What is a fetish? Characteristics and links with psychopathology

The word fetish can denote, from an anthropological point of view, amulets and elements of a certain type of tribal worship or, from a psychological point of view, the relative obsession with a certain object, especially sexually. .

This last definition is one that we will develop in more depth throughout this article, in addition to understanding whether or not fetishism is a psychological disorder. We discover more in depth that he is a fetish.

    What is a fetish in psychology?

    In its broadest sense, it is understood as a fetish for a material object of worship to which are granted magical and supernatural properties, which can become revered as an idol. These objects are those used in many ancient tribes and civilizations and their idolatry has been the founding pillar of many modern religions. Idolatry in fetishes is something universal, appearing in many different places around the world.

    however, the definition we will deal with has nothing to do with this anthropological conception of what a fetish is, but rather with its more psychological definition.. Specifically in the field of the psychology of sexuality, we understand as a fetish an object or a part of the body which inspires some kind of sexual attraction towards someone, although normally this element has no sexual significance in our species. .

    The word “fetish” comes from the Latin “facticius”, which means artificial and invented, referring to the fact that the meaning attributed to it is entirely subjective, whether cultural or sexual. The word would have evolved into “feitiço”, word used by the Portuguese navigators to speak to the cult objects that they were in their travels, of obsessive fascination. This same word has evolved into “fetish” in French, therefore “fetish”, acquiring the definition we have just seen.

    The sexual fetish

    The origins of the word “fetish” used with sexual connotations in psychology, we have them in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. It was he himself who gave her the definition of abnormal sexual attraction to an object or part of the body that has little to do with reproductive function. Among these objects and situations without clearly reproductive function but which activate a sexual response we would have heels, BDSM harnesses, leather clothes, lingerie, whips, chains, feet, armpits …

    A fetish can also be a specific situation or action. There are people who have a real fetish with people who smoke, dress executive, or walk a certain way. In the fetish too, there would be the sexual interest of being tickled, tied, whipped, gagged or humiliated (BDSM practices) or urinated on (pissing). These fetishes are more intense than those directly related to an object type, and there are many communities of people looking for sex partners to practice with.

    Among the objects that would not be considered sexual fetishes, we would have objects intended for sexual stimulation, such as vibrators. These devices, while not “natural”, are specifically designed to elicit sexual activation. They do this not because the person feels like they are producing some kind of attraction, but because by placing themselves on the genitals, they produce physical stimulation in the same place as if they were the organs. genitals of another person.

      Theories on fetishism

      There is a lot of interest in sex and, if we are talking about sex outside the social norm, even more. It’s no surprise, then, that countless theories have been put forward to explain fetishism, as well as to debate whether or not it is a disorder. Then we will discover the two most relevant theories about this type of sexual behavior.

      psychoanalytic theory

      Freud was one of the first psychologists to approach sexual fetishism psychologically. If so, he was talking about a sexual behavior that was activated in the presence of an object or an element which, in principle, should not have a sexual meaning objectively speaking, but which the fetishist attributed to him. .

      For psychoanalysis, the fetish is a perverse manifestation, considering it as the core and the commonplace of all other paraphilias.

      According to this current, fetishism is the way in which the problems that the subject has with social norms manifest themselves, especially when these norms are very strict. This can be related to the time Freud lived, because at the end of the 19th century (Victorian era) there was a lot of sexual repression.

      This crackdown meant people had almost no sexual freedomBy doing this in the most intimate way, they will develop the most murky and unacknowledged fantasies. The greater the sexual repression, the more intense the fetishism will be. This is when people start talking about behaviors like voyeurism, sadomasochism, and cross-dressing.

      For other psychoanalysts, as would be the case with Piera Aulagnier, fetishism would be a border state between neurosis and psychosis. Once this barrier is crossed, the individual would enter directly into the world of psychosis. and, therefore, hallucinatory psychopathology, such as schizophrenia.

      Conditioning theory

      Psychoanalysis is very interesting, but it has already lost some weight in the scientific field. For this reason, it was necessary to come up with other theories to explain the reason for the existence of fetishism, and among them we have behavioral proposals, as well as the support of classical figures such as the psychiatrist Richard von Krafft- Ebing or the psychologist Alfred Binet. .

      The conditioning theory explains that fetishism is the result of a condition during the childhood of the fetishist subject. The origin of their sexual attachment to an object or a part of the body is due to a fortuitous circumstance that arose during the process of sexual learning and self-knowledge. By matching the fetish object and the sexual exploration, the person would associate the pleasure with this object..

      This relationship would develop until adulthood, turn into a very strong sexual interest in the object and become an important element during sex or any sexual relationship. In the event that the fetish is not present during intercourse, it is highly likely that the sexual response will not occur.

      Good or bad fetishism?

      A widespread debate is whether or not sexual fetishism is a good thing or a bad thing, that is, whether or not it involves a psychopathological disorder. As with any other paraphilia, fetishism is not considered a psychological disorder or problem as long as it does not harm other people or involve cognitive, social, work, and emotional disturbances in the person.

      Fetishism has traditionally been viewed as a disorder, understood as the abnormal sexual attraction to a particular object or item. The logic behind this idea is that, as out of the norm, it must be, out of necessity, pathological. However, this idea has been outdated and, in fact, it is considered normal for people to have some sort of fetishism. Anyone can have some degree of fetish arousal, stemming from what would be considered “normal” sex, without having a fetish disorder.

      There’s nothing fancy or extravagant about having a fetish, and it’s something that experts say shouldn’t embarrass anyone, or stay hidden in the relationship. In fact, well-behaved fetishes get you out of sexual monotony. Repeating the same sexual practices over and over again with the partner can end up exhausting him, which in the long run could even end it. Complying with these kinds of little perversions is a necessary thing for the couple to feel satisfied.

      fetishism will be considered a disorder in case the person is completely dependent on their fetish to have a sexual response. For example, a person who has a fetish with heels, if she is only excited by the presence of this type of shoe without paying attention to the person wearing them, has a problem. The mere fact of being able to have sex in front of the object in question greatly limits the sexual experience, which forces the person to need very specific conditions in order to be able to be aroused.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bancroft, John (2009). Human sexuality and its problems. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 283-286.
      • Darcangelo, S. (2008). “Fetishism: psychopathology and theory”. In Laws, DR; O’Donohue, WT (eds.). Sexual Deviation: Theory, Evaluation, and Treatment, 2nd edition. The Guilford Press. pages 112-113.
      • Ramachandran, VS (1994). “Phantom limbs, abandonment syndromes, repressed memories and Freudian psychology.” International Journal of Neurobiology. 37: 291-333. doi: 10.1016 / S0074-7742 (08) 60254-8. ISBN 9780123668370. PMID 7883483.

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