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Next time you think of a sexual kink, don’t beat yourself up and relax. A quick internet search will put all your doubts to rest.
Next time you think of a sexual kink, don’t beat yourself up and relax. A quick internet search will put all your doubts to rest.
From groups devoted to the worship of leather, to those who get turned on by raunchy undergarments, to people who can’t orgasm without the comfort of furry stuffed toys —sexual fetishes may appear weird, but they are as real as they can get.
According to medical terminology, sexual fetishism or erotic fetishism is a sexual obsession with a non-living object or a non-genital body part. “A person could be attracted to, and become sexually aroused, by inanimate objects or a body part that's not typically considered sexual, like feet for example.
Others may develop a liking for a particular lifestyle that allows them to indulge in erotic role-playing, bondage and sadomasochism (BDSM),” says Dr Neelesh Tiwari, MD neuropsychiatrist & sexologist at World Brain Center Hospital and Research Institute, New Delhi. “Common fetish objects include women’s undergarments, rubber articles, leather clothing or other apparel,” he adds. While sexual fetishism can be found in both the genders, it is more common in men.
Weird, no more
People with fetishes have often been unfairly labelled as weird or abnormal. But recent research into this aspect of human sexuality has shown that a large number of people do have these tendencies (even if they don’t admit to them); like sexual orientation, they may be biologically hard-wired to develop these tendencies and hence, have little to no control over them.
A research study published in the Journal of Sex Research that studied more than 1,000 Canadian adults, discovered that a whopping 44.5 per cent had the urge to indulge in some sort of fetishistic behaviour, while 26.3 per cent had gone ahead and practised it. The same study also found that while 30 per cent of men had become aroused by an inanimate object, it affected only 23 per cent of women.
“Sexual fetishism is not a disorder as long as people are happy and their behaviour is not impacting their partners’ lives. People with sexual fetishism are normal people just like you and me. However, if it gets out of control, where a person develops compulsions like stealing a neighbour’s underwear, or leads to a lack of concentration that hampers educational and professional life, then it needs to be addressed with counselling and medical intervention,” says Shivani Misri Sadhoo, Delhi-based relationship counsellor and psychologist.
Is it unhealthy?
Fetishes don’t always have to be about shame and secrecy. In fact, for some people, living with a partner with a sexual fetish can be exciting. For instance, if your partner has a foot fetish and you love getting your toes sucked, it’s a match made in heaven! Experts say, sexual fetishism can be considered a variation of normal sexual behaviour unless it involves use of force, minors, exhibitionism in public or self-harm. “Classified under paraphilia, a condition characterised by abnormal sexual desires, minor fetishistic behaviour that involves consent is not considered a disorder because distress, disability, and significant dysfunction are absent,” says Sadhoo.
“My husband gets turned on by seeing me roam around the house naked, while doing my regular household chores! Well, I don’t mind indulging his fantasy once in a while because I find it exciting too,” says Shahana Sen*, Kolkata-based homemaker, for whom the fetish serves to strengthen her bond with her husband.
However, if you are not open to experimentation or are uncomfortable with your partner’s sexual choices, it can pose a problem.
“A patient of mine was really into anime. It started getting weird for her ex-partner when she would speak in a high-pitched hentai girl voice while having sex. She would also be passive the entire time. Although, the guy was in love, he broke up with her when she took the fantasy too far by asking him to wear a traditional Japanese outfit to bed,” narrates Dr Tiwari.
Dealing with it
Sadhoo informs that sexual fetishism becomes a problem when people fail to establish a healthy relationship with their real partners. They might like to spend time alone with their desired object, even when they are in a relationship.
“My husband is obsessed with my footwear. While initially I dismissed it as a harmless quirk, it has now reached the stage where he doesn’t connect with me anymore, preferring to masturbate to my high heels. We have had to consult a specialist regarding this and he has been prescribed both psychotherapy and medication to control his fetish compulsions,” says Bandana Jain*, 35, marketing executive.
While the jury’s still out on whether a sexual fetish can be cured, there are ways to manage this behaviour if it is adversely affecting one’s relationship. “Counsellors may attempt to reduce dependence on the fetish and improve partner communication using techniques like sensate focusing. Partners may agree to incorporate the fetish into their activities in a controlled, time-bound manner, or set aside certain days to indulge in the fantasy. If the fetishist cannot sustain an arousal without the fetish object, the therapist might recommend orgasmic reconditioning or covert sensitisation to increase arousal to normal stimuli,” says Dr Tiwari.
Sadomasochism: It is as an act of giving or receiving pleasure from sexual acts involving the infliction or reception of pain or shame. This is a widely known sexual fetish that includes a pain giver (sadist) and a pain receiver (masochist) who find whipping, spanking, and biting sexually stimulating. But on an extreme level, this can also include violent acts of torture like hitting and cutting as part of sexual intercourse.
Hematolagnia: This is a fetish that involves sexual gratification through blood. This fetish is sometimes linked to vampirism, and the popularity of vampire books and movies have made this fetish fairly natural. Playing around with blood is risky and could cause some serious injuries.
Autoerotic Asphyxiation: A dangerous sexual fetish that includes cutting off the oxygen supply to the brain when climaxing. This is often done by acts such as suffocation with a plastic bag over the head, strangulation or compression of the chest. The sudden loss of oxygen during a climax can increase the feeling of heightened pleasure and dizziness. There is no doubt that this act is extremely dangerous and can get people killed.