Prevalence of Fetishes

Human sexuality is an interdisciplinary area where researchers from different fields such as medicine, biology, psychology, sociology and anthropology meet and, to some extent, compete to explain phenomena. Why aren’t we exposed to more cultural aspects of sex? Is sex the same in all cultures? Does our social setting influence it? And most importantly: What is normal sex? (If there is even such a thing)

For the first part of this research paper, it should be mentioned that after trying to find journals on this topic, not only were there very few, but, when seeking an explanation or a theoretical model for the subject I was surprised at how little information there is. Sex being such an important aspect of human behavior and having so little information led me to research more on why.  Limited sexual research is available due to the following: The private aspect of sexual behavior, Lack of a strong theoretical model, and lack of funding.

It is hard to gather data from large samples in the topic of rare sexual preferences and behaviors to date there is little theoretical understanding of why an object or body part unrelated to functional sexual activity attracts so much attention as in the fetishism culture.

It has been hypothesized that the selection of a fetish involves conditioning or learned behavior and requires a strong stimulus for it to register. Freud attributed a major role to early events, viewing fetishism as the adult consequence of the castration complex developed during childhood, whereby the fetish functions as a penis substitute.

One of the only theories that explain the correlation between sexual behaviors amongst cultures is the Social constructionist theory. This theory focuses on the power of culture, language, and knowledge. According to this theory we all interpret “reality” differently depending on our social position and cultural background.

In other words Ideas about lifestyle, freedom and individualism can affect changes in cultural and political attitudes toward the sexual, not necessarily because of a coherent sexuality politics or rights-based movement.

The experiment we chose for this paper studies the prevalence of sexual fetishes. “In this study, the word fetish was used simply as a convenient keyword to retrieve data about sexual preferences through the search interface of Yahoo! Groups. The aim was to survey sexual preferences and not clinical cases of Fetishism.”


Data was gathered from public access areas of the English-Language section of Yahoo! Groups. By registering with the Yahoo! Service anyone is entitled to create a discussion group on any topic provided no copyright material is posted or sexual/otherwise sensitive content is posted only to age-restricted sections of the site. Through the interface search there was a list of 2938 groups whose names or descriptions contained the word fetish.

Starting from the 2938 groups initially retrieved, groups that used non-sexual context, discussed Fetishes or sex generically and could not be categorized, message records were not available or who had no members were discarded. This left 381 groups who met all the inclusion criteria. The activity on these groups totaled over 4000 messages per month and included over 150,000 members.

These results were separated into areas. Three areas were developed which were: Fetish with body, objects and behaviors. Of these categories subcategories were developed. Subcategories include: A part or feature of the body, An object usually experienced in association with the body, An object not usually associated with the body, An event involving only inanimate objects, A persons own behavior, A behavior of other persons and A behavior or situation requiring an interaction with others.

Each group was assigned to one or more categories based on its name, accompanying description and message subjects/ content and was independently classified by two researchers. When Disagreements occurred, they were resolved by discussion.

Frequency was divided into three indices: The number of groups assigned to the category, The total number of members of groups assigned to the category, The total number of messages, per month of activity (exchanged in groups per category). These measures were analyzed both parametrically using the Crombach’s-z and non-parametrically using the Kendall’s-w. Significance was set at P<0.05 and a computerized program was used for data analysis.

Preference category

Group members

Relative frequency (%)

Body part/feature+social behavior 14 147 26
Own behavior+other’s behavior 9831 18
Object associated with body+external event 6544 12
Body part/feature+object associated with body 5252 10
Body part/feature+object not associated with body 4383 8
Social behavior+other’s behavior 2774 5
Body part/feature+other’s behavior 2249 4
Own behavior+object associated with body 1938 4
Body part/feature+own behavior 1734 3
Object associated with body+object not associated with body 1685 3
Other’s behavior+object associated with body 1276 2
Other’s behavior+object not associated with body 1199 2
Other’s behavior+external event 631 1
Social behavior+object associated with body 284 <1
Social behavior+object not associated with body 30 <1
Other combinations 0 0

Preferred body part or feature

Sexological classification (*)

Group members

Relative frequency (%)

Feet, toes Podophilia 44 722 47
Body fluids (blood, urine, etc.) Golden/brown showers, watersport, urophilia, scatophilia, lactaphilia, menophilia, mucophilia 8376 9
Body size (obesity, tall, short, etc.) Chubby chasers, nanophilia 8241 9
Hair Trichophilia 6707 7
Muscles Cratophilia (strength), sthenophilia (muscle) 5515 5
Body modifications (tattoes, pierceing, etc.) Tattoing, piercing, ringing, stigmatophilia 4102 4
Genitals Medophilia 3336 4
Belly or navel Alvinophilia 2861 3
Ethnicity Allotriorastry, miscegenation, xenophilia 2681 3
Breasts Mammaphilia, mammagynophilia, mastofact 2602 3
Legs, buttocks Crurofact, Pygophilia 1830 2
Mouth, lips, teeth Odontophilia 1697 2
Body hair Hirsutophilia, gynephilus- and pubephilia (pubic hair fetish), depilation 864 <1
Nails ‘Bed of Nails’ 669 <1
Nose Nasophilia, hygrophilia 316 <1
Ears / 91 <1
Neck / 88 <1
Body odor Mysophilia, osmophilia 82 <1

Preferred object

Group members

Relative frequency (%)

Objects worn on legs and buttocks (stockings, skirts, etc.) 27 490 33
Feetwear 26 739 32
Underwear 10 046 12
Whole-body wear (costumes, coats, etc.) 7424 9
Objects worn on trunk (jacket, waistcoat, etc.) 7226 9
Objects worn on head and neck (hats, necklaces, etc.) 2357 3
Stethoscopes 933 1
Wristwatches, bracelets, etc. 716 <1
Diapers 483 <1
Hearing aids 150 <1
Catheters 28 <1
Pace-makers 2 <1


The results showed that About %70 percent of groups were assigned to only one category. The majority of sexual preferences appear to involve parts or features of the body and objects usually associated with the body. There were no cases of preferences for events that Involve only inanimate objects or a person’s own behavior. Body parts and objects associated with the body appear most frequent, but behaviors that were preferred when performed either by one or by others are also common.


The database of knowledge in Fetishism is scarce. Although simply observational in nature, these data allow some speculations within an area in high need of research and clarification. The Internet is increasingly used for scientific research in sexology,because it allows to gather large samples even for particular behaviors or sexual symptoms and also it encourages people to freely express themselves,which in the present context may overcome some biases associated with traditional questionnaires on sexual behaviors.

The most commonly recognized shortcomings of Internet studies are possible sampling biases and deliberately inaccurate reporting. Sampling biases in Internet studies are often attributed to the higher socio-economical and educational status of Internet users. These, however, are no longer an elite in many countries, and it is estimated that 60% of USA citizens are Internet users. A potential bias of the study is that data have been gathered searching for the word ‘fetish’. Preferences and behaviors that are not commonly labeled ‘fetishism’ may be under-represented.

We chose this topic because we would like to specialize in the psychology of human sexuality. After exploring research to acquaint ourselves with the topic we realized not a lot of sexological research is available.

Works Cited

Wilson GD. An ethological approach to sexual deviation. In: Wilson GD (ed). Variant Sexuality: Research and Theory. Croom Helm: London, 1987, pp. 84–115.

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). American Psychiatric Association: Arlington, VA, 2000.

Chalkley AJ, Powell GE. The clinical description of forty-eight cases of sexual fetishism. Br J Psychiatry 1983; 142: 292–295.

Relative prevalence of different fetishes International Journal of Impotence Research, Vol. aop, No. current., by C. Scorolli, S. Ghirlanda, M. Enquist, et al.

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