Causes of Fetishism
Sexual behaviours including preferences are in part governed by biological factors and fetishism seems to be a product of both history and nature. At present there is no satisfactory explanation why fetishism is more common among males then females. Like many sexual paraphilia or unusual erotic inclinations, the cause remains unknown albeit there are many theories:
- Psychoanalysists theorise that an individual with a paraphilia is repeating or reverting to a sexual habit that arose early in life. They believe these usually relate to early childhood experience, which involves a psychological or psychosexual catalyst. Certain individuals discover pleasure and gratification as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. The memory becomes a fixation until it converts into repetitive behaviour. Freud was the first to insist the extravagant sexual theories of little boys may be out grown or forgotten but they were never entirely given up. They were repressed but persist as unconscious fantasies that were ready to return whenever there was a serious threat imagined or actual, to the man's hard earned masculinity. Freud was interested why some objects were more commonly associated with fetish than others. He considered it had something to do with the last minute before the woman could be considered as phallic. Hence this might account for why items of clothing such as underwear would become the focus of the fetishist. Shoes according to Freud would evoke the moment when the young boy glanced up his mother's skirt. Feminist thinkers contest the Freudian approach as phallocentric and believe fetishism is classified as a perversion because it disrupts the phallocentric or penis-focused, sexual disorder.
- Behaviourists suggest paraphilia begins through a process of conditioning, e.g. non-sexual objects can be associated with intense sexual pleasure and if repeated often enough can result in the person preferring these circumstances to normal contact.
- Other theories include sexual phobia, impotence or some other sexual dysfunction, which enforces individuals to seek alternative gratification.
The literature cites many cases where complete orgasm or ejaculation is incomplete until foot loving takes place. There is however no evidence of any genetic or hereditary factors. Recent research would indicate a potential connection to specific organic lesions of the brain with conditions such as epilepsy being implicated. Many psychologists today believe that Freudian theories have little scientific validity and they place more credence in neurological factors. The higher incidence of males is more than likely due to generic, hormonal or evolutionary causes. One interesting interpretation is attraction to body features such as feet maybe part of reproductive biology. Those items of interest reflect conditions associated with fertile females and these may be simulated or exaggerated by fashion including tight packaging such as corsets and shoes. According to Brame, Brame & Jacobs (1996) most of the fetishists they interviewed, who listed foot fetishism as an interest, recalled an erotic encounter with feet in childhood i.e. crawling near an adults foot and feeling pleasantly stimulated, using parent's shoes as playthings, being tickled or nudged or trod on by a parent or other child. Most of those interviewed admitted to have had pre-existing desires or attractions. Fetishists reported being attracted to specific shoe styles some not available during their childhood which led the authors to consider the precise source of excitement may be amenable to change. The causes of fetishism are however likely to be complex or at least, multifactorial. Whatever the cause, paraphiliacs seldom seek treatment and in many cases the individual derives such immense pleasure that giving it up would be unthinkable. When the combination of drug therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (Kafka, 1996; Bender, 1998).