: … provided me with pornographic material that was right up my alley.
There was a website, or forum that was specifically for gay men who were sort of into, guys who were overindulging in food, I guess specifically, and being able to read their stories and see photos that they posted and things like that and think like, oh yeah, this is erotica written for me.
Even though she’s obviously not a gay man, she said for a lot of fetishists and kinky people, the fetish or kink trumps factors, like gender, that are more central for vanilla folks.
So for years, Arielle used that gay male erotica site to fulfill her sexual fantasies – she said it was like the “perfect thing.” Not every interaction she had turned out to be that gratifying.
Like this one time…
Arielle: I met, like on AOL or something, a female flight attendant who was, you know, sort of also in her twenties when I was in my twenties, who. Had posted about having a really similar, sexuality, and I remember feeling like, oh my gosh!
She had to talk to her. Who was this other woman who shared the same fetish she did? So Arielle reached out, and the woman was very friendly, but not interested in having the deep-dive conversation Arielle craved….
Arielle: She was kinda like, “Yeah, I like guys who look like this and who do this,” you know? And I was like, “Great, but can we talk about why? And all the details?” She was like, “Um, I dunno.”
August: I can totally imagine that.
[acoustic, encouraging music]
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[acoustic, encouraging music]
In Superfreaks, Arielle touches on another fetish she connects to: a stability fetish. The name alone challenges common stereotypes about what fetishes and kinks can entail.
Arielle: This came pretty late, I guess. I think I’d already had several major relationships and I was married to my first husband and we had kids and I had this career, and two kids and I didn’t want more responsibility when I went, to bed or to play at night, or sexually. And my husband at the time was not comfortable with playing with power dynamics.
We talked about it and it was very clear that that was not something he felt comfortable doing. You know, we had a very egalitarian relationship and that’s what we both wanted. And then we opened our marriage, after our youngest child was born.
We had been great partners for each other and great co-parents and great friends, but we realized we just sexually were not well matched in terms of what we both felt most comfortable with and wanted. And so I actually reconnected, this is in my late thirties with a partner I had had this wonderful fling with in my twenties.
And we started, you know, getting together and, playing together and, and having a sexual and romantic relationship. And he too, grew up with a lot of responsibility in his household. And like me, he felt that his household was, you know, his home, his family of origin was pretty unpredictable and destabilizing and unsettling.
We both had that experience and I think we both were looking for something that felt really exciting and also really stabilizing.
As it turns out, she said, power exchange and power dynamics are really good for that.
Arielle: Because it allows you to do something that feels very taboo. At the same time, it’s doing something that gives you so much structure and a sense of kind of control and being taken care of.
That brings up something that folks who aren’t into kink may not understand about dominance and submission (or DS), she said – especially if your ideas about kink come from things like movies. Notions like it’s all about spankings and bossy commands.
I think in most real life DS relationships, ideally both people are getting their needs met and both people feel very taken care of in that relationship. So even the dominant is being taken care of in some way, either by having, you know, this kind of sense of control and authority that they might feel like they don’t get in other aspects of their lives.
In my DS dynamic with my current partner, who’s the guy I reconnected with, part of what it means for me to be his submissive is to give him things he wants that help him feel taken care of.
That could be something as simple as mixing a drink for him, she said, scratching his back.
Arielle: You know, any number of things. And I’m sort of doing that in this position of, submissive or, whatever you wanna call that. But, to somebody else that could just look like, oh, you’re, you’re just being kind and, and caring for your partner. And he does that for me, too. So also our dominance and submission doesn’t look like him, you know, tying me up and spanking me most of the time. It often looks like him setting good boundaries for me. The other night he closed my computer while I was sort of still on it because he’s like, you have been online too much. You need to focus on what we’re doing now like whatever you’re doing online needs to be over.
It also looks like him accompanying her to conferences where she’s presenting, and carrying her materials around so she doesn’t have to.
Arielle: And somebody might think, well, isn’t that what the sub should do for a dom, like carry your stuff? But in our relationship, he’s the sort of daddy figure and he’s the kind of daddy who’s like taking good care of me so that I can be free to do my career, like, to do my professional duty…[and] is a form of, stepping in and sort of taking, taking on responsibility for me.
Arielle and her partner first really thought about their stability fetish during a workshop for folks who engage in dominance/submission full time – not just for dates or sex.
We went to a kink camp. That’s a wonderful event. And they have workshops. And one of the workshops was on power exchange dominance submissions, sort of 24/7 DS. And they asked us sort of, “what do you feel you’re getting out of your DS? What is the goal of your DS? And one of the participants said, “You know, I think ultimately I have a stability fetish.”
And everyone in the dominant/submissive circle — folks of all different genders, ages, sexual orientations — were like OH MY GOSH.
Yes! That’s what this is. This is a way to feel really safe within my sexual space and like I’m being given exactly what I asked for and exactly what I want. Because DS relationships are known for having a lot of protocol in place. And a lot of negotiation ahead of time. There’s often contracts, even if people are doing 24/7 DS.
That may be one thing 50 Shades of Grey got very right about many BDSM relationships: those in-depth contracts. And the contracts go way back in history. Remember the guy with the fur fetish?
Arielle: Leopold Von Sahar Masa, who I talked about earlier,
He had a DS contract with his dom – apparently an incredible one.
Arielle: And really sort of the model for, for all of us. And so, you know, you’re really talking about things like , you know, how do you want me to treat you sexually? And you know, what kind of sexual behaviors do you wanna have happen and, and how often and with what flavor and how do you want me to talk to you about it? And, you know, all of that kind of gets discussed. And then the roles are very clear.
Usually you get to step into this role play where the tone and the actions are really prescribed and that can feel very safe, I think for a lot of us.And also knowing that you’re gonna get taken care of, again, either as the sub or the dom, you’re gonna get what you most want out of this is really reassuring.
And so I think, you know, for many people who, in the rest of their lives, feel like things are very unpredictable and chaotic, it can feel really Lovely. kind of escape to this erotic space where you know how it’s gonna play out and you know, the role that you’re supposed to enact.
August: That has to be so comforting.
Arielle: Yeah. Which I think is not how people usually think of DS.
August: No, not at all. That’s so important. So you ended up, after this workshop, talking with your partner and I know you got into a lot of the childhood stuff that you’ve mentioned. How did just that, that discussion and this awareness and just thinking about this concept more impact your sexuality or your relationship afterwards?
Arielle: And we had already been in a DS relationship that we, you know, had been kind of working on and, and workshopping and, and negotiating for a few years at that point, I think. Um, so we were pretty set in how and what we were doing and it was working really well for us. But I think it just explained a lot to us about, Why we were so pulled toward DS, and what it gave us to have this understanding of it being about stability, which is definitely something both of us crave.
So it was really more about explaining the kind of whys and wherefores of what we were doing. And also because You know, our DS doesn’t look like a lot of other, well, it doesn’t look like the stereotype, right? It doesn’t involve a lot of dungeons or toys or things like that.
And it’s really much more about relying on one another to take care of each other in these very specific ways. It just kind of helped explain what we were already doing to ourselves and underscored the reasons why it was fulfilling, because I would say that my partner doesn’t necessarily identify as, you know, particularly kinky.
Like, I think if you kinda looked at, you know, if he sort of said what he most loves, it’s, it’s, it’s mostly, you know, kind of pretty vanilla. But, the role play aspect of it is where the kink kind of comes in and also where the stability comes in. I think it feels very reassuring to him to know that he has this, this kind of job where he’s gonna take care of me in this particular way with this particular flavor, and I’m gonna take care of him in these particular ways and with his particular flavors.
Arielle and her partner’s DS dynamic isn’t just limited to things like boundaries around work or helping out at conferences. also gets pretty steamy.
Arielle: again, this kind of really goes against the stereotypes of the dominant being the top, but there’s a reason why the term dominant is separate from the term top because a dominant is about, A kind of psychological, you know, again, role play position, and a top is about the actions that you’re performing, I guess. Right?
She shared the example of sensation play, which draws on particular senses. Let’s say you’re in a DS relationship and you’re going to play with sensations by having one partner blindfolded – eliminating sight so that other sensations are heightened.
It’s easy to assume that the dominant partner is the one tying the blindfold on the other… And they might be — but only if that’s what they really want. Because the idea, Arielle said, is that the dominant gets what the dominant wants.
Since Arielle’s into people indulging their hedonistic desires, it often looks like her partner saying things like…
Arielle: “You know, I want you to go down on me more,” or really like lying back and letting me pleasure him is a big part of our dynamic.
And again, I think most people think of that as like, oh, that’s what t the sub does in a way, you know? But in our dynamic, it’s so indulgent that he just gets to lie back and say like, you pleasure me. And I love that. I love that role.
Other times their DS dynamic plays out by him going off and doing something “naughty” that they agree upon ahead of time and then returning to tell her all about it.
Arielle: For example, we can be on vacation my partner could say like, “okay, you take care of the kids. For now I’m gonna go to the hotel bar and have a cocktail. And, Come back later when I’m ready” and I’ll say, “yay, great. Yes, please.”
And then he’ll text me from the from the bar and say like, “I’m on my second cocktail” or whatever it is. “And…I’ll come back when I feel like it.” And I mean, the truth is he would totally come back if I needed him. But we’re sort of both playing this game. And I say like, “Oh, that’s so bad! That’s so naughty of you.” You know, it’s the middle of the day or whatever, and then he comes back.
And then that night when we’re in bed, I just say, “Tell me daddy.” And he’ll say “Yeah, I hung out at the bar and I drank whatever I wanted.” And I’m like, woo! I’m so excited.
So it’s often storytelling they do in the bedroom, based on the indulgent following of his desires.
Not long before we spoke, those desires were especially kinky. Specifically, to be part of a gang bang — where one person receives penetration from several people in a row.
And it was like a very vetted, carefully orchestrated, carefully negotiated gang bang. And, you know, I stayed home and he went off and had this sexual adventure.
And the way we talk about that leading up to it and afterwards is like, “Ooh, you’re gonna get to do this naughty thing and you’re gonna go fuck somebody else and I’m gonna stay home.” But I’m genuinely so thrilled for him and so delighted that he gets to have this experience that’s really fun for him.
Her job is to encourage him to do that thing. And his is to spill the spicy details with her afterwards.
August: It totally took me back to your Thanksgiving table just thinking you are so excited by his indulgence.
Arielle: Yes, exactly. Yeah. That’s nice. I love it.
August: I’m really, one of the things I’m excited about as I’m imagining listeners hearing about your experience is that, I’m almost certain there will be folks who hear this and go, oh, I am kinkier than I thought. Or maybe for the first time I’m thinking I might be kinky. They think they’re so vanilla because they don’t fit these different, you know, molds or stereotypes. I’m curious if you have any advice related to any of this, but especially for folks who are curious about this or maybe they want to indulge themselves.
Arielle: Yeah. I mean, I think, for folks who are really have, a fetish or sort of deep rooted kink, I think often you do know that it’s in you somewhere, you know, but it might take being exposed to a scene in a movie or hearing a podcast like this to kind of realize like, oh, that’s what that is. Because often we don’t know the names and if we can’t name it, it’s hard to imagine it or like fully, you know, kind of come into it, I guess.
So, one thing I would say is that I think, you know, role play also gets sort of short shrift because, you know, it’s very limited and stereotyped because people think about role play as like, oh, you know, cop and robber.
I don’t know what, like, whatever it is, teacher and student, you know, all these kind of, role plays in sort of typical mainstream porn whatever the costume store has. But the truth is role play is really infinitely flexible based on whoever is indulging in it and doing it.
And I think of role play as a really great and important way to escape your everyday experience and get into a sexy space. Because most of us, you know, as adults have responsibilities. We have stresses, whatever it is over the course of our normal day.
And you know, often we’re looking to these erotic moments as spaces where we can really leave all that behind and just have a wonderful, pleasurable time. but that can be really hard if you’re carrying all of your daily stress and anxiety into that space. And so by pretending to be somebody else you get to step out of that.
And I think role play can be really intimidating. It feels like, oh, do I need to go to acting school for this or something? But the truth is, you know, anybody can role play. It can feel a little awkward at first. It might feel a little scary or, you know, I, I know that the first times, we really tried role-playing we were both kind of, thinking we were on Broadway or something and having to deliver a great performance. And, it felt like pressure and it felt awkward, but, The more we did it, the more we got comfortable with it, and now we can kind of go into that space very quickly. And then you’re, you’re sort of not yourself for the moment and you can leave all that other stuff behind and just be in this really erotic space.
So it’s really a matter of figuring out the role play and the tone and the specifics of the role play that work for you.
Let’s say you want to try roleplaying as teacher and student.
Arielle: There are actually a million ways that could go, right, like you can be a shy teacher
you can be, both shy. You could be both aggressive, humiliating. You could be praising, you could be, you know, there’s just literally an unlimited number of tones or ways that you can play that.
The key is figuring out what you long for, and going from there.
Arielle: Yeah, like whatever it is you need. If you feel like you need to be in control. If you need to feel like you are surrendering control for the moment, if you need to feel taken care of, if you need to feel told what to do. Whatever it is, you can come up with some role play that will allow you to kind of tap into that mood with a willing and enthusiastic partner.
August: Uh, I love that.
You can learn much more about fetishism and role play in Arielle’s book. It’s full of information and tips and history — all shared in fun and creative ways. Here’s what Arielle most wanted you to know about “Superfreaks.”
Arielle: You know, when I said that I, back in those early days of the internet, found that one flight attendant who had a similar fetish, and I was just like, let’s talk about it for hours. And she was kinda like, “Oh, I don’t know you. I’m busy…” My book is meant to be that long conversation, right? That deep dive and, be thoughtful and excited and enthusiastic and conversational about all manner of kink for people of every gender and sexual orientation and age.
I’m really hoping it’s very inclusive in that way, and also inclusive of kinks that are not often discussed again, like fetishes specifically. I do touch on a lot of, fetishes and other kinky behaviors that I think are not covered in a lot of other books.
It’s not a how-to guide and it’s not academic theory or history, and it’s not straight up erotica, but it’s kind of a blend of all of those things.
And it’s meant to be, you know, really fun to read.
The fact that the subtitle is Kink, Pleasure and the Pursuit of Happiness, I want it to be a really, upbeat, positive book about these topics that are often thought of as, even lovingly, dark and sort of sinister.
You know, I think a lot of people in the BDSM community like that about it, and they like that it’s, Serious and dramatic. But the truth is we’ve met a lot of kinky people at this point and they are playful. You have to be playful to do stuff and you, and hopefully you have a sense of humor about it.
Cuz if you take yourself too seriously, it is all in the end, all play, it’s all fantasy. And so to my mind, you have to have a sense of humor about that. And you can’t take yourself too seriously.
[acoustic chord riff]
Superfreaks: Kink, Pleasure, and the Pursuit of Happiness, is available most anywhere books are sold. Find a direct link in the show notes. Follow along with Arielle on Instagram at @arielle_greenberg.
If you’re enjoying Girl Boner Radio, it would mean so much to me if you would leave a rating and review — on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, that’s the purple iPhone app — and if you’d tell your friends about it. You can also sign up for very occasional updates and surveys from me on my website. Thanks so much for listening.