Sexual fetishes - the word associations of "strange," "weird" and "freak" are unfortunately often made with this term. But there’s no need for fetishes to come with a negative connotation. While some fetishes are problematic (such as uncontrolled exhibitionism or pedophilia), many are completely harmless, though they may be difficult for those without such a fetish to understand. For a man’s own personal sexual health (and therefore penis health), as well as for the good of his relationships, it’s important not to suppress or feel ashamed about his fetishes. Of course, it’s not always the easiest of subjects to broach with a partner who may not understand. The following tips might help.

1) Get informed.

Before a man can have a calm and safe conversation about his sexual fetish(es), he should know as much as possible about it. This is a bit tricky, considering that research into the nature of fetishes has not unveiled a conclusion as to their origins. Different things may cause fetishes to emerge in different people. But it can be good to know how common a man’s particular fetish is (to the extent possible), how long ago the fetish was first reported on or discussed in literature, etc. Read articles in psychological and sexual health publications about sexual fetishes for a broader understanding as well.

The first thing to know about a fetish is the definition thereof. The Kinsey Institute defines it thus: "a strong sexual preoccupation with an object, material, or body part." This doesn’t necessarily mean that a person needs the object, material or body part to become aroused or reach orgasm, but that the thing in question may be needed for maximum enjoyment of sexual activity. Some with strong fetishes may need the thing in order to perform or finish.

2) Get comfortable.

Shame, guilt and discomfort will not lend themselves to a healthy conversation. A man may feel better after becoming more informed; if not, he should seek out help from a sex therapist to get more comfortable with his special desire.

3) Don’t expect an immediate go-ahead.

Be comfortable, but don’t get defensive. Understand that fetishes are hard for people without them to understand, and don’t expect partners to hop on board right away with playing out one’s fantasies. This may be a challenge for the other partner, so go slow and keep the doors of communication open.

4) Personalize the desire.

Sometimes the inclusion of a fetish into sexual activity can cause the other partner to feel that it no longer matters that he or she is the one with whom the fetishizing partner is playing out the desire with. It can be helpful for men to explain to their partners that, just as they both like certain positions generally but the act is still special between them when in those positions, so it is with the fetish. This is a special thing for two partners to share together.

5) Start slow.

If the partner is on board, then great! But don’t pull out all the stops right off the bat. If a man is into BDSM, for example, busting out a ball gag and whip on the first night of experimentation might be alarming. A couple should discuss how to ease into it, and a partner should never perform an act involving the other without having discussed it first. Following the BDSM example, a couple may agree to start with some soft hand cuffs and maybe a blindfold and feather teaser - nothing too rough.

6) Communicate one’s needs without coercing.

For those who need their fetishes fulfilled in order to have a satisfying sex life, but whose partners are not comfortable taking part, it’s important to be honest but not to coerce. This is a fine line to tread - stating one’s needs can easily be interpreted as a threat to leave the relationship or an attempt to cause guilt or a sense of inadequacy in the other. Partners need to speak lovingly with one another on this issue. It may turn out that the relationship will not work because of this hurdle, and that needs to be explored openly and without judgment. Be honest, but tread softly.

Along with being open and honest, a man can do both himself and his partner a favor by seeing to it that his manhood is in optimal health. If rough sex is his thing, he’ll need to make sure he takes steps to keep his penis moisturized so that his skin can take the beating. A penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) can be of service, as it contains Shea butter and vitamin E for skin protection and hydration. Keep the penis healthy with both an active sex life and a quality skin care product.