Like many men, Bob's favorite part of the Miss America Pageant is the swimsuit competition. Unlike other men, he's not checking out what's on top. Instead Bob is intently focused on the contestant's stiletto heels. Bob is a heterosexual man with a foot fetish.
Susan is in her 40's and married to the same man for 16 years. To date, she has never told her husband that at the moment of orgasm she imagines herself as a schoolgirl being spanked over her teacher's knee. Susan is a heterosexual female with a fetish for spanking.
Jim goes to the lingerie shop and sifts through the panties. He holds up a pair of pink panties marked extra large. Jim's wife wears size small and Jim is not having an affair. The panties are for Jim. Jim is a heterosexual man who enjoys wearing women's lingerie.
In her excitement, Karen almost forgot to pack the essential rubber bathing caps. She and her husband Bill are not headed to the beach. Instead, they are going to a small gathering of people who enjoy wearing rubber. The feel, touch and scent of rubber are erotic for Bill and Karen. This heterosexual couple has a fetish for latex and rubber.
When it comes to sexuality, most of us were not brought up with many options. Men are supposed to be attracted to women and women attracted to men. Kissing, touching and intercourse are acceptable forms of sexual expression between a man and a woman.
Until recently homosexuals were considered outcasts and persecuted. Happily, our society is becoming more and more accepting of homosexuality. But what about those of us who are 'straight' with sexual proclivities out of the norm? What about people like Bob, Susan, Jim, Bill and Karen? How do they deal with feeling sexually different? How can they function and feel good about themselves in our close-minded society?
What Is a Sexual Fetish?
Sexual fetish describes people who are aroused by unusual parts of the body, activities, or objects that are generally not associated with conventional sex. The fetish is strong and is deep seated in the subconscious mind. People can have sex without actually participating in the fetish activity. However, 99% of people with a fetish are like Susan. They cannot have an orgasm unless they think about the fetish at the moment of explosion.
There are all kinds of sexual fetishes. Sexuality is something that is as unique as each individual. Some people fixate on parts of the body: shoes, feet, legs, bottoms, hair or armpits. Others enjoy acting out certain kinds of scenarios including Dominant/submissive role-playing, spanking, bondage, cross-dressing and trampling. Still others find certain articles of clothing or fabric stimulating such as leather, latex, rubber and even angora sweaters. The acts and scenarios attached to these fetishes are many and variable.
People With Fetishes Are Ashamed
It's no wonder. Our society labels anything sexually different as deviant or perverted. These labels hurt deeply to those whose sexual make-up is out of the norm. Fetishists feel weird, ashamed and guilty for their desires. While the fetish provides pleasure and relief, all these people have feelings of shame about being sexually different.
Fetishists are afraid of sharing their secret with a lover. They fear rejection, ridicule or abandonment. Unfortunately their fears are not unfounded. Oftentimes, people who disclose to their wives or husbands wish they hadn't. Their partners react with shock or embarrassment promoting even more feels of shame and regret.
The general public is uneducated about sexuality out of the norm. Most people (even in this day and age) resort to perfunctory sex. We are not schooled in the joys of playing and acting out fantasies. Fetishes often require special costuming, effects, verbiage and creativity. We are not trained to indulge in sexual desires. We just don't understand.
People with a fetish generally think they are the only one. It's a secret that they carry to the grave or possibly a paid professional (prostitute or Dominatrix). Sexual fetish is a misunderstood confusing topic. Why can't my partner or I just enjoy and experience sex in the moment? Is it abnormal to have strong sexual feelings or thoughts, which I can't control? Is there a 'cure' for fetish? Is it OK to act on the fetish?
Where Does The Fetish Come From?
There's no definitive answer as to why someone is or isn't precluded to having a fetish. Most remember having some kind of early childhood memory connected to the fetish.
Fear, excitement, curiosity, pleasure are powerful emotions that are felt in the body. The body remembers the charge physiologically and for some of us those moments become eroticized on a subconscious level. Even scary childhood moments. We protected ourselves by sexualizing the powerful feelings. Generally the feelings lay dormant until we become sexually active. Then out of nowhere, we connect our original moment of excitement and experience to a powerful erotic charge. This feeling is so strong that our sexuality is linked to that early sexual/excitement/fear moment.
For example, someone who likes spanking might have heard someone else get a spanked or they were spanked themselves. While the event wasn't necessarily enjoyable at the time, it made great impact. It was charged moment that later became sexualized. How does that happen? Spanking is done behind closed doors, undergarments are taken down and there is a certain degree of intimacy about the act. Hence, powerful emotions are evoked.
These powerful emotions linked to the fetish are stored in the subconscious mind. They are connected to a part of our brain that produces sexual stimulation. When puberty strikes these thoughts and feelings may re-emerge. Before we realize what's happening we are associating our childhood fear/excitement to adult sexual feelings.
Do You Have A Sexual Fetish?
Chances are good that if you were attracted to this article you have a sexual fetish or a penchant for sexuality out of the norm. You may or may not have told anyone or acted upon it. Perhaps you have see professional women who specialize in exotic forms of adult entertainment. The visits to these adult workers are satisfying in the moment but ultimately leave you feeling alone and ashamed.
You may have shared your secret desire with your significant other only to be shunned and rejected. People who have sexual fetishes are often left feeling very alone. It's just not something we feel comfortable bringing up with a friend over lunch. It's even hard to tell a therapist we've seen for ages.
Does Your Mate Have a Sexual Fetish?
Most partners don't find out about this until way into the marriage. Your initial response is probably shock, followed by anger. How could my partner nave kept such a secret from me? What am I supposed to do now? You feel alone and betrayed. My partner isn't the person I thought they were. There's a sense that you don't even know them. Finding this out can have a negative distancing effect. However, if you choose to understand and participate in this fetish, you will develop a deep bond in your marriage. It's up to you to learn as much as you can by yourself and with your partner's help and guidance.
Can A Sexual Fetish Be Cured?
A sexual fetish is something ingrained. Many experts now think it could be genetic. Whatever the origin, one thing I can tell you unequivocally: It will not go away. The connection between early body sensation and erotic emotion is too powerful to break. Many have tried to will themselves to not like or think about the fetish. They push their desire deep down and try and tell it to go away. But just like a homosexual cannot go straight, (despite some religious zealots who claim otherwise) neither can a sexual fetish leave. It is simply too embedded into the subconscious.
I have worked with many fetishists. The desire is definitely stronger at some times than other times but it never completely dissipates. Many have told me they have spent years squelching their desire and then finally give in. It feels better to 'eat' than walk around feeling hungry or starved.
Do I Need Help?
You don't need help because you have a fetish. You may need assistance in handling the feelings you have about yourself in relation to the fetish. How do you handle these feelings of being different? What about the guilt and shame? How can you function in a sexual relationship regardless of whether your partner is involved in your fetish? Therapy provides a save haven to finally talk about your sexuality instead of keeping it bundled inside. It feels good to be heard.
I have worked with people with all kinds of sexual fetishes. Initially, there's a great deal of relief in talking to an accepting open-minded person in a non-judgmental environment. Once safety is established, we explore how the fetish impacts your relationship, self-esteem and general well being. We explore in depth your feelings of guilt, shame and anger at being sexually different. You also get in touch with the gratification and benefits you receive from your own individual form of sexual expression.
After we have a thorough understanding of the present, we back up and explore the past. Many but not all people with a fetish have experienced some kind of childhood abuse and trauma. The work then deepens and takes on the role of traditional psychodynamic therapy. The goal is never to get rid of the fetish but to normalize it, accept it and incorporate it into your life with a feeling of acceptance and happiness.
Fetish belongs to you and you alone. It is unique and reflective of your personal sexual being. A fetish forms early in life. We are generally unaware of the fetish until adolescence when it reappears as part of our developing sexuality. It is something that happens subconsciously and without premeditation.
Guilt in and of itself implies purposefulness. Since no one purposely chose his or her fetish are we then guilty of mindfully choosing this fetish as part of our sexual repertoire? Not at all. Shame is a feeling that we are doing something wrong. Is it really incorrect to engage in something that provides pleasure and fulfillment? Again, the answer is no.
Normalization is the key to helping you overcome shame and guilt about sexual fetish. Your thoughts and sexuality belong to you and you alone. It's time to let yourself embrace all aspects of your being.
© 2008 Jackie A. Castro, MA, LMFT