What is a Fetish?
A fetish is sexual desire or attraction to an inanimate object or a part of the body that is not typically viewed as sexual.
This attraction can involve items of clothing, physical features of a person’s body such as their height or weight, body fluids like urine or menstrual blood, and materials like satin or rubber. Some examples of common fetishes include feet, shoes, hats, skirts, stockings, underwear, tattoos, piercings, hair, obesity, and leather. Overall, the most common fetish is a foot fetish.
Just about any object or body part can be a fetish for somebody. Though less common, some individuals experience sexual attraction to ears or noses. Others may have a fetish for adult diapers, watches, hearing aids, stethoscopes, or other medical devices. Dressing up or having a sexual partner dress up in a furry animal costume can be turn-on/fetish for some.
Although some individuals may use the words “fetish” and “kink” interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Kinks are sexual activities that are considered to fall outside of the sphere of “traditional” sexual activity, while fetishes are about deriving sexual gratification from an object or body part. Fetishes are kinks, whereas not all kinks are fetishes.
Sexual medicine experts have a few theories on why fetishes exist. If a fetish develops during a person’s adolescence, it could be the result of gaining a positive association with the object or body part during an early sexual experience. In this way, the individual may link the object or body part with feelings of sexual desire and gratification early on in their sexual development and acquire a fetish. Other theories deal with psychological associations with certain objects and body parts and different personal tastes, just like the tastes people have for different foods.
Fetishes can be a healthy, normal part of sex when they are incorporated into an experience with a consenting partner. However, they can become a fetishistic disorder if they cause an individual significant distress or impair their day-to-day activities. Furthermore, any sexual activity (fetish-related or otherwise) that is harmful to others or practiced on someone who is unwilling or unable to consent is a problem. If either of these is the case, seek help from a trusted medical provider or mental health professional.
Barring these specific circumstances, fetishes can bring diversity and enjoyment to a sexual experience, potentially making it more exciting and fun for all involved.
- Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S., & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International journal of impotence research, 19(4), 432–437. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijir.3901547
- Ventriglio, A., Bhat, P.S., Torales, J., & Bhugra, D. (2019). Sexuality in the 21st century: Leather or rubber? Fetishism explained. Medical journal, Armed Forces India, 75(2), 121–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mjafi.2018.09.009