Episode 56: Where Do Sexual Fetishes Come From?
October 15, 2021 by Justin Lehmiller
People can develop sexual fetishes for virtually anything. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that if you can think of it, somebody probably has a fetish for it. So why is that? How do fetishes develop in the first place? Are some people more likely to develop them than others? And what role does porn play in all of this?
For the answers to these questions, I spoke with Dr. Jim Pfaus, a researcher in behavioral neuroscience in the Department of Psychology and Life Sciences at Charles University in Prague and with the Czech National Institute of Mental Health. Jim has conducted some fascinating research on animals that sheds important light on how fetishes might develop in humans.
His studies show that rats can learn to associate sex with everything from articles of clothing to specific odors (including very aversive smells). Some of the topics we explore in this episode include:
- What does it mean to have a sexual fetish?
- How can learning theory help to explain the development of fetishes?
- How do people’s early sexual experiences affect their sexual turn-ons?
- Are some people more predisposed to developing fetishes than others?
- In what ways does pornography shape our sexual interests?
- How has porn (and what kind of porn people find to be arousing) changed over time?
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Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >