A fetish is a material object of worship to which magical or supernatural properties are granted and becomes revered as an idol.
These kinds of objects were used especially in ancient tribes and civilizations. Idolatry and the practice of the cult of fetishes is known as fetishism. This type of cult appears in different parts of the world.
They are associated, above all, with religious beliefs and practices, especially animistic, and are the object of the study of Anthropology as well as a cultural manifestation.
In animistic fetishism it appears in some primitive African and Caribbean religions. In them, the fetish is considered as a representative of a higher being and has its same characteristics and powers.
These fetishes are the object of adoration, gratitude and offerings since these, due to their supernatural character, are considered capable of granting thanks and punishments.
A fetish is also considered an object related to superstition and to which it is associated with good luck. For example, a rabbit’s foot or a horseshoe. In this case, it can be identified with the word ‘amulet’.
It is also used in Psychology, applied to the field of sexuality, to refer to an object or a part of the body not related to sex and that causes excitement.
It comes from the Latin facticius (artificial, invented) and would have evolved in the Portuguese feitiço to refer to the objects of worship that navigators encountered during their travels.
This word, in turn, would derive in French as fétiche.
In some ancient towns, parts of the body of defeated enemies such as hair or teeth were used as a fetish and amulet.
The term ‘sexual fetishism’ was created by Sigmund Freud. In Psychology it is a sexual manifestation considered a paraphilia that consists in having some part of the human body, a garment or any other object as a sexual stimulus that provokes desire and excitement.
This type of object is used, for example, in the sexual practice of sadomasochism.
Examples of sexual fetishes
Some examples of sexual fetish may be certain type of clothing such as lingerie, footwear in general (retifism), high-heeled shoes (altocalcifilia) or parts of the body such as feet (podophyllia).
Objects intended for physical stimulation (for example, vibrators) are not usually considered a sexual fetish.
Fetishism and psychoanalysis
The father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), in his book Three Essays for a Sex Theory, refers in various sections to fetishism as a perverse manifestation.
Some psychoanalysts consider fetishism as the perverse nucleus, or commonplace of all paraphilias.
The French psychoanalyst Guy Rosolato (1923-2012), in his book Essays on the Symbolic, considers that fetishism is in the first instance a manifestation of the problems that the subject has with the norm, which in other states can be manifested in sadomasochism, transvestism , voyeurism, among others.
The Italian psychoanalyst Piera Aulagnieur (1923-1990) considers fetishism as a border state of the subject, the last barrier before psychosis, in which there is a deep fixation by the object to stay within the limits of neurosis.
Other psychological theories
Other psychological theories about sexual fetishism relate it to theories of human behavior and the idea of ”conditioning” or learning.
Thus, some experience in childhood could cause the association between sexual pleasure and a certain object, a relationship that would remain in adulthood.
There are authors who do not consider the attraction to parts of the body as fetishism, but call this paraphilia “partialism.”
In fetishism, the fetish object can be used during masturbation or worn by the other member of the couple during sexual activity, for example, stockings, high-heeled boots, shoes, or a woman smoking (known as capnolagnia or capnogalia) in order to provoke the excitement of his sexual partner, since often the fetish is necessary for sexual arousal.