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All you need is glove: A brief look at hand wear fetishism

“My 13-year-old son, a well-behaved, sweet boy, already has what I perceive as a strange fetish. He loves and is fascinated by latex gloves. When he was little, he would stop in front of the rubber glove display at the supermarket and just stare at the packages of dishwashing gloves. He wanted me to buy them for him, but he would never tell me why. Now that he’s older, he goes online to medical supply Web sites and ‘shops’ for rubber gloves. Recently, I found out he had been visiting glove fetish Web sites with pornographic glove pictures. I installed content filtering software to block him from being exposed to such images. He was horribly embarrassed and guilty, and he promised to give up gloves forever. Apparently, it’s not so easy. He still asks me to buy latex gloves for him when we go to the drug store, and he keeps piles of them around his room. He worries that he might not be able to find a girlfriend or wife who will be interested in sharing his glove love. Should I try to stop him, or should I just chalk it up to a personality quirk and worry no longer?” (Letter sent by a mother to the Dear Prudence website).

In a previous blog I examined clothing fetishes (also known as garment fetishes). Clothing fetishes revolve around, or fixate upon either specific types of clothing (lingerie, fishnet stockings, etc.), specific fabrics (leather, rubber, fur, wool, etc.), or specific styles (restrictive, skin-tight, baggy, etc.). According to Dr. Martin Weinberg and colleagues in the Journal of Sex Research, common clothing fetishes include shoes, stockings, diapers, gloves, underwear, and bras. The clothes fetishist is fixated on the specific type of clothing and is an exclusive or recurrent stimulus for sexual arousal and gratification.

A number of academic articles and papers claim that glove fetishes are commonplace. However, in a study led by Dr C. Scorolli on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data, no data were reported relating to glove fetishism. Their analysis included a breakdown of sexual preferences for objects associated with the body including clothing. Excluding footwear – which is associated more specifically with podophilia (i.e., foot fetishism) – the results of the study showed that the most fetishized items of clothing were underwear (12%; 10,046 fetishists), whole body wear such as coats, uniforms (9%, 9434 fetishists), upper body wear such as jackets, waistcoats (9%, 9226 fetishists), and head and neckwear such as hats, ties (3%, 2357 fetishists). From this particular study, the authors concluded that the most common clothing fetishes are footwear, underwear (including swimwear), and uniforms – but nothing related to gloves (in fact there was nothing related to any kind of hand fetishism whatsoever.

My own anecdotal research into glove fetishes suggests that the fetish exists and that it has a higher profile and more online forums on the Internet than many other fetishes that I have examined in my blog. There are many dedicated websites that cater for glove fetishes such as the World Wide Glove Fetish Association, Glove Mansion, Fetish Glove, and the Leather Gloves Fetish Facebook page. There are also commercial sites that sell dedicated glove fetish videos (such as Clips 4 Sale), as well as online sites such as The Experience Project that feature individuals recounting their personal experiences of glove fetishism. I also noted the fetishist use of gloves in a previous blog I wrote on Nazi fetishism based on some research carried out by David Lopez and Ellis Godard on the subculture of erotic evil (and published in a 2013 issue of Popular Culture Review).

As noted by Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch in a 2008 review of ‘paraphilias not otherwise specified’ in the book Sexual deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment, clothing fetishes (including glove fetishism) are ‘classic’ fetishes in that the focus of sexual arousal derives from “nonliving objects (e.g., shoes, underwear, skirts, gloves)”. More specifically (and according to the Wikipedia entry):

“Glove fetishism is a sexual fetishism where an individual is sexually stimulated, often to the point of obsession, by another person or oneself wearing gloves on their hands. In some cases, the fetish is enhanced by the material of the glove (e. g., leather, cotton, latex, PVC, satin or nylon). Often, the actions of a gloved hand are as arousing as the glove itself, because the glove provides a second skin, or in other words a fetishistic surrogate for the wearer’s own skin. Medical gloves and rubber gloves provide not only a safer sex environment, but also give a latex glove fetishist great pleasure. Subtle movements by the gloved fingers or the hand as a whole can provide the individual with a great visual stimulus and ultimately sexual arousal. The act of putting gloves on, or slipping them off the hands, can also be a source of glove fetish fantasy. Smell is also a factor when it comes to latex, rubber, and leather gloves”.

As with clothing fetishes more generally, glove fetishists usually have very specific preferences in relation to the exact focus of sexual arousal. During my own research for this article, I reached the conclusion that most glove fetishists comprised those that liked latex gloves (‘medical glove fetishism’), rubber gloves and/or leather gloves. However, this is a gross simplification. For instance, medical gloves are made from thin latex and come in many different types. Gloves are heavily referenced within BDSM practices such as ‘vampire gloves’ that have sharp little spikes on the fingers and palms of the glove. According to BDSM devotees, the gloves can be dragged down the skin of another person to create a tingling sensation or pressed into the skin for a sharp pain. The Wikipedia entry on glove fetishism also notes:

“Personal preference ranges from color, smell, size, textured, smooth, powdered, or un-powdered. Fetishists are proud of their collection of medical gloves, as well as rubber gloves. Household rubber gloves tend to be more thick, longer, and are mostly used for cleaning purposes. Some glove fetishists prefer certain lengths, for example the long opera-style or short cuff length. Some also like them as a part of an outfit, such as a nurse, policewoman or French maid uniform. Some who are of a sexually submissive nature are stimulated by their dominant partner’s wearing and use of gloves. Dominant partners may likewise prefer that their submissives wear gloves. As with all fetishes however, there need not be a BDSM connection to an affinity for gloves”.

As you might expect there has been almost nothing academically published that has specifically looked at glove fetishism. A 2001 paper by Peter Stallybrass and Ann Jones entitled ‘Fetishizing the Glove in Renaissance Europe’ was published in Critical Inquiry but (unfortunately) did not include anything about the sexualization of gloves. Two case studies have also been published but both in foreign languages (French and Japanese). In 1969, Dr. J. Guillemin published a paper on glove fetishism in La Semaine des Hopitaux: Therapeutique (but I have been unable to get hold of a copy). In 2004, M. Noguchi and S. Kato reported the case of a 22-year old male glove fetishist in the Japanese journal Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi (and briefly recounted in Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices). According to Aggrawal’s description, the man became fixated on gloves after watching a television programme in which the heroine in the show conquered her enemies while wearing gloves. Following this, the watching of pornographic films allowed the man to attach strong sexual significance to gloves when he was in his late teens. The paper also noted that he had assaulted women as many as four times in order to steal their gloves. There has been little theorizing and little detail on or about the sexual appeal of gloves. The Wikipedia entry made some speculative comments:

“Apart from their appearance, some individuals prefer to use [gloves] on oneself or others as a form of sexual stimulation. The ones most commonly used for this are made of leather, latex (such as those doctors or nurses use for examination), while others prefer the household rubber glove. The appeal behind the household glove may be due to the colours they come in but also offering what the latex examination gloves cannot; household gloves are thicker, some more than others depending on what their use is. Many enjoy erotic spanking with gloves donned. It offers a different feeling and sound to the ‘spankee’, which can be a large part of the fetish”.

Despite the numerous glove fetish websites, there appears to be very little research in the area (probably because like many non-normative sexual behaviours, there are few problems that arise between consenting adults). I doubt whether glove fetishism on its own will ever generate much empirical study but as with many of the sexual fetishes I have written about, I am more than happy to be proved wrong.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Guillemin J. (1969). [The fetishism of gloves in the last Bourbons] [Article in French]. La Semaine des Hopitaux: Therapeutique, 45(52), 3411-3414.

Lopez, D. A., Godard, E. Nazi (2013). Uniform fetish and role-playing: A subculture of erotic evil.  Popular Culture Review, 24(1), 69-78.

Milner, J.S., & Dopke, C.A., & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and theory. In D. R. Laws & W. O’Donohue (Eds.), Sexual deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment (2nd ed., pp. 384-428). New York: Guilford.

Nation Master (2005). Glove fetishism. Located at: http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Glove-fetishism

Noguchi, M. & Kato, S. (2004). [A case of Williams syndrome who exhibited fetishism] [Article in Japanese]. 
Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi, 106(10), 1232-1241.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Stallybrass, P., & Jones, A. R. (2001). Fetishizing the glove in Renaissance Europe. Critical Inquiry, 28, 114-132.

Weinberg, M.S., Williams, C.J., & Calhan, C. (1995). “If the shoe fits…” Exploring male homosexual foot fetishism. Journal of Sex Research, 32, 17–27.

Wikipedia (2015). Glove fetishism. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glove_fetishism