Fans of HBO’s Sex and the City will most likely remember the episode in which Charlotte came across a shoe salesman with a foot fetish. The shoes were discounted when she allowed him to hold her feet as he helped her try on the footwear. Sounds great, right? Charlotte certainly was delighted by her assumed good luck. That is until the man’s fetish got the better of him and he climaxed while “assisting” her. Now that’s not so great. And it makes some of us wonder, what exactly is a sexual fetish?
The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices lists a sexual fetish as “an object that replaces people as the primary love object.” The idea was introduced by French psychologist, Alfred Binet, who studied sexual behavior.
Sexual fetishism describes individuals whose sexual arousal or satisfaction comes from an article of desire. That article can be lingerie, shoes, leather garments or underwear. The fixation also happens with body parts, like in Charlotte’s shoe salesman’s fetish, feet.
People with fetishes, known at fetishists, can turn practically anything into a fetish. Sex researchers say fetishes come in three types, media, form and animate.
A media fetish is all about the material the fetishist obsesses over. This includes material like rubber, leather, latex, and silk. With a form fetish, the object’s shape holds the significance. Think stiletto heels. Fetishes like feet, hair and other body parts are called animate fetishes because they are human.
Fetishists are typically men who often masturbate while looking at or touching the object of their desire. However this is not a sexually biased practice, women have fetishes as well.
How fetishes come to life in a person can be difficult to pinpoint. Modern psychology takes the stance that fetishism has been conditioned, imprinted or is the result of a strong emotional experience. Some sex therapists theorize that an experience with masturbation as a young child could develop into a fetish. Certain objects can serve as a subconscious reminder resulting in a sexual fetish.