There are two definitions of “fetish.” The clinical term refers to a form of sexual desire in which gratification or arousal to a degree depends on some object, item of clothing, environment, role, sensation, or part of the body. Some examples of common fetishes can be feet or latex. It is important to note that fetishes enhance the sexual experience, but are not required for it. The street use of the term fetish is often blanketed with any alternative sexual expression and often is used interchangeably with the term Kink. In this manual, we use fetish as the catchall category for anything not covered in the other four divisions.
Clinically, we define “fetishism” as the sexualizing or sexual focus on a non-living object or a non-genital body part that adds to sexuality and connection. “Paraphilia,” however, is a fixation and need to have the object of desire in order to be sexual, thus sexual activity no longer is about connection and the fetish becomes the agent of impairment in their sex life. A “paraphilia” is a condition that is characterized by abnormal sexual desires; however, from a clinical standpoint, these activities must be impairing one’s health, relationships, or other aspects of one’s life in order to be considered pathology.