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WHAT IS – Sexual fetishism?

fetish_gay foot fetish_01

Sexual fetishism or erotic fetishism is a sexual focus on a nonliving object or nongenital body part. The object of interest is called the fetish; the person who has a fetish for that object is a fetishist. A sexual fetish may be regarded as a non-pathological aid to sexual excitement, or as a mental disorder if it causes significant psychosocial distress for the person or has detrimental effects on important areas of their life. Sexual arousal from a particular body part can be further classified as partialism.

While medical definitions restrict the term sexual fetishism to objects or body parts, fetish can also refer to sexual interest in specific activities in common discourse.

Definitions

Male feet photoIn common parlance, the word fetish is used to refer to any sexually arousing stimuli, not all of which meet the medical criteria for fetishism. This broader usage of fetish covers parts or features of the body (including obesity and body modifications), objects, situations and activities (such as smoking or BDSM). Paraphilias such as urophilia, necrophilia and coprophilia have been described as fetishes.

Originally, most medical sources defined fetishism as a sexual interest in non-living objects, body parts or secretions. The publication of the DSM-III in 1980 changed that by excluding arousal from body parts in its diagnostic criteria for fetishism. In 1987, a revised edition of the DSM-III (DSM-III-R) introduced a new diagnosis for body part arousal, called partialism. The DSM-IV retained this distinction. Martin Kafka argued that partialism should be merged into fetishism because of overlap between the two conditions, and the DSM-5 subsequently did so in 2013. The ICD-10 definition is still limited to non-living objects.

History

The word fetish derives from the French fétiche, which comes from the Portuguese feitiço (“spell”), which in turn derives from the Latin facticius (“artificial”) and facere (“to make”). A fetish is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others. Essentially, fetishism is the attribution of inherent value or powers to an object. Fétichisme was first used in an erotic context by Alfred Binet in 1887.

Early perspectives on etiology

Alfred Binet suspected fetishism was the pathological result of associations. He argued that, in certain vulnerable individuals, an emotionally rousing experience with the fetish object in childhood could lead to fetishism. Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis also believed that fetishism arose from associative experiences, but disagreed on what type of predisposition was necessary.

The sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld followed another line of thought when he proposed his theory of partial attractiveness in 1920. According to his argument, sexual attractiveness never originates in a person as a whole but always is the product of the interaction of individual features. He stated that nearly everyone had special interests and thus suffered from a healthy kind of fetishism, while only detaching and overvaluing of a single feature resulted in pathological fetishism. Today, Hirschfeld’s theory is often mentioned in the context of gender role specific behavior: females present sexual stimuli by highlighting body parts, clothes or accessories; males react to them.

Sigmund Freud believed that sexual fetishism in men derived from the unconscious fear of the mother’s genitals, from men’s universal fear of castration, and from a man’s fantasy that his mother had had a penis but that it had been cut off. He did not discuss sexual fetishism in women.

In 1951, Donald Winnicott presented his theory of transitional objects and phenomena, according to which childish actions like thumb sucking and objects like cuddly toys are the source of manifold adult behavior, amongst many others fetishism. He speculated that the child’s transitional object became sexualized.

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Andy Warhol (foot fetish)

Andy Warhol ( August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American artist who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. The Andy Warhol Museum in his native city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives. It is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist.

Male_feetWarhol’s art used many types of media, including hand drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music. He was also a pioneer in computer-generated art using Amiga computers that were introduced in 1984, two years before his death. He founded Interview Magazine and was the author of numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. He managed and produced the Velvet Underground, a rock band which had a strong influence on the evolution of punk rock music. He is also notable as a gay man who lived openly as such before the gay liberation movement. His studio, The Factory, was a famous gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons.

Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books, and feature and documentary films. He coined the widely used expression “15 minutes of fame“. Many of his creations are very collectible and highly valuable. The highest price ever paid for a Warhol painting is US$105 million for a 1963 canvas titled “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)“. A 2009 article in The Economist described Warhol as the “bellwether of the art market”. Warhol’s works include some of the most expensive paintings ever sold.

Sexuality

Warhol was gay. When interviewed in 1980, he indicated that he was still a virgin—biographer Bob Colacello who was present at the interview felt it was probably true and that what little sex he had was probably “a mixture of voyeurism and masturbation—to use his [Andy’s] word abstract“. Warhol’s assertion of virginity would seem to be contradicted by an incident recounted by one biographer, his hospital treatment in 1960 for condylomata, a sexually transmitted disease. The fact that Warhol’s homosexuality influenced his work and shaped his relationship to the art world is a major subject of scholarship on the artist and is an issue that Warhol himself addressed in interviews, in conversation with his contemporaries, and in his publications (e.g., Popism: The Warhol 1960s). Throughout his career, Warhol produced erotic photography and drawings of male nudes. Many of his most famous works (portraits of Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, and Elizabeth Taylor, and films like Blow Job, My Hustler and Lonesome Cowboys) draw from gay underground culture and/or openly explore the complexity of sexuality and desire. As has been addressed by a range of scholars, many of his films premiered in gay porn theaters.

The first works that Warhol submitted to a fine art gallery, homoerotic drawings of male nudes, were rejected for being too openly gay. In Popism, furthermore, the artist recalls a conversation with the film maker Emile de Antonio about the difficulty Warhol had being accepted socially by the then more famous (but closeted) gay artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. De Antonio explained that Warhol was “too swish and that upsets them.” In response to this, Warhol writes, “There was nothing I could say to that. It was all too true. So I decided I just wasn’t going to care, because those were all the things that I didn’t want to change anyway, that I didn’t think I ‘should’ want to change … Other people could change their attitudes but not me”. In exploring Warhol’s biography, many turn to this period—the late 1950s and early 1960s—as a key moment in the development of his persona. Some have suggested that his frequent refusal to comment on his work, to speak about himself (confining himself in interviews to responses like “Um, no” and “Um, yes”, and often allowing others to speak for him)—and even the evolution of his pop style—can be traced to the years when Warhol was first dismissed by the inner circles of the New York art world.

1 Comment on WHAT IS – Sexual fetishism?

  1. Great post!
    And the boy in the pic is totally stunning!
    Finn xx

    Like

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