Often, definitions of fetishes link it to objects like, for example, in foot fetishes. My definition takes a much broader approach. I define a fetish mostly as happening in one’s head. It is about practices and thoughts that often (but not always) provoke sexual arousal. Fetishes, as I define them, go beyond the pure act of vaginal, oral, or anal sex, as well as beyond pure masturbation or cybersex. They provoke sexual arousal not or not only by physical contact but also – and this is crucial – by the idea in the fetishist’s head.
Take an example: If a man enjoys having receptive anal sex because he enjoys the feeling of something penetrating his anus, then I do not define this as a fetish. However, if this man somewhat feels that it is degrading for a man to be fucked in his ass, and this idea of degradation contributes to his arousal, then this is what I would define as a fetishization. The man thinks in one way or the other (either because he believes so, or because society tells him so) that he shouldn’t let somebody else fuck him. And this taboo is what makes it arousing for him. That’s what I call a fetish.
I differentiate between personal and social or cultural sexual fetishes. Social or cultural sexual fetishes are those that exist relatively often among a higher number of people within a given culture. In the western culture, one could name for example BDSM, watersports, sex with faecal matter (also called “scat”), specific role plays, sex in public areas, and yes, also Pet and Puppy Play.
Personal fetishes, however, are those that only exist among a tiny number of people or maybe only within one person within a given culture. For example, if somebody gets turned on by watching someone else eating an apple. Or by paying someone else’s dentist bills. I met people who are into that. But it’s so rare that I would classify those as personal fetishes.
The border between the two is blurry at best. As a rule of thumb, I would say: If you can make money with it, it’s a social or cultural fetish. In Berlin, for instance, there are parties for many fetishes that some people would think are personal fetishes but that actually exist so often, that there are sex parties for them:
For my fetish theory, I focus on cultural, sexual fetishes, i.e. those that exist quite regularly within a given culture. This is because I analyze fetishes with sociological theories of socialization.