People are turned on by the darndest things.
We all know human sexuality is uber-complicated; what turns on one person is often completely ridiculous to someone else. Whether or not something is classified as a fetish is often more a measure of which behaviors and attractions are considered “average” or “normal.” Are washboard abs a “fetish”? Well, they’re certainly attractive – but it’s an attraction most of us can agree on.
Though fetishes are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), they are only considered to be an illness if the individual suffers as a result of the addiction. The addiction itself is NOT considered to be an illness. Most fetishes are harmless, confined to bedroom behavior and just a more extreme response to particular stimuli.
Classification of fetishes
Fetishes are classified into inanimate and animate.
Inanimate Fetishes can be either media (referring to the material one is aroused by) or form (relating to the excitement one feels due to the shape of an object). An erotic fascination with latex or leather are examples of a media fetish; a sexual fixation on stiletto heels is classified as a form fetish.
Animate Fetishes are sexual fixations related to human body parts, like feet.
Perspectives on the Origin of Fetishes
No one is absolutely certain where fetishes originate, but there are a number of theories.
Classical Conditioning & Behaviorism
Sexual stimulus and the fetish object are presented at the same time, leading the person to create a connection between them.
A special type of classical conditioning, imprinting happens at a specific time in early childhood and is stamped on the child’s psyche, connecting an object with sex.
In this theory, when children aren’t given adequate affection by their parents, they transfer their feelings (sexual and otherwise) onto an inanimate object.
It is possible that a fetish is the result of “crossed wires” in the brain, creating a link between sexual feelings and the object of the fetish.
Freud thought male fetishism was related to fears of castration and the mother’s genitals. Of course, Freud thought everything was related to that.
Most fetishes do not require treatment. For fetishes severe enough to adversely impact a person’s personal or professional life, there are a few treatment options:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy – example: Reminding oneself of the fetish’s irrationality, leading to self-judgment and corrective behavior.
Psychoanalysis – example: Tell me about your mother… Psychoanalysis tries to discover the origins of the fetish as a way of neutralizing it.
Aversive Conditioning – example: Loudly yelling, “STOP” as soon as arousal starts. Think Pavlov’s dogs.
Medication – Self-explanatory.
According to the readers of askmen.com, the 10 most popular fetishes were:
1. Voyeurism and exhibitionism (watching others and liking to be watched)
2. Golden showers
3. Water (someone who likes showering – likes it a LOT)
4. Braids, ponytails, pigtails
5. Fingernails and lipstick
6. Feet and hands
7. Domination and submission
8. Leather, rubber, vinyl, latex
9. Body piercings
Some less common (but way more interesting) fetishes:
One is sexually aroused by:
Acting and dressing as a baby (Paraphilic Infantilism)
Having “vampire sex” (Hemotolagnia)
Hooking up in tight spaces (Claustrophilia)
Making people cry (Dacryphilia)
Watching their partner sleep (Somnophilia) – we imagine this is very inconvenient for the partner.
For more information on fetishes, there are a vast number of online resources, our favorite of which is Dr. Ava Cadell’s Loveology University site. (She offers a specific course in foot fetishes!) You can follow Dr. Cadell on Twitter @loveologyu4u and us @Zestra.