Fetishes (and attraction, in general)

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by Thoreau, Oct 22, 2013.

  1. Thoreau Valued Senior Member

    Here's something that's crossed my mind....

    What causes a person to have a fetish? Can a fetish be distinguished as separate from a physical preference (race, height, build, etc)?

    For example, (and I'll try to keep it as PG as possible here), here are people who get sexually aroused by being urinated or defecated on. Why? Can this be considered a mental illness?

    What about if we simplify it a bit and as why a person is attracted to taller individuals rather than shorter?

    These are some broad questions, but I'm not really looking for any definitive immediate answers. I guess this should just act as a starting point for discussion.

    So... discuss!
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  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Programming specific complex behaviors (such as being attracted to a partner who will result in evolutionary success, courting them and then having sex with them) is a very hard thing for evolution to do. Look at what peacock sexual attraction has done to the size of a male peacock's tail - given him something that actually decreases his odds of survival just to increase his odds of copulating.

    In humans, things like attraction to general body shape, visible signs of health, secondary sexual characteristics, hirsuitsm etc are programmed; there are universal (across culture) trends that men are attracted to healthy women without a lot of body hair, with noticeable secondary sexual characteristics, with hips wider than waist etc. Cultures then modify those basic drives with learned behavior (i.e. women with small feet are sexy.) That entire process is easy to screw up, and it doesn't take much of a change in basic drives to become attracted to something completely other than what evolution intended. Rather than being attracted to someone with wider hips and narrower waists, they are attracted to feet. Rather than being attracted to someone with healthy looking skin they are attracted to someone wearing leather. Etc.

    Mental illnesses - it wasn't long ago that things like foot fetishes, homosexuality, and BDSM were considered mental illnesses. Nowadays they are only considered illnesses if they cause a serious and profound problem in some other part of the person's life.
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  5. wegs Matter & Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    I tend to view "fetishes" as sexual or sensual in nature, a sexual/sensual "fixation" if you will towards something non sexual. Such as someone may get turned on by his/her lover's feet, because the person has a "thing" or a "fetish" for feet. Physical attraction is broader in terms of what someone finds appealing in a potential partner, not necessarily relating to sex at all, as what attracts each of us varies in terms of another person's intellect, humor, build, integrity, etc...

    So, the two terms can overlap but there are distinct differences between them. (my opinion)

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  7. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Smells Like Sour Milk

    While we all recognize what you mean, I should note that "fetish" apparently has a specific meaning by which not all sexual fetishes we might colloquially identify are formally fetishes. Living at the center of the Dan Savage phenomenon puts such notions into our minds; he uses the less formal term "kinks", and in truth I'm not up to parsing the differences at the moment.

    But there are some differences between, say, urophilia and being attracted to a taller or shorter individual. Well, okay, to a point.

    Certain physical attraction is based in part on an internalized notion of health. Once upon a time, fleshy women with broad hips were considered healthy, for appearing well fed and having "child-bearing hips".

    Remember that the 5:8 ratio is inherent in nature; it also applies to the human body. When you learn to sketch that little grid for drawing the human body, it is supposed to be built on 5:8 ratios. Indeed, when someone deviates apparently enough from those proportions, they look odd; consider Cee Lo Green, for instance.

    An emerging theory is that our sense of smell has incredible implications for our notion of health and mating compatibility; some would assert the detection of bodily patterns in odors so acute that the smell of your farts has something to do with whether or not you are attractive. That is, the body can tell when certain "unhealthy" processes are present, though defining "unhealthy" in this case is a bit odd. No, really, you know the thing about why that one kid in your class always smelled like sour milk, or when you walk into someone else's house and none of the smells are familiar. Your body odors include signatures for bacteria and enzymes.

    What I'm getting at is that a certain number of factors for attraction are evolutionary, though I would not assert that creates any universal standard of attraction.

    Because there are also a certain number of factors that are neurotic. Could I tell you for certain that I have better relationships with people who are significantly larger or smaller than I am, but not as good with those approximately my size? In truth, it's an apparent coincidence, but if it turns out to have some logical reason, I would go so far as to suggest a result of aesthetics and human authority dynamics; that is, does the larger person become more dominant in my relationships, and is it just too hard to figure out the balance of power without aesthetic cues?

    Okay, that would be scary, but yes, the human brain is capable of creating such results in our minds with or without our willful help.

    Which brings us to object relations and other frightening precipices offering multiple routes into some scary or embarrassing parts of our minds.

    I won't even try to delineate different manners of performance with something like urophilia; those, too, are cues to the neurotic condition motivating the behavior.

    But as a starting point, there are diverse processes affecting sexual behaviors and outcomes; there is the basic and instinctive, but there is also the more complicated, neurotic consideration.

    Trying to list out those more complicated, neurotic considerations is one of those processes people tend to reserve until they feel exceptionally protected, like on a psychotherapist's couch.
  8. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    This provides an informative background on the issue of paraphilias and whether or not they should be considered mental illness:


    "The DSM-5 draft adds a terminology distinction between the two cases, stating that "paraphilias are not ipso facto psychiatric disorders", and defining paraphilic disorder as "a paraphilia that causes distress or impairment to the individual or harm to others".

    The DSM-5 Paraphilias Subworkgroup reached a "consensus that paraphilias are not ipso facto psychiatric disorders", and proposed "that the DSM-V make a distinction between paraphilias and paraphilic disorders. A paraphilia by itself would not automatically justify or require psychiatric intervention. A paraphilic disorder is a paraphilia that causes distress or impairment to the individual or harm to others. One would ascertain a paraphilia (according to the nature of the urges, fantasies, or behaviors) but diagnose a paraphilic disorder (on the basis of distress and impairment). In this conception, having a paraphilia would be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder." The 'Rationale' page of any paraphilia in the electronic DSM-5 draft continues: "This approach leaves intact the distinction between normative and non-normative sexual behavior, which could be important to researchers, but without automatically labeling non-normative sexual behavior as psychopathological. It also eliminates certain logical absurdities in the DSM-IV-TR. In that version, for example, a man cannot be classified as a transvestite—however much he cross-dresses and however sexually exciting that is to him—unless he is unhappy about this activity or impaired by it. This change in viewpoint would be reflected in the diagnostic criteria sets by the addition of the word "Disorder" to all the paraphilias. Thus, Sexual Sadism would become Sexual Sadism Disorder; Sexual Masochism would become Sexual Masochism Disorder, and so on."

    Bioethics professor Alice Dreger interpreted these changes as "a subtle way of saying sexual kinks are basically okay – so okay, the sub-work group doesn’t actually bother to define paraphilia. But a paraphilic disorder is defined: that’s when an atypical sexual interest causes distress or impairment to the individual or harm to others." Interviewed by Dreger, Ray Blanchard, the Chair of the Paraphilias Sub-Work Group, explained: "We tried to go as far as we could in depathologizing mild and harmless paraphilias, while recognizing that severe paraphilias that distress or impair people or cause them to do harm to others are validly regarded as disorders."

    Charles Allen Moser pointed out that this change is not really substantive as DSM-IV already acknowledged a difference between paraphilias and non-pathological but unusual sexual interests, a distinction that is virtually identical to what is being proposed for DSM-5, and it is a distinction that, in practice, has often been ignored.[39] Linguist A. C. Hinderliter argued that "Including some sexual interests—but not others—in the DSM creates a fundamental asymmetry and communicates a negative value judgment against the sexual interests included," and leaves the paraphilias in a situation similar to ego-dystonic homosexuality, which was removed from the DSM because it did not meet the DSM's definition of mental disorder.

    Historian and philosopher of science Patrick Singy claims that the DSM-5 is about to drastically loosen the criteria for paraphilias and to make them directly dependent on cultural values. The DSM-5 will then be closer to the DSM-I and DSM-II than to their successors, which all were at least trying to separate the concept of "mental disorder" from cultural norms, and which made "harm" or "distress" a necessary condition for having a mental disorder."
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2013
  9. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    It makes sense to call a behavior neurotic if it causes problems for the individual. In some cultures open homosexual behavior should be considered neurotic. In other cultures it should merely be considered not normal without an associated value judgment. In some ancient Greek cultures it was viewed (by some) as more normal than heterosexual behavior. Those cultures believed that men had two souls, while women had none.

    In spite of homosexual activist notions, it is probably not due to genetics, although it might be due to some epigenetic phenomena. Claiming it is genetic is analogous to claiming that infertility is genetic.

    It is possible that lesbianism is genetic since in prehistoric & later times, women had little choice relating to mating. An exclusively homosexual male in prehistoric times would not pass on his genetic heritage to subsequent generations. Inherited homosexuality should be no more prevalent than hemophilia, which seems contrary to modern statistics.

    I remember my father saying:
    I strongly suspect that lesbianism is a reaction to a male chauvinist and/or strong patriarchal culture.

    The homosexual claim that their behavior is inherent (Id est: Genetic in origin) is probably a result of homophobia and associated physical or emotional abuse. If the homophobe can be convinced that it is not a conscious choice, he is less likely to be physically or emotionally abusive.

    BTW: My father had some other interesting thoughts & advice relating to male/female interactions.
  10. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Or analogous to claiming that sickle cell anemia is genetic. After all, it's a disease that reduces reproductive fitness.

    Hmm. Is there any evidence that matriarchal societies had no lesbians? Seems unlikely.
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The most recent comment on this question that I've read from an actual scientist is that it could be the result of conditions in utero. Unfortunately this doesn't explain why twins don't necessarily have the same sexual orientation, but I suppose they could still encounter slightly different conditions as fetuses. One twin might have an abnormality in the endocrine, circulatory, or other system.

    Something to be borne in mind, however: As with any scale, there is gradation on the scale from uncompromising heterosexual to committed homosexual. At the vague boundary between the hetero- and homosexual groups there is a point at which 3-4% of the population are comfortable in either orientation. On the edges of this narrow spot there are people who prefer heterosexuality but occasionally (or often, or forever) go the other way for any number of reasons, and vice versa (and obviously in this case the most common reason is family and social pressure).

    The fact that people who originally identify themselves as gay are sometimes "reformed" and live the remainder of their lives as straight, is simply testimony to the fact that they could go either way and they found it easier to get along in a culture with a lot of hostility toward homosexuality if they just picked the other way and learned to make peace with it.

    Unfortunately the extremely rare "conversions" among this extremely tiny demographic are trumpeted by the homophobes as "proof" that homosexuality can be "cured." Try that on somebody all the way at the extreme end of the homosexual demographic and you'll get your ass kicked, just as hard as if you tried to "cure" me of heterosexuality.
  12. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    I would think like freud would of, that fetishes are something to do with your past, and all your life before. I would say fetishes are a product of your environment, as i mean something from your earlier life, when ever that was, and its not something in your genes.
  13. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Hasn't been my experience.

    Are we talking epigenetic inheritance, or reincarnation and karma and the like?
  14. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    I would think they are. Maybe your idea of environment influence and mine are different. I mean everything from time of conception, that is an influence on you, and that is alot.

    Look at generational sex abuse in families, how its past down.

    I seriously doubt fetishes are in your genes. Are you saying you think they are?
  15. billvon Valued Senior Member

    I think that, as with many proclivities, there is a genetic component and a developmental component. The basic drives are there from birth; they are modified and defined by one's later experiences.
  16. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Fair enough, we will agree to disagree.
  17. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    That would seem to indicate abnormality rather than simply normal variance.

    Speaking of Dan Savage, his It Gets Better Project would seem to indicate that LGBT can cause distress, as the project is about LGBT suicide prevention. As Magical Realist quotes below, this sort of distress is the defining characteristic of a disorder:

    In addition:

    Overall, homosexuality and the paraphilias appear to share the features of onset and course (both homosexuality and paraphilia being life-long), but they appear to differ on sex ratio, fraternal birth order, handedness, IQ and cognitive profile, and neuroanatomy. - http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-012-9900-3/fulltext.html

    This conclusion overstates in what ways they "differ", as the body of the study admits most these are tentative or inconclusive. I would posit that any differences are mostly due to one being more global (homosexuality) than the other (paraphilia).
  18. billvon Valued Senior Member

    There's not too much difference between the two terms. A normal variance in a small percentage of the population is, by definition, abnormal.

    Not quite. Anything outside the norm can cause distress. A meat eater living in a vegan society might be distressed that no one is like him, and people think what he eats is disgusting. That does not mean that being an omnivore is a "disorder."
  19. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Then your dispute is with the DSM.
  20. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    Billvon:I posted the following:
    To which you replied:
    Genetics can be very subtle.

    Sickle anemia is most common in regions where a lethal (or potentially lethal) form of malaria is prevalent.

    Active Sickle Cell anemia is recessive. One Sickle Cell gene confers immunity (or perhaps partial immunity) to malaria, but does not result in having Sickle Cell anemia.

    There are regions in which almost 100% of the adult population have one Sickle Cell gene, conferring immunity. Most who get two Sickle Cell genes die of the anemia; Most who get no Sickle Cell gene die of malaria.​

    As mentioned above, genetics can be subtle. Another example: I think that Tay Sachs which is common in Jews descended from certain regions in Europe similarly confers immunity to some lethal disease common in ghettos.
  21. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Why is it that anyone who merely does not believe homosexuals to be born that way is instantly "homophobic"? Sounds like propaganda, which homosexual activists would not feel the need to resort to if verifiable fact was indeed on their side.
  22. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    Those who consider homosexuality to be inherited overlook the complexity of the behavoir.

    Eye color, Sickle Cell anemia, & various other simple traits/conditions are controlled by simple genetics.

    Behavior is far more complex & cannot the result of such simple genetics.
  23. wellwisher Banned Banned

    The human personality is composed of personality firmware, which are pliable neural programs which define human nature. These are empty forms at birth and are genetically based. They progress through interaction with the external (sensory) and to some extend with the internal (imagination) environments.

    A good analogy for their development is a seed. A seeds starts out small and very general looking, but it nevertheless has all the genetic instructions needed to grow into a mature plant with fruits and seeds. The final plant is not only a function of genetics but it is also a function of external growth factors like sun, hours and intensity of light, water, temperature, soil conditions, pH, nutrients, virus, moss, etc, any and all of which can impact the final plant. It can come out like someone with a green or black thumb grew it, but will nevertheless retain the basic characteristics of that particular species (firmware type).

    Where fetishes come in can be inferred by their compulsive nature. These are due to external factors (choices) which modify the natural growth of the firmware. This creates a compulsive quality from the DNA based backup, to compensate. There is a natural extrapolation running parallel that attempts to repair. It is this potential/compulsion that gives people their jollies.

    As a loose analogy, it would be like being in the army and not doing your drills properly, such that the sergeant yells and nags at you. In this case, the fetish is connected to the nagging. The choice creates the push back. The fetishes tend to be connected to will power being used to induce unnatural conditions for the firmware and the resulting push back. Sometimes the push back comes first due changes in the firmware that the conscious mind is not aware of. It symbolically defines the nature of the problem.

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