What is a fetish?
These days, we’re all aware that there are people out there who like to dress up in leather or rubber, or who like to do ‘strange things’ to each other, or who have what’s called a ‘fetish’. But what is a fetish and what causes this kind of sexual behaviour? Is it really as bizarre as it seems?
In medical and psychological terms a ‘fetish’ is an object, or part of the body, that becomes the focus of sexual desire, without which the fetishist cannot achieve orgasm. However it is more often used to mean any general sexual turn-on. For example, some people will quite happily admit to having a “leather fetish” but they don’t mean that they must ALWAYS incorporate leather into their sex sessions and can’t function without it, just that they sometimes like to use it for an extra kick.
What turns you on?
A quick trawl around the internet will introduce you to a host of fetishes you didn’t know existed. Pretty much anything can be placed in a sexual context, from the more usual objects and materials such as feet, lingerie, high heel shoes, rubber and leather to the more bizarre like balloons, cigarettes and bodily fluids.
Some fetishes are more socially acceptable than others, but on the net there is no moral code controlling what can or cannot be discussed, so many hard-core fetishists use it as a way to discuss their own particular passion and to meet others who share it. A lot of the sites may be shocking, but there are few (if any) fetishes that are truly original and which do not have many practitioners, around the world.
Coping with a fetish
So who are these people? Fetishists come from all areas of society. They are gay, straight or bisexual, black or white, male or female – increasingly so, as women discuss their sexuality more openly – and they come from many different backgrounds, classes or professions. While what they do is often ‘extreme’, they are usually consenting adults, who are having these sexual experiences through choice, in a safe environment where rules and boundaries are set and respected.
Problems arise when someone with a fetish cannot control their urges or tries to force their partner to do something against their will. But these same problems exist amongst those who consider themselves to have a ‘normal’ sex life, and this has more to do with mental state than sexuality.
Like any normal sexuality, fetishes are caused by a variety of complex genetic, environmental (especially during childhood and puberty) and social factors. In the same way that some ‘straight’ people do not enjoy oral or penetrative sex, so true fetishists have no control over their sexual preferences – they can’t say why they get turned-on by the sight of a manicured foot, they just do.
Many people find they can easily incorporate their fetish into an otherwise normal relationship. As with ‘straight’ partners who have different tastes and turn-ons, the important factors for a successful sexual relationship are respect, trust and openness.
So tell me about some fetishes then
Think of anything and someone probably has a fetish for it.But here are some of the slightly-more-bizarre ones.
When you’re turned on by peeing or watching someone else wee. Also known as ‘watersports’ or ‘golden showers’, people with urolagnia sometimes enjoy urinating on their partner, or being urinated on themselves.
People who like to dress up as giant furry animals or watch other people doing so. Some have sex whilst in costume.
Hide the custard pies! Sploshing is a wet and messy fetish (WAM) where people are aroused by watching people smear generous amounts of messy food on themselves. Favourites include: custard, peanut butter, baked beans, and chocolate sauce.
Photo of shoes by Shutterstock
- Visit Madly in Love to discuss mental health and relationships, share stories and get support and advice.
- Got a worry about relationships? Whatever the question, get free anonymous advice from one of our relationship experts.
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
By Richard Parsons
Updated on 25-Sep-2012