I, a fetishist

I’m a boot fetishist. There, I said it.

What now?

“Nothing. Life goes on.” Would be the reasonable response to this constant headache of mine.

After all, why should anyone care? It’s not like the World revolves around me. If ever has my judgement failed, it’s here. This secret I’ve had my entire life has grown to an absurd extent inside my head. Most likely nobody is affected by this revelation.

nobodycares

A discussion with my inner Dennis Nedry (pictured) helps me get my feet back on the ground.

Then why do I need to talk about this in the first place? Shortly, because I feel a general need to talk about matters that are important to me. Starting a casual conversation about one’s own sexuality is just a lot harder. Usually I consider myself open and talkative. Usually no topic is hard for me, yet talking about my private issues without anyone asking feels awkward in our conversation culture. Despite this, my sexuality has affected my upgrowth, interests and choices through out my life and still occupies my thoughts on a daily basis. If you really wish to know me, this is something you have to know about as well.

Writing a blog feels like a fitting way to express myself. Reading it is not mandatory, but everyone is welcome to do so. At times you may notice that this is not very easy for me. I come from a background of lifelong shame and insecurity even though I recognize that many people have it harder than me.

For the liberal reader this inner wrestling of coming out may seem silly. I don’t need anyone’s permission to be myself. Writing a blog to lighten my inner burden doesn’t require special justification.

My thoughts exactly. But on the other hand I’m afraid. I fear being labelled. I fear that my words and actions are misinterpreted based on prejudices. I fear that my close ones will not approve this issue or the fact that I decided to write about it publicly. I fear that someone will try to use my openness against me. Despite these I believe that writing is a good way to make my case and I’m ready to accept whatever consequences.

Now I’m done worrying. Let’s cut to the chase and begin with the basics.

What is a (sexual) fetish? A fetish is a individually experienced thing, object, action or gesture that causes sexual arousal[1]. There is no conclusively established psychological theory that would explain how fetishes originate, but many alternative and partially overlapping explanations have been suggested[2]. These explanations have to do with early childhood vulnerability and associations[3,4], sexual imprinting[5,6] as well as classical conditioning and abnormalities in the sexual learning process[6,7].

A person may link their fetish with meanings that don’t belong to it internally but rather thourgh personal experiences and cultural nuances. E.g. pragmatically a pair of women’s leather boots are simply an object to keep one’s feet and legs warm and protected. Yet all clothes carry various symbolic and aesthetic significances and they can always be interpreted to message something. These interpretations are subjective but they are often guided by historical significances, social customs, entertainment and fashion. I suspect I became sensitive to such interpretations very early on. The following is about my personal experiences and thoughts.

In an early age I became mesmerized by a poster image which gave me the idea that long boots were superior in femininity. Through repetitive (but cherry picked) similar associations this mental image grew stronger in time. Being charmed by gender highlighting is very typical I suppose, but for me the significance of boots in this highlighting became exceptional by chance. As I became aware of my own sexual nature, my boot related desires became stronger and more versatile. Slowly I learned to understand the cultural significance of clothing and started paying attention to it. My observations about existing attitudes and the significance history of boots added to my imagination and gave rise to even more fantasies. Today I associate boots with confidence, awareness of one’s own attraction, strength and power.

Still, I don’t want to make assumptions about fellow people by their choice of footwear. I know that very few people who pull on their boots on a fall day’s morning think anything like this about their selves or their boots (at least with such magnitude). My first reaction at the sight of a beautiful pair of boots occurs in emotions and is linked to a far more primitive brain function than this pondering. All the thoughts I wrote in the previous paragraph have crystallized through long and tedious self exploration. They are based on an effort to understand my memories in the light of (uncertain) psychological theories. The memories themselves are much less clear and more emotional.

In reality it happens very quickly. I get a stimulus, my focus sharpens to it and I get an immediate sense of excitement and pleasure as my curiosity is awakened. Usually it’s best to hide this reaction and let it pass to avoid awkward situations. I know my way around the social code, so I’m able to adapt my behavior to each situation. But as anyone who has ever had a crush on someone knows, not looking like a fool in the company of your crush requires extra filters and effort.

I adore both low and high heels. Gorgeous boots can be styled rough or elegant. The length can vary from mid calf to thigh high. They can be practical or impossible to walk with. With or without decorative details. As with all preciosity, quality is what matters.

Even though I consider boots almost mystical as objects, their true potential is only revealed in when worn by someone. The most important thing is that the person wearing them feels like home, carries their self with good posture and becomes one with their boots. Perhaps it’s funny, but to me this is when a person is at the peak of their beauty (superficially speaking).

Boots are not the only fetish I have and a more detailed description of the evolution of my desires would make several posts of its own. However, boots are my first and the strongest of my fetishes that has served as a gate for a large variety of other milder fetishes. Fetishism has lead me into pondering myself, other people and the surrounding world from very early on. It guides my thoughts and I can only ignore it for a moment at a time. On the other hand it has affected the development of my imagination, aesthetics, emotional intelligence, empathy, social skills, self awareness, tolerance, openness and liberality in the most positive ways. I have my fetishes to thank for many of my personal virtues.

But where lies the difference between liking something and having a fetish? In the mainstream e.g. tight jeans and lace underwear are considered sexy. The word fetish is only adopted when the object of charm is rare or the level of charm is exceptionally high. There’s no need to give an excuse for the desire to touch round buttocks in tights pants but the desire to lick someone’s wrist watch will raise some eyebrows. To my understanding both cases are based on the same phenomenon and the question is only about what we are used to consider normal.

The word “fetish” has often a negative tone to it. This is understandable as it was only in 2011 that the National Institute for Health and Welfare removed fetishism from the classification of diseases along with sadomasochism and transvestism in Finland[8]. (It should be mentioned that fetishism was defined quite narrowly as “object-specific sexual disorder”.) Today, fetishism (along with sadomasochism and transvestism) is still found in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD)[9]. Perhaps this is why fetishes are rarely mentioned when discussing widely accepted ideals of what is sexy.

A person who is charmed by a muscular body or female breasts will probably not identify as a fetishist but someone who prefers feet, hands, or say, raincoats is probably aware about how they deviate from the norm and may have adopted the concept of fetish to describe their desires. However, by definition fetishism has nothing to do with the rarity or conventionality of desires[1]. Even a small arousal from clothing, accessories, jewelry, hair, beard, status symbols, gestures, actions, behaviors, or other body parts than genitals is fetishism because in the end it’s about the same phenomenon: the connection between our desires and significances we give to different things. This way it can be argued that many people have fetishistic fantasies[2]. So, is it a fetish or do you just like something? If you get aroused by it repetitively, it’s justified to talk about a fetish.

I want to stress that this is not some pseudointelligent effort to normalize my own desires and to argue that I too fit in the mainstream. No. Instead I’m trying to reason that by using the word fetish correctly in our everyday language, we can create an atmosphere which recognises the diversity of different sexual desires and treats them equally. Close to the norm or not, everyone’s desires are individual and everyone has a right to fulfil them as long as they don’t break the rights of other people while doing so.

Sexual desires are often a taboo. Sometimes for a good reason, other times not. Bottom line, they’re not discussed enough. A persons sexuality penetrates their whole life. Therefore it is a great source of understanding oneself and society on a root level. Sexuality is also very vulnerable and may contain severe sore spots. It would be a huge favor for our own well being if we dared to ponder and discuss our sexualities with each other. After all, sexuality and desires can be discussed in a neutral and sober manner. Tones and details can be adjusted based on the situation and audience. This way we can plant more trust, understanding and tolerance into our personal relationships.

A forced silence may result in bottled up emotions, mental health issues and harmful behaviors. The better we understand ourselves, each other and nature, the more civilized our society is. And knowing is not enough. A change in culture is put forth when knowledge is applied. We must be able to discuss human matters openly and without prejudices. In the end of the day that’s what this blog is about. My intention is to make brave openings to increase general well being for the individual as well as for the society not forgetting the occasional humor and versatile ways of self expression.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” – Marie Curie

balance
Finding my balance

Do you have any fetishes? Comment below!
You may also leave

  • personal stories
  • good, bad and neutral feedback about the text
  • wishes about future topics
  • your own thoughts
  • any questions.

When writing a generally applicable text about a personally touching issue, it’s extremely easy to end up generalizing personal experiences too far. Let me know if I’ve slipped. Naturally, I want to become a better thinker and writer as well.

References:

  1. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/fetishism
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/fetishistic-disorder
  3. Freund, K., Seto, M. C., & Kuban, M. (1996). “Two types of fetishism”. Behaviour Research and Therapy34 (9): 687–694. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(96)00047-2.
  4. Raymond, M. J. (1956). “Case of fetishism treated by aversion therapy” (PDF). British Medical Journal2 (4997): 856. PMC 2035612Freely accessiblePMID 13364343.
  5.  Pfaus, J. G., Kippin, T. E., Coria-Avila, G. A., Gelez, H., Afonso, V. M., Ismail, N., & Parada, M. (2012). “Who, what, where, when (and maybe even why)? How the experience of sexual reward connects sexual desire, preference, and performance”. Archives of Sexual Behavior41 (1): 31–62. doi:10.1007/s10508-012-9935-5PMID 22402996.
  6.  Darcangelo, S. (2008). “Fetishism: Psychopathology and Theory”. In Laws, D. R.; O’Donohue, W. T. Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment, 2nd edition. The Guilford Press.
  7. Bancroft, John (2009). Human Sexuality and Its Problems. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 283–286.
  8. http://www.terveyskirjasto.fi/terveysportti/uutissorvi_uusi.uutissivu?p_uutis_id=14743&p_palsta_id=23
  9. http://apps.who.int/classifications/icd10/browse/2016/en#/F65.0

(References 3 to 7 tracked from the wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_fetishism and read when freely available)

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