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Does the site of a pair of sexy stilettos give a “sensual” yet familiar tingle throughout your body from head to toe? Does the smell of latex give you what can only be described as an “uncontrollable” urge to be naughty? Does the stroke or thought of fur against your skin give you an immediate spark followed by a furious flame of seduction? Does the mere thought of “edge play” repeatedly ignite an unimaginable and electrifying sexual charge you know where? If dressing up, role play and/or any of the above equals a formula for getting you “wet,” welcome to the fascinating and stimulating world of sexual fetishism!

The term “fetishism,” coined in the late 1800s, originates from the Portuguese word feitico, meaning “false power.” The word fetish is defined as an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others. Essentially, fetishism may be classified as the attribution of inherent value or powers given to an object by an individual. The terms “erotic fetish” and “sexual fetish” were first introduced by Alfred Binet in 1887.

Sexual fetishism is characterized as intense sexually arousing fantasies, desires, urges, or behaviors in which an inanimate object (e.g., shoes, rubber, fur, body parts, environment) is used in a sexual manner or for stimulation or sexual pleasure. The object or stimulant of desire is called the fetish, the person who has a fetish for that object/stimulant is called a fetishist. In general, fetishists will incorporate the object of their sexual desire into their sex play by seeing, smelling, touching, rubbing, tasting or handling the object of arousal. In some cases, the fetishists may be unable to get erections, have an orgasm, or experience any sexual pleasure without the presence of the desired object or fetish.

The cause of fetishistic behavior as a pattern of sexual gratification cannot be explained easily. There are a variety of theories for what causes fetishes. Most of these theories point to a person’s childhood developmental experiences in which an object was associated with a particularly powerful form of sexual arousal or gratification. However, there’s no “evidence” that points to a single explanation and this cause alone. As with many variations of sexual expression, there is a thin line of distinction between fetishism and one’s sexual preferences. On one end there is the compulsive, fixated fetishist and at the other end is the person who uses a sexual aid or may be particularly aroused by certain body parts, but does not depend on those things to achieve sexual satisfaction.

Not long ago, fetishism was thought to be a psychiatric or medical disorder of sexual preference. However, in more recent years, many clinicians and practitioners agree that a fetish can be an element of enhancement to any relationship, causing a more satisfying and stronger sexual bond between the partners. If a fetish causes significant psychosocial distress for a person or has detrimental effects on important areas within their daily life, a diagnosis of paraphilia may be given if the clinical criteria is met. Still today there are arguments on whether the specific diagnosis of fetishism is relevant. Some clinicians and practitioners demand that the diagnosis be abolished completely to eliminate the stigmatism of fetishism.

Fetishism can be a natural variation of one’s healthy sexual expression as long as it doesn’t cause distress to the individual and/or the relationship or cause disruptions and impairment to the daily functional areas of one’s life. If an individual finds this to be the case, they may want to consult their personal physician and/or seek the advice of a sex therapist, or counselor.


Dr. TaMara loves nothing more than talking about sex! At the age of 13, she told her mother she wanted to be a Sex Therapist! Her passion is deeply rooted in spreading messages about healthy sexuality. Dr. TaMara is a sexologist, sex therapist, educator and motivational speaker with more than 20 years of experience speaking, writing and teaching about sexuality. She travels the country helping individuals embrace and honor their sexuality. Dr. TaMara has published numerous books and articles. She is the owner of L.I.F.E. by Dr. TaMara Griffin Live Inspired Feel Empowered LLC-LIFE. She is the publisher and editor-in-chief for Our Sexuality! Magazine. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or

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