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Updated 24 July 2013

What is fetishism?

The word "fetish" is commonly used. But do you really know what fetishes are? And what the more obscure ones are?

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Fetishism is a paraphilia that focuses on the obsession of an object, and the sexual arousal that seeing or interacting with that object may bring. Some of the more common objects that become a fetish are women’s bras, underpants, shoes, stockings or other items of clothing. Once a fetish for an object has developed, it often becomes a chronic problem.

An individual with a fetish will often masturbate to orgasm while looking at, rubbing, holding or smelling the object, or may request a sexual partner to hold or wear the fetish object during sexual interaction.

In many cases, the fetish object is required by the individual in order to be aroused or to reach orgasm, and is categorised as one of the first symptoms of fetishism. Not having the object may result in a complete loss of sexual drive, and even erectile dysfunction in men.

The use of women’s clothing in cross-dressing, or the use of sex toys that have been designed for genital stimulation such as dildo’s are not regarded as symptoms of fetishism, even though they may play a big part in sexual arousal.

Common fetishes

Foot fetishism

A foot fetishist will become sexually aroused by touching, smelling, tasting, kissing, or handling the feet, ankle or toes of a person, or by having these actions done on their own feet by another person. Some foot fetishists may also enjoy being walked on, or using their feet to manipulate their own, or their partners' genitals, or having their genitals manipulated to orgasm by another person's feet (referred to as a ‘foot job’). Some foot fetishists may just be content with touching or being touched by feet, or in rare cases, being used as a footrest.

In much the same way that a normal person may be aroused when seeing naked genitals, so do foot fetishists become aroused when seeing feet. There are of course, a variety of different foot fetishes, each with their own properties and likes that are not necessarily shared by all foot fetishists. Some may prefer naked feet, while others might prefer dressed feet. Some may favour arched feet, while others may favour flat feet. Some foot fetishists will only be aroused by a specialized scenario, such as a naked foot resting on a table top.

There have been a variety of proposed explanations for the development of a foot fetish. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran suggests the link between feet and sexual arousal is a direct result of the feet sharing the same sensory cortex as the genitals.

Another theory suggests that the foot's shape is distinctly phallic, and can be viewed to replicate the female or male genitals, or the shape of a female body.

A third theory notes that the feet and the genitals are in the same visual window, and when looking at one, the other will be in view as well.

Spandex fetishism

Spandex fetishism is a sexual attraction in fetishists for tight, stretchy fabrics worn by people, or in rare cases to the items of clothing themselves.

Spandex fetishists become sexually aroused when dressed in, or seeing sexual partners dress in tight fabrics, or fantasising about such scenarios. Alternatively, spandex fetishists may create fantasies about the wearers of skin-tight garments such as acrobats, dancers, gymnasts, contortionists, athletes or swimmers.

Spandex fetishism can even expand into re-enacting scenarios from comic books or movies where characters are portrayed wearing spandex costumes. These scenarios usually involve a damsel in distress, a villain, and a super hero that comes to the rescue.

Some extreme cases of spandex fetishism sees the use of a full body suite covering the entire body with material, including the fingers, toes and head. One theory about spandex fetishism is the idea of a ‘second skin’ that clothing gives a person, one that a fetishist either wants to obtain, or wants to remove.

Obscure fetishes

Balloon fetishism

A balloon fetishist becomes aroused when viewing, touching, tasting, or interacting with balloons. This can extend to the material, colour, shape or even sound of a balloon.

Three general categories have been recognised when describing balloon fetishists that include, poppers, semi-poppers, and non-poppers.

Poppers generally do not focus on the balloon itself, but rather on the popping of a balloon, whether self-induced, or done by a sexual partner. The methods of popping may include over-inflating, body pressure (i.e. sitting on a balloon), pricking the balloon with a sharp object, or using teeth or fingernails to pop an inflated balloon.

Semi-poppers do not aim to pop a balloon, but are not unsatisfied if it happens by mistake, and may even find it arousing.

Non-poppers often fear the loud noise of a popping balloon, and are more interested in playing with a balloon, or the aesthetics thereof.

Balloon fetishism is not very well known, but is growing rapidly mainly due to pornographic content on the internet.

Urine fetishism

A urine fetishist involves urine in sexual activities and for sexual pleasure. This paraphilia is also known as urolagnia.

People with urolagnia may find pleasure in urinating in public places, urinating on other people, being urinated upon, or even drinking their own, or someone else’s urine. Others may just prefer to watch these activities. These practices are sometimes referred to as a 'golden shower' or 'watersports'.

Other varieties of urolagnia may include arousal from normal urinary activity, such as wetting the bed, wetting one's pants, or in more extreme cases, a diaper fetish or arousal from infantilism.

(Warren Vonk, Health24)

(Picture: feet in rose petal bath from Shutterstock)


 
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