“Fetishes can be benign and promote healthy sexual expression when the person respects their partners and consistently prioritizes consent. However, fetishes can also be harmful and discriminatory when they are used to divorce a person from their body and treat them like an object”

Ricki Kalayci

We all have aspects we are attracted to in different individuals, having different preferences and seeking unique and nourishing things is part of what makes us thick. Research has shown that in a partner we usually seek a good balance of sameness and novelty. If one had to think further upon this concept it is also what keeps a long-term relationship going, a mixture of safe and exciting.

I thought of these points when I came across the quote above, as well as the importance to define when one’s preference can be potentially objectifying to the other… It is ok to be naturally attracted to certain aspects within individuals however if those aspects belong to racial stereotyping it is an invitation to take a deeper look at what is happening.

Where does the fetish come from?

So, one could go on to say it is partly due to some misinformation, stereotypes and expectation held by society. Which is further exacerbated through media consumption and pornography use. Whereby people are often put into categories according to their race and according to the ‘attributes’ that that particular race has or is seen to have. There is a tendency in the porn industry to categorize people, of course this is done so that the product is sold but it is rare that people fit into one category. 

Low self-esteem could be an issue for those who do not fit neatly into certain categories. It is already a problem to start with and this idea that people belonging to a certain ethnic group should have certain attributes further creates a divide in ‘us and them’ kind of thought. It ends up becoming a vicious cycle of objectification and fetishization.

So, what is the solution?

One aspect of the solution is to reflect as to where these interests are stemming from. Are they based on stereotypes? What draws you to someone; do you like them solely because of their race or ethnic origin? The first steps are self-reflection and becoming educated and more aware of this subject.

At a later stage it is important to have those difficult conversations with one another to debunk stereotypes and misinformation and to encourage others to do the same. The antithesis to this goes to something very basic, to see the other as beyond – not without – race, ethnic origin, or skin colour. To see the other as human.

 Asare, J. G. (2022, October 12). What is fetishization and how does it contribute to racism? Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/janicegassam/2021/02/07/what-is-fetishization-and-how-does-it-contribute-to-racism/?sh=7ede39726e39 

Feliciano, D. (2021, April 19). I am not your fetish. The Intersectionalist Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.theintersectionalist.com/identity/pr5b76ypnwnqvp06nyaeeplrjd0f79 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Jessica Saliba Thorne is a Gestalt psychotherapist. She has experience within the mental health field and sees adults with mental health difficulties, relationship issues and trauma at Willingness.