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Beyond One Syllable

Beyond One Syllable Volume 2 #4 “Fetishes”

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Current theory on how individuals come to possess fetishes is an interesting and complicated aspect of modern psychology. A lot of progress has been made in understanding how it all works in recent years, and some clear things can be said about the process.

Before we start though, I'll need to provide some background in current genetic expression theory, and the sexual development cycle for humans to provide a solid foundation for understanding the specifics of specific sexual deviances so we need to cover a few things before we get to fetishes in specific.

It has long been thought that our genetic makeup defines us very specifically. And in many ways this is true. But in recent years a new outlook has opened on the topic which is important when we want to look into psychological aspects of human development such as sexuality.

The new thinking is that our genetics are more like defined variables, rather then specific constants.

Example, genetically ones height is defined by a set of codes, but the codes don't say "John will be 6'2" tall" They instead say "John can have a maximum height of 6'2"" then once conceived, John's final height will be defined by environmental conditions. He might make it to that maximum, he may not. Other genetic aspects have a similar shift-potential. So there is a 'rough' plan set down, but the fine work will be decided upon 'on the fly' based on the world that they find themselves in. This is a good adaptation. It makes us much more flexible to an environment that can vary greatly.

This issue is important when we look at psychological development, because it's also theorized that some very broad characteristics of our personalities are also defined by genetic ranges; sexual orientation, and placement on the Dominant/submissive spectrum to name two. What does this mean? It means that our hypothetical individual may be born with the potential to be a dominate or submissive personality type as part of their basic nature, some will be weighted one way or the other, but some will have the potential for both, and their path will be defined by environmental elements.

Because of this fact, our psychologies are very fluid things, that will form up on a very generalized base that guides development, but does not define it. And it opens the individual up to being defined by the environment, which is in fact a very strong survival trait, and evolutionarily sensible.

Which brings us to general sexual psychological development.

Our sexual psychologies are basically the set of rules we have adapted that decide what turns us on, what rules we see as significant in sexual process decisions, and the core drivers that motivate our sexual behavior. It's always been a big question on how we end up who we are, and how much is a result of our genetics, and how much is environmental, and why humans pick up such a huge variable range of behaviors for their sexual psychologies.

For the majority of the animal kingdom sex is hardwired into the animals brain. There is a mating urge to engage in sex, signals and processes that trigger it, and wham-bam it happens. It's primal and basic. Part of keeping the species going.

Humans have this, and it plays a roll in our sexuality. No question. But human's got something else in the evolutionary lottery that is unique. Our brains, capable of self awareness, and possessing the ability to look into the future with consideration that can be very long term. Those brains real make a mess out of the animal side of our behavior that is hard coded. Being self aware we ascribe 'reasons' to our behaviors, or try to justify behavior by inventing reasons, we don't always understand what we are thinking and feeling, and make up stuff to fill in the gaps. That wonderful brain that allows us to do so much, was a late addition to our biological makeup, and it shows. The systems don't quite synch up right. And the whole system has to have a way to program itself that works in the cultures the individual exists in.

So our process for building our sexualities is a wonderful mess of biological basic hardcode, and messy self-aware learning processes that mix to produce the final result.

How does this work?

Well the biological side of us has one goal. To make us want to make more of us. It has a whole process to 'teach' us how to do this.
The psychological side of things is designed to 'learn' things in specific ways, and is set up to get a lesson plan from our environment that will inform our sexuality, and its development.
And all this is enacted on top of the basic genetic ranges for our behaviors that we got on the dice rolls when mom and dads genes mixed.

So let's pick up with our hypothetical human, John again. And looks at what is supposed to happen with his sexual development, and how that process can jump the rails.

Goal #1 for the systems that are building John's sexuality is to teach him what arouses him. Because he has that big brain, he needs motivation to want to fuck someone, rather then just blindly hopping on anything that signals it's fertile and ready to be mounted. So his body and brain conspire to build a list of things that get him all worked up.

How? Pretty easily. Psychological sexual maturation processes tend to start around age six or seven, then build up stronger thru puberty, but are mostly finished by age 13 or so. This phase is a time when on matters sexual, the brain is searching for information and cues from the environment.

The body for it's part, starts a bit earlier. It starts to randomly produce the chemicals that make us horny starting as early as age 2. At random intervals the systems that make the stuff that makes us hot switch on and off as if they are running little tests to see if they are working. Very young children often learn that if I do 'x' to part 'y' it feels GREAT. This behavior is prompted by these random chemical blasts, and is part of the bodies system checks to make sure all is working, and at least before the mind is ready to start it's sexual development, thats all they are, tests. But come age 6 or 7 when the mind gets in gear and starts to want to build it's 'it turns me on' hit list, these hormonal blasts start to perform a different function.

Now it makes sense that the brain waits until age 6 or 7 to start building a sexual profile. Given the wide variance in cultural norms, and such, waiting to this point to build on the small handful of hard-coded traits (The curve of the female ass is considered pretty universally a male arousal cue across cultures and times) lets our young John 'learn' the rules of his exact culture. He'll be exposed to those rules and cues as part of his normal development, and hopefully learn them.

But what makes him learn them? Ideally those hormone surges. When one happens, it's hoped that John will also be exposed to a cultural arousal cue at the same time, and a connection will be forged between the chemically induced horny, and the element being seen (for example, a woman dancing sensually, or a culturally agreed upon physical trait of beauty (long neck, large breasts etc) Given how societies tend to imbed what arouses them into their cultural media (Song, dance in rustic cultures, advertising in modern ones) odds are good John's gaze should be on something that fits the development profile that is desired. It's hypothesized that some cues and situations might stimulate the hormonal surges also based on some deep hardcoded instinctual things, but current thinking is still unclear.

Ah but that is where the wheels pop off the wagon. Little John usually IS seeing a proper cue when his hormones shoot off. But sometimes he's not. Sometimes he's experiencing some utterly random thing when those chemicals ring his chimes. Connections still get made….

And *zap* a deviation is born.

That is the kernel of a fetish.

Wait, we need to address the term fetish. It's become a devalued word used in popular writing to describe any special sexual like. In psychological terms it has a very specific meaning; it is the sexual arousal a person receives from a physical object, or from a specific situation to the point it starts to exclude other stimuli from performing that function. Arousal from a particular body part is classified as partialism (One has a foot partialism, not a foot fetish).

A more proper tern for us to use is Paraphilia. The term describes the experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, or individuals. But not needfully to a level that disrupts other 'normal' sexual likes.

So fetishes are when a paraphilia becomes so encompassing that it inhibits normal sexual responses to the non-fetish stimuli, and is a tern designating a psychological impairment.

Okay. grammer lesson done. Onwards.

Our John, has received the kernel of a fetish. Perhaps he was seeing his mom clean the floor with rubber gloves on. Perhaps he was being made fun of by his peers on the playground. Perhaps he was watching TV and two characters were wrestling. Click. His mind decides that Rubber/Humiliation/Wrestling is HOT. And he has the seed of something in his sexuality now that turns him on. Just like how seeing those girls jumping rope and being all bouncy did last month. An incorrect cue has gotten into his psychology.

So John grows up, and goes through the development phase. He gets connected to a lot of cues. Many appropriate, some not at all, and a few possibly just silly. Some have stronger connections then others. Those stronger ones start to step forward when John crosses the next step in his sexual development; his body gifts him with an orgasm, probably while he was asleep. Hammering the message home that there is something that his body can do that feels GREAT. Now he sets off on the quest for more, using mindful self arousal. Or to be more crude, he starts to jerk off.

Now John wants that great feeling of orgasm. That is a biological coded drive. Pleasure as a reward for action. So he seeks to do it. Eventually he learns that he can get himself hard by thinking about things. What sort of things? Well there is this huge pile of cues all stored up in his head that have connections to sexual arousal. So he thinks about those. And they work. He gets hard, he gets off. And he starts to reinforce those cues with positive feedback. Pleasure gets tied to them.

This makes John start to look at them closer. They are like little treasures. They are the keys to his arousal, and he starts to nurture them. Polish them, experiment with them. This is a phase where the individual takes over building his own sexual psychology. They start to make choices about what they like, what fits with other things they like, and EXACTLY how things need to be for it to work. It's in this phase that John decides on what his physical preferred 'type' is. He finds he likes girls shorter then him, blonds, who are of athletic builds, and so forth. He ALSO tunes the paraphilia cues. He likes feet, but ones with long toes, better if they have hose on them. He starts to go down very specific paths, and defines what gets him turned on. Thus his basic sexual psychology is built. And he's ready to go out and give it a spin with real partners.

As he does, he has successes and failures. He also encounters things he never has before. And this all continues to modify his sexuality. As an added bonus, general personality aspects like how he is inclined toward begin dominate or submissive firm up, and back-feed into his general sexuality and inform it. For example, he finds that he is submissive, so that foot paraphilia might start to include worshiping those types of feet he prefers, or being stepped on by them. Elements of the psychology start to reinforce and play off each other.

And that is how we get where we are.

This concept for sexual development covers why some forms of paraphilia are more common then others. Using our foot example, it follows that as a random element that might intersect a hormone jolt, feet are something that are very likely to possibly be about to get linked. A common arousal paraphilia for many women involves the 'shame' grouping of behaviors, being called a 'Bad girl' or being "seen as dirty and naughty" when being sexual. This stems from the prevalence that shame and humiliation is linked culturally to women's sexual desires and urges by religious and cultural aspects, and during early sexual exploration those feelings of guilt and shame get tossed into the arousal cue pile, and become drivers. Over all, paraphilia break down pretty reasonably across specific cultures based on how often cues are embedded in said cultures.

One of the main conclusions that can be drawn from this process is that paraphilia become very specific by adult maturity, having been sculpted carefully by their owners. How much problems will stem from the paraphilia will depend on how functional the individuals sexuality is in the 'normative' areas for their culture, and how aware the individual is over how their specific likes function, and drive them. The better informed the individual is, the better they will be able to merge the paraphilia into a greater functioning sexuality.

It's also key to point out that this process of paraphilia development is basically spontaneous and random. It's part of the biological process as a person matures, and it cannot be avoided, nor can the individual be somehow shielded from stimuli to prevent a paraphilia from arising. Even if kept totally isolated by caretakers, a child will undergo the development process, and some random environmental element WILL attach. It's not something that one tends to dodge. Think of a great card dealer up in the sky tossing cards with random things written on them at kids. "You get the smell of woodsmoke, you get being sat on, you get tickling, you get being tightly restrained, you get overpowered desires…". and so on.

Most adults have some form of paraphilia. For many it's nothing more then a strong preference for something (He always gets hard when taking a woman doggy style, she always gets worked up when she meets a guy with a specific vocal pattern… his voice just "gets to her") and so forth. The American preoccupation with breasts is a specific cultural paraphilia.

When looking at ones own sexuality, the first step to understanding it is working back thru what gets you hot.

Find an example that works, and then start to pick it apart. Discard the elements that don't matter, examine the ones that do. Make a list. Then start to look back at your development and try to see where each of the elements that are on your list were added to your like. Eventually you'll work back to the base paraphilia you started to build on. That core will be a high response item to you. Once you can see it, you can start to fit it into the sexuality that you want. It's only one part of a bigger whole.

Myriads
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    This was a great read. Really fascinating and well written.

    I just have a question. You mentioned how a person could have a kind of predisposition to being submissive or dominant, but a lot of people have a very natural and genuine dominant personality in "normal" life and quite the opposite when it comes to their sexuality. What accounts for this? Is it that one's environment tends to shape one's personality - someone wants to be the CEO of a company they will probably learn to have a assertive characteristics, for instance. Or is it genetic too?
    Good question Annie.

    And a complicated one worthy of its own article.

    But here is a short form answer. Dominance and submission are 'meta' level traits. They are applied across an entire personality, and inform behaviors on that level. A dominate person lives their life in dominate ways, etc.

    It's thought that the sexual development process is strong enough to carve out 'excepted' space in the psychology from that over arching factor. So cues that cross the meta level Dom/sub outlook can become paraphilia and drive sexual behavior. In short, the drive and processes for procreation over power the meta level personality trait.

    Another theory is that Dominance and submission, while core personality traits, function in an uneven way across different psychological states, in that they have points of strong and weak expression. A psychology might compensate for a Life of type 'A' drive with a submissive sexual profile.

    Lastly, another school of thought involves the fact that paraphilia psychology is often functionally independent from greater personality aspects. For example, a sadist might identify as a heterosexual, and only have interest in fucking the opposite gender, but when it comes to servicing their sadistic paraphilia they might be psychologically bi or homosexual, in that they derive pleasure from their paraphilia independent of the gender of the subject they act on. Hurting a male is the same as hurting a female, both arouse and it's about the act not the subject.

    So the paraphilia psychology can express a total different set of personality controlling aspects then the meta psychology.

    No one is quite sure what exactly is correct on this one yet.

    Myriads
    That makes sense. Really interesting. Thanks for writing this.
    Myraids, very interesting and well-done, but I feel that the explanation of a deviant arousal cue lacks a very important factor, one that is particularly strong in our kink but universal across all human sexuality: our socialization with others, particularly peers and those closest to us, such as caregivers; and media/cultural materials that give a view of various types of social interaction... Especially in early childhood, when language develops, and imaginative play, and cooperative play and learning, and (for most in our culture by at least age 5, but often as early as 2 or 3, routine enviornmental exposure to peers of both genders in an environment which Foster's social communication, learning and bonds between peer groups....school, kindergarten is mandatory by 5-6 in most states; many attend preschool younger; with more parents working full time than ever often daycare/nursery since infacy, even. While this can be included in "enviornmental", I felt that the idea of a biological arousal coupled with a random cue, often visual, missed the complexity of how social interaction may affect the development of fetishes. Maybe John had a biological arousal cue paired with an inappropriate enviornmental cue, he was being mocked by peers, and the pairing birthed a humiliation kink. Or maybe John had often been ignored by the particular peers in question, who were more well-liked socially among the class, or were the best runners or could throw a baseball furthest or were doted on by teachers for various reasons, John felt a bit of a mix of admiration and envy for these peers, suddenly they are all paying him attention...even if it's negative attention. Or maybe John thrives on negative attention. At home his parents never pay much mind to him unless he acts out. He begins acting out in school too to gain attention from peers or teachers, the winning of this attention, although often negative, has already been set into his developing personality as positive, since otherwise he only has known neglect and has adapted to socialize through poor behavior instead of good. Then the biological arousal... Or, maybe not. Maybe it happens later at home instead, where he is simply remembering how he became the focus of these peers' attention, and despite it being negative, has been conditioned already, socially, to feel pleased by their negative attention, to view it as a reward...and then the arousal biologically. Did this create an eventual deviant sexual interest in being humiliated, simply because it was what he was randomly experiencing or thinking of at the time?? Or, did John's feelings socially of admiration and wish to be noticed by these peers, or his history of familial neglect and subsequent learning that getting yelled at or name called is a social reward, plant the seed instead? Or was it both? This could be debated quite a lot. Perhaps even if John experienced the biological arousal while receiving a rare moment of praise, positive attention....the "negative behavior gets me a reward of attention" would already be so hardwired socially that the praise aligning with the moment of biological arousal would not change the course of his sexual development, rather it would be one off moment in a pileup of moments John has stored of feeling rewarded by negative attention, and would therefore not even register with him sexually or affect his eventual preference in the slightest. Or maybe it would, but the praise-giver had blond hair or wore stockings, that be happened to be noticing, and the blond hair or stockings, not the positive attention, paired with the biological arousal would become a factor in his future sexuality. Or it could get ever more complex based on a number of socially conditioned feelings: let's say John has a predisposition to bisexuality, and in adulthood will desire sexual interaction with both men and women.
    But.... the moment of biological arousal, is paired with being mocked, by exclusively male peers. . While his parents both neglect him at home, his father will be more quick to react and vicious in his response to John's acting out than his mother. Since women are often the nurturers in our culture, let's say one female teacher, or even a female peer, noticed how John's behavior seems to be a cry for normalcy in his social functioning, that he is capable of positive behavior but has been so deprived of positive attention that he enjoys negative attention now simply because he has learned it is easier to gain. The teacher or sympathetic female peer, becomes remarkably different in her level of patience and response to his negative behavior... Giving praise at the slightest sign of anything positive he does, overlooking purposeful negative behavior instead of reaction g in the way he is used to. Then he experiences a moment of biological arousal simultaneous to praise from her. As he grows older he finds more ease in receiving sympathetic and kind responses from females than males in general than hostility and put-downs. Or maybe culturally, he notices stories more frequently of the patient, kind and physically attractive female who overcomes the tortured past of a boy just like himself and discovers the "good guy" beneath the dysfunction. It is now possible that John could develop an interesting split in his eventual sexual interests as a bisexual, based on social interaction and gender. The biological arousal, plus mocking by male peers, plus more overall lifelong experiences of ease in gaining negative attention from males and feeling pleased and rewarded by it, may mean that when John feels sexual desire for another male, he wishes to be humiliated, called names, physically beat up or otherwise receive negative attention from his male partner. Nothing turns him on more than a guy who calls him awful mean names or hits him or belittles him.... But a male who is interested in him sexually, and behaves in a loving and kind manner, he finds that an utter turn off, and rejects these potential partners in favor of ones who will satisfy his humiliation kink. But
    ... When he sexually desires a woman ... It's because she reminds him of the kindness of that first nurturing teacher or female peer, or cute love interest of the dysfunctional movie character he identifies with who loves him in spite of it all, he has his first crushes on women reminiscent of this. With women, he *only* wants positive attention and unconditional love.... Maybe even to the point that the slightest criticism from a female lover could result in abnormally angry, hurt or resentful feelings, or total loss of sexual interest in her. The idea of being called names and hit by women, he finds utterly disgusting; men who wish to be humiliated by women, their desires are unfathomable to him. Yet with men, humiliation is all he craves. Social interaction and societal norms and random biological arousal comes together in such a complex way as to give him a humiliation kink that is only specific to his sexual interest in other men, with a sexual aversion to men who behave towards him with loving or affectionate or kind interaction. And yet... a deep aversion to humiliation from women he sexually desires, and sexual preference to women who fawn over him and give him nothing but praise and love.

    While males are somewhat more sexually driven by visual cues than women, sexuality is part of social interaction and bonding, and our socialization also greatly affects our future sexual deviancies or preferences.
    Updated 08-04-2019 at 01:15 AM by siamese dream