Fetishism is a perversion that is found, primarily in men, in which genital discharge is impossible without the presence of their fetish. A fetish, however can be a variety of things, yet there are three basic types of fetishes: an inanimate object (e.g. women’s clothing, shoes, gloves, underwear), a part of the human body (e.g. foot, hand, hair, legs, breasts), or something odd such as, leather, rubber, the touch of velvet.
Some fetishes, as observed by Freud, may not even be visible to the other person at all. In one case a patient of Freud was obsessed with the shine on the noses of the women he was attracted to. With regards to specific fetishes such as that the fetishist usually needs to look at, touch, or smell during or preparing for the sexual act. In some cases just the sight of the fetish could result in an orgasm.
The Freudian view of fetishes changed over the years. His early view stated that fetishism was a result of some childhood fantasy or exposure that resulted in the fetish but he later changed the view. Freud later theorized that the fetish was a fear of castration on the part of the male. He believed that the association with the p*nis to the female reproductive organ was a reminder to men that castration is possible. This anxiety would cause the fetishist to associate his or her sexual desire with another body part or object. By doing this he or she can link sexual experience with another part and forget about infertility, humiliation, or anxiety. Usually the desire is linked closely to the genitals, it could be something seen when the genitals were first viewed, such as, underwear, or something associatively linkable to the experience (e.g. fur, which could be symbolic of pubic hair).
In some cases kleptomania has been considered a fetish. Many fetishists develop a compulsive urge to obtain their cherished articles by any means possible. They may become sexually aroused when then “peep” on women changing or steal women’s undergarments from their homes. The risk involved while stealing usually increases the sexual excitation. Pyromania has been given similar interpretation. Since fire is associated with passion the arsonist, if fire is his fetish, may reach orgasm by watching the fire that he has started. In one case the fear of being caught was best summed up by a patient of Dr. Grant who discussed his findings in a psychology journal in 1953. “I have suffered a great deal of anxiety during my visits to public places where it is easy to watch women’s shoes and legs. In addition to the guilt I feel, there is the danger of detection. Plainclothesmen have haunted me more than once, and I have been questioned on suspicion of loitering.” Fetishism itself seems to be the result of two major sources.
First, the fetish may be associated with a particular sexual object or style that is possessed by someone who is sexually attractive. In this case it is a particular perfume of hairstyle that the fetishist has seen or smelled on a sexually attractive individual that would cause him or her to be attracted to the same article later. Second, there is the insecure man who, for fear of rejection, uses the object to substitute the real thing. Because he cannot have her lock of hair he generalizes his search so that any lock of hair will do. His original natural interest soon becomes deviation to his new hobby. For the most part, the fetishists that engage in illegal or “perverted” acts to fulfill their fetish usually fight the impulse to so it but find it irresistible. The connection between the action and sexual satisfaction is usually not understood but if it is the fetishist becomes embarrassed or ashamed. The treatment for severe cases of fetishism is to try and help the fetishist alter his reactions to the desired object through insight and reasoning.
When the asphyxiation is superficial or recently developed the procedure is quick whereas if it is a result of a personality disturbance, long-term treatment is usually required. Fetishism, anthropologically, can apply to a form of belief and religious practice in which supernatural attributes are given to inanimate objects. In some cases it is a figure carved out of stone, clay, or wood, in which the “believers” will have minor ceremonies revolving around the object. In some religious instances the fetish is attached to a specific place, such as, a tree, rock, or a river. In many cases, the belief becomes similar to the sexual fetishes explained earlier where the believers become unaware of the symbolism that the article has rather they begin to worship the object itself. In this situation the fetishism can be considered as something like idolatry.
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