Fetish – the word itself conjures images of dark rooms and leather gear, doesn’t it?
Despite its undeniable influence in shaping pop culture, the mainstream media has never widely accepted fetish. In fact, fetish model Bettie Page’s pin-up shots actually prompted a Senate investigation into the distribution of pornography.
Fetish in the 20th Century: Bondage, Leather, and Pin-Ups
Photographed by the “Pin-Up King” Irving Klaw in 1952, Page’s photos made her a sex icon. Clad in leather and bound hands and feet, these images provocatively invoke the fetish genre. Bettie Page also was photographed in the act of being spanked by a woman in several of these shots.
In the days where you can sell feet pics to strangers on sites like Feetfinder, this might seem tame. However, this was radical by the standards of the very conservative 1950s. Artists like Klaw and Page helped bring the fetish subculture into the spotlight.
On Feet Finder, for instance, you can browse through thousands of profiles of women with beautiful feet – or make money on your own by selling feet pics!
With how fast these pin-ups were, no one could deny that fetish subcultures were a very real part of human sexuality. However, despite these factors, fetishes have always bordered the mainstream, existing in the shadows of these spaces.
However, it is also true that many artists over the year have incorporated the fetish genre in their works. Their influence has helped make concepts like bondage gear, leather gear, and BDSM more widely accepted by the general masses.
Role of Artists
For example, pop legend Madonna embraced the fetishistic subculture of bondage, leather gear, and BDSM themes in the latter stages of her career. Her book “Sex,” which leaned heavily into these influences, was one of the most controversial publications of the early 1990s.
Released in 1992, the book of photographs was inspired by influential figures in the fetish industry, including Robert Mapplethorpe. Madonna wrote the book from the perspective of the fictional character “Mistress Dita.”
Today, Sex is noted to be a bold work that compelled the public to acknowledge several underground fetish subcultures. Aside from Madonna, several other public figures have also aided in bringing fetish influences into the mainstream.
Fetish in Films, Books, and Music
For example, Quentin Tarantino’s fixation with feet, though the subject of ridicule initially, has helped make feet fetishes more “acceptable” in the media. Over the years, his films have exposed the public to the reality of feet-based attraction.
Burlesque performer Dita Von Tesse, who started as a fetish model and stripper, also significantly pushed the boundaries of sexuality in performance. Her shows also incorporate many fetishistic themes. Famous celebrities like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce have also significantly pushed the envelope to accept various fetishes.
Growth of the Bondage Industry
Aside from these figures, franchises like Fifty Shades of Grey have also helped bring fetish subcultures into the mainstream. The books from EL James and the subsequent films were released between the early and mid-2010s. A cultural phenomenon of sorts, these works revived public interest in bondage.
According to reports, the Fifty Shades books and films helped raise the sales of BDSM toys/gear by 20%. Though fictional, the themes of bondage and sadomasochism in these works enlightened many about the realities of fetishistic tendencies.
Types of Fetishes Found in the Industry
Generally, a person can be said to have a fetish if they have a sexual desire for inanimate objects or body parts that are not genitalia. A fetishist may be aroused and receive sexual gratification by looking at, touching, smelling, or tasting these objects. Fetishises are thus triggered by the
- Feel/sensation/material of the object/body part such as latex, satin, velvet, leather, and more
- Shape/Size/Length of the object/body part like feet, hair, and more.
- Smell/taste of the object/body part such as armpits, body odor, socks, navels, feet, and more
- Sight of particular body parts/qualities/non-sexual objects, including costumes, tattoos, and more
Common vs. Rare Fetishes
Out of these, body-part-related fetishes are the most common. Based on a study, ⅔ all fetishists are attracted to a body part, with 47% professing a fixation on feet. However, the fetish industry is diverse and not confined to just foot fetishism.
People have a variety of attractions; for example, Subject A may have a thing for obese people. Meanwhile, height could arouse Subject B, whether tall or short. Hair, muscles, tattoos, and piercings are also common fetishes.
Attraction to inanimate objects is the second most common type of fetishism. People with this inclination may be sexually interested in objects like
- Specific outfits
- Footwear items
In unusual cases, individuals may also be aroused by everyday items like spatulas, hearing aids, stethoscopes, and more. Statistics also show that at least 1 in 10 people are turned on by bodily fluids such as sweat, menstrual fluid, saliva, urine, mucus, and more. Some individuals also have scatological tendencies.
More common is the tendency to be turned on by activities like
- Fingernail biting
How Does the Fetish Industry Operate?
The fetish industry works to meet the demands of all such kinds of fetishes. More “socially accepted” fixations like feet and tattoo fetishes are dealt with in the open. In these cases, sellers and buyers may meet on public forums.
These individuals may meet on platforms like OnlyFans, Feetfinder, Twitter, and more to exchange goods. Video or image content is often negotiated on these marketplaces. However, for more radical (read: uncomfortable) fetishes, the individuals visit non-mainstream sites. Due to this public stigma, the fetish industry also has strong links to the adult entertainment industry.