The word fetish originates from the Portuguese word “fetico” which originally meant “charm” and also false power. When the Portuguese explored West Africa and encountered native religions, they called whatever they collected (talismans), a fetish. These collections were usually objects: totems, beads and carvings. Some people aren’t sure if they have a fetish, they think their fetish is something they admire or a habit. If you have a fetish, you are fixated on something whether it be an object or a body part.
The actual introduction of fetishes were introduced in 1887 by a French psychologist named Alfred Binet and were defined as a predominant or exclusive sexual admiration in an inanimate object. At that time, fetishism was also considered pathological, as in, a mentally disturbed condition that needed to be treated. As time evolved, so did the theory and definition of fetishes. According to the Journal of Sex Research, Anna Lawrence refers to a fetish as a reliance on a non-living object. This non-living object is seen as a stimulus for sexual arousal and sexual gratification and also dubbed as a paraphilia by the medical community. These urges are extreme and atypical and most commonly reported in men vs women. The term paraphilia was coined by Austrian ethnologist Freidrich Salomo Krauss and is literally described as “inverted erotic instinct.” It comes from the Greek words para (beside, aside) and philos (loving).
In a majority of cases, fetishes simply serve as a way to increase sexual gratification. People with fetishes will often treat their fetish objects in the same way that they would treat their sexual partners. They look for close physical contact, they gaze at them, fondle them, rub against them, suck on them, insert them into body cavities, and they might even cut or burn them. There are several kinds of fetishes, depending on the object being fetishized. Inanimate fetishes are: media, form and animate.
In a media fetish, there is a certain material that is obsessed about. Media fetishes include rubber, leather, latex, and silk. With a form fetish, it is the shape of the object – stiletto heels, knee high boots, and lingerie fall into this category. And then there are animate fetishes, these are usually the most typical.
Animate fetishes can range from feet, hair, butts, and/or breasts.
However, fetishes don’t just stop and end there, anything can be considered a fetish. There are different degrees of fetishism. They range from mild to extreme. When explored fully, a fetish can be the highlight for sex life.
Scientists of sexuality believe that fetishes begin early in life. There is some incident that leads an individual to associate an object to some sort of sexual desire. According to Sigmund Freud, fetishism develops in response to castration anxiety during the oedipal phase of development. This phase begins around the ages of 5-7 in boys. Children are very impressionable at an early age and absorb a plethora of information on any given day. It is thought that sexual fetishes are the result of environmental factors in early life however there is little research on exactly how genetics influence a fetish and if they’re passed through DNA. A fetish is a unique trait of an individual person based on their tastes and preferences and is an important part of studying someone’s sexual identity but it’s not the same as sexual orientation or their gender expression. A common fetish found amongst men is a “panty fetish.” The Panty Fetish is where men get sexual gratification from touching, smelling and wearing underwear designed for women. Another common fetish is that of feet. Most people view feet as smelly and gross however someone with a foot fetish finds feet as the sexiest part of the body. It is possible for them to get off not only by touching but also seeing feet. The foot is the most popular body part fetish and this could be because feet lead to the leg which then lead to the genitalia.
Sigmund Freud claimed that people sexualize feet because they resemble penises. According to a theory by neuroscientist Vilanayer Ramachandran, director of the Center of Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, foot fetishes result from something he calls a “phantom foot.” He discovered this while studying brain malfunctions in patients that had lost their feet or had missing limbs. He noticed that the brain failed to notice that a body part was missing and then accidently rewired that missing limb to be something sexual. Patients reported feeling sexual pleasure, and even orgasms, in their missing feet and limbs. From this he concluded that foot fetishes are result of cross-wiring in the brain between the foot and a gentital part.
There is nothing wrong with a sexual fetish as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work life balance and your relationship. Some still see it as a mental disorder but there are many fetish conventions around the world promoting healthy awareness of all fetishes. A popular convention for fetishes is FetishCon which highlights several fetishes and even bondage. However, if you do feel a fetish is interfering with your life, seek professional help and consult your partner. Some people feel uncomfortable discussing fetishes and tend to hide them. Others have found that fetishes have enhanced their sex lives. A sex therapist can help you work through these issues.