Sunday, November 30, 2008
Fetishism as we would recognise it today appeared in Europe in the eighteen century and crystallised as a distinct sexual phenomenon in the second half of the nineteenth century. (Steele, 1996). Today's fetishism is associated with perversion involving a sexual association with an inanimate object (Wedeck, 1963). The term evokes images of "kinky" sex, involving abnormal attraction to items of clothing such as high heeled shoes and body parts, i.e. feet. In the past decade, fetishism has become increasingly applied to a wide variety of behaviour some with no overt sexual component (Nersessian, 1998), but this is out with the scope of this presentation and the author will restrict the topic to pedal paraphilia.
According to Brame, Brame & Jocobs (1996) the definition of foot fetishism is a pronounced sexual interest in the lower limb or anything that covers portions of them. The allure normally attributed to erogenous zones is literally translocated downward and the fetishist response to the foot is the same as a conventional person's arousal at seeing genitals. Freud (1905) considered foot binding as a form of fetishism.
Moderate to high level fetishism would be classified as a type of paraphilia. Paraphilia may be classified as a type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) through sexual behaviour. Paraphilia describes abnormal digressive behaviour where sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasising about and engaging in sexual behaviour that is atypical and extreme. To comply with this definition these behaviours should have been an established pattern for no less than six months duration. For some individuals, paraphilic fantasies or stimuli are obligatory for erotic arousal and are always included in sexual activity. In others, the paraphilic preferences occur only episodically, whereas at other times the person is able to function sexually without paraphilic fantasies or stimuli. A paraphilic is distinguished by a preoccupation with the object or behaviour to the point of being dependent on that object or behaviour for sexual gratification. Most behaviour in less extreme circumstances is often quite common and not considered abnormal.
American Psychiatric Association classify paraphilia into two pathological categories:
Criterion A "The essential features of a Paraphilia are recurrent intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviours generally involving 1) non-human objects, 2) the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner, or 3) children or other non-consenting persons, that occur over a period of at least 6 months
Criterion B "The behaviour, sexual urges, or fantasies cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other relevant areas of functioning."
Some authorities argue the initial driving force behind the need to seek "pleasure or gratification" is anxiety and distress. It's very possible that in infancy or childhood, at a primitive learning level, certain individuals discover pleasure and gratification as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, and that, indeed, OCD helps to establish a paraphilia. In the case of pedal paraphilia, the concentration is on the foot, stockings or shoe. Whilst self-incorporation of feet in foreplay or lovemaking is innocuous only when it becomes the point of psychological dependence, can paraphilia be diagnosed. Fetishism is a type of paraphilia.
Ellis (1936), a twentieth century, English essayist, physician and pioneer sexologist was of the opinion the foot (or shoe) was not a mere instrument, but a true symbol and focus of worship to the fetishist. In the true sense of a fetish, the foot (or shoe) became an idealised object which the fetishist was content to contemplate or reverently touch. Ellis & Arabanel (1961) acknowledged the most frequent form of erotic symbolism was that which idealised the foot and shoe. People can also have a sock or hose fetishism. Many are males but there are some noted case studies of females with hose fixation. The habit is often associated with an auto-erotic asphyxia fixation which is sexually driven. Like feet and shoes, hose fetishists require some specific attraction in the object which may include special colours, shape or smell. People with sock fixation will have no special attraction to feet or shoes.
American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed) American Psychiatric Association 1994.
Brame GG, & Brame WD, & Jocobs J, 1996 Different lovong : the world of sexual dominance and submission Arrow.
Ellis A, & Abarbanel A 1961 Encylopaedia of sexual behaviour Vol1 New York: Hawthorn Books
Ellis H, 1936 The psychology of sex (Vol I & II) New York: Random House Press: London.
Freud 1905/1962a Three essays on the theory of sexuality In Stachey J.(ed & translation) The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (vol 7) London: Hogarth Press (original work published 1905).
Nersessian F 1998 A cat as fetish: a contribution to the theory of fetishism Inter Journal Psychoanal 79:4 713-725.
Steele V 1996 Fetish: fashion, sex and power New York: Oxford University Press.
Wedeck H E (ed) 1963 Pictorial History of Morals New York Philosophihical Library.