The basic idea of sexual fetishism is sexual arousal and satisfaction through an inanimate object, the fetish. The concrete definitions are not only differing but even contradictory:
In psychology, fetishism is a paraphilia, a sexual psychic disorder. The diagnosis of fetishism is justified only if the additional criteria of paraphilia are fulfilled, above all only if the affected person suffers or harms other people. According to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), fetishism is the fixation on an inanimate object, while according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), fetishism is the fixation on an inanimate object or a body part.
In common speech, any fixation on a singular inanimate object, body part, body feature or sexual practice is called fetishism. Here, fetishism is not an illness but an uncommon but mostly harmless sexual orientation.
Word origin, history and modern use
A fetish (from French fétiche; from Portuguese feitiço; from Latin facticius, "artificial" and facere, "to make") is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular a man-made object that has power over others.
Psychological origins and development
There are many theories about the psychological how, when and why of fetishism, but only few facts. Many fetishists state that they have had fetishistic desires as long as they can remember. Some fetishists can trace back their desire to a specific event. Modern psychology assumes that fetishism either is being conditioned or imprinted or the result of a traumatic experience. But also physical factors like brain construction and[heredity are considered possible explanations.
Behaviorism traced fetishism back to classical conditioning and came up with numerous specialized theories. The common theme running through all of them is that sexual stimulus and the fetish object are presented simultaneously causing them to be connected in the learning process. This is similar to Binet's early theory, though it differs in that it specifies association to classical conditioning and leaves out any judgment about pathogeneity. The superstimulus theory stressed that fetishes could be the result of generalization. For example, it may only be shiny skin that arouses a person at first, but in time more common stimuli, such as shiny latex, may have the same affect. The problem with such a theory was that classical conditioning normally needs many repetitions, but this form would require only one. To account for this the preparedness theory was put forward; it stated that reacting to an object with sexual arousal could be the result of an evolutionary process, because such a reaction could prove to be useful for survival. In pointing to how conditioned sexual behavior can persist over time, one may cite how, in 2004, when quails were trained to copulate with a piece of terry cloth, their conditioning was sustained through ongoing repetition.
Because classical conditioning seemed to be unable to explain how the conditioned behavior is kept alive over many years, without any repetition, some behaviorists came up with the theory that fetishism was the result of a special form of conditioning, called imprinting. Such conditioning happens during a specific time in early childhood in which sexual orientation is imprinted into the child's mind and remains there for the rest of his life.
Types of fetishes
According to the number of erotic offers, shoes - often in combination with a desire for feet - are on the top of the list of commonly fetishized items. Most often, a preference for high-heeled female shoes is reported, but admirers for nearly all kind of footwear can be found on the internet. Especially among gays, a desire for sneakers and sports socks can be found.
Outsiders tend to spot inner coherence between shoe fetishism and sadomasochism, e. g. because kissing someone's shoes is a submissive act, but from a systematic point of view, there is none.
Hosiery and bodywear
Women's hosiery is another commonly fetishised item. Some prefer stockings while others prefer tights. Fetishists often have favorite colours or deniers, or specific features such as seams, reinforced toes/heels, or fishnet material. And not to forget kneehigh socks (cableknits, tubes, soccer, baseball etc...). Those are combined with different types of uniforms (schoolchild, soccer, etc...)
Spandex leggings and leotards are similarly fetishised, as are tight, shiny garments made of leather, rubber or PVC. The Japanese term zentai refers to a spandex suit convering the entire body. For other fetishists, tight jeans are the object of interest.
One basis of this fetish is that the material forms a "second skin" that acts as a fetishistic surrogate for the wearer's own skin. Another basis is that the woman wearing them receives autoerotic pleasure from the tightness or silkiness. Other fetishists associate the tightness with corsetry or bondage.
Lingerie and Evening Wear
Satin and lace items such as slips, nightdresses, and lingerie are often fetishised, as well as other silk items such as evening gowns, skirts and scarves. Sometimes, as with hosiery fetishism, there is a transvestic component. Many men find the tactile sensations caused by the wearing of silk or satin lingerie arousing; some wear panties under their male clothes, whereas others may wear a full set of lingerie. Due to the taboo nature of this fetish, the possibility of getting caught often heightens the fetishist's enjoyment.
In other cases, "fuzzy" materials such as fur or Angora sweaters are fetishised.
Leather and latex
Another "hard" material for fetish clothing is rubber. This can range from items such as cloaks to thin, tight and shiny clothing. While rubber, at least natural rubber, is made from latex, in this context "latex" usually refers to the thinner materials. PVC is also used to make similar garments.
The rubber fetish can focus on conventionally sexy items such as gowns and skintight garments as well as seemingly unlikely items such as gas masks.
Other fetishistic attachments can be to specific parts of the body, such as head or body hair, legs, feet, neck, fingernails, moles or breasts, or specific shapes of the body, rather than to the person as an individual. This might explain foot binding in China in pre-modern times, extensive corset use in the West in the 19th century, and breast implants in the contemporary United States and elsewhere (e.g., Brazil).
Sometimes the attraction, rather than being toward clothes that are in close contact with the body, is toward jewelry or similar accessories, such as braces, eyeglasses, gloves, cigarettes, etc.
Medical and disability
There also exist fetishes related to medical procedures and devices, as well as to disabled persons and orthopedic equipment such as crutches and plaster casts.
Fluid and excretory
Another cluster of fetishes is centered around dirt and fluids, bodily or otherwise.
Sometimes, whole cultures can develop the fetish to such an extent that it is no longer perceived as a fetish, but merely as a normal sexual desire; for example the commonplace "fetishes" for lingerie and women lacking body hair.
Sometimes what a culture covers up eroticises the boundaries of what remains exposed. For example, a woman's ankle was considered erotic in late-Victorian era England.
In this regard, there can be said to be a degree of fetishistic arousal in the average person who responds to particular bodily features as sign of sexual attractiveness]]. However, fetishistic arousal is generally considered to be a problem only when it interferes with normal sexual or social functioning. Sometimes the term "fetishism" is used only for those cases where non-fetishist sexual arousal is impossible.
Women and fetishism
Most of the material on fetishism is in reference to heterosexual men, with most of the objects fetishized being high-femme items such as lingerie, hosiery, and heels. Until recently there was little mention of women ever having fetishes.
However, the visual map of fetishes linked below flags several clusters as having a number of women admirers, such as corsetry and some of the medical-related fetishes. Given the male's more visual nature, the preferences of women fetishists are not necessarily a mirror image of those of male fetishists; just because many men are attracted to women in high heels does not necessarily mean there are many women attracted to men in construction boots.
The book Female Perversions, which also discussed corsetry and self-cutting, in part discusses "female transvestism". It gave examples both of women who became excited by dressing in a "butch" way, i.e. the mirror image of male transvestic fetishism, and of women who became aroused by dressing in a very "femme" way, or parallel to male transvestic fetishism.
Some of the fetishes where a generally male attribute is being fetishised are:
- Objectification to the point of becoming an inanimate piece of furniture
Another strangely common fetish. This has been recognised as a psychological disorder, usually triggered by boredom or stress in a working environment involving desks. Cases have been found within schools, offices and especially within courts of law, due to the tediously slow pace at which many legal systems around the globe operate at.
Other varieties of fetishism
For a more complete list of fetishes and paraphilias, see List of paraphilias.
Most of the sexual orientations popularly called fetishism are regarded normal variations of human sexuality on behalf of psychologists and medics. Even those orientations that are potential forms of fetishism are usually considered unobjectionable as long as all involved persons feel comfortable. Only if the diagnostic criteria presented in detail below are met, the medical diagnosis of fetishism is justified. The leading thought is that a fetishist is not ill because of his addiction but because he suffers from it.
- The Catholic Encyclopaedia: fetishism - quite extensive, well researched, and relatively objective.
- Fetish Links Org - Directory for Fetish Sites.
- The Urineists Practitioners of Urophagia & Urolagnia (A "Google" Beta-Group)
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