Over the next few weeks, we will explore the secret world of paraphilia. Today, we focus on fetishism.
A fetish is the sexual attraction to materials and objects not conventionally viewed as being sexual in nature. Body parts may also be the subject of sexual fetishes (also known as partialism) in which the body part preferred by the fetishist takes sexual precedence over the owner.
A sexual fetish may be regarded as a disorder of sexual preference, or it could be part of sex play to enhance a dormant relationship. On the other hand, fetishism is a compulsion or fixation on an inanimate object or body part that is not primarily sexual in nature, and there is obsessive need for its use in order to obtain sexual gratification.
Animal print makes some men wanna go grrrrrrrrr!
Inanimate object fetishes can be categorised into two types: form and media fetishes.
In form fetish, it is the object and its shape that is important, such as high-heeled shoes, drawings or photographs.
In a media fetish, it is the material out of which the object is made that is important, such as silk, leather, rubber or fur.
The fetish object is usually used during masturbation or with a partner to enhance sexual excitement. Fetishists may collect the object of their favour, and go to great lengths, including theft, to acquire the 'right' addition for their pleasure chest. The list of objects that fetishists use for sexual gratification is extensive, but the more common inanimate objects are women's undergarments, negligee, high-heeled shoes, boots and gloves.
In many instances, the fetishist prefers an object that has already been worn. The worn object does not serve as a symbolic reminder of the former owner; however, because it is the object that the fetishist relates to, not the person attached to it.
Some persons have a fetish for particular body parts such as feet, hair, legs or buttocks.
In a groundbreaking study, the University of Bologna used the Internet as a data source for the largest global study of sexual fetish ever undertaken. Scientists monitored 381 discussion groups that had up to 150,000 members.
The actual number of participants was estimated at 5,000.
In August 2006, AOL released a database of the search terms submitted by their subscribers. In ranking only those phrases that included the word 'fetish', it was found that the most common search was for feet.
Women, as well as men, are likely to share a foot fetish. In fact, it is quite common for women in the 20-40 age range to include foot love in foreplay.
Fetishistic sexual acts
The sexual acts of fetishists are usually depersonalised and objectified, even when they involve a partner. The focus of attention is exclusively on the fetish, whereas non-fetishists may occasionally make a particular body part or an object part of their general sexual arousal and foreplay with another person, but is not be fixated on it.
The causes of fetishism are not clearly understood. Some psychologists believe that it develops from early childhood experiences, in which an object was associated with a particularly powerful form of sexual arousal or gratification. Others do not focus on early childhood, but on later childhood and adolescence and the conditioning associated with masturbation activity.
There are two possible treatments for fetishism: cognitive therapy and psychoanalysis.
1. Cognitive therapy
Cognitive therapy seeks to change the patient's behaviour. One possible therapy is aversive conditioning where the patient is confronted with his fetish and as soon as sexual arousal starts, he is exposed to an unpleasant stimulus.
Another possible therapy is a technique called thought stop: The therapist asks the patient to think of his fetish and suddenly cries out, "Stop!" After analysing the effects of the sudden break together, the therapist will teach the patient to use this technique by himself to interrupt thoughts about his fetish.
Psychoanalysis attempts to unearth the traumatic unconscious experience that caused the fetishism in the first place using talk therapy, dream analysis and play therapy.
Pharmaceutical treatment consists of various forms of drugs that inhibit the production of the sex steroids, testosterone and oestrogen, thus reducing sexual desire.
Some experts deem fetishism as an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and have used serotonin reuptake inhibitors and dopamine blockers for controlling paraphilias that interfere with a person's ability to function.
If you have a fetish which is causing great turmoil in your life, you must seek the help of a sex therapist to normalise your sexuality and become mainstream again.
University of Bologna study
The findings were as follows: (33 per cent) preferred body parts or features and the top sexual fetishes in the category of body parts in order of ranking were:
Feet and toes 47%
Coats, body fluids and body size - 9%
Genitals and body modifications such as tattoos 4%
Navels, ethnicity and breasts 3%
Legs, buttocks, lips, mouth and teeth - 2%
Body hair, ears, nose, nails, neck and odour <1%
Hearing aids - 3%
Thirty per cent preferred objects usually associated with the body and the top sexual fetishes in the category of objects relating to the body in order of ranking were:
Shoes, boots and other footwear - 64 per cent
Hats , necklaces and other jewellery worn on the head and neck
Wristwatches, bracelets and other ornaments)
18% preferred other people's behaviour
7% preferred their own behaviour
7% preferred social behaviour
This survey has revealed that foot fetishism, foot partialism, or foot worship is the most common form of sexual preference for otherwise non-sexual objects or body parts. It also appears that sexy shoes have a special place in the heart and soul of many people around the world.
Dr Alverston Bailey is a medical doctor and immediate past president of the Medical Association of Jamaica. Send comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax 922-6223.