A fetish is an attribute, fabric, bodypart or situation that turns you on sexually. This can be anything and fetishes are different for different people. It can be a scent (such as perfume), hair, an attribute, clothing (high heels for example) or the sight of a man or woman on his or her knees.
Although it has somewhat of a negative connotation, fetishism is very normal and it is around all through everyday life. People who favor a specific brand (such as Nike) for clothing actually have a fetish. The entire fashion and cosmetics industry are largely based on the phenomenum.
Fetish (sometimes also spelled as fetisj or fetich) originates from the Portugese word “fettiço”, which literally translates as “something made”. The word was used in the Middle Ages throughout Europe for “magic charm”, amulets brought by explorers from West-Africa, where they were known as “fettiche”. In antropolical terms a fetish is a religious symbol. As such the Christian cross can also be seen as a fetish.
Thanks to Sigmund Freud (again) - who made the connection between sexual fetishes and “savages” - fetishism has been given a bad name for a long time, while in fact its origin is religious/spiritual symbolism. It is - however - quite normal and chances are literally everybody on the planet has at least one.
Some people have a different outlook on sexuality. Part of that is that they often have a sharp eye for detail and they will value such details highly. In that sense, for example, the scent of leather is a detail of leather clothing and gear. Attributes themselves are a detail of entire scenes. In this sense it is a symbol for something much bigger - an entire spectre of feelings, emotions, memories and fantasies.
Blond hair, lingerie, leather, lace, latex and high heels are probably the most common fetishes. Another common ones are shaved bodyparts, such as the genital area. There is a wide variety of other “attractions”, such as ponytails, piercings, tattoos, school uniforms and white socks and gartherbelts.
The most difficult thing to explain is the fact that there are people, with what is called an “attraction fetish”. This means they are attracted to but not really into and activity. For example, there are actually quite a few people who are not really into BDSM, but fascinated and turned on by the atmosphere.
Anything that becomes an obsession can be dangerous. Fetishism by nature at least has an inherent risk of becoming an obsession. The most common risk is that people with a fetish become fanatics about it. This may easily lead to disputes and a lot of flaming, because people can become very touchy about the subject. This frequently happens in Internet chatrooms and on discussion lists and often - unfortunately - clouds discussions and exchange of ideas and opinions.
Fetishism - as explained - is largely symbolism and symbols play an important role in sexuality. Lingerie is an excellent example of how it can enhance your erotic experience. Other symbols - for example a piece or erotic art in your bedroom or dressing up and do some role play in the bedroom - can achieve the same thing. In this sense such symbols can help you to enhance the experience, for starters by acknowledging them.
One of the most obvious examples of how fetishes can be very popular in one lifestyle while largely irrelevant in another is foot worship, which is widely spread in the heterosexual mistress / submissive man culture, while virtually non-excistant in other lifestyles.
Actually, yes. One of the most vibrant examples of this are the many individual rituals, most BDSM couples have. These are usually very small and simple things, such as a specific gesture, a specific position, having to ask for certain things, etcetera. These rituals themselves are usually a turn on and as such a fetish.
©2007 Hans Meijer
Hans Meijer is 54, a Dutch former journalist and government spokesmen, webmaster and filmmaker, active in the sexual and erotic information realm.He the chairman for the www.powerotics.com Foundation. This organization is dedicated to provide quality information about alternative lifestyles. His 5 e-book series “Shibari Fumo Ryu” about the Japanese erotic Shibari technique and art is considered groundbreaking. Reproduced with permission.