A fetish (derived from the French fétiche; which comes from the Portuguese feitiço; and this in turn from Latin facticius, "artificial" and facere, "to make") is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular object that has power over others. Essentially, fetishism is the attribution of inherent value or powers to an object.

Sexual fetishism, or erotic fetishism, is the sexual arousal a person receives from a physical object. The object of interest is called the fetish, the person a fetishist who has a fetish for that object; ; "common male fetishes are feet, breasts, legs, hair, shoes, and underwear".  Initially, the concept of fetishism was used by the Portuguese to refer to the objects used in religious cults by the West African natives.  Arousal from a particular body part is not to be confused with fetishism because it is classified as partialism, which refers to a sexual interest with an exclusive focus of a specific part of the body.  Partialism is categorized as a paraphilia (A paraphilia involves sexual arousal and gratification towards sexual behavior).

Most of the material on fetishism is in reference to heterosexual men, with most of the objects fetishized being highly feminine items such as lingerie, hosiery, whip and high-heeled footwear. In contrast, for homosexual men most of the objects fetishized tend to be highly masculine.

  • In the 19th century Karl Max appropriated the term to describe commodity fetishism as an important component of capitalism nowadays, (commodity and capital) fetishism is a central concept of Marxism.
  • Later Sigmund Freud appropriated the concept to describe a form of paraphilia where the object of affection is an inanimate object or a specific part of a person.


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