HOW WOULD YOU RELATE KRAFFT-EBBING’S ORIGINAL ANALYSIS OF SEXUAL FETISHISM, LATER DEVELOPED BY FREUD, TO CONTEMPORARY FASHION?
FdA- FASHION MARKETING AND PROMOTION
MISS HITALI SHAH
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‘Fetishizing is the norm for males, not for females’ (Stoller, cited in Steele, 1996). Is there little wonder then that Freud’s later development of Krafft-Ebbing’s definition of fetishism relates almost solely to the male sex? As a woman, I can safely say that the very idea of even sexually fantasizing about a sole male body part, let alone an article of male clothing, seems highly unimaginative, if not perverse. However, accuse me of being a Marxist defined ‘Commodity Fetishist’ on some level, and I will be lying if I don’t agree. As an avid shoe lover and collector, I do attach a somewhat silly importance to my shoe collection. I fetishize my shoes, meaning that I elevate them to a level above food, shelter and clothing, to put it mildly. Owning a pair of towering Blahnik’s (even a good ol’ high street brand will suffice on my budget!!) makes me feel invincible, like the sexiest, most desirable woman on earth. Nevertheless, this raises the question of where comes the difference between sexual and commodity fetishism? Today’s fashion industry only seems to boost the occurrence of putting commodities, especially branded ones, up on a pedestal. For me, commodity fetishism is only an offshoot of sexual fetishism. I can argue that a sexual fetishist, with a special love for corsets or lacy, racy underwear, will often be attracted to only those who wear these types of garments, and in the case of a female, often wear this herself. These items will be upgraded to a near reverential status in her eyes, and will make her feel like a goddess. Buying anything other than what she deems sexy will not only make her feel useless, but will give root to a deep sense of unsatisfaction, especially of a sexual kind. In that way, she is a commodity fetishist. So, where is the fine line between these two fetish modes? Is it justifiable to indulge in either? Does today’s contemporary fashion world heighten these so called perversions, and so seem to grant its much sought after permission, that the industry will accept you and that it is alright to do this? In terms of sexual fetishism, the most lasting definition was given by nineteenth century sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebbing, who defined fetishism as “The Association of Lust with the Idea of Certain Portions of the Female Person, or with Certain Articles of Female Attire” (Ebbing, cited in Steele, 1996). Steele later went on to describe levels of fetishism, with Level 1 being the lowest with a slight preference for certain objects or partners, and Level 4 being the highest, where specific stimuli take the actual place of a sex partner. Celebrated psychologist Sigmund Freud later developed Ebbing’s definition further, by extending the term ‘fetishism’ to include what he described as ‘castration anxiety’. Castration anxiety describes the terror felt by the male sex when they discover that the women in their life, starting with their mothers, do not have a penis. Freud argues that boys are born thinking that everyone has a penis, females included, but when they realise that females don’t have one, they assume it has been cut off, and therefore, theirs would be cut off too. This leads to a phenomenon know as ‘castration anxiety’. For Freud, this is the birth point of any kind of fetishism. He claims that most fetishized objects have a certain ‘phallic’ symbolism, and that’s why most fetishists are men, who fantasize over some article of women’s attire. Taking shoes as an example, the stiletto heel of a shoe embodies the ‘phallic’ symbol, which is not exactly emblematic of a penis, but a phallic symbol is a representation of power, specifically sexual power. Men...
1) Steele, V- Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power, 1996, Oxford University Press Inc, United States of America.
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