All About Fetishes

It’s a word we miss-use all the time. Much like the word addiction, we have forgotten or never knew the true meaning. I’m talking about the word “fetish”. You know how people say, “Oh, I so have a fetish for Louboutin shoes” or rocky road ice cream or any item anyone wants to insert? We use it because it’s an interesting and easy word to throw in the mix to convey how obsessed or how much we like something or someone. Alas, Wikipedia reminds what the real meaning is:

“A fetish is the sexual arousal a person receives from a physical object, or from a specific situation. The object or situation of interest is called the fetish.”

Basically, a true fetish is when someone cannot become aroused without the object or situation of his or her desire. For instance, Harvey can’t get it up unless he masturbates with women’s underwear. It can still be a healthy part of someone’s sexuality if it isn’t impeding their ability to function sexually or other aspects of their life. Like Harvey’s wife having a conniption when she finds him masturbating with her underwear. At that point the couple has the choice to either integrate the sexual pattern into their relationship, have a “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy between them or the unlikelihood that Harvey will give up his sexual fetish. I say unlikely because sexual fetishes, once established can be very hard to break in people. Yes, it can be done but really most therapists would rather work with the couple to integrate it into their sexuality. This means that Harvey may have his wife masturbate him with her panties during sex play.All About FetishesFetishes can be hard to take away from someone because they get established so early on. It is very common that the imprinting of the fetish occurs during childhood or adolescence. Our dear Harvey, for instance, became aroused when he found a pair of his mother’s silky, soft panties in the laundry as he was learning to masturbate.

Some people do like to keep their fetishes private. They enjoy the taboo nature of it, while others struggle to keep it hidden in their relationships. Struggling with the fact that you have a fetish can some times make it difficult to connect to partners and can lead to poor self esteem. That’s why full acceptance of the fetish and honesty within fetishist’s relationship can be very healing.

So there, the next time you throw the word fetish around, you’ll know what it means and you can assess if you truly have one or not.


 is the resident sexologist at Adam & Eve and also runs a private practice and media consulting business. She has a Doctorate from the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. Her professional affiliations include AASECT, SSSS, and the American Board of Sexologists. She also has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and completed a postgraduate degree in Marriage, Family and Addictions Recovery Therapy.

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