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September 20, 2002

A first-approximation map of fetishes
Posted by Teresa at 06:23 PM *

Katharine Gear has created a map of fetishes. In my opinion it’s missing three fairly significant elements (or themes, or areas, or whatever you want to call them), but it’s nevertheless a remarkable piece of work.

What do I think is missing? First, she locates the entire S/M constellation in the “pleasure through pain” area, leaving out its aspect of cession/assumption/exchange of control. Second, she doesn’t draw any connection between piercing, marking, tattooing, etc., and the other varieties of body modification and transformation. And third, while she’s found places on the map for vampires, furverts, ponygirls, adult babies, etc., there’s no overall siting of roleplaying and costume play as a major sub-theme in its own right.

Still, it’s a great first approximation of a subject I’ve never seen mapped before.

Comments on A first-approximation map of fetishes:
#1 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2002, 08:31 PM:

I'd agree with your first comment, but extend it to the point of saying the map omits most of the control-play region, which underlaps parts of S/M and other practices not even in the "pleasure through pain" zone.

Some of the notations about which groups predominately practice particular fetishes seemed contrary to my observations, and some of the links (cutting with blood, for example) may be true for some individuals, but are definitely not for people I've known.

Adding roleplaying and costume play seems like a brilliant idea to me, especially as one can then distinguish between people who like, for example, policeman in uniform as a costume or rapist as a role from those who require certain knowledge of authenticity to feel sexual stimulation.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2002, 10:22 PM:

I regard roleplaying and costume play as something that's inevitably going to happen. There's a minor subplot in Alan Moore's Watchmen that gets funnier every time I read it.

Meanwhile, I'm pondering where on that map you'd locate someone who -- without prior arrangement, warning, or consent -- read the entire final sequence of R. L. Fanthorpe's Flame Mass to his thoroughly immobilized sweetie.

#3 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 12:11 AM:

Somewhere underlapping "non-consenting partners," "embarassment," and "sacreligious sex," perhaps. One would need more specific details to be more certain of the exact placement.

#4 ::: Daryl McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 12:48 AM:

Another big area she missed was men (and women, I guess) who are into physically strong women (athletes, martial artists, bodybuilders). That has to be part of the secret explanation for the popularity of pop culture such as "Xena", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Dark Angel", "Alias", etc.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 01:52 AM:

Whooops, you're right. And there's a sub-group within that that has a thing for strong, powerful women who wear shoes with really high heels.

#6 ::: sander ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 05:27 AM:

I _think_ I've seen this map before (before this week, I mean), and it was a lot smaller then; so this might be not a first approximation anymore.

I've been thinking about those missing elements too. I think she's using a concept of fetish that focuses strongly on the specific objects to which desire is attached. It could be argued that roles can be pretty much an interpersonal construction, less fixed than e.g. a fetish for a substance like rubber. Does a "slave" fetishize his "mistress", or does he fetishize her "boots"? To me the difference there seems substantial.

Of course, in costume play the roles are a lot more thingified than in more improvised control-exchange situations, I agree that should have it's own colourfield in the map.

[On preview] I found the old version of the map here:, obviously; from there you'll find more about how she ordered the map, too.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 07:44 AM:

Excellent! I'll go have a look.

#8 ::: Daryl McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 10:49 AM:

I thought I posted, but it seems to have disappeared.

Teresa, she already has shoe fetishes. I assume these things are mix and match?

#9 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 02:23 PM:

Another thing completely missing from the map is the complex of ritual sex, sacred sex, sex magick, sexual spirituality, "tantric" sex, and so forth -- the closest you get is "sacreligious sex".

Gender- and orientation-related practices are missing, too. Fag hags and dutch boys will look for themselves on the chart in vain (unless I've missed something subtle).

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that "notably high ratio of female fetishists" is thought worthy of comment, when high ratios of male fetishists are unremarked? It looks to me like Gates is presuming that

#10 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 02:25 PM:

It looks to me like Gates is presuming that when it comes to sexual deviancy, maleness is the default.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 05:16 PM:

But Alan, ritual/sacred/magickal/tantric sex isn't a fetish; it's a religious practice, or possibly a technology. In any event it's a method, a way of accomplishing what you want; whereas fetishism is what you want, however you accomplish it.

Now, if you could only get off if everything were decked out in tantric trappings, that would be a fetish.

Gender orientation isn't there because gender orientation isn't a fetish. Gender orientation orientation may or may not be a fetish. Somebody ought to look into that.

I don't know why Gates flagged more areas that have a high ratio of female fetishists, while not flagging areas like crush freaks that are heavily male. She's female; maybe those were areas she knew more about. Maybe she had a female audience in mind when she compiled the map. Maybe it's something else. I sincerely doubt that someone who'd compile a map like that believes that deviancy primarily defaults to one gender.

Besides, when you're talking about expressions of deviancy, which is what that chart is doing, maleness is the default. It won't be the default forever, but right now it surely is.

It's only recently that women have been a position to express their sexuality at all, outside of a few constrained roles. Airing their kinks comes after.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 06:20 PM:

Darryl, here and in my e-mail I'm seeing two comments from you on that post. If you sent three, one has been lost.

More on shoes anon. My sysadmin has to do some tampering here.

#13 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 06:33 PM:

Why can't I find a nice woman with a system administration fetish? "Ooh, honey, whisper about pgrep in my ear again while you're backing me up! Oh, oh, your processes and procedures are so clear and efficient! I love it when you renice me!"

#14 ::: catie murphy ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 07:49 PM:

I don't know why Gates flagged more areas that have a high ratio of female fetishists . . . I sincerely doubt that someone who'd compile a map like that believes that deviancy primarily defaults to one gender.

Gates actually comments about this at -- the short version seems to be she feels that women are sufficiently under-regarded as fetishists that it's worthwhile to make note of fetishes that women paricipate heavily in.

#15 ::: dargie ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2002, 11:46 PM:

The map is substantially larger and more detailed than the last time I looked at it, so I suspect it's a work-in-progress. But you're correct, I think, in your observations. It does need some more work, and more thought.

#16 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2002, 03:44 AM:

I had a girlfriend once who was into role-playing. She'd say, "Oooooo, Officer, Daddy will be SO ANGRY if I get a ticket. I'll do AAAAAAAANYTHING if you'll let me go!" And I'd say, "Well, young lady, there's really no reason for your father to be angry. Here, I'll give you this brochure which details local driver's education resources - if you sign up for a few short classes, this moving violation will hardly have any impact on your father's insurance rates."

I think I was missing something.

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2002, 02:18 PM:

Mitch, you sound exactly like all the engineers I know.

Bob, I can't help you on the SysAdmin front, but I do know one underexploited area of techie enthusiasm. There's a certain small fraction of the geek girl population that's oddly passionate about Junkyard Wars. You may not get anywhere with them by telling them about pgrep, but an offer to teach them how to weld, then watching the "Mega Wars" episode on tape while phoning out for pizza, might do very well indeed.

#18 ::: James Macdonad ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2002, 07:18 PM:

Where, oh where, is Republican Campaign Literature on that map?

#19 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2002, 01:07 AM:

A nameless terror grips me, and yet I must ask: What exactly is it that you do, James, with Republican campaign literature?

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2002, 12:25 PM:

A hint, Teresa: It has to have pictures of elephants on it.

#21 ::: caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2003, 08:07 AM:

I have been searching the net to try to find out what the main fetishes women have, how they organise around those fetishes; i.e. through websites and personals contacts?
This is because I have a fetish myself for crossdressing and looking for a mate. If I could fulfill a fetish for a woman and she could fulfill mine then we could perhaps thrive in a relationship?
Where can I find information,

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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