Fetishistic disorder is an intense sexual attraction to either inanimate objects or to body parts not traditionally viewed as sexual, coupled with clinically significant distress or impairment.
The term "fetishism" originates from the Portuguese word feitico, which means "obsessive fascination." Most individuals find particular nongenital bodily features attractive, indicating that some level of fetishism is a normal feature of human sexuality. However, fetishistic arousal may become a problem when it interferes with normal sexual or social functioning, or when sexual arousal is impossible without the fetish object.
According to the DSM-5, fetishistic disorder is characterized as a condition in which there is a persistent and repetitive use of or dependence on nonliving objects (such as undergarments or high-heeled shoes) or a highly specific focus on a body part (most often nongenital, such as feet) to reach sexual arousal. Only through use of this object, or focus on this body part, can the individual obtain sexual gratification. In earlier versions of the DSM, fetishistic disorder revolving around nongenital body parts was known as partialism; in the latest version, partialism was folded into fetishistic disorder.
Since fetishes occur in many normally developing individuals, a diagnosis of fetishistic disorder is only given if there is accompanying personal distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning as a result of the fetish. People who identify as fetishists but do not report associated clinical impairment would be considered to have a fetish but not fetishistic disorder.
Common fetish objects include undergarments, footwear, gloves, rubber articles, and leather clothing. Body parts associated with fetishistic disorder include feet, toes, and hair. It is common for the fetish to include both inanimate objects and body parts (e.g., socks and feet). For some, merely a picture of the fetish object may cause arousal, though many with a fetish prefer (or require) the actual object in order to achieve arousal. The fetishist usually holds, rubs, tastes, or smells the fetish object for sexual gratification or asks their partner to wear the object during sexual encounters.
Inanimate object fetishes can be categorized into two types: form fetishes and media fetishes. In a form fetish, the shape of the object is important, such as high-heeled shoes. In a media fetish, the material of the object, such as silk or leather, is important. Inanimate object fetishists often collect the object of their favor.
Fetishistic disorder is a much more common occurrence in males than in females—in fact, the DSM-5 indicates that it appears almost exclusively in males.
Fetishism falls under the general category of paraphilic disorders, which refers to intense sexual attraction to any objects or people outside of genital stimulation with consenting adult partners.