It is simultaneously really simple and really difficult to define what a fetish is.
From the Wiki page, the suggestion is that a sexual fetish is a focus on an inanimate object or non-genital part of the body. The idea is that a person gets sexual pleasure from something that is not inherently sexual.
In spite of this seemingly easy definition, I would argue that in practice, there are actually a lot of gray areas involved.
For example, hook suspension is not a new practice, and not all people that do it fetishize it. However, some people who do it do fetishize it. So when we talk about it, it’s important to be clear that some do it for the mental clarity and the peace they feel when they are suspended. On the other hand, some get a sexual thrill from it. (Watching, participating, doing the rigging, etc.)
Many things being fetishized are not always a fetish. Take Tens Units and Violet Wands, for example. Many people do use these devices to stimulate muscles after an injury or to help with muscle spasms (as is their stated purpose.) However, many others have an electricity fetish and consider these devices to be kinky. In fact, at most “tastings” (fetish events where you can try things out) there will be a station set up with a Tens Unit or Violet Wand.
You are always going to find people who use a vibrator as a “neck massager” because that is how it is advertised and they really are that naive. Most of us can agree as a society that we know a Magic Wand is for female masturbation and not neck massages.
My point is, in some ways a Violet Wand is a sex toy, and in some ways it is not. If you get a thrill from electricity like my husband does, then it is definitely a sex toy. However, if you’re using it for a muscle injury, then obviously it is not.
Additionally, you are likely to see things like Violet wands and Hook Suspensions at a kink party in Arizona (where I am from,) but that doesn’t mean that the people who are there for those things are necessarily part of the kink community. So, on the outer limits of fetish culture there are blurred lines, and you should try to avoid making assumptions if you can. Always ask people questions rather than guessing at the answers.
As I have said through all the posts in this fetish series I am doing, there are blurred lines. Vanilla people engage in a lot of behavior that could be considered fetishized, but they don’t think of it that way or interact with the community. And in the community many people do things that seem like they are extreme and pushing the outer limits of kink, but some of those people don’t consider those things at all sexual.
The key to all of this is just to try to remain tolerant, open-minded, and understanding.