Is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “An inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.”
The word fetish originally meant “charm,” and it originates from the 15th century Portuguese word feitico, which means false power, object or charm. For example, when the Portuguese explored West Africa and encountered native religions, they called whatever talisman (totems, carvings, beads) they revered a fetish.
To the Portuguese in those days, the fetishists were those who worshiped the unusual. Later on, however, the implication of the word took on a whole different meaning.
Today, Fetishes are defined by the DSM (the “bible” of mental health) as, “Persistent preferential sexual arousal in association with non-living objects, an over-inclusive focus on (typically non-sexual) body parts (e.g., feet, hands) and body secretions…Partialism, an exclusive focus on part of the body.”
The DSM goes on to specify criteria that would merit a clinical diagnosis (mental disorder); however, the main dysfunction being that it hinders ones life/job/relationships in some disabling manner. For most of us though…our fetishes do not have such debilitating effects. The majority of healthy sexually active adults that I know utilize their fetishes as an integral and satisfying part of their sex-play.
There are the typical fetishes: hands/feet, water, hair, voyeurism/exhibitionism, fingernails/lipstick, stomachs, tattoos/piecings, rubber/latex, BDSM.
And then there are the atypical fetishes…that encompass all manner of oddities…things you may have never even fathomed. Working as a Dominatrix I encountered some interesting ones: golden showers, suffocation, torture, cross-dressing, infantilism, pony-play, forniphilia (using someone as furniture, literally), dog training, emetophilia (vomiting)…to name a few.
As a psychotherapist I encountered an even stranger (creepier?) fetish:
Coprophilia, or the poop fetish.
My patient was a beautiful girl really, delicate and fine boned, and she always reminded me of a classically-trained ballerina; however, she was a dominatrix. She often spoke of her clients and the ways in which she dealt with managing/tolerating their particular fetishes, and one in particular fascinated and disgusted her (and me):
The guy who constructed a toilet that fit over his head so that she could defecate into his mouth.
I know…take a moment to breathe. The most fascinating part about this act was not that someone was into it, people are into all nature of disgusting things…no, it was the manner in which she had to psych herself up to do this act that she found repulsive.
And yet even in her abhorrence it was clear that there was a kind of pleasure that she derived from this act, which made me re-consider…perhaps fetishes cannot so simply be defined and dismissed as “partialism” or an inability to relate to another as a whole, some form of lesser connection.
When a fetish is enacted with the participation of another, it becomes necessarily an exchange.
While the above is an extreme illustration I think that many of us can still relate to this concept of fetishism as connection. If you have ever indulged a lover in his or her “special desire” you know this to be true. For example, even if you do not particularly find spanking a turn-on…the simple fact that it excites your lover, by consequence also excites YOU. It is this very exchange-of-kink (if you will) that has lead me to the belief that functional fetish play can be extremely important and even beneficial in healthy sexual relationships…as it requires one to accept and enact another’s desire solely because it is theirs; we indulge them and in turn we are also satisfied.
With that…I encourage you to…go on…get your kink-on…because it is virtually gauranteed that someone will be there in indulge and enjoy with you!
(images by: Mayumi)