People with fetishes have a sexual attraction to inanimate, non-living objects or non-genital body parts. Any body part can become a fetish, including feet, hair, and noses.

Most object fetishes tend to be clothing items, such as stockings, latex gloves, and raincoats.

Although fetishism was once thought to be rare, this has been challenged by recent research. A survey of 1,040 Canadians found 26% of participants had engaged in some form of fetish activity at least once.

As a fetish researcher, I’m often asked if fetishism can ever be healthy. The simple answer is yes. While fetishism was once perceived as a mental illness, this is no longer the case.

According to the current diagnostic and statistical manual used to classify mental health disorders (DSM-5), a fetish is only considered a disorder in the rare instances when the fetish causes “significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”. This means the majority of people with a fetish don’t have a mental illness.

Despite fetishism no longer being perceived as an illness, my research has found people often describe those with fetishes as “unhealthy”, “sick” or “crazy”. This false belief is problematic for those with fetishes, as it can result in stigma and discrimination.

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Busting the Myths around sexual fetishism by Giselle Rees

Sept. 11, 2019