What’s Wrong With Having A Fetish?
Summary: Nothing necessarily, lots potentially.
There’s a lot of debate over what constitutes a fetish.
- Does liking a particular type of lingerie count as a fetish?
- How about having an attraction to a certain part of the body, like the stomach?
- What about liking women in skirts more than leggings?
- What about being particularly aroused by a woman biting her lip, more so than most people would be?
- Why are some men more aroused by female buttocks than breasts (and the opposite too)?
- What if you like redheads more than brunettes – is that a fetish?
- What makes someone have a ‘type’ of person they’re attracted to, when someone else’s ‘type’ may be completely different?
Generally, a fetish is most often described as something which is unlikely to appear in the course of common sex. It’s something that’s considered ‘weird’. They are uncommon, and that’s the only thing that makes them count as ‘fetishes’, as opposed to ‘sexual preferences’. There can be plenty of debate about that definition, because there’s really no clear line.
The only reason why they’re fetishes is because they’re weird. But who decides what’s weird and what’s normal?
Society Determines Fetishes
Years ago, anal sex was a big taboo and certainly a fetish, but attitudes change, and it’s seen as more ‘normal’ now. Homosexuality, too, was once classified as a fetish, but changing attitudes altered society’s perception until it became ‘normal’.
30 years ago, women were praised for having size 0 bodies, and it was ‘normal’ to be attracted to that. They would ask ‘does my ass look fat in this?’ and hope that the answer is no. Now, in some parts of the world the opposite is true. Women hope the answer is a resounding yes! They are praised for their curvy bodies, and it’s considered normal to be attracted to that, and less normal to be attracted to a size 0 girl.
In the 16th century, it was attractive to be fat and pale; it showed wealth and status, because only a few people could afford to not work in the sun all day, and only a few could afford to eat that much food. The societal perception of what it’s normal to be attracted to is flexible, and constantly changes. In future, who’s to say BDSM won’t be seen as normal? It’s already been normalised much more in the recent decade (50 shades of grey, for example).
Fetishes Don’t Exist
The truth is, ‘normal’ is a concept set by society. Therefore, the only thing that determines what’s a ‘fetish’ and what’s not is society’s standards. For that reason, fetishes are not a separate phenomenon in the brain. It’s not a distinct condition. Really, there’s no such thing – it’s just a part of our universal sexual mechanisms that simply crosses over into an uncommon or frowned upon area. Therefore, there is no way in which fetishes can be considered pathological (a problem).
Everyone has sexual desires that are unique to them, and this is a normal part of being human. Just like everyone has foods that they like or dislike, or music that they love more than most people, we all form different preferences in our brains due to the many different experiences that we go through. Some are weird (just as some people’s music taste is weird!). Yes, they have a cause, but that doesn’t mean they’re a problem.
However, They Can Become Problems
Fetishes are normal. However, sexual desires can become a problem in many ways:
- If they are exclusive: you cannot become aroused without them, and struggle to maintain an erection without thinking about your fetish.
- If they cause significant distress: if you hate it, you feel disgusted at yourself, you feel ashamed, you feel defective and unable to be happy.
- If they cause impairment in relationships: they prevent normal relationships and interfere with your dating life.
- If they cause impairment in other areas of life: Many people act differently in social situations when they’ve immersed themselves in their fetish; they become awkward, avoidant, and weird. In some cases they struggle to maintain eye contact. Sometimes they have low self-esteem as a result.
- If they cause risk of harm to yourself or others: Some fetishes involve a non-consenting victim, and this is obviously bad. In other fetishes, the victim is yourself, and some people end up seriously harmed, physically or mentally (as with humiliation fetishes), as a result.
These are the defining characteristics of a disorder. This is the point at which your fetish becomes a problem that needs addressing.
The World Health Organization’s ICD-10 and the American Psychological Association’s DSM-V – the highest authorities on the categorization of psychological phenomena – both agree with that statement. Fetishes become a problem if any of the above occurs.
Personally, I’ve seen the full extent of these issues first hand. Fetishes are undoubtedly a huge, huge problem in many people, and anyone disagreeing with this is totally uninformed. Some men genuinely want to cut off their penises to solve the problem. Others talk of having thoughts of suicide over how bad it makes them feel about themselves. Most others just feel constantly bad about it. It’s a horrible problem, and it does need real attention.
Can’t You Just Remove The Bad Side-Effects?
Some treatments are aimed at reducing shame and self-loathing, tackling impairment, and reducing risk of real-life harm. This is a valid treatment method. When their feelings of shame come from society, it’s useful to just focus on ignoring these societal messages.
However, for some people, their distress comes from within. Their fetish contradicts their deepest values, and that’s not something you can work on accepting. Pedophilia, for example, is not distressing because it’s frowned upon by society – if you’re a pedophile you’d feel awful for having a burning desire to rape children because it contradicts every moral fibre in your body. You know it’s wrong, and your penis still compels you to do it and find pleasure in doing it.
That’s why changing the problematic sexual desire itself is a more commonly accepted course of treatment. This is equally valid. (See: Can Fetishes Even Be Changed?)
What’s wrong with having a fetish? Nothing necessarily, but lots potentially.
Fetishes aren’t a separate phenomenon to normal sexual desire, they’re just sexual fantasies that aren’t widely accepted. It’s a made up term to describe a sexual desire that society doesn’t accept as normal – but it’s just a sexual desire like any other. There’s no reason why a fetish should be changed, if it happens between consenting adults who are happy. However, if it doesn’t make you happy, or doesn’t involve consent, or doesn’t involve adults, it does become classified as a disorder.
If a fetish causes significant distress, risk of harm to yourself or others, or negatively impairs your life in some way (such as impacting your relationships, social life, or your self-esteem), it is most definitely a problem, and requires attention.
Even if it doesn’t cause any problems, understanding your fetish is an opportunity to learn about yourself. By learning the cause and what it means about you, you’re able to venture into a new world of self-understanding and the potential for amazing self-development. Curiosity is a valid reason to investigate further – not just for your own fetishes but your partner’s too. You can understand them much better by truly understanding why they have their sexual desires.
Whatever the case may be, this article aims to inform you that fetishes aren’t a problem in themselves, but are if they cause bad things.