Fetishism is sexual attraction to objects, situations, or body parts not traditionally viewed as sexual.
The sexual acts of fetishists are characteristically depersonalized and objectified, with the focus being exclusively on the fetish. Non-fetishists may at various times become aroused by a particular body part or an object and make it a part of their sexual interaction with another person, but they do not fixate on it. In general, the fetishist can only become sexually aroused and orgasmic when the fetish is being used. In other instances, a response may occur without the fetish, but at a diminished level. When the fetish object is not present, the fetishist fantasizes about it. The diagnostic criteria for fetishism includes:
- Repeatedly for a period of at least six months, the patient has recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges or behaviors involving nonliving objects (such as female undergarments and shoes).
- The fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors cause significant distress or impair social, occupational or personal functioning.
- The fetish objects are not articles of clothing used in cross-dressing as in transvestite fetishism and are not designed for tactile genital stimulation such as a vibrator.
Other features of fetishism include:
- Employment or volunteer work to enable fetish behavior, for example, a job in a shoe shop in the case of a shoe fetish
Some disorders such as mental retardation and dementia have similar or even the same symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in her diagnostic attempt needs to rule out other potential disorders to establish a precise diagnosis.
Common types of fetishism:
- Amputee fetishism
- Breast fetishism
- Corset fetishism (Tightlacing)
- Diaper fetishism
- Foot fetishism
- Food fetishism
- Furry fetishism/Toonophilia
- Glove fetishism
- Leather fetishism
- Medical fetishism
- Pregnancy fetishism
- Rubber fetishism
- Boot fetish
- Spandex fetishism
- Stocking fetishism
- Swimcap fetishism
- Tickling fetishism
- Transvestic fetishism
- Belly button fetish
The cause of fetishistic behavior as a pattern of sexual gratification cannot be explained easily.
Some theorists believe that fetishism develops from early childhood experiences, in which an object was associated with a particularly powerful form of sexual arousal or gratification. Other learning theorists focus on later childhood and adolescence and the conditioning associated with masturbation activity. Studies show that fetishists have poorly develop social skills, are isolated in their lives and have a diminished capacity for establishing intimacy.
Behavioral learning models suggest that a child who is the victim or observer of inappropriate sexual behaviors learns to imitate and is later reinforced for the behavior. Compensation models suggest that these individuals are deprived of normal social sexual contacts and thus seek gratification through less socially acceptable means. In the far more common cases, involving males, the patterns suggest that causes stem from doubts about ones own masculinity, potency, and a fear of rejection and humiliation. By his fetishistic practices and the mastery over an inanimate object, the individual apparently safeguards himself and also compensates for some of his feelings of inadequacy.
- National Institutes of Health
- National Library of Medicine
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition