Let's talk about Fetishes
By Miranda Christophers
Fetishes and kinks are likely to be far more common than we probably realise. A 2016 (Joyal & Carpentier) study found that nearly half of the participants in their study identified with a ‘paraphilic sexual interest’ ie. a fetish.
"Given that studies suggest that somewhere between 25% and 50% of people report having sexual fetishes it is extremely common to have a sexual fetish.’’
Some fetishes are far more common than others, while some are deemed as more unusual, and some may be illegal. As with anything sex-related, there is a wide spectrum and to what degree a fetish enhances or is problematic for someone’s life varies from person to person.
What is a Fetish?
While coming under the umbrella of Kink, a fetish typically differs to a sexual preference or interest in the sense that it is usually a necessity for it to be present or thought about in order for the person to get aroused. It may also be difficult to be around things that are fetishised without becoming aroused or fixated on them.
What are common fetishes?
Some of the more common fetishes include:
- Rubber,Leather and Latex
- Wearing particular clothing
Who can develop a fetish?
Anyone can develop a fetish, and while they may develop in childhood or adolescence for some people, they can develop at later stages in life for others. While any gender can have a fetish, it is suggested they may appear more frequently in males. Research studies by Concordia University of male and female rats found that males may be more likely to associate sex with environmental or past stimuli than females. The study found that a male rat who previously had sex with a little jacket on did not show any interest in having sex with a female rat when he was not wearing his jacket. Another study also found that after having had plenty of sex with other rats with jackets on, the male rats had a preference for jacketed rats over those that were unjacketed, however, the females did not have a preference as to whether the rat had a jacket on or not.
However, it is important to remember that any gender can and do develop fetishes and it is probable that social conditioning can make it difficult for people of any gender to talk about anything they may perceive as ‘not normal’ so it’s worth keeping an open mind to this, particularly if you suspect someone has a fetish that they haven’t talked to you about.
What causes a fetish?
We may identify something we particularly like, are curious about, or that we have made a previous association with a feeling of pleasure or arousal. Similarly, some people will develop a fetish as a result of eroticising something that may have been uncomfortable or disliked but occurred at a time of sexual development. It’s therefore, not always apparent to people where their fetish comes from. We often hear about fetishes that developed in childhood or adolescence but many people find they can develop them later in life.
Can you give an example of how a fetish may develop?
We can try and make sense of how fetishes may have developed by looking at our relationships with them. For example let’s think about hair fetishes. Hair is often a distinguishing feature of someone. Within many societies hair is representative of health and youthfulness, it is often desirous or may be deemed an attractive feature – we are aware that some cultures, will cover their hair for this reason. Attention has been given to hair within within mythology/ history for as long as has been documented – think from cavemen to Lady Godiva naked on the horse a thousand years ago, through to today where Disney films are full of characters with luscious locks. It’s also one of the more notable characteristics of people. Ask any child/adult to describe someone and it will usually involve their hair. A fascination with hair and resulting hair fetish is likely to develop in childhood. Young children will touch their caregivers hair, or hair may come to represent comfort, or attraction to those with a certain hairstyle – perhaps we first noticed an attraction to a person with a particular colour or hair length, perhaps we feared having our hair cut, or desired to cut someone else’s.
What can I do about a fetish?
Many people find their fetishes are deep-rooted. They are a source of pleasure and excitement as well as often comfort and familiarity so people can enjoy having them. For others, they can feel out of control or affect the person’s life, self-esteem or relationships. One way to question it is to ask whether is it is bothersome for the person. One of the issues with a fetish such as a hair fetish or clothing fetish may be that the person is more likely to look at people with the hair type or clothing that arouses them – this can be problematic as it may make the person with the fetish feel awkward if these are rousing attention in everyday situations such as at work, or they may find that their attention could make other people feel uncomfortable. If the fetish does not feel unhealthy and can be incorporated as part of their positive sexuality then it may be a fetish that they can embrace and enjoy.
It’s important to realise with fetishes that if they are a true fetish then the person will not be able to get aroused without it, which may be problematic for them or their relationships. It can be the case with a hair fetish, that they prefer the hair a certain length, style or colour – what then happens if a partner changes it? It can be helpful to understand the origins for someone’s fetish, as there may be unresolved issues, but equally it may help people who find it problematic to lessen their grip on it. It can also be helpful for people to seek to widen their sexual interests through exploration of what else they may find interesting or appealing.
Fetishes can be part of someone's positive sexuality
Some people love their and other’s fetishes and wouldn’t like it any other way, while for some they are problematic. It can be very hard to let go of a fetish and it is often the case with a well developed fetish that it is something that is actually very important to that person. If a fetish is problematic or out of control, think about understanding it, managing it and widening interests – after all, it’s never too late to find something new appealing! Above all else, we are unique and have different interests and preferences – enjoy the sex life that want!
Miranda Christophers: Sex & Relationship Therapist / Contributing Editor
Miranda is a COSRT Accredited Sex and Relationship Therapist and a regular media contributor who promotes a sex positive attitude with a philosophy that sex is the most natural source of pleasure which should be enjoyed healthily by all no matter gender, age, ethnicity or relationship status. Her views are embedded in social and sexual equality and the liberation of people to have choice.