What is Fetishism?
Fetishism is sexual arousal by inanimate objects. Note: sexual arousal by particular body parts, "partialism" , is covered under a separate topic.
The diagnostic criteria of the DSM-IV-TR are that the individual has experienced intense sexual urges, arousal or behaviour involving inanimate objects for at least six months. The individual must experience either personal distress over the behaviour and/or social or occupational impairment.
Most fetishists tend to be male and, like most paraphilias, the fetish surfaces in early adolescence and will continue for most of the individual's active sex life. While masturbating, individuals may fantasize about the fetish object, they may rub, suck, or wear the item or they may insert in into their body orifices. While the activity is usually carried out in solitary sexual activity, it is not unusual for the fetish to be present and used in sexual relationships with others.
Common fetishes include plastic, rubber, shoes, leather, hair.
It is difficult to assess the prevalence of fetishism in the general population. While Individuals may present on occasion for treatment or assessment at specialized sex-related clinic this is not generally the case and they carry out their fetishistic behaviour in private. The fetish, by itself, is usually not associated with criminal behaviour although it may combined with other paraphilias or disorders that result in criminal behaviour.
Most fetishists also have other paraphilias, the most common of which are transvestic fetishism, masochism and sadism.
Few fetishists are really motivated to give up their means of sexual gratification and present for treatment. Of those who do. the combination of cognitive behavior therapy and medication would be recommended.
Freund K, Seto MC, Kuban M. Two types of fetishism. Behavioral Research Ther. 1996 Sep;34(9):687-94
Krafft-Ebing, R. von. (1965). Psychopathia sexualis. New York: Stein & Day. (Original work published in 1886)
Mason, Fiona L. Fetishism: Psychopathology and Treatment in Sexual Deviance. RD Laws & W.O'Donohue (eds), Guilford. NY
Junginger, John. Fetishism: Assessment and Treatmentin Sexual Deviance. RD Laws & W.O'Donohue (eds), Guilford. NY
Therapy for Sexual Impulsivity: The Paraphilias and Paraphilia-Related Disorders. Martin Kafka, MD, Psychiatric Times (on-line)
© Stephen Hucker, MB,BS, FRCP(C), FRCPsych 2003,2004,2005
This material is provided for personal use only. Any other use is strictly forbidden without the express written permission of the author