Sexual Health

Objects of Desire: The Psychology of Sexual Fetishes

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Summary & Participants

You've probably heard of foot fetishes, leather fetishes or fetishes involving just about any object. But what exactly is a sexual fetish? Join our panel of experts to find out.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2009

Webcast Transcript

DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Welcome to our webcast. I'm David Folk Thomas. The topic today is fetishism. Now, you've probably heard people say, "Oh, this person has a foot fetish," or, "This guy likes that. It's kind of a fetish." What really is fetishism? It's kind of like if think the object of your desire should be a person, but maybe the object of your desire really is more an object than that person. We're going to get to the bottom of the whole fetish deal.

Joining me are two experts who are going to help us put it into perspective. On my left is Robert J. Filewich. He is a clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety disorders. He's also the Executive Director for the Center for Behavior Therapy in White Plains, New York. Sitting next to Robert is Dr. Ken Rosenberg. He's a psychiatrist affiliated with New York Presbyterian Hospital and Cornell University Medical Center in New York City. He's in private practice in New York, as well, specializing in substance abuse and sexual disorders. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.

Let's start with you, Robert. Right off the bat, give us the technical definition of a fetish.

ROBERT J. FILEWICH, PhD: A fetish is an object. Fetishism is really a disorder whereby a person is experiencing extreme difficulties in their lives because of the fact that they like these particular objects to provide for them a great deal of sexual arousal. The only way they can achieve this type of sexual satisfaction is with an inanimate object, a non-living object.

DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Ken, do you agree or disagree? Or add to that, if you like.

KEN ROSENBERG, MD: I absolutely agree.

DAVID FOLK THOMAS: Fifty points.

KEN ROSENBERG, MD: I think that what Dr. Filewich said is right on. The important point is that it interferes in your life, right? That it's not just something you like to do or you want to do, but something you have to do.

DAVID FOLK THOMAS: It's almost like there's a compulsion.

KEN ROSENBERG, MD: Absolutely. Like there's no other way to have an orgasm except with a shoe or with a bra or a stocking.

DAVID FOLK THOMAS: I mentioned in the introduction having a foot fetish. That seems to be the one everybody talks about. "This person has a foot fetish." Technically, is that a fetish, if the foot is part of a person -- it's not inanimate?

ROBERT J. FILEWICH, PhD: Technically, it's not really, truly a fetish. It's what we call a partialism, a part of the body that's an extremely important part to achieve sexual arousal. But you could actually extend it out somewhat when you talk about shoes.

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