In this section, we first discuss four fairly common types of noncoercive paraphilias: fetishism, transvestic fetishism, sexual sadism, and sexual masochism. We will also describe four less common varieties of noncoercive paraphilias.


Fetishism (FET-ish-iz-um) refers to sexual behavior in which an individual becomes sexually aroused by focusing on an inanimate object or a part of the human body. As with many other atypical behaviors, it is often difficult to draw the line between normal activities that might have fetishistic overtones and activities that are genuinely paraphilic. Many people are erotically aroused by the sight of women’s lingerie and certain specific body parts, such as feet, legs, buttocks, thighs, and breasts. Many men and some women use articles of clothing and other paraphernalia as an accompaniment to masturbation or sexual activity with a partner. Only when a person becomes focused on these objects or body parts to the exclusion of everything else is the term fetishism truly applicable

(Lowenstein, 2002). In some instances, a person cannot experience sexual arousal and orgasm in the absence of the fetish object. In other situations where the attachment is not so strong, sexual response can occur in the absence of the object but often with diminished intensity. For some people fetish objects serve as substitutes for human contact and are dispensed with if a partner becomes available. Some common fetish objects include women’s lingerie, shoes (particularly those with high heels), boots (often affiliated with themes of domination), hair, stockings (especially black mesh hose), and a variety of leather, silk, and rubber goods (American Psychiatric Association, 2000; Seligman & Hardenburg, 2000). Leather is an especially popular fetish object: leather coats, pants, corsets, and boots (Davis, 2011).

How does fetishism develop? One way is through incorporating the object or body part, often through fantasy, in a masturbation sequence in which the reinforcement of orgasm strengthens the fetishistic association (Juninger, 1997). Another possible expla­nation for the origins of some cases of fetishism looks to childhood. Some children learn to associate sexual arousal with objects (such as panties or shoes) that belong to an emotionally significant person, such as their mothers or older sisters (Freund & Blanchard, 1993). The process by which this occurs is sometimes called symbolic trans­formation. In this process, the object of the fetish becomes endowed with the power or essence of its owner, so that the child (usually a male) responds to this object as he might react to the actual person (Gebhard et al., 1965). If such a behavior pattern becomes sufficiently ingrained, the person will engage in little or no sexual interaction with other people during the developmental years and even as an adult may continue to substitute fetish objects for sexual contact with other humans.

Only rarely does fetishism develop into an offense that might harm someone. Occa­sionally, an individual may commit burglary to supply a fetish object, and burglary is the most frequent serious offense associated with fetishism (Lowenstein, 2002). Uncom­monly, a person may do something bizarre, such as cut hair from an unwilling person. In extremely rare cases a man may murder and mutilate his victim, preserving certain body parts for fantasy masturbation activities.

Common fetish items include women’s lingerie and shoes. People involved in fetishism can become aroused by these common inanimate objects.

Atypical Sexual Behavior