What is Transvestic Fetishism?
Whereas Fetishism is the sexual arousal by inanimate objects, transvestic fetishism is the sexual arousal by clothing worn by the opposite sex. In most cases, this involves female clothing.
The diagnostic criteria of the DSM-IV-TR are that the individual has experienced intense sexual urges, arousal or behaviour involving clothing belonging to the opposite sex for at least six months. The individual must experience either personal distress over the behaviour and/or social or occupational impairment.
Like most paraphilias, transvestic Fetishism begins in adolescence, usually around the onset of puberty. Most practitioners are male who are aroused by wearing, fondling, or seeing female clothing. Lingerie (bras, panties, girdles, corsets, slips), stockings, shoes or boots may all be the fetishistic object.
Most practitioners are male, usually heterosexual, and usually married (or have been married.) In some cases, sexual partners are fully aware of the fetish. Many will often have children as well.
If the fetish involves wearing female clothes (ie cross-dressing), this is usually done in private, although undergarments can also be worn in public under regular street clothing. Practitioners will often masturbate while wearing female clothing and/or make-up or while fondling specific items.
It is important to distinguish between cross dressing for sexual as opposed to non-sexual arousal purposes. Only if it is done for sexual arousal, would it classify as transvestic Fetishism Otherwise, without the fetishistic component, it is not a paraphilia.
It is also important to distinguish between transvestic fetishism and transsexualism whereby the individual actually wishes to live his/her life as a member of the opposite sex. Transvestic fetishism involves a more intermittent usage of the female clothing for sexual arousal purposes only.
It is difficult to assess the prevalence of transvestic fetishism in the general population, given that individuals carry out their fetishistic behaviour in private. The fetish, by itself, is usually not associated with criminal behaviour although it may combined with other fetishes paraphilias or disorders that result in criminal behaviour.
Transvestic fetishism is usually one of several paraphilias present, as is the case with most paraphilias.
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.
Further Reading & Other Resources:
Therapy for Sexual Impulsivity: The Paraphilias and Paraphilia-Related Disorders. Martin Kafka, MD, Psychiatric Times (on-line)
The Transvestic Career, Dr. Buckner , Associate Professor of Sociology, Sir George Williams University, Montreal
© 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