Fetish: A Dirty Word?

I’ve been hearing the phrase “fetishization” a lot of late. Just look at Arianna Huffington’s recent (and intelligent) post on “What the Fetishization of Social Media is Costing Us All.” Sure, Huffington probably intends the other meaning of fetish — an object that is worshiped because of its magical powers — but it is just as likely in today’s culture that sexual fetishization is what springs to mind.

A sexual fetish can be defined as an arousal arising from a particular object or objects and can be as simple as an enjoyment of whips or as complex as eating sushi from a partner’s naked body. Sadly, we don’t live in a fetish-friendly society, so I want to put the record straight. Fetishes are often highly creative: from spandex to balloons to PVC corsets, the range of play is rich, often demanding an inventive mindset.

But those who believe that fetishes aren’t relevant to their social welfare should think again. When people fight their desires — rather than express them responsibly — the resulting suppression of anger or fear can erupt into other areas of life. Also, because fetishes are so widely misunderstood, persecution still exists. Just ask the New England Leather Alliance, which runs the Fetish Fair Fleamarket in Providence each year. The Alliance was apparently started in 1991 because three men who threw private leather/fetish parties in their home were charged with “prostitution,” even though the five-dollar cover charge only went toward the buffet.

Fortunately, Massachusetts is increasingly sex-positive, so shouldn’t our language encourage further growth? I’d love to hear “fetishization” used in a positive context. How about: “Your living room could do with some fetishization!” or “You look so gloriously fetishized tonight!”

Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

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