Why are there so many fetishes

Johannes Endres: "Fetishism""A precious treasure in a world filled with senselessness"

When the word "fetish" comes up, the first thought might be: paint and leather, things from the dirty corner. Johannes Endres, German scholar and historian, says: All people tend to have a fetish without eroticism having to be involved. In the case of a fetish, the person exaggerates the importance of a thing. That could be a part of the body or an object.

And: "The fetish doesn't just exist. It must first be created as such."

Created in childhood, the fetish lives on in the subconscious - said Sigmund Freud. He inspires Endres. In his anthology "Fetischismus" he prints three texts by the psychoanalyst. In addition, other scientific theories from the 18th century to the present day.

Theories based on literature

What is striking: The psychoanalysts whom Endres quotes based their theories hardly on cases from practice, but from literature.

"If you look at Freud or Binet, for example, you notice that they rarely talk about actual people, that is, about their patients, and much more often about literary examples of the portrayal of fetishism. And I found that somewhat amazing. "

The psychoanalysts hardly had any patients of this profile. Because the fetishist usually lives well with his fetish.

"So he does not come to the analyst, he does not lie down on the couch, so he is satisfied with his fetishism in and of himself because his relationship with the fetishistic object is successful and because it also satisfies him - in whatever way."

Quick, impersonal satisfaction

The infatuation with a big nose is detached from the nose bearer. Man is not the object of desire, but one part of the body. In this way a memory is kept present - that of the first childhood love, for example, about a part of the body, a piece of clothing or another object that is associated with the past love and then found again in other people is eroticized. That creates quick, impersonal satisfaction. Unlike real love, the fetish can be lived out at any time.

The French psychologist Alfred Binet wrote: "One can set up the general rule that fetishists look for anything that increases the physical size or the psychological significance of the material object that they worship."

Jewelry or make-up, for example, increases the importance of the eyes, or the hands that adorn them, through a kind of psychological illusion.

A threat to reproduction

The compulsive obsession with an object is often described in literature as selfish, since for the fetishist only satisfaction counts.

"All theories of fetishism from the 18th century to the present are in agreement on this - fetishes are one thing above all else: dangerous," emphasizes Endres in his foreword. The fetish is particularly dangerous for human reproduction.

"He advocates not being monogamous. So at least that's what the fetishist is accused of. Because he's much more concerned with the fetish than with a specific person. And none of this fits into certain social and cultural ideas of a normal one Sexuality or even just a normal partnership between man and woman, which is replaced by a partnership with the fetish, so to speak, and that is scandalous. "

"Fetishism as a Crisis Phenomenon"

The Berlin cultural scientist Hartmut Böhme, for example, contradicts this. According to him, the fetish organizes and stabilizes our social relationships.

And Endres also writes: "The fetish is (...) a precious treasure trove of significance in the ocean of a world filled with fear, loss of value and senselessness."

The historian takes our daily companion as an example: "You use this cell phone to ensure the presence of this particular object, as it used to be, perhaps with the cigarette. This presence provides support, literally In these days and especially in this city in which I am currently, i.e. in Paris, is perceived as extremely unsafe and the mobile phone is a support that is familiar and promises orientation. "

Fetishism is therefore also a crisis phenomenon - especially in postmodernism, which is producing more and more objects that are suitable as fetishes.

"The fetishist then feels harassed by his fetish from time to time."

Text passages that make suspicious

This compulsive nature of the fetish was particularly emphasized by Freud. But how valuable is his theory if it is based primarily on figures from literature?

And: "The castration fright at the sight of the female genitals is probably not spared any male being. Why some become homosexual as a result of this impression, the others ward it off by creating a fetish and the vast majority overcome it, we do not know how to explain. "

These are passages in the tape that make you suspicious. Sigmund Freud explains homosexuality and also the fetish with a childlike fear of being castrated.

Sexism in Fetishism Research

"I think that has had its day," says Johannes Endres. He prints the extract without introducing it critically. To this end, Freud is followed by a text by literary scholars Julika Funk and Elfi Bettinger, who rightly point to sexism in research on fetishism.

"Women cannot be fetishists," the psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault was convinced. For Freud, on the other hand, all women were dress fetishists. Funk and Bettinger criticize these gender constructs, with which the predominantly male theorists disagree with female subjectivity.

"Correct Freud ... correct the sources at all, so I don't think much of that. But that also has to do with my working method, which is also reflected in this volume, which is a source volume, so first of all I want to document it what is there, as best it is possible, before one also deals critically with these opinions and with these texts. "

Endres works descriptively and thus follows the volume "Objects des Fetischismus" from 1972, which - at that time also published by Suhrkamp Verlag - brought up the original sources for the first time in addition to opinions. Endres' "Fetishism" depicts the history of the discussion about the fetish even more extensively. Many texts contradict each other. You have to think about its critical part yourself.

Johannes Endres (Ed.): "Fetishism. Basic texts from the 18th century to the present day". Suhrkamp Paperback, 2017, 478 pages, 22 euros