Recently, I was interviewed by Dr. Nazanin Moali for an upcoming episode of her podcast Sexology. We talked about fetishes, both from a clinical point of view and a practical point of view. Clinically, fetishistic disorder falls under paraphilia, things like exhibitionism, voyeurism, and other sexual practices that are often taken to extremes. Specifically, fetishistic disorder involves arousal by non-living objects or non-genital parts of the body. The important factor is that for a fetish to be disordered, there must be some significant impairment of functioning or negative impact on the person's life. I think that many people may have fetishes though fewer people have fetishistic disorder.
Talking about fetishes from a practical point of view, I drew a connection between the idea of a fetish in culture and a sexual fetish. Culturally, a fetish is an ordinary object that has been made extraordinary by a person or a community often for some ritual or religious purpose. The key here is that the magical, mystical, or religious quality--what makes it extraordinary--of the fetish object comes from the person or community and it is not imposed from outside the community.
As an example, I talked about the idea of a shoe fetish. Someone may be aroused by the idea of shoe worship--often as a ritual--and for them, shoes in general or certain types of shoes specifically may be a turn-on. They may like all high heels or only leather ones. They may like sneakers, though only sweaty ones. If this is an activity that they can engage in with the consent of the other people involved, it is not the only way they can become aroused or achieve orgasm, and it is not having a significant negative impact on their life, then it has the quality of a fetish though it is not a fetishistic disorder.
For more of my discussion with Dr. Moali, look for the June 6, 2017, episode of her Sexology podcast. I'll post more about our discussion when the podcast goes live.