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Fetishism

FETISHISM

Fetishism first interested psychoanalysts as a sexual perversion, in the strict sense. The term referred to a man's compulsive use of an inherently nonsexual object as an essential condition for maintaining potency and achieving pleasure when having sexual relations with a person of the opposite sex. This view emphasizes that perversion, as originally understood, was viewed as a strictly masculine phenomenon. Freud presented his thinking on the subject in three texts, which represented his changing ideas on the subject: Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d), "Fetishism" (1927e), and "The Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defense" (1940e [1938]). The views expressed in those essays are as relevant in the early twenty-first century as when they were first written.

In all observed cases, the fetish, in the fetishist's unconscious fantasy, is a substitute for a woman's "penis." It "completes" the woman by making her phallic. Consequently, the woman's genital organs lose any erogenous quality, in the eyes of the fetishist, erogeneity being completely transferred to the fetish. The fetish becomes the source of excitement, an idealized object capable of providing sexual pleasure to the fetishist.

The psychopathological behavior of the fetishist can be considered exacerbation of a universal anxiety. Freud saw in this perversion one of the clearest demonstrations of the difficulty that some men (perhaps all men) experience in accepting the differences of the sexes.

It has become clear that the most important factor behind this perversion is castration anxiety experienced to an extreme degree. Fetishism arises entirely from defensive measures unconsciously adopted to reject castration and eliminate it from the field of possibility. Only a part of the man believes that a woman does not have a penis. So as far as the fetishist is concerned, castration is still possible under these circumstances. But if both sexes are equipped with a penis, castration cannot occur in this world. It thus becomes essential to remedy this unacceptable reality by attributing a penis to the woman at any cost. Creating such a reality is the primary function of the fetish in the unconscious imagination of the fetishist. The fetishist must then shelter his fragile mental apparatus from the return of disturbing sexual perceptions. He does so by choosing as a fetish an object that is always available, like a high-heel shoe. One fetishist is quoted as saying, "Every time I am in the presence of a naked woman, I imagine a high-heel shoe; I couldn't tell what a vagina looks like." As Freud demonstrated, the fetish makes the woman "acceptable" as an object of sexual love.

Freud considered fetishism important because this pathological structure can be used to observe the workings of two important defense mechanisms that had been partially ignored until then: splitting and denial. Fetishism enabled Freud clearly to identify the mechanism of splitting for the first time, that is, splitting of the thinking ego (to be distinguished from the splitting of the object representation). The fetishist demonstrates that he can accommodate two clearly contradictory conceptions of a woman within himself: a conscious affirmation ("The woman does not have a penis") and an unconscious fetishistic affirmation ("The woman has a penis"). The first is unimportant in the mental representations of the fetishist. These two modes of thought operate in parallel and have no effect on one another. The second mode of thought, a defense mechanism, denies castration, the lack of a penis, the crucial difference between the sexes. Most authors see splitting as arising to ensure the continuity of the denial, though it may be that splitting and continuity of denial occur simultaneously.

Since splitting and denial are observed in psychosis, some see fetishism as a protection against an otherwise threatening psychosis. Fetishism is also thought to protect against homosexuality. We should not conclude, however, that the fetishist is homosexual. In terms of his own feelings of identity and his own self-representations at all levels of thought, he sees himself as a man, a man in relation to a woman, except that the woman in this case also has a penis, according to the man's unconscious imagination. This is a major difference with the transvestite, who sees himself as a woman, in this case, a woman with a penis. Overall, in spite of the exceptions encountered, the transvestite is much closer to homosexuality than the fetishist. Rare cases of fetishism alternating with homosexuality have been observed, however.

It follows from the above that fetishism is a sign of narcissistic pathology, with mental operations functioning at a very archaic level, primarily through the extensive use of primitive identification (which some authors refer to as "narcissistic identification" or "projective identification"). This assertion is based on the fact that by endowing the woman (the mother, in the unconscious) with a penis, the fetishist preserves his own sexual organ by identifying with the mother. In doing so, the fetishist exhibits considerable narcissistic vulnerability regarding the integrity of his physical image.

Although opinions are divided, it seems justified to view the mechanism and structure of fetishism as resulting from a massive regression following the oedipal stage. The oedipal conflict was traumatic and results in significant regression to all levels of pregenitality, accompanied by strong anal and oral components. These components are manifest in an anxiety of disintegration, which is very noticeable during psychoanalysis. Another school of thought suggests viewing fetishism as essentially determined by pregenital conflicts.

Psychoanalytic work in the 1990s has shown that the fetish can also take on, in most cases, several other functions in varying proportions. These secondary functions include protection against trauma and depression, release from the outward expression of hostility and contempt while expressing them secretly, relief from psychosomatic symptoms, control over separation anxiety. As a partial delusion, fetishism protects the subject from the delusion. And finally, fetishism provides access to the maternal breast and full possession of the idealized mother.

AndrÉ Lussier

See also: Castration complex; Coprophilia; Disavowal; Phallic mother; Phallic woman; Psychotic defenses; "Splitting of the Ego in the Process of Defence, The."

Bibliography

Freud, Sigmund. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, 7: 123-243.

. (1927e). Fetishism. SE, 21: 147-157.

. (1940e [1938]). Splitting of the ego in the process of defence. SE, 23: 271-278.

Gillespie, William H. (1964). The psychoanalytic theory of sexual deviation with special reference to fetishism. In Ismond Rosen (Ed.), The pathology and treatment of sexual deviation (pp. 123-145). London: Oxford University Press.

Lussier, André. (1983). Les déviations du désir:Étude sur le fétichisme. Revue Française de Psychanalyse, 47 (1), 19-142.

Rosolato, Guy.(1967).Étude des perversions sexuelles à partir du fétichisme. In Guy Rosolato, Piera Aulagnier-Spairani, Jean Clavreul, François Perrier, and Jean-Paul Valabrega (Eds.), Le désir et la perversion (pp. 9-52). Paris: Seuil.

Further Reading

Bak, Robert. (1953). Fetishism. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 1, 285-298.

Greenacre, Phyllis. (1960). Further notes on fetishism. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 15, 191-207.

. (1969). The fetish and the transitional object. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 24,144-164.

Nersessian, Edward. (1998). A cat as fetish: A contribution to the theory of fetishism. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 79, 713-726.

Renik, Owen. (1992). Use of the analyst as a fetish. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61, 542-563.

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Fetishism

Fetishism

Definition

Fetishism is a form of paraphilia, a disorder that is characterized by recurrent intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies generally involving non-human objects, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner (not merely simulated), or children or other non-consenting persons. The essential feature of fetishism is recurrent intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving specific objects. While any object may become a fetish, the distinguishing feature is its connection with sex or sexual gratification. A diagnosis of fetishism is made only if an individual has acted on these urges, is markedly distressed by them, or if the fetish object is required for gratification.

For some people with a paraphilia such as fetishism, paraphilic fantasies or stimuli may be necessary for erotic arousal and are always included in sexual activity, or the presence of the fetish object may occur only episodically. For example, the fetish object may only be necessary for arousal during periods of stress , and at other times, the person is able to function sexually without the fetish or stimuli related to the fetish.

Description

As stated, a fetish is a form of paraphilia, and in fetishism, the affected person has created a strong association between an object and sexual pleasure or gratification. A fetish is not simply a pleasant memoryit is a dominant component of most sexual situations. Most fetishes are objects or body parts. Common fetishes involve items of clothing, stuffed animals, or other non-sexual objects. Body fetishes may involve breasts, legs, buttocks, or genitals.

A person with a fetish often spends significant amounts of time thinking about the object of the fetish. Further, the object is intimately related to sexual pleasure or gratification. In the extreme, the presence of the fetish object is required for sexual release and gratification.

Causes and symptoms

Causes

The cause of the association between an object and sexual arousal may be adolescent curiosity or a random association between the object and feelings of sexual pleasure. A random association may be innocent or unappreciated for its sexual content when it initially occurs. For example, a male may enjoy the texture or tactile sensation of female undergarments or stockings. At first, the pleasurable sensation occurs randomly, and then, in time and with experience, the behavior of using female undergarments or stockings as part of sexual activity is reinforced, and the association between the garments and the sexual arousal is made. A person with a fetish may not be able to pinpoint exactly when his or her fetish began. A fetish may be related to activities associated with sexual abuse .

Symptoms

Early symptoms for a fetish involve touching the object of desire. The amount of time spent thinking about the fetish object may increase. Over time, the importance of the fetish object expands. In the extreme, it becomes a requirement for achieving sexual pleasure and gratification.

Demographics

How many people have a fetish and the extent to which the fetish influences their lives and sexual activities are not accurately known. In some rare instances, people with fetishes may enter the legal system as a result of their fetishes, and those cases may be counted or tracked.

Paraphilias such as fetishism are uncommon among females, but some cases have been reported. Females may attach erotic thoughts to specific objects such as items of clothing or pets, but these are uncommon elements in sexual activity. Virtually no information is available on family patterns.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of a paraphilia involving a fetish is most commonly made by taking a detailed history or by direct observation. The diagnosis is made only if a person has actually obtained sexual gratification by using the fetish object, or has been markedly distressed by the inability to use such an object if contact with the fetish object is needed for sexual success. Occasionally discussing admiration for a particular object or finding an object to be arousing does not indicate a diagnosis of fetishism.

Treatments

In the earliest stages of behavior therapy, fetishes were narrowly viewed as attractions to inappropriate objects. Aversive stimuli such as shocks were administered to persons undergoing therapy. This approach was not successful. People with fetishes have also been behaviorally treated by orgasmic reorientation, which attempts to help them develop sexual responses to culturally appropriate stimuli that have been otherwise neutral. This therapy has had only limited success.

Most persons who have a fetish never seek treatment from professionals. Most are capable of achieving sexual gratification in culturally appropriate situations. As of 2002, American society seems to have developed more tolerance for persons with fetishes than in the past, thus further reducing the already minimal demand for professional treatment.

Prognosis

The prognosis for eliminating a fetish is poor because most people with a fetish have no desire to change or eliminate it. Most cases in which treatment has been demanded as a condition of continuing a marriage have not been successful. Most fetishes are relatively harmless in that most do not involve other persons or endanger the person with the fetish. Persons with a fetish rarely involve non-consenting partners.

The personal prognosis for a person with a fetish is good if the fetish and related activities do not impact others or place the person with the fetish in physical danger.

Prevention

Most experts agree that providing gender-appropriate guidance in culturally appropriate situations will prevent the formation of a fetish. The origin of some fetishes may be random associations between a particular object or situation and sexual gratification. There is no way to predict such as association.

Resources

BOOKS

Gelder, Michael, Richard Mayou, and Philip Cowen. Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Kohut, John J., and Roland Sweet. Real Sex: Titillating but True Tales of Bizarre Fetishes, Strange Compulsions, and Just Plain Weird Stuff. New York: Plume, 2000.

Wilson, Josephine F. Biological Foundations of Human Behavior. New York: Harcourt, 2002.

PERIODICALS

Chalkley, A. J., and G. E. Powell. "The clinical description of forty-eight cases of sexual fetishism." British Journal of Psychiatry 142 (1983): 292-295.

FitzGerald, W. A. "Explaining the variety of human sexuality." Medical Hypotheses 55, no. 5 (2000): 435-439.

Nersessian E. "A cat as fetish: a contribution to the theory of fetishism." International Journal of Psychoanalysis 79 (Pt 4) (1998): 713-725.

Reed, G. S. "The analyst's interpretation as fetish." Journal of the American Psychoanalytical Association 45, no. 4 (1998): 1153-1181.

Weiss, J. "Bondage fantasies and beating fantasies." Psychoanalytic Quarterly 67, no. 4 (1998): 626-644.

Wise, T. N. and R. C. Kalyanam. "Amputee fetishism and genital mutilation: case report and literature review." Journal of Sexual and Marital Therapy 26, no. 4 (2000): 339-344.

L. Fleming Fallon, Jr., M.D., Dr.P.H.

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fetish

fet·ish / ˈfetish/ • n. an inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit. ∎  a course of action to which one has an excessive and irrational commitment: he had a fetish for writing more opinions each year than any other justice. ∎  a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc. DERIVATIVES: fet·ish·ism n. fet·ish·ist n. fet·ish·is·tic adj. ORIGIN: early 17th cent. (originally denoting an object used by the peoples of West Africa as an amulet or charm): from French fétiche, from Portuguese feitiço ‘charm, sorcery’ (originally an adjective meaning ‘made by art’), from Latin factitius.

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Fetish

Fetish (Port., feitiço, ‘made thing’). An object held in awe or reverence. The term has had a wide range of uses and meanings. In origin, it derives from the observations made by early traders and travellers in W. Africa of objects (often worn) held in high regard. From this it was concluded that a fetish was an idol. It was then recognized that these objects were not so much worshipped as used to exercise power, and the word began to be used of objects containing force. Beyond that, the word ‘fetish’ was taken up in psychoanalysis to refer to a sexual tendency to obtain erotic satisfaction from objects rather than people, even if only of objects associated with people. Colloquially, a fetish is an object of obsessive preoccupation, ‘making a fetish of something’.

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fetish

fetish (fĕt´Ĭsh), inanimate object believed to possess some magical power. The fetish may be a natural thing, such as a stone, a feather, a shell, or the claw of an animal, or it may be artificial, such as carvings in wood. The power of the fetish is thought to derive its efficacy from one of two sources. In some cases the object is said to have a will of its own; in others the source of power comes from the belief that a god dwells within the object and has transformed it into an instrument of his desires. Closely related to the idea of the power of a fetish is the notion of taboo. Here the power within the fetish is thought to be so strong that it is extremely dangerous and may be handled only by special individuals, if at all. Any object of irrational or superstitious devotion may be called a fetish.

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fetishism

fetishism, in psychiatry, a paraphilia (see perversion, sexual) in which erotic interest and satisfaction are centered on an inanimate object or a specific, nongenital part of the anatomy. Generally occurring in males, fetishism frequently centers on a garment (e.g., underclothing or high-heeled shoes) or such parts of the body as the foot. In some cases, fetishism becomes severe enough to inspire the fetishist to acquire objects of his desire through theft or assault. In psychoanalysis, a fetish is believed to represent a substitute for male genitalia, which women are imagined to have lost through castration. Although the causes of fetishism are not clearly known, it is generally not considered a serious disorder, unless it is coupled with other psychological disturbances.

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Fetishism

Fetishism

A term formerly used to discuss various aspects of African religions, especially the use of objects believed to be inhabited by spirit beings. It was a term that grew out of an inadequate understanding of traditional African religious faith and was abandoned in the late twentieth century.

Sources:

Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. New York: Collier, 1961.

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fetishism

fetishism (fet-i-shizm) n. sexual attraction to an inappropriate object (known as a fetish). This may be a part of the body, clothing, or other objects (e.g. leather handbags or rubber sheets). Treatment can involve psychotherapy or behaviour therapy. See also sexual deviation.

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fetish

fetish inanimate object worshipped by savages. XVII (fateish; earlier in form direct — Pg., fetisso). — F. fétiche — Pg. feitiço charm, sorcery, sb. use of the adj. meaning ‘made by art’ :- L. factīcius FACTITIOUS.

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Fetishism

FETISHISM.

This entry includes two subentries:

Overview
Fetishism in Literature and Cultural Studies

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fetish

fetishcattish, fattish, flattish •smartish •coquettish, fetish, pettish, wettish •leftish • Kentish •latish, straightish •sweetish •British, skittish, twittish •Pictish •brightish, lightish, rightish, slightish, whitish •hottish, Scottish, sottish •softish • shortish • saltish •loutish, stoutish •goatish •coltish, doltish •brutish, Jutish •sluttish • smoothish •lavish, ravish •elvish •knavish, slavish •peevish, thievish •spivvish • dervish •anguish, languish •vanquish •distinguish, extinguish •relinquish

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fetishism

fetishism The concept of erotic fetishism originated with the French psychologist Alfred Binet (better known for his work on intelligence testing) in an article published in 1887 in the Revue Philosophique, and was given further currency by the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso. However, the idea was put into wider circulation by the great collator of sexually diverse practices, Richard von Krafft–Ebing, in many editions and translations of his Psychopathia Sexualis, up to his death in 1902. He defined erotic fetishism (differing somewhat from earlier writers) as associating strong emotions of sexual pleasure with physical or mental qualities of, or even objects used by, a beloved person, and considered this part of normal sexual attraction. However, he also suggested that a predisposition to be sexually aroused by particular characteristics could be the motive for falling in love with or becoming infatuated with a specific individual associated one way or another with those characteristics, rather than an individual leading to an obsession with characteristics connected with them.

Krafft–Ebing made a distinction between what he called ‘physiological fetishism’, or a preference for certain particular physical characteristics in persons of the opposite sex, and what he defined as ‘pathological, erotic fetishism’. This was not merely directed to particular portions of the body, but extended to inanimate objects, usually articles of female apparel, or towards particular materials such as furs or velvet. But there was no hard and fast dividing line. The fetishist of the body part was stimulated by something which would normally arouse the sexual instinct, but his sexual interests were restricted to that particular part. There were also fetishists attached to some bodily part with no obvious connection to sex, and those interested in particular kinds of bodies, e.g. those exhibiting some kind of deformity. In the case of object fetishism, Krafft-Ebing noted transitional states, from ‘mere physiological preferences’ in which intercourse with the fetish was more pleasurable, through coitus feeling less satisfactory if the fetish were not present, to complete impotence if it were absent.

Krafft-Ebing attributed the development of fetishism to some event whereby erotic feelings became associated with some particular body part or object; this is still today usually considered to play a significant part in its aetiology. While invoking environmental circumstances, he also suggested that individuals who formed these bizarre associations were predisposed to psychopathic states and excessive sexual desire, in keeping with his theories about the role of degenerate heredity and neuropathy in the aetiology of sexual disorders. Recent writers on the subject, e.g. John Bancroft in Human Sexuality and its Problems (1989), cite experimental demonstration that the male erectile response is capable of being conditioned to react to unusual stimuli. The reason why the conditioned response to particular stimuli which results in the formation of a fetish is so much more prevalent in the male may be, Bancroft suggests, because of the obviousness of penile erection. This sets up an unmissable visual and sensory link between the object of the stimulus and sexual arousal. Women may be less likely to identify pleasurable feelings invoked by certain objects or textures as specifically sexual in nature (experimental evidence demonstrating women's physiological signs of arousal, even though they denied erotic response, to sexually stimulating visual materials tends to corroborate this possibility).

The questions remain why some particular stimulus becomes the focus of erotic sensation, and why some are more likely to be conditioned than others. Fetishes are seldom completely random objects or attributes, although Bancroft points out that the particular object chosen by an individual may well have purely personal significance. There continue to be various definite areas of fetishistic interest, which, however, change over time. Krafft-Ebing considered hand-fetishism common, but Bancroft reports this as now being extremely infrequent. Feet, however, and shoes, remain an area of considerable interest. Rubber is not mentioned by Krafft– Ebing as of particular interest alongside furs, velvet, and silk, but the twentieth century saw the rise of a definite sub-group of rubber fetishists. This may be connected with the more widespread use of various rubber items for child care (sheets for changing the baby, waterproof pants, etc.). Leather and PVC also have their subcultures of devotees. This suggests that fetishes are not only psychologically determined but subject to various social influences.

The designation of particular bodily parts as sexually stimulating by particular societies could be considered as a culturally-produced form of fetishism. Certain attributes — large breasts, bound feet, a glimpse of ankle — may be preferences so deeply encoded into a particular culture's sensibility as to appear ‘natural’ and not in need of any explanation. Therefore, a man (and fetishists are almost exclusively male) whose sexual response is very specifically tied to some such apparently universal stimulus is unlikely to consider himself as a fetishist even if interest in the stimulus greatly outweighs that towards the person whose breasts or feet they may be. If, however, he is aroused by some other body part or some unusual quality in the approved attribute (small rather than large breasts, for example), he may at least be aware of something that distinguishes him from the multitude, without describing himself as a ‘fetishist’.

The strict Freudian psychoanalytic interpretation of the fetish is that it represents the penis, and operates as either a protection against the fetishist's fear of castration, or a denial of the penis-less state of the woman. It seems certainly to be the case that the fetish operates as a defence against impotence if it is employed in a coital situation: it may do this by acting as a reliable stimulus to arousal and erection, or possibly more magically by its association with sexual arousal.

Not all fetishes are capable of being deployed within a reciprocal sexual relationship. Men may feel hesitant about revealing their particular quirk to a partner, or may eschew employing the fetish within marital life, going instead to prostitutes. The fetish may be associated with other minority sexual practices: in descriptions of the pleasures of rubber it is not always clear whether it is the sensation of rubber against the skin or the sense of being tightly bound in this clinging substance which is the main component of the sexual kick. Fetishism may be overtly combined with sadomasochist rituals: Maurice North, in his study of rubber fetishism, The Outer Fringe of Sex (1970) notes the pervasive elements of domination in fantasies written for the rubber market, and that rubber fetishism is but one component in a ‘syndrome’ including boots, leather, PVC, and sadomasochistic tendencies.

While many of the statistically less common forms of sexual behaviour can be shown to have been practised by individuals throughout the course of human history, even if they were not conceptualized as sexual perversions, fetishism is not so readily detected before its identification by late-nineteenth-century sexologists. It is merely conjectural that it was the ‘liquefaction’ of Julia's silks rather than Julia which allured Robert Herrick, that the abundant and curling tresses celebrated by poets were the real focus of attraction. Impotence occurring when the fetish was not present occasionally brought fetishism to medical attention, but in many cases its significance was probably not recognized. It has seldom figured in divorce proceedings. Krafft– Ebing noted that it did, however, have forensic implications in cases of fetishists compelled to steal the items of their desire — but, again, the erotic motivation may not have been recognized before he pointed it out. North, in his study, was writing at the time of the ‘Permissive Society’, when a certain degree of ‘kinkiness’ was fashionable and designers incorporated themes (such as high boots) from the sexual underworld, but he found nevertheless that rubber fetishism was largely a hidden deviance, kept deeply secret by its practitioners because of their own shame: this may also apply to other fetishes. For example, while men may readily reveal a ‘normal’ predilection for legs, breasts, or bottoms, it is less likely that a fondness for feet would be admitted.

While North found publications circulating among individuals sharing this obsession, there was no subculture comparable to that of homosexuals or even sadomasochists. At the time he wrote (and it is doubtful whether this has changed radically) most rubber fetishists wanted a relationship involving rubber items with a consenting female, but extremely few women were interested: and these were either prostitutes catering to a niche market, or wives or partners introduced to rubber sex by their male partners. Thus there was very little motivation to join a community which would include few potential partners, but competitors for any possible partners available. Most of the rubber fetishists investigated by North contented themselves with fantasy and masturbation, sometimes with the aid of fetish products and special-interest publications. As a very private vice, it did not have the visibility or social implications of other transgressive sexual behaviours. The incorporation of fetish motifs into mainstream fashion, and the appearance of a few fashionable fetish clubs in major urban centres, is not necessarily any indicator of a wider acceptance of fetishism.

Lesley A. Hall


See also erogeneous zones; eroticism.

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Fetishism

FETISHISM

FETISHISM . The Oxford English Dictionary (18931897) defines fetishism as the "superstition of which the characteristic feature" is "an inanimate object worshipped by savages on account of its supposed inherent magical powers, or as being animated by a spirit." This fetish is distinguished from an idol "in that it is worshipped in its own character, not as the image, symbol, or occasional residence of the deity." The only problem with this definition is that neither fetishism nor the fetish exists as such. There are indeed material objects believed to be imbued with force or power, the nature of which varies with object and culture, and that are used with the intention of achieving particular ends. Consider the list offered by Mesquitela Lima:

diviners' implements (i.e., the figurines contained in the diviner's basket, most of which are carved from any one of a variety of materials); figurines sculpted in clay or in termite secretion; small dried trees or even parts of a tree, such as roots, twigs, leaves, branches, and fruit; coarsely sculpted tree trunks; small dolls clothed in net; miniature musical instruments or miniature agricultural or hunting implements; a large number of figurines carved in wood, bone, or ivory in the shape of human beings, animals or even abstract forms; horns, nails, or claws, or bits of human or animal skin; small tortoise shells; sacred rocks or minerals; crucifixes, medals, or images used in Christian cults; philters or magic substances and medicines. (Lima, 1987, p. 315)

However, these objects and their use by no means constitute a system or the entirety of any culture's religious practices and beliefs. Moreover Wyatt MacGaffey, in his analysis of Kongo religious practices surrounding what have been considered the exemplary fetish objects known as minkisi, has demonstrated the inadequacy of any notion of fetish that entails the personification of material cultic objects. Supplementing Marcel Mauss's dismissal of the ethnographic significance of "fetishism" as "nothing but an immense misunderstanding between two civilizations, the African and the European" (Mauss, 19051906, p. 309), MacGaffey placed the ethnographic data against the characteristic components of the fetish as determined by William Pietz, whose analysis of discourses about fetishism is the standard against which contemporary discussions of this topic take their measure (MacGaffey, 1994a). Pietz delineated the four primary attributes of the fetish as:

  1. irreducibly material and not representing an immaterial, elsewhere located spirit,
  2. fixing previously heterogeneous elements (e.g., an object and a place) into a novel identity,
  3. embodying the problem of the nonuniversality of value, and though separate from the body,
  4. functioning at times as though it were in control of it. (MacGaffey 1994a; cf. Pietz 1985, 1987, 1988, 1993)

In his studies MacGaffey finds fundamental disjunctions between Kongo minkisi and the fetish so defined.

Consequently this article will focus on how the signifier fetishism has come to delineate a discursive space in which the often misrecognized attempt is made to mediate difference(s) by means of material objects (or persons). Simultaneous epistemic and value crises are often provoked by persistent contact with otherness. An inadequacy of extant categories and a disproportion of ascribed values distinguish this ongoing encounter and are met by both avowal and disavowal of that difference. The threatened party finds the ever-deferred resolution of these dilemmas by displacing the recognition of difference upon an object that in its material opacity embodies even as it screens the ambiguity. Correspondingly, ambivalent affect is directed at, even as significance is affixed to, the object. Thus localized and materialized, otherness can be marked and mastered while the marking individual or group's identity is rendered the norm. The seemingly incommensurable differences between European and non-European, colonizer and colonized, capitalist and worker, male and female are articulated during contact in terms of oppositions, including religion and nonreligion, science and superstition (the absence of science), rationality and irrationality, spirit and matter, necessity and accident, subject and object, order and chaos, culture and nature, human and animal, public and private.

Since its emergence in the contact zone of European-African encounter, no other signifier in the history of the study of religions has been appropriated by so many secular discourses. This article will follow how fetishism has traversed from mercantile encounter to rationalist anthropology to philosophy to positivist sociology to political economy to sexology to psychoanalysis to aesthetics to postcolonial analysis. During its journey "fetishism" functioned as a camera obscura, projecting an inverted picture of Euro-America upon the screen of a number of persistent others, including the non-Euro-American, the woman, the Jew, and the insane.

The Invention of Fetishism

While the term fetishism (fétichisme) was coined in 1760 by Charles de Brosses in his Du culte des dieux fétiches (The cult of the fetish gods), the purported practices and beliefs to which the term referred as well as the family of Portuguese words related to feiticaria or witchcraft from which it emerged had long been in circulation. Indeed the philological genealogy of fetishism in many ways anticipated the series of oppositions the term would eventually mediate. Feiticaria finds its roots in the Latin facticius (manufactured), which also had the occasional pejorative connotation of artifice or something factitious (without an original). In medieval Christian discourse such objects were associated with the manufactured amulets, images, and potions employed for witchcraft (as opposed to the talismans, remedies, relics, and other sacramental objects given legitimacy by the church) and, in medieval Portuguese, came to be known as feitiços. Feitiços were distinguished from idolos as witchcraft was from idolatry or more generally as magic was distinguished from those religionsChristianity, Judaism, Islam, and paganism or idolatrythat could found an orderly society. An additional distinction was that feitiços were concerned with material bodies rather than souls. In contradistinction to such magical objects, the object of idol worship was the immaterial demon or false god that the idol represented and who acted upon the soul of the worshiper.

As the Portuguese developed a trade zone along the west coast of Africa from what is now Senegal to Angola, feitiço rather than idolo came to be the dominant Portuguese ascription of the "religious" practices of the cultures encountered in this series of spaces. As trade grew the related pidgin term fetisso became affixed by all involved parties to sacramental objects, traded commodities, political emblems, medical preparations, and women's ornaments that circulated among the various populations who peopled these areas of cross-cultural exchange. The travel accounts of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European traders, Protestant Dutch and English as well as Catholic Portuguese and French, frequently referred to material objects held to be endowed by the African populations with magical powers or animated by spirits. Attribution of religious value by Africans to a wide range of material objects was correlated with their apparent inability to recognize the proper value of the commodities involved in trade with the Europeans as well as their inability to maintain proper distinctions between public and private, male and female, animal and human. Ironically the same anecdotes that illustrated the moral depravity of fetishists depicted anarchic polities ruled exclusively by the principle of interestprojecting upon the other the forces and values that shaped European society. Moreover that the Africans were said to arbitrarily associate these fetissos with the accomplishment of some desired end appeared to confirm the European assumption of the Africans' allegedly deficient mental abilities.

By the eighteenth century, as the fetisso began its migration from the exclusive reserve of travel literature to the emergent rationalist critique of clericalism and superstition, it was rechristened as the fétiche (fetish). The scene shifted from the zone of contact where Europe fashioned itself against its non-European other to the emerging zone where the secular fashioned itself against its religious other. Anecdotes from those travelogues, especially Willem Bosman's A New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea (1704) and its analogy of fetish worship with Roman Catholicism, became illustrations of the irrationality and immoral consequences of ascribing supernatural or teleological qualities to material objects rather than recognizing physical and mechanical causality.

Just after mid-century a new term to describe and generalize fetish worship, fetishism, emerged with the publication of Charles de Brosses's Cult of the Fetish Gods. Fetishism would become the zero degree of the Enlightenment taxonomy of its other, religion. Rather than sui generis, African fetish worship became only the foremost surviving variant of a variety of worldwide practices relating to cult objects: from the biblical Urim and Thummim to Egyptian obelisks to Native American manitous. Fetishism was distinguished from polytheistic idolatry and provided a deeper wedge for cracking open the theological monopoly on the definition of religious origins. From the privilege ascribed to theistic belief and the human-divine relation, a discourse emerged in Bernard Fontanelle and David Hume that located the source of religion in faulty epistemology, childlike intellects, imagination, fear, and desire. Where natural causality would be, there were the gods. With de Brosses, a stage of human and religious development that preceded polytheism was recognized. Neither beliefs in invisible beings nor amorphous nature initiated that development, rather the forces behind the gratification of human desires or the realization of human fears lay in supernaturally endowed "material, terrestrial entities": fetishes (Brosses, 1988, p. 11).

Although in the wake of Brosses's work the primitivity and primordiality of fetishism became a truism, its material and magical dimensions, in contrast to the spiritual and social dimensions of polytheism and the three monotheisms of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, led to the question whether fetishism indeed represented the original religion or was instead the stage preceding religion. Complicating the theological and philosophical questions over the relationship between the material and the spiritual were the demands of colonialism (and later imperialism). Indigenous religion was a fundamental tool for maintaining control of the colonized. Consequently, as David Chidester argues, "fetish worship" would be characterized as a religion, not as a consequence of "prolonged exposure, increased familiarity, acquired linguistic competence, intercultural dialogue, or participant observation," but as a result of Europeans achieving political and economic control of the particular region (Chidester, 1996, pp. 1617). The Europeans did not perceive themselves as supplanting some other legitimate sovereign entity, rather European control was imposed upon an anarchic situation ruled by arbitrariness, irrationality, and desire. On a more fundamental level the distinction between order and disorder represented the distinction between the human, defined as the zoon politikon (political animal), and the nonhuman, pictured as the demonic or savage that found its confirmation in the distinction between religion and fetishism since, as Ludwig Feuerbach, drawing upon René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes (and before them John Calvin), asserted in the opening of his Essence of Christianity, "Religion has its basis in the essential difference between man and the brute" (Feuerbach, 1989, p. 1).

Contact, Conquest, and Crisis: Fetishism and the Human Sciences

As a consequence of its delineation and appropriation by French philosophes, fetishism disseminated throughout European philosophic discourse. In his Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793) Immanuel Kant analogized clericalism to fetishism in order to distinguish between true moral religion and false religion, between autonomy and heteronomy. Such labeling allowed Kant to discredit his opponents, render them "irrational," without ascribing either evil intent or demonism to them.

Now the man who does make use of actions, as means, which in themselves contain nothing pleasing to God (i.e., nothing moral), in order to earn thereby immediate divine approval of himself and there with the attainment of his desires, labors under the illusion that he possesses an art of bringing about a supernatural effect through wholly natural means. Such attempts we are wont to entitle sorcery. But (since this term carries with it the attendant concept of commerce with the evil principle, whereas the above mentioned attempt can be conceived to be undertaken, through misunderstanding, with good moral intent) we desire to use in place of it the word fetishism, familiar in other connections. (Kant, 1960, p. 165)

By extending materiality from particular objects to all means, fetishism, or "fetish-faith," came to extend beyond the borders of Africa to encompass everything in the realm of religionincluding, in a clear allusion to Moses Mendelssohn's Jerusalem (1783), the Jewsexcept for "purely moral" religion (Kant, 1960, p. 181182).

G. W. F. Hegel, by contrast, limited the extent of fetishism to sub-Saharan Africa, where it came to exemplify the historical development or lack thereof of a continent and its peoples. Fetishism was emblematic of the African character, which

is difficult to comprehend, because it is so totally different from our own culture, and so remote and alien in relation to our own mode of consciousness. We must forget all the categories which are fundamental to our own spiritual life, i.e. the forms under which we normally subsume the data which confront us; the difficulty here is that our customary preconceptions will still inevitably intrude in all out deliberations. (Hegel, 1975, p. 176)

The people characterized by fetishism were outside history and substantial objectivity, outside God and morality; they were ruled by caprice, by the arbitrary rule of the individual projected outward onto a misrecognized natural form. This religion of "sensuous arbitrariness" was the lowest form of religion, immediate religion. If religion it was: "A fetish of this kind has no independent existence as an object of religion, and even less as a work of art. It is merely an artifact which expresses the arbitrary will of its creator, and which always remains in his hands" (Hegel, 1975, pp. 190, 181). This debasement of consciousness mirrored the debasement of social life: fetishism was one with cannibalism and slavery. Fetishism embodied the origin that future development would disavow; it was the threshold moment when humanity separated itself from bare life, from animal nature.

Though Samuel Taylor Coleridge analogized fetishism with vulgar empiricism, the proponent of scientific positivism Auguste Comte would determine it to be the first developmental stage of human intelligence and world history. In his Course in Positive Philosophy (18301842) Comte posited three universal stages of human developmenttheology, metaphysics, and science (scientific positivism)with the first, the age of theology, itself assuming a triadic structure: fetishism, polytheism, monotheism. For Comte, in the stage of fetishism "primitive man" endows all external objects with agency and therefore rises above sheer animal inertia. While Comte later reevaluated "fetishism," or rather "pure fetishism," as a necessary component of his new positivist religion of humanity, his implicitly (r)evolutionary scheme was most influential. While the primacy he ascribed to fetishism as the first religion (evolving from a primal atheism) was asserted by John Lubbock in his Origin of Civilisation and the Primitive Condition of Man (1870) and by representatives of the German school of ethnopsychology (Völkerpsychologie ) among others, its primordial status was contested by animism, animatism, totemism, Urmonotheismus (primal monotheism), and other claimants.

In the 1840s Brosses's work not only influenced Comte's positivist musings, it was also picked up and excerpted by the young Karl Marx, who was in the midst of an extensive ethnographic reading program that also included other discussions of fetishism by Karl Böttiger and Benjamin Constant. These early studies of what Marx called "the religion of sensuous desire" were soon relocated from the colonial periphery to a metropole itself divided into secular and religious spheres as well as into exploiting capitalist and exploited proletariat classes. Marx began his analysis of value in contemporary capitalism in the first volume of Capital with a discussion of the fetishism of commodities: that which was viewed as most primitive came to characterize the seat of civilization, and that which was viewed as the most secular of activitiespolitical economywas unveiled as the religion of everyday life. In a dialectically materialist appropriation of Feuerbach's theory of religion, the value borne by the fetishized commodity was the culmination of the alienation and objectification of human labor. In contrast to Marx's earlier construction, fetishism, as the fetishism of commodities, is directed at "a thing which transcends sensuousness." With the circulation of commodities, "the definite social relation between men themselves assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things" (Marx, 1977, pp. 163, 165). As in the fetishism described in his early readings, Marx analogizes, "The products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race" (Marx, 1977, p. 165). Even as it expropriates use value from the fetishist other, capital reproduces the misrecognitions that it ascribes to that other.

Just as the fetish had come to figure and facilitate the debasement of social lifewhether in the form of slavery according to Hegel or proletarianization for Marxand of society-sustaining morality, so it became associated with the fears of degeneration that haunted the Europeans of the last decades of the nineteenth century. In a France that was experiencing a decline in both its colonial reach and its European position, the perceived source of the threatening physical and moral debilitation and consequent devirilization and depopulation, of cultural crises of national, sexual, and gender difference, was sexual perversion. The psychiatrist Alfred Binet (1887) gave the cause of individual and national decay a name: fetishism. Like the people under French colonial domination, French men were seeking the satisfaction of their sensuous desires not by the real (here: "natural" acts of genital sexuality) but by fixing their attention upon objects (or body parts) whose value accrued from some past accidental encounter. Fetishism was characteristic of a perverse predisposition, just as Hegel had suggested that the fetishistic behavior of Africans was inherent to their character. Yet even as the fetish was displaced from the religious to the sexual, Binet felt compelled to analogize different levels of fetishism with those other religious stages with which fetishism had previously been contrasted, polytheism and monotheism. He compared normal love, which is composed of a myriad of fetishistic excitations, with polytheism and fetishism, previously associated with the base of the pyramid of religious forms, in its most singular and perverted form with monotheism, the pinnacle. In a world gone upside down, the civilized were going native. Within four years after the publication of Binet's 1887 "Le fétichisme dans l'amour" (Fetishism in Love), the authoritative compendia of sexual pathology, Richard Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathis Sexuali s declared fetishism the general form of sexual pathology.

Unlike totemism, fetishism came under Sigmund Freud's scrutiny in his analyses of sexuality and not of the genesis of religion. Instead of the perception of fetishism as the sign of a crisis of difference, the degeneration feared by the French medical community, such a crisis was its source: the little boy's encounter with sexual difference disrupting his narcissistic enjoyment of an undifferentiated, self-contained world. According to Freud, the discovery that women do not have penises leads the little boy to fear for his own. Fetishistic object choicea symbolic substitute for the mother's (nonexistent) penisis one way by which the boy mediates his desire to elide difference (and its feared causes and consequences) with the actuality of that difference; the mother's castration is both disavowed and affirmed. With the crisis surmounted, the boy not only assumes a gendered and sexualized identity, he is inserted into the social order.

As psychoanalytic and materialist analyses interpenetrated, most influentially with Walter Benjamin's criticism of the work of art and the political symbol in which "traces of the fetishist" are at play in the object's "aura" and "authenticity," the discourse of fetishism became a prime weapon in the critical armory of cultural studies (Benjamin, 1969, p. 244). With the later admixture of postcolonial analysis to the phantasmagoric study of fetishism, what went around came around. The discourses about the colonized and dominated other, including those about the (non)religion of fetishism, were recognized as themselves fetishistic attempts to mediate the possibly incompatible differences between social and cultural forms. The cultural analyst Homi Bhabha read the racial stereotype in its multiple and contradictory shapes of colonial discourse in terms of fetishism. As extended by Jay Geller and others, such as Anne McClintock, the colonial stereotype often entailed the Euro-Americans' discursive fixation upon a part of the other's body. The fixated-upon body part was often one that had been subjected to some discipline, practice, or technique: the circumcised penis, the bound foot, tattooed skin. This overvalued mark or member uncannily conjoined the natural and the cultural. This ambiguous conjunction of two (culturally) differentiated orders of being contributed to both the fascination and the horror evoked by such body techniques. Further, through such corporeal metonymies, discourses in which historical difference was naturalized as race and in which natural difference was figured by sex combined to construct the ethnic, gender, and sexual identity of the other. These fetishistic constructs provided symbolic substitutes for and objectified representations of the othernessboth the indigenous heterogeneous populations of modern Euro-American society and the different peoples contacted in colonial expansionwhich undermined the narcissistic phantasy of Euro-American wholeness, of autonomy and dominance.

In sum, fetishism has come to signify the apotropaically monumentalized negotiations at the internal and external borders of culture. That is, it signifies the stuff that helps one think (or more likely misrecognize) the alienations, ambiguities, and contradictions that make up everyday life.

See Also

Transculturation and Religion.

Bibliography

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." In Illuminations, edited by Hannah Arendt, pp. 217251. New York, 1969.

Bhabha, Homi K. "The Other Question: Stereotype, Discrimination, and the Discourse of Colonialism." In The Location of Culture, pp. 6684. New York, 1994.

Binet, Alfred. "Le fétichisme dans l'amour." Revue philosophique de la France et de l'étranger 24 (1887): 143167, 252274.

Bosman, Willem. A New and Accurate Description of the Coast of Guinea (1704). London, 1967.

Brosses, Charles de. Du culte des dieux fétiches (1760). Paris, 1988.

Chidester, David. Savage Systems: Colonialism and Comparative Religion in Southern Africa Charlottesville, Va., 1996.

Comte, Auguste. The Positive Philosophy (1830). New York, 1974.

Feuerbach, Ludwig. The Essence of Christianity (1843), translated by George Eliot. Buffalo, N.Y., 1989.

Freud, Sigmund. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905). In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 7, translated by James Strachey, pp. 123243. London, 19531972.

Freud, Sigmund. "Fetishism" (1927). In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 21, translated by James Strachey, pp. 149157. London, 19531972.

Geller, Jay. "Judenzopf/Chinesenzopf: Of Jews and Queues." positions 2 (1994): 500537.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. In Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction, Reason in History (1830). Translated by H. B. Nisbet. Cambridge, U.K., 1975.

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (18241831). Edited by Peter C. Hodgson. Berkeley, Calif., 1988.

Kant, Immanuel. Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793). New York, 1960.

Lima, Mesquitela. "Fetishism." In The Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 5, edited by Mircea Eliade, pp. 314317. New York, 1987.

Lubbock, John. The Origin of Civilisation and the Primitive Condition of Man. London, 1870.

MacGaffey, Wyatt. "African Objects and the Idea of Fetish." RES 25 (1994a): 123131.

MacGaffey, Wyatt. "Dialogues of the Deaf: Europeans on the Atlantic Coast of Africa." In Implicit Understandings: Observing, Reporting, and Reflecting on the Encounters between Europeans and Other Peoples in the Early Modern Era, edited by Stuart B. Schwartz, pp. 249267. Cambridge, U.K., 1994b.

Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol. 1: The Process of Capitalist Production (1867). New York, 1977.

Mauss, Marcel. Review of R. E. Dennett, At the Back of the Black Man's Mind. L'année sociologique 10 (19051906): 305311.

Mauss, Marcel. "L'art et le myth d'après M. Wundt." Revue philosophique de la France et de l'étranger 66 (1908): 4878.

McClintock, Anne. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York, 1995.

Nye, Robert A. "The Medical Origins of Sexual Fetisism." In Fetishism as Cultural Discourse, edited by Emily Apter and William Pietz, pp. 1330. Ithaca, N.Y., 1993.

Pietz, William. "The Problem of the Fetish, IIIIa." RES 9, 13, 16 (1985, 1987, 1988): 517, 2346, 105124.

Pietz, William. "Fetishism and Materialism: The Limits of Theory in Marx." In Fetishism as Cultural Discourse, edited by Emily Apter and William Pietz, pp. 119151. Ithaca, N.Y., 1993.

Jay Geller (2005)

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Fetishism

Fetishism

Definition

Description

Causes and symptoms

Demographics

Diagnosis

Treatments

Prognosis

Prevention

Resources

Definition

Fetishism is a form of paraphilia, a disorder characterized by recurrent intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies generally involving nonhuman objects, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner (not merely simulated), or children or other nonconsenting persons. The essential feature of fetishism is recurrent intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving specific objects. While any object may become a fetish in the psychological sense, the distinguishing feature is its connection with sex or sexual gratification. A diagnosis of fetishism is made only if an individual has acted on these urges, is markedly distressed by them, or if the fetish object is required for gratification.

For some people with a paraphilia such as fetishism, paraphilic fantasies or stimuli may be necessary for erotic arousal and are always included in sexual activity, or the presence of the fetish object may occur only episodically. For example, the fetish object may only be necessary for arousal during periods of stress , and at other times the person can function sexually without the fetish or stimuli related to the fetish.

Description

As stated, a fetish is a form of paraphilia, and in fetishism, the affected person has created a strong association between an object and sexual pleasure or gratification. A fetish is not simply a pleasant memory—it is a dominant component of most sexual situations. Most fetishes are objects or body parts. Common fetishes involve items of clothing, stuffed animals, or other nonsexual objects. Body fetishes may involve breasts, legs, buttocks, or genitals.

A person with a fetish often spends significant amounts of time thinking about the object of the fetish. Further, the object is intimately related to sexual pleasure or gratification. In the extreme, the presence of the fetish object is required for sexual release and gratification.

Causes and symptoms

Causes

The cause of the association between an object and sexual arousal may be adolescent curiosity or a random association between the object and feelings of sexual pleasure. A random association may be innocent or unappreciated for its sexual content when it initially occurs. For example, a male may enjoy the texture or tactile sensation of female undergarments or stockings. At first, the pleasurable sensation occurs randomly, and then, in time and with experience, the behavior of using female undergarments or stockings as part of sexual activity is reinforced, and the association between the garments and the sexual arousal is made. A person with a fetish may not be able to pinpoint exactly when his or her fetish began. A fetish may be related to activities associated with sexual abuse.

Symptoms

Early symptoms for a fetish involve touching the object of desire. The amount of time spent thinking about the fetish object may increase. Over time, the importance of the fetish object expands. In the extreme, it becomes a requirement for achieving sexual pleasure and gratification.

Demographics

How many people have a fetish and the extent to which the fetish influences their lives and sexual activities are not accurately known. In some rare instances, people with fetishes may enter the legal system as a result of their fetishes, and those cases may be counted or tracked.

Paraphilias such as fetishism are uncommon among females, but some cases have been reported. Females may attach erotic thoughts to specific objects such as items of clothing or pets, but these are uncommon elements in sexual activity. Virtually no information is available on family patterns.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of a paraphilia involving a fetish is most commonly made by taking a detailed history or by direct observation. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the fourth edition, text revision, or DSM-IV-TR), the person must have experienced the fantasies or urges centered on a nonliving object or objects for at least six months. In addition, these fantasies, urges, or behaviors must meet the criterion of causing significant distress or impairment in the person’s ability to function socially or at work, or in other important environments. Last, the fetish cannot be solely focused on female clothing used in cross-dressing (which falls into the classification of Tranvestic Fetishism) or on sex-aid devices that promote tactile genital stimulation, such as vibrators.

Treatments

In the earliest stages of behavior therapy, fetishes were narrowly viewed as attractions to inappropriate objects. Aversive stimuli such as shocks were administered to persons undergoing therapy. This approach was not successful. People with fetishes have also been behaviorally treated by orgasmic reorientation, which attempts to help them develop sexual responses to culturally appropriate stimuli that have been otherwise neutral. This therapy has had only limited success.

Most persons who have a fetish never seek treatment from professionals. Many can achieve sexual gratification in culturally appropriate situations. In recent years, American society has developed more tolerance for persons with fetishes than in the past,

KEY TERMS

Paraphilia —A disorder that is characterized by recurrent intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies generally involving (1) nonhuman objects, (2) the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner (not merely simulated), or (3) children or other nonconsenting persons.

thus further reducing the already minimal demand for professional treatment.

Prognosis

The prognosis for eliminating a fetish is poor because fetishism is generally chronic. Most cases in which treatment has been demanded as a condition of continuing a marriage have not been successful. Most fetishes are relatively harmless in that they usually do not involve other persons or endanger the person with the fetish. Persons with a fetish rarely involve nonconsenting partners.

The personal prognosis for a person with a fetish is good if the fetish and related activities do not impact others or place the person with the fetish in physical danger.

Prevention

Most experts agree that providing gender-appropriate guidance in a culturally appropriate situation will prevent the formation of a fetish. The origin of some fetishes may be random associations between a particular object or situation and sexual gratification. There is no way to predict such an association.

Resources

BOOKS

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., Text rev. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Gelder, Michael, Richard Mayou, and Philip Cowen. Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry, 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wilson, Josephine F. Biological Foundations of Human Behavior. New York: Harcourt, 2002.

PERIODICALS

Chalkley, A. J., and G. E. Powell. “The Clinical Description of Forty-Eight Cases of Sexual Fetishism.” British Journal of Psychiatry 142 (1983): 292–95.

FitzGerald, W. A. “Explaining the Variety of Human Sexuality.” Medical Hypotheses 55.5 (2000): 435–39.

Nersessian E. “A Cat as Fetish: a Contribution to the Theory of Fetishism.” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 79.4 (1998): 713–25.

Reed, G. S. “The Analyst’s Interpretation as Fetish.” Journal of the American Psychoanalytical Association 45.4 (1998): 1153–81.

Weiss, J. “Bondage Fantasies and Beating Fantasies.” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 67.4 (1998): 626–44.

Wise, T. N. and R. C. Kalyanam. “Amputee Fetishism and Genital Mutilation: Case Report and Literature Review.” Journal of Sexual and Marital Therapy 26.4 (2000): 339–44.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Psychiatric Association. 1400 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20005. Web site: <http://www.psych.org>.

American Psychological Association. 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Telephone: (202) 336-5500. Web site: <http://www.apa.org>.

L. Fleming Fallon, Jr., MD, Dr.P.H.
Emily Jane Willingham, PhD

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