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Welcome to episode 22 of the Sexology Podcast, today my guest is Joe Zarate-Sanderlin. In this episode, we talk about the psychology behind sexual fetishes.

Joe ZaRAte-SANderlin is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist seeing clients in private practice in San Francisco, California. He has been active in the open relationship and BDSM communities in New York, Boston, and San Francisco for nearly 20 years.  He earned his Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Montecito, California. Pacifica highlights the need for therapists to do their own inner work. As a part of this, Joe has examined the role of the unconscious dark side of the personality, often called The Shadow, in his own life and in the lives of his clients.

As a part of his training as a therapist, he worked under the supervision of Dossie Easton, co-author of The Ethical Slut, The Topping Book, and The Bottoming Book. For two and half years, he primarily saw clients in open relationships and BDSM relationships under Dossie’s guidance. In addition to working with Dossie, Joe was a counselor in a Catholic elementary school for three years and he volunteered at a low-few non-profit therapy clinic in San Francisco for four years.

His interest in alternative sexuality includes helping normalize some activities that can carry a stigma while recognizing that those activities can sometimes become disordered and cause stress. He has focused on unpacking the shame that many people feel regarding their sexuality. He is also interested in the historical and cultural aspects of relationships and sexuality and he is passionate about challenging the bias toward hetero- and mono- normative relationships and toward binary views of gender.

Since he became licensed in 2013, he has continues his focus on working with clients in the LGBT, open relationship, and BDSM communities. He is a member of both Gaylesta and Bay Area Open Minds, two San Francisco Bay Area based organizations that promote and support therapists working with LGBT, open relationship, BDSM, and alternative sexuality communities. He was recently named to the Bay Area Open Minds board as social coordinator.

Joe has conducted trainings for other therapists on couples therapy, BDSM, open relationships, and talking to clients about about sex as well as guest lectured about couples therapy on the master’s level. He is in the early stages of writing a book about the role of attachment in open relationships.


In this episode, you will hear:


  • What sexual fetishes are
  • How sexual fetishes can be healthy for people
  • The more common fetishes Joe see’s in his practice
  • How there could be many more people with fetishes than we realize
  • The role society plays around this issue
  • How people with fetishes can still be aroused without fetishes
  • Ways in which people develop fetishes
  • How shame and guilt plays a big role in fetishes
  • Creating safe spaces for people to be able to talk about fetishes
  • Ways in which to support someone in y our life who has a fetish
  • The need for good communication and engagement




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