The association of certain parts of a woman's body, or dress, with sexual desire in men, and of corresponding articles and parts in man, with the same desire in women. This abnormality, necessarily psychological in character, so rare among women that it may properly be omitted entirely, as respects them, presents features of considerable clinical interest, from the fact that it may pass from a mere physiological preference for some particular portion of the female anatomy, or attire, to complete psychical impotence in the absence of the fetich.
That this interest not infrequently centers in portions of the female body not sexually related, as they would be were the breasts, legs or external genitals involved, is important, as leading up to the knowledge that in such cases normal direct intercourse is not essential to sexual gratification; some form of manipulation of the fetich, or thought-concentration upon it, taking the place of the material act.
Fetichism of inanimate objects is not only a perverse but always a pathological phenomenon; but the same may be said, indeed, of all processes which fall without the circle of natural sexual excitation, and within that of sexual perversion.
In the sexual ecstasy of a man over a woman's shoe, glove or handkerchief, instances of which are so common as to fairly identify it with the normal impulse, we find a very different condition from that of fetichism. The first is merely an ecstatic manifestation of pleasure in the mnemonic symbol of a beloved personality; that personality being reproduced in its entirely, whereas, in the other case, the memory is in nowise concerned, the fetich constituting the sum and substance of his idea.
In Zola's "Therese Raquin," for instance, where the lover goes into raptures over his lady's boot, the condition is quite different from that of the shoe fetichist; who, at sight of a shoe worn by any woman, is thrown into violent sexual excitement, with, in some cases, erection and ejaculation. It is quite physiological to love not only a woman, but everything which reminds us of her; but concentration of the entire sexual interest upon one object, or detail, of every woman's dress, and finding sexual gratification in it to the extent mentioned, is assuredly pathological.