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What to do when a sexual fascination crosses the line into sexual fetishism

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A client from Atlanta, GA, recently asked the following question: “What exactly is a fetish? I’m afraid I may have a fetish for women’s underwear.”

For anyone who has the same question, simply put, a fetish is an object or a situation that creates an obsessive sexual desire or arousal in an individual. Now, to be clear, finding something such as women’s underwear erotic is does not necessarily mean that a person is suffering from sexual fetishism. An object of arousal or a fantasy can be a perfectly normal part of a healthy sex life.

Such a fascination can be defined as fetishism when it crosses the line into obsession or dependence, or when it creates dysfunction in other areas such as your social life or your work. Additionally, a fetish becomes troublesome when you can no longer become aroused in the absence of that object; so if you are unable to become aroused without using or thinking about, for instance, women’s underwear, you may have a problem.

Finally, if the fetish causes you distress, causes feelings of anxiety, guilt, shame, depression, if it infringes on other people’s rights, or it is associated with illegal activities -- such as stealing women’s underwear – you definitely need to seek treatment. A sex therapist can help you sort out your feelings and detach you from your dependence on that one sexual object, so that you can explore and experience a diverse sexual life.

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