Valentine's Day is literally just around the corner, and you can't walk past a shop without it being sold to you in some way, shape or form. This is because sex sells, at least from a marketing viewpoint, and the retailers do everything they can to ram it down your throat, as it were.
I noticed, when passing a high street retailer the other day, that the window display was somewhat risqué. It caught my attention, so I guess that it had achieved its purpose there, and my mind started to wander and wonder about the wide variety of different things that pique our interest, and I began to ponder on when a keen interest in something becomes a fetish?
What is the definition of a fetish? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is "A form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc."
Abnormal in whose mind? Not the person who has the sexual desire, that's for sure!
Now, I have a thing for shoes. Usually high heeled, but not always. Is that a fetish? I don't think it is, because I don't get sexual gratification from it, I just like shoes, but an experience I had with eBay a while ago told me that many people do get sexual gratification from shoes. And feet. And feet in shoes.
I was selling a few pairs of shoes, and received a couple of questions about the shoes, followed by a request for some photographs of them being worn. "No worries" I thought. "That will perhaps encourage the purchaser to make their decision..." and so I popped them on, took a couple of snaps and sent them over, to be helpful, I thought! Then came the confession, that this person had a foot fetish, and actually desired photographs of feet in stiletto heeled shoes, and probably had no intention of purchasing the shoes!
Part of me felt mildly irritated, but being the Therapist that I am, I explained that I absolutely understood, and asked him to kindly delete the photographs. He said he would, and then went on to tell me that his wife didn't understand him. Once more, being the Therapist that I am, I explained that I understood... and I basically ended up Counselling him, via the eBay messaging service, about his fetish. I thought it was really interesting that he was so open about why he wanted the photographs. He basically wanted to talk to someone.
This has happened to me a couple of times since, and whilst I don't mind people asking for photographs of my feet, they could simply look at Twitter, where I'm always posting pictures of them, rather than clogging up my eBay messages! In fact, the photograph I've used as my Twitter profile pic for years is a photograph of my feet, wearing a pair of my very favourite shoes. That is easy for me, because I don't find them sexual. I just like shoes!
So when does a fetish become a problem? As a Phychosexual Therapist, I see people in my clinic all the time for Sex Therapy, whether that is related to a problem they have in the bedroom, or something similar to the person from eBay - that their partner doesn't understand them and therefore it becomes a problem because they are becoming sexually frustrated or isolated. Often, their partner doesn't even know about the fetish, as it's something they've not felt able to divulge, very often for fear of being judged, or even dumped, in the case of new relationships. And it isn't always new relationships where people keep their sexual fetishes a secret. Sometimes, people have kept these secrets for years, and people find that hiding it from their partner is a cause of guilt and shame, even leading to anxiety, because they don't like telling fibs! They'd rather be accepted for who they are, because being authentic gives us a sense of freedom, and being accepted for that gives us a sense of security.
This is where, as a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist, it's really important that I find out what people want from me. I never say to clients "What's the problem?" because they might not have a problem! I say "Tell me how I can help you." This is because not everyone wants to be free from their fetish. Some people simply want to talk about it in a safe, non-judgemental environment, because they either expect or have previously experienced hostility, embarrassment or judgement. Quite often, people have never spoken to another person about their deepest, darkest desires, and that alone can be very therapeutic.
When two (or more, depending on your fetish) people consent, then sexual experimentation can be liberating, fulfilling and exhilarating, but when that isn't the case, it can lead to immense isolation, guilt and shame, which can lead to performance issues, such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, early ejaculation (the two are different) penetration anxiety or pain during intercourse. It can lead to the person becoming sexually withdrawn, possibly creating more problems within the relationship.
Once these things start, the spiral can become negative and spread to anxiety in other areas of life, which can in turn lead to depression.
So as a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist, my aim is to support your journey forwards. As such, I'm not always helping people to navigate their way through problems. I also spend time listening to people's inner most thoughts and desires, because what one person thinks is acceptable is often very different to what the next person thinks is acceptable, and so on. Very often, people simply want to be heard and their thoughts or beliefs to be acknowledged in a non-judgemental environment.
Of course, it is important that clients are fully aware that Sex Therapy is a talking therapy, and not a physical therapy, and also that they are aware that my areas of expertise as a Sex Therapist relate to consenting adults acting within the law.
So I did sell the shoes, not to the person who contacted me for the photographs, but to someone else, and I have sold many more pairs since, but now, each time I advertise, I know that not every question is going to be from a prospective purchaser!