The French psychologist Alfred Binet was first to talk about 'sexual fetishism.' He used the term to describe people excited by inanimate objects. Today we use the term to describe any kind of sexual arousal because of objects that don’t have much to do with 'normal' sexual behaviour. These fetishes can just be a harmless obsession with things like panties or fur, or a malicious fixation that could harm you or others (masochism and sadism, for example). It could even physically and psychologically harm the person with the fetish, as well as others.
Fetishes generally come in two types: inanimate and animate. Inanimate fetishes are fixations on things. They come in all shapes and sizes and range between anything from panties, bras and stockings to rubber, latex and fur. Animate fetishes means attachment to specific parts of the body, such as the buttocks, pubic hair, legs, feet, neck or breasts, as well as specific bodily shapes. For some people, just photo of these things can be arousing. Fetish could also mean having specific behaviours or acts like domination and submission, sadism, masochism etc.
Sexual fetishes are mostly unconventional and ultimately harmless sexual practices and obsessions. But some border on the unhealthy. Some fetishes are so deviant that they can be dangerous. Some fetishists, for example, have fluid and excretory fetishes. They are aroused by bodily fluids and secretions like faeces, spit, vomit, breast secretions, seminal fluid, and urine. Others have medical and disability fetishes. They are fixated on medical procedures and devices like crutches and plaster casts as well as to disabled persons or amputees. 'Exhibitionism' means the recurrent urge to expose one's genitals to unsuspecting victims. 'Voyeurism' is the urge to spy on unsuspecting people who are naked or engaged in sex. Frotteurism is the recurrent urge to rub one’s genitals against someone who hasn’t consented.
There are many theories about what causes fetishism, but few conclusive facts. Many fetishists claim they’ve had their fetishes their entire lives, while others trace them to a particular event. Modern psychology looks at fetishism as something that’s a result of conditioning and imprinting or trauma. But physical factors like heredity cannot be ruled out. What we do know is that sexual fetishes, harmful or not, usually begin in childhood or adolescence and once established tend to last a lifetime if gone untreated, in cases that need treatment. Fetishism is also typically found in men much more frequently than in women.
Non-harmful kinds of fetishism that cause no major problems for the fetishist or their partners do not need to be treated. But if the fetish is bringing about psychological turmoil and other negative consequences, long-term therapy and monitoring is a good idea. Effective treatment methods include psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioural therapy, aversive conditioning and drug treatment. Please do not treat yourself but see a doctor in case you’re facing problems because of your fetishes.
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