Are Sexual Fetishes Psychologically Healthy?
So far, 549 separate paraphilias have been officially identified.
50 Shades of Grey has changed the calculus on how our society views fetishes and BDSM. Though once considered deviant and shameful, today most psychologists lend us an entirely different view. Sexual fetishes are far more common than we think. A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research, finds that one in three people in the US have taken part in one, at least once in their lives.
Sex researchers are just starting to delve into the fetish world to see what can be gleaned from it. Some studies have reaped interesting results. Though there may be fetishists who have experienced a past trauma, it’s not a reliable predictor. And there might be some benefits to engaging in a fetish or BDSM.
How do we define a fetish? It comes from feitico, a Portuguese word meaning "obsessive fascination.” The technical term in psychology is paraphilia, which is an atypical sexual interest in an object, act, body part, or sensation. So far, 549 separate paraphilias have been identified, and there may be many more.
According to a study out of the University of Bologna in Italy, the most common fetishes deal with non-sexual parts of the body. A foot fetish is the most common. Nearly half of all fetishes are foot fetishes. Usually, its men focused on women’s feet. The second most common is for accessories such as stockings, boots, or gloves.
Though some of us have a predilection for something, the fetishist cannot technically climax without his or her fetish present. For instance, a couple might enjoy incorporating bondage, food, or role play occasionally into their sex life, in order to “spice things up.” That doesn’t mean their fetishists. They just enjoy a little kink. Desiring to wear a diaper, to be spanked, to kiss a woman’s foot, be peed on, don a collar and leash, be tied down, or feel leather against one’s skin can all be considered fetishes. Even such things as voyeurism, cross dressing, or exhibitionism are parahilias.
There are some really strange ones, like getting caught in quicksand. There’s sploshing or WHAM which is covering your partner in whip cream, baby oil, body paint, or other substances. You might even fantasize about getting swallowed by a large, imaginary predator (vorarephilia), digested by it, and expelled, while parts of you remain and become part of that creature. Harvard research psychologist Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D. says, “Pretty much anything you can think of, someone out there probably has sexual associations attached to it.”
One-third of Americans have taken part in some sort of fetish or kink play, and elements of BDSM such as bondage are becoming more mainstream.
Once thought of as depraved or deviant, today, paraphilias are only thought to be negative, if engaging in it causes harm or distress to the person or another. Paraphilia was removed from the DSM V, when the so-called bible of mental disorders was updated in 2012. Though the field of sexology is new, most therapists today believe that having a fetish is perfectly healthy, as long as it is expressed with a consenting, adult partner.
Study after study finds no correlation between a fetish and any sort of pathology. But suppressing one or trying to condition it out could cause psychological damage. Dr. Richard Krueger is an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. He told Healthline, “The literature is limited, but it would suggest that they’re (fetishists) healthy or healthier” than those who don’t have one.
Sex counselor Jessica O'Reilly, Ph.D. said that just as people have different tastes for food, they have diverse sexual fantasies. So a fetish may be “one element of our diversity in terms of sexual interest and arousal.” O’Reilly believes that usually, it’s something that’s imprinted in the mind when a person is first becoming aware of their own sexuality. Most people remember when they first acquired their fetish, though not always.
Say a boy loses his virginity to a woman wearing thigh-highs. From that day forward, he may associate the stockings with sexuality, and so become aroused when he sees them. Other fetishes may be imprinted in the same fashion. One study in the 1960s showed men naked photos of women, alongside pictures of boots. After a protracted period, participants began to associate boots with arousal.
With wider acceptance, kink, fetishism, and BDSM have become big business. The industry brings in $9 billion per year in the US, according to IBISWorld.
This suggests that developing a fetish is Pavlovian in nature. Further research supports the claim that paraphilias are non-sexual elements which though a certain experience, somehow get associated with sex. As a result, the more such impressions we encounter, the more fetishes we might acquire over time.
Paraphilias are often considered the realm of men. But women are the largest consumers of erotica. 50 Shades of Grey sold 10 million copies, and was read almost exclusively by women. This book includes bondage, dominance, submission, and sadomasochism (BDSM). These are not only separate fetishes, but have become an acronym for what some consider a lifestyle, while for others it’s a hobby or interest. BDSM on the surface appears to deviate from the norm. But the practice is actually more common than we think.
Consider how popular spanking is, which could be considered a part of BDSM. Somewhere between five and 10% of Americans have either spanked or been spanked by a partner, according to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. This involves no real damage. Yet, some of the same biochemicals released during sex, such as endorphins and serotonin, flood the system during instances of pain. So a little pain might even heighten the experience.
Rather than depraved, one study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggests that those couples who take part in BDSM might actually be emotionally healthier than those who only partake in “vanilla” sex." 902 BDSM practitioners and 434 controls participated. Researchers found that BDSM practicing couples had better communication, less neurosis, were more open with one another, better able to communicate their needs, and were more sensitive to the needs of their partner.
Though the sexual revolution had a lot to do with it, the internet has acted as a catalyst for increasing our comfort level surrounding BDSM and fetishism. Even those thought to have an “extreme” fetish can find legions of others with the same interest on websites and chatrooms, and through certain venues, even meet in person.
Moreover, some mainstream dating sites like OKCupid are now allowing users to communicate their fetish to would-be mates. Before the internet, those with interests outside the sexual norm felt isolated or even “sick.” Today, we realize how common atypical sexual interests are. And it’s likely that as more knowledge about paraphilias settles into the general population, harmless fetishes are bound to become more widely accepted.
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What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
The 'People Map of the United States' zooms in on America's obsession with celebrity
- Replace city names with those of their most famous residents
- And you get a peculiar map of America's obsession with celebrity
- If you seek fame, become an actor, musician or athlete rather than a politician, entrepreneur or scientist
Chicagoland is Obamaland
Image: The Pudding
Chicagoland's celebrity constellation: dominated by Barack, but with plenty of room for the Belushis, Brandos and Capones of this world.
Seen from among the satellites, this map of the United States is populated by a remarkably diverse bunch of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and other persons of repute (and disrepute).
The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast. Right down the middle, we find actors Chris Pratt and Jason Momoa, singer Elvis Presley and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The East Coast crew include wrestler John Cena, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, mass murderer Ted Bundy… and Dwayne Johnson, again.
The Rock pops up in both Hayward, CA and Southwest Ranches, FL, but he's not the only one to appear twice on the map. Wild West legend Wyatt Earp makes an appearance in both Deadwood, SD and Dodge City, KS.
How is that? This 'People's Map of the United States' replaces the names of cities with those of "their most Wikipedia'ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place."
‘Cincinnati, Birthplace of Charles Manson'
Image: The Pudding
Keys to the city, or lock 'em up and throw away the key? A city's most famous sons and daughters of a city aren't always the most favoured ones.
That definition allows people to appear in more than one locality. Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, has one of his houses in Southwest Ranches, and is famous enough to be the 'most Wikipedia'ed resident' for both localities.
Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, IL, but his reputation is closely associated with both Deadwood and Dodge City – although he's most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which took place in Tombstone, AZ. And yes, if you zoom in on that town in southern Arizona, there's Mr Earp again.
The data for this map was collected via the Wikipedia API (application programming interface) from the English-language Wikipedia for the period from July 2015 to May 2019.
The thousands of 'Notable People' sections in Wikipedia entries for cities and other places in the U.S. were scrubbed for the person with the most pageviews. No distinction was made between places of birth, residence or death. As the developers note, "people can 'be from' multiple places".
Pageviews are an impartial indicator of interest – it doesn't matter whether your claim to fame is horrific or honorific. As a result, this map provides a non-judgmental overview of America's obsession with celebrity.
Royals and (other) mortals
Image: The Pudding
There's also a UK version of the People Map – filled with last names like Neeson, Sheeran, Darwin and Churchill – and a few first names of monarchs.
Celebrity, it is often argued, is our age's version of the Greek pantheon, populated by dozens of major gods and thousands of minor ones, each an example of behaviours to emulate or avoid. This constellation of stars, famous and infamous, is more than a map of names. It's a window into America's soul.
But don't let that put you off. Zooming in on the map is entertaining enough: celebrities floating around in the ether are suddenly tied down to a pedestrian level, and to real geography. And it's fun to see the famous and the infamous rub shoulders, as it were.
Barack Obama owns Chicago, but the suburbs to the west of the city are dotted with a panoply of personalities, ranging from the criminal (Al Capone, Cicero) and the musical (John Prine, Maywood) to figures literary (Jonathan Franzen, Western Springs) and painterly (Ivan Albright, Warrenville), actorial (Harrison Ford, Park Ridge) and political (Eugene V. Debs, Elmhurst).
Freaks and angels
The People Map of the U.S. was inspired by the U.S.A. Song Map, substituting song titles for place names.
It would be interesting to compare 'the most Wikipedia'ed' sons and daughters of America's cities with the ones advertised at the city limits. When you're entering Aberdeen, WA, a sign invites you to 'come as you are', in homage to its most famous son, Kurt Cobain. It's a safe bet that Indian Hill, OH will make sure you know Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, was one of theirs. But it's highly unlikely that Cincinnati, a bit further south, will make any noise about Charles Manson, local boy done bad.
Inevitably, the map also reveals some bitterly ironic neighbours, such as Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, captured near Oroville, CA. He died in 1916 as "the last wild Indian in North America". The most 'pageviewed' resident of nearby Colusa, CA is Byron de la Beckwith, Jr., the white supremacist convicted for the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.
As a sampling of America's interests, this map teaches that those aiming for fame would do better to become actors, musicians or athletes rather than politicians, entrepreneurs or scientists. But also that celebrity is not limited to the big city lights of LA or New York. Even in deepest Dakota or flattest Kansas, the footlights of fame will find you. Whether that's good or bad? The pageviews don't judge...
Average waiting time for hitchhikers in Ireland: Less than 30 minutes. In southern Spain: More than 90 minutes.
- A popular means of transportation from the 1920s to the 1980s, hitchhiking has since fallen in disrepute.
- However, as this map shows, thumbing a ride still occupies a thriving niche – if at great geographic variance.
- In some countries and areas, you'll be off the street in no time. In other places, it's much harder to thumb your way from A to B.
Technology may soon grant us immortality, in a sense. Here's how.
- Through the Connectome Project we may soon be able to map the pathways of the entire human brain, including memories, and create computer programs that evoke the person the digitization is stemmed from.
- We age because errors build up in our cells — mitochondria to be exact.
- With CRISPR technology we may soon be able to edit out errors that build up as we age, and extend the human lifespan.
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