The Phenomenology and Psychodynamics of Fetishism: A Review

Fetishism is a form of paraphilia that involves an intense, persistent sexual interest in a specific object or activity. This object or activity becomes a source of sexual arousal and gratification. Although fetishism is not a widely discussed topic, it is an important area of study that continues to attract attention in the field of psychology. This review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of fetishism, discussing its phenomenology, psychodynamics, and implications for clinical practice.

The Phenomenology of Fetishism

Fetishism is typically associated with objects (e.g., shoes, leather, latex) or activities (e.g., bondage, corporal punishment). It is important to note that not all fetishistic objects or activities are inherently sexual. Rather, fetishists assign sexual meaning to the objects or activities and experience intense sexual arousal in response to them. It is also important to note that fetishists typically have multiple fetishes and can experience a range of emotions in response to them (e.g., excitement, pleasure, anxiety, fear).

The Psychodynamics of Fetishism

The psychodynamics of fetishism are complex and remain largely unknown. Researchers have proposed a number of theories to explain the development of fetishism, including psychoanalytic, cognitive-behavioral, and evolutionary models.

For example, psychoanalytic theories suggest that fetishism is the result of unresolved childhood conflicts, particularly conflicts with the same-sex parent. Cognitive-behavioral theories suggest that fetishism is acquired as a result of classical conditioning or operant conditioning. Evolutionary models suggest that fetishism is an adaptation that has evolved in response to the environment.

Implications for Clinical Practice

Given the complexity of fetishism, it is important for mental health professionals to be aware of the potential implications of working with fetishists. In particular, clinicians should be aware of the potential for shame and stigma among fetishists and should strive to create a safe and nonjudgmental environment for them. It is also important for clinicians to be aware of the potential for fetishism to be covertly used as a coping mechanism and to explore the underlying motivations for engaging in fetishistic behavior.


Fetishism is a complex phenomenon with a range of implications for clinical practice. This review provides a comprehensive overview of fetishism, discussing its phenomenology, psychodynamics, and implications for clinical practice. Future research is needed to further explore the psychodynamics of fetishism and the implications for clinical practice.


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