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Habit forming: A brief look at nun fetishism

“In terrible news for nun fetishists everywhere, the nun beauty contest has been cancelled. The Italian priest who had planned the online ‘pageant’ for nuns has suspended the project, saying he was misinterpreted and never had any intention of putting sisters on a beauty catwalk. Apparently, he’s been feeling some heat from the higher-ups.‘My superiors were not happy. The local bishop was not happy, but they did not understand me either,’ Father Antonio Rungi told Reuters by telephone from his convent in southern Italy on Tuesday. ‘It was not at all my intention to put nuns on the catwalk,’ said Rungi, a priest of the Passionists religious order, speaking from his convent in the town of Mondragone. Rungi’s idea appeared in newspapers around the world after he floated the idea of a contest for nuns on his blog, referred to by some as ‘Sister Italy 2008.’ ‘It was interpreted as more of a physical thing. Now, no-one is saying that nuns can’t be beautiful, but I was thinking about something more complete,’ he said” (Metro newspaper, 27/8/2013).

What Does a Squad of Gun-Toting Fetish Nuns Have to Do With Hitman: Absolution? [The] release of the official Hitman: Absolution E3 trailer…teases us with an image depicting eight ladies dressed in vinyl nun costumes wielding a wide variety of powerful firearms. Could Hitman: Absolution feature the world’s first nun-based online multiplayer? God I hope so…There could be any number of explanation as to why [the game’s developer] is rolling out nuns in high heels so late in the game” (

Hitman: Absolution‘s 2012 trailer depicting Agent 47 brutally dispatching a group of killers dressed as sexy nuns caused quite a stir. People called it exploitatitive. People called it misogynistic…It seems silly to me that Square Enix decided to play up the fetish nun angle…only to have Agent 47 viciously take them all out in [the] trailer” (

I came across these opening stories a few months ago and filed the away as I thought it might make the start to a short blog on ‘nun fetishism’. Obviously, the words ‘nun fetish’ used in these contexts don’t really equate into genuine ‘nun fetishes’ but the news snippets did make me go away and look into the whether such a fetish really exists.

I’ve actually mentioned nuns in a previous blog on ‘uniform fetishes’. In that blog I mentioned the Visual Dictionary of Sex (edited by Dr. Eric J Trimmer) his reference to uniforms and sexual fantasy. Dr. Trimmer reported that in the fetish world of dressing-up, the rough rank order of sexual uniform popularity has nun’s uniforms as the least popular (as the list in order of sexual preference was cheerleader, waitress, nurse, maid, secretary, office worker, schoolgirl, fitness trainer, prison guard, postal worker, military, Cleopatra, ballerina, cab driver, and nun). I have no idea on what empirical basis Dr. Trimmer made his claims although the Wikipedia entry on uniform fetishism also made similar types of claims. It claimed the most popular sexy uniforms were police officer, soldier, schoolgirl, nurse, French maid, waitress, cheerleader and Playboy bunny. However, the article also made reference to some people regarding nun’s habits and aprons as sexy uniforms.

As far as I am aware, there is no academic literature on nun fetishes although there is online anecdotal evidence in the form of dedicated nun fetish sites – such as the (i) Fetish For Nuns, (ii) Whore Nun and (iii) Badjojo websites (please be warned these are sexually explicit sites if you click on the links) – and individuals confessing their sexual arousal towards nuns on various online forums. For instance:

  • Extract 1: “I have a nun fetish. Is that weird? [However], how in the heck would one go about seducing a nun?”
  • Extract 2: “I have a nun fetish. And thank god for the internet. Great times we’re living in, because it would have been hard back in the 80s”
  • Extract 3: “[I have a] fetish for religous outfits (nun habit, Muslim burka, etc.). I was wondering if there are other out there that also find these very restrictive clothes erotic. While this is completely the opposite effect they should have one you I think this is what makes them so appealing to some. I know in some adult shops you can buy sexy latex and PVC version of the nun’s habit…So, which religious outfit do you find the most fetish like? And in what material to you prefer them? Cloth, PVC, Lycra, Latex?”
  • Extract 4: There are fetishes for almost every normal thing you can think of. Wetsuit fetishism falls under the greater section of rubber fetishism. Religious outfits fall into one or more categories depending on what materials they are made off. For example on their own they can be seen as uniform fetish but if you make them of say latex or rubber then would fall into rubber fetishism as well.The reason why I like them is their bondage/submissive qualities…that is really a massive turn on”

In a short 2008 online article on ‘bizarre underground fetish convents’, the Trend Hunter website reported that nuns dressed in rubber are an immensely popular facet of the underground fetish community”. The article highlighted (along with lots of anecdotal photographic evidence) that such people are typically clothed in latex or leather nun uniforms, and may optionally wear a gas mask (see my previous blog on gas mask fetishism). The article also claims that:

“The subversion of a nun, a paragon of religious virtue, by the latex fetish community is both fantastic and messed up. No wonder this underground cultural icon of a nun in a gas mask is found in art that ranges from street art to sculptures. Chances are good that if you start looking, it won’t be long before you see your first rubber nun”.

In a blog post on ‘Latex Nun Fetishists’, the dominatrix ‘Mistress Maryse’ noted that the majority of her clients were Catholic and that within her dominatrix work, religion is always an interesting topic that is up for discussion. More specifically she said that her clients’ religious views:

“…can provide a lot of insight into where their fetishes might have originated, as well as offer some good material for a future scene. I’ve wanted to do a sadistic nun scene for a while, but I haven’t had any takers. That’s until one of my clients, ‘Mike’ recently e-mailed me and expressed interest in either doing a nun or evil school-girl session. The irony (or perhaps it’s not that surprising) is that Mike was raised atheist. I think my Catholic [submissives] still have some fear [and] playing around with this theme is uncomfortable (which, of course, makes it perfect for a scene!). Mike, being the dear that he is, has offered to buy me a new latex nun uniform from Westward Bound

A short article on the Latex Wiki website argues that since nuns are members of a female monastic order taking vows of sexual abstinence and chastity, the fetish community has taken the nun’s image and perverted it. The article claims:

“The fetish nun is now as much of an icon of sexual perversion as a real nun is of sexual purity. Many fetish designers have taken the theme of the nun and produced their own take on the nun’s habit in latex or PVC. Such outfits may include for example a miniskirt, stockings, fishnet tights or high heels. Fetish nuns are a common sight at fetish clubs. Much of the pleasure may derive from the thought of having sexual intercourse with a virgin, or the contrast between the real behaviour of the person and symbols of sexual abstinence”.

In my research for this blog I came across an interesting website that focused on 1970s and 1980s ‘Nunsploitation’ video clips and “nuns behaving badly in bizarre fetish films” such as the trio of Italian films, The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine (1974), Images from a Convent (1979) and Convent of Sinners (1986) 
and the 1975 Mexican film Satánico Pandemonium. As the anonymous author commented that it was particularly the underground cult cinema in Italy, Spain and Mexico where Catholic guilt was most likely transmuted “into sexual fetishism involving naughty nuns, masochism, sadism, whipping and lesbianism”. Pierluigi Puccini has a more mainstream selection of films on his Nun’s Habit’s: A Cinematic Fetish webpage including The Devils (directed by Ken Russell, 1971), Killer Nun (directed by Giulio Berruti, 1978), Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (directed by Jesus Franco, 1977), The Story of a Cloistered Nun (directed by Domenico Paolella, 1973), and To The Devil A Daughter (directed by Peter Sykes, 1976).

In a 2005 book chapter by Richard Zacks in Russ Kick’s Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong, he described what he claimed was “unquestionably the longest and kinkiest list of medieval sexual practices still in existence”. The reason I mention this is because Zacks tracked down a medieval text that refers to having sex with nuns. He wrote that in 1012, a German bishop called Burchard of Worms wrote a 21-volume text including a long section on sexual sins. In Chapter 5 of Volume 19, Burchard lists 194 different sexual sins. In this list there is a section entitled ‘Questions for Men’ relating to the penance for having sex with a nun. More specifically, the entry reads:

“Have you committed fornication with a nun, that is to say, a bride of Christ? If you have done this, you shall do penance for forty days on bread and water, which they call a “carina,” and [repeat it] for the next seven years; and as long as you live, you shall observe all six holy days on bread and water”

In one online opinion piece, Jodi Dean briefly wrote about fetishized religions and claimed the only one that she could think of was Catholicism:

“The Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform is the most obvious, but sexualized nun toys and habits, and games about priests are close behind, traditional fetishist scenes predictable to the point of boredom…I think that charismatic Christianity could probably slink into the category; baptism scenes can have a wet t-shirt quality and the laying on of hands is intense to the point of eroticism. But I almost think this is derivative of Catholicism…What is it about some religions that makes them available for fetishization?”

A fair amount of discussion was generated in response to Dean’s thoughts on religious fetishism. One respondent speculated that the important element was the ‘icon heavy ritualism’ and that any religion in which people were raised in an icon-rich background was ripe for fetishization (and parody). One of the respondents (Mehmet Catagay) made some interesting observations:

“Unlike a fantasy that enables love to pass through the real to field the imaginary, an object of fetishism operates as ‘the return of the repressed’, the substitute material filling the cavity which originates from the act of denial of the symbolic castration. Therefore, the pervert subject of fetishism could cross the boundary of the symbolic only by use of the object of fetishism as the authorization certificate, i.e. the transit visa for the passage from the symbolic to the real…As regards to the Catholicism that you mention as the only fetishized religion that you come up with, for my part, I don’t see an exceptionally distinctive characteristic in the Catholic practice of Christianity that reinforces nunsploitation and nun fetishism. I think any particular outfit, especially uniforms, (the uniform of the women of God in the naughty nun case) that relates the human body with Lacanian big Other has the potential to serve as an object of fetishism that substitute the missing symbolic phallus and make the sexual intercourse possible while the complication of the denial of symbolic castration is still in the view”.

My search for academic material on nun fetishism proved fruitless (although I did come across some interesting research papers on the sex lives of nuns which I will look at in a future blog). Nun fetishism appears to be a niche market when it comes to genuine sexual fetishes but this is purely based on the fact that I found a lack of empirical evidence.

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

Further reading

Gerber, A. (2005). Sex by numbers: Excerpts from The Book of Sex Lists. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.340-344).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Fahey, M. (2012). What Does a Squad of Gun-Toting Fetish Nuns Have to Do With Hitman: Absolution? Kotaku, May 29. Located at:

Fahey, M. (2012). Agent 47 Brutally Slaughters Nuns in the Bizarre Hitman: Absolution E3 Trailer. Kotaku, May 30. Located at:

Metro (2008). Nun beauty contest won’t become a habit. August 27. Located at:

Latex Wiki (2012). Nun. October 28. Located at:

Trend Hunter (2008). Bizarre underground fetish convents. November 24. Located at:

Trimmer, E.J. (1978). The Visual Dictionary of Sex. London: Macmillan.

Wikipedia (2013). Uniform fetishism. Located at:

Zacks, R. (2005). Burchard’s Medieval sexual menu. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.327-329). New York: The Disinformation Company.

Sexual healing: A brief examination of medical fetishism‬

I’m sure most of us can remember playing ‘doctors and nurses’ when we were kids but there are some people who never seem to grow out of it and engage in what has been termed ‘medical fetishism’. The fetish appears to be quite inclusive and wide ranging because the activity can comprise those (i) individuals who are sexually attracted to people in the medical profession, (ii) people (usually heterosexual males) who derive sexual pleasure from their female sexual partners to dress up in a nurse’s uniform, and/or (iii) individuals who derive sexual pleasure and arousal from actually being the recipients of a medical or clinical procedure (usually some kind of bodily examination). Some of these behaviours may be paraphilias or specialized fetishes such as klismaphilia (i.e., sexual pleasure from the receiving of enemas) that I examined in a previous blog. There are also those whose fetish only concerns a very particular branch of medicine (such as dentistry).

The types of activity that have been reported as medical fetishes include genital and urological examinations (e.g., a gynecological examination), genital procedures (e.g., fitting a catheter or menstrual cup), rectal procedures (e.g., inserting suppositories, taking a rectal temperature, prostate massage), the application of medical dressings and accessories (e.g., putting on a bandage or nappy, fitting a dental retainer, putting someone’s arm in plaster), and the application and fitting of medical devices (e.g., fitting a splint, orthopedic cast or brace).

Some of these activities such as having a nappy, catheter, or orthopedic brace fitted may overlap with other sexual paraphilias listed in Dr. AnilAggrawal’ Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, such as infantilism (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from being an adult baby), catheterophilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from catheters), and apotemnophila (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from the thought of being an amputee). In the most extreme cases of medical fetishism, more invasive medical acts may be performed for sexual pleasure including giving injection, anaesthesia, and actual surgery. The sexual pleasure and arousal may occur in the giver and/or receiver, and much of the activity may be in the form of sexual role-play. As one online essay on medical fetishism noted:

“People with an extreme medical fetish use torturous medical devices, speculums, mouth and anal spreaders, enema kits, probes etc. They may even consent to false operations where they are surgically opened, and with nothing fixed or removed, sutured closed. An extreme medical fetish can be a dangerous thing…A medical fetish can include a sexual attraction to medical people. Doctor and nurse porn movies, people receiving medical examinations and so on. Most are simply role play”.

There are also sub-branches of medical fetishism that may have overlaps with sadomasochism and BDSM where (for instance) a female dominatrix may inflict a medical procedure on their willing submissive individual. Such activity often centres on sexual and/or sensitive body parts including the penis, testicles, nipples and anus. The instruments used may also be heated or cooled to heighten the pain/pleasure sensations. Given the potential danger involved in some of the activities performed and the fact the person administering the procedure (e.g., anaesthesia, surgery) may not have any formal medical training, the risk of permanent body damage – or in extreme cases, death – is a possibility. Here, the risk of something going wrong may also be sexually stimulating to the person, and there appears to be both physical and psychological overlaps with paraphilias such as hypoxyphilia (i.e., deriving sexual pleasure from restricting oxygen supply to heighten sexual arousal).

Medical fetishism within sadomasochistic activity would therefore constitute ‘edgeplay’. This is a term used within the BDSM community that refers to sexual activities that push the boundaries of safety and are sometimes referred to as RACKs (Risk-Aware Consensual Kinks). Those involved in edgeplay are fully cognizant of the fact that their sexual behaviour may result in serious bodily harm and permanent damage.

In the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Dr. Brenda Love notes that some people are sexually aroused by exposing themselves to medical practitioners, and that this is called ‘iatronudia’.  She claims that such people will pretend to be ill just so that they can undress in front of a doctor. This echoes with some online sources claim that those with medical fetishes may also feign injury and illness, or give themselves self-inflicted wounds just so that they can receive genuine medical help. Such activity would appear to have psychological overlaps with Factitious Disability Disorders such as Munchausen Syndrome (i.e., feigning illness to draw attention or sympathy from others). This type of behaviour may be considered somewhat safer for the medical fetishist (as the procedures would be carried out by someone who is medically trained) but is an abuse of others’ time and expertise.

Although there is almost no empirical research on medical fetishism, it would appear that most fetishes – particularly when they are very specific and specialized – are rooted in early childhood experiences and most likely caused by behavioural conditioning processes. For instance, those individuals who are only sexually turned on by being anaesthetized not only enjoy the act itself but will usually be sexually aroused by the sight of all the aneasthetic equipment and accessories (e.g., black rubber anaesthetic masks).

As with many other fetishes, the internet has fostered whole online communities of medical fetishists (such as the Gynecology and Medical Examination Fetish Forum or the My Male Medical Fetish; please be warned that these are sexually explicit sites). There is little scientific research on the etiology and psychology of medical fetishism although Dr. Brenda Love speculates that sexual games involving medicine are popular because of the anxiety connected with visiting a GP that “leads to a natural increase in energy in a sexual experience”. I can’t say I’m overly convinced by this explanation, but in the absence of anything more empirical, it’s one of the few views that a clinician has put forward.

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.

Bizarre Magazine (2010). Medical fetishism. December 1. Located at:

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Midori (2005). Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink Educational, Sensual, And Entertaining Essays. Daedalus Publishing.

Streetsie (2011). Disability fetish and medical fetish. August 19. Located at:

Wikipedia (2012). Medical fetishism. Located at:

The clothes of play: A look inside the world of uniform fetishism

One of the least researched sexual fetishes is that of uniform fetishism. This is one of many different clothing fetishes (that I examined in a previous blog) where individuals are obsessed and fixated by another person’s or themselves wearing a uniform. In the section on uniforms and sexual fantasy, the Visual Dictionary of Sex (edited by Dr. Eric J Trimmer) reported that the fetish world of dressing-up involves the following in rough rank order of popularity: cheerleader, waitress, nurse, maid, secretary, office worker, schoolgirl, fitness trainer, prison guard, postal worker, military, Cleopatra, ballerina, cab driver, and nun. However, I know of no empirical research that confirms the claims made by Dr. Trimmer. A Wikipedia article on uniform fetishism also made a number of similar claims about the most common uniforms used for sexual purposes (again with no empirical evidence): police officer, soldier, schoolgirl, nurse, French maid, waitress, cheerleader and Playboy bunny. The article also made reference to some people regarding nun’s habits and aprons as uniforms.

Although there are a wide range of populist writings on sexuality and uniforms (for instance, the 1990 book Leatherfolk by Thompson discussed the dress code of leather in sexuality), there are very few academic or clinical studies. Arguably the best academic paper on uniform fetishes was published back in 1996 in the journal Sexual and Marital Therapy by Dr. Dinesh Bhugra and Dr. Padmal De Silva.

Their paper looked at the function of uniforms, and their relationship with sexual fantasy and sexual fetishism. They noted that uniforms can be seen as ‘outer skins’ that can be material and attractive in sexual terms, and that can enable individuals to display and wield power (which may be important in sexual activities involving sadism and masochism). They also note that each uniform “denotes not only an image but also a certain authority that goes with it”. Bhugra and Da Silva described the functions of uniforms as comprising the ‘five F’s’ (formal, fashion, fun, fantasy and fetish):

  • Formal – The wearing of a uniform to show belonging of a person to a particular formal group (e.g., army, navy, police, nurse, etc.)
  • Fashion – The wearing of a uniform to show belonging of a person to a more informal group (e.g., a musical allegiance such as goth, punk, heavy metal, etc.)
  • Fun and frolic – The wearing of a uniform for fun and frolics (e.g., wearing fancy dress at a party)
  • Fantasy – The wearing of a uniform to aid fantasy (often sexual) such as the evocation of masculine control (e.g., fireman) or the evocation of female nurturing and caring (e.g., nurse). Here, sexual uniform does not fulfil all the criteria for sexual fetishism.
  • Fetish – The wearing of a uniform as part of a sexual fetish where the uniform has to be worn as an aid to sexual climax. This may include (for instance) rubber, plastic and leather clothing.

The authors also note that uniforms may denote expertise (e.g., the white coat of a doctor), nurturance (e.g., the uniform of a nurse or nanny), punishment (e.g., the uniform of a police or prison officer), and identity (e.g., school uniform). Therefore, the uniform may directly relate to the sexual act being performed and add to the ‘authenticity’. For instance, a klismaphiliac may want someone dressed in a doctor’s or nurse’s uniform to administer an enema, an infantilist may want someone dressed as a nanny change his nappy, or a masochist may require someone dressed in a policeman’s or policewoman’s uniform to put on and retrain them with a pair of handcuffs. They claimed that:

“Uniform as a fetish is not uncommonly reported in clinical settings. Fetishism is a paraphilia which involves being recurrently responsive to, and obsessively dependent on, an unusual or unacceptable stimulus. In order to have a state of erotic arousal initiated or maintained, and in order achieve or facilitate an orgasm, the affected individual needs exposure to the fetish object, in reality or in fantasy”.

Based on this definition, Bhugra and De Silva are adamant that uniform fetishes can and do exist. However, the academic literature on uniforms as a fetish is sparse. In A.J. Chalkley and G.E. Powell’s (1983) in-depth study of 48 clinical cases of sexual fetishism (with a total of 122 fetishes), only one case involved uniforms (although a further 28 had some kind of clothing fetish). A previous unpublished Master’s thesis study by A.J. Chalkley (1979) reviewing 170 fetishists reported only two with a uniform fetish.

A 1999 qualitative study by Kathleen O’Donnell published in Advances in Consumer Research examined the consumption of fetish fashion and the sexual empowerment of women. Based on her qualitative interviews with five women, she found support for “the theory-based propositions that females consume fetish fashions because doing so allows them to experience more positive self evaluations, and that over time these positive evaluations result in sexual empowerment in the form of increased control over sensual experience and sexual self presentation”. Obviously this was a very small sample and the study didn’t specifically examine the sexual fetishization of uniforms, but the use of sexual clothing as a form of empowerment was a novel founding.

As many clinicians have noted, there is a well known crossover relationship between fetishism, sado-masochism, and other paraphilias where the wearing of ‘uniforms’ play a critical role. However, as Bhugra and De Silva conclude:

“The relationship of uniforms in fantasy and fetish is a complex one. Often in clinical situations it becomes impossible to ascertain when fantasy leads to fetish in reality and how much of a role fantasy plays in arousal related to a fetish. From a preliminary pilot study with a small number of rubber fetishists it appears that the distinction between fetish and fantasy is difficult even for the individual”.

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

Further reading

Bhugra, D. & De Silva, P.  (1996). Uniforms – fact, fashion, fantasy and fetish. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 11, 393-406.

Chalkley, A.J. (1979). Some cases of sexual fetishism at a London teaching hospital. Unpublished M.Phil., University of London.

Chalkley, A.J. & Powell, G.E. (1983). The clinical description of forty-eight cases of sexual fetishism. British Journal of Psychiatry, 142, 292–295.

O’Donnell, K. (1999). Good girls gone bad: The consumption of fetish fashion and the sexual empowerment of women. Advances in Consumer Research, 26, 184-189.

Trimmer, E.J. (1978). The Visual Dictionary of Sex. London: Macmillan.

Wikipedia (2012). Uniform fetishism. Located at:

Dressed to thrill: A brief look at clothing fetishes

Earlier this year, the Huffington Post reported a story that got me thinking about the relationship between clothing and sexual arousal. The news item reported that an ‘intimacy dress’ had been designed by Daan Roosegaarde that detects when the person wearing it is feeling aroused. It was reported that:

“The futuristic ‘Intimacy 2.0’ design is made of hi-tech fabric, leather and opaque e-foils and becomes transparent when it ‘detects’ a quickening heartbeat. The technical dress, dubbed ‘techno-poetry’ by the designer himself, operates with the help of wireless technology, LEDs and various electronics. Talking about his saucy design, Roosegaarde told the Daily Mail that ‘Intimacy 2.0 is a fashion project exploring the relation between intimacy and technology. Technology is used here not merely functional but also as a tool to create intimacy as well as privacy on a direct, personal level which in our contemporary tech society is becoming increasingly important’”.

Whether the dress serves any real practical purpose is debatable but clothes have long been a source (in and of themselves) as a source of sexual arousal and fetishization. In fact, the term ‘fetish fashion’ has now permeated into popular usage and related to any style or appearance in the form of a type of clothing and/or accessory that has been created to be deliberately extreme and/or provocative.

Clothing fetishes are sexual fetishes where individuals derive sexual arousal and pleasure from either (i) viewing or imagining very specific items of clothing, (ii) viewing or imagining a set of clothes (e.g., a particular uniform or fashion look), and/or (iii) individuals (themselves or others) wearing the clothing item or uniform. As with other fetishes, the item that the individual has fixated upon normally has to be present for sexual arousal to occur. The source of the arousal may also depend on the material from which the clothing items are made and/or the function of the clothing on the person wearing them (e.g., clothes that may restrict a person’s movement, or may accentuate a particular attribute of the body). Some clothing fetishists also collect particular clothing items.

In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists because fetishists may be subscribed to many fetish forums (but was likely to be a lot more). 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.

Clothing fetishes are known to overlap with other sexual paraphilias including transvestite fetishism, sexual sadism and sexual masochism. Obviously it is the restrictive types of clothing that are most associated with sadomasochistic activity (and which are often made from PVC or latex). This includes very narrow skirts that impede movement (often referred to as hobble skirts that are often ankle length to make walking almost impossible), and very high heel shoes (which make it difficult to walk). Another popular item of restrictive clothing is a tight corset. Those individuals in sexually submissive roles are often forced to wear a bondage corsets (also known as a ‘discipline corset’) as a form of punishment. This is also associated the masochistic sexual practice of ‘tightlacing’ (also known as corset training and waist training) where submissive partners (typically female) are forced to wear a tightly-laced corset that result in extreme body modifications to the submissive partner’s figure and posture (e.g., ‘hourglass’ figures in which the woman looks as though they have an incredibly small waist).

Kevin Almond (University of Huddersfield) published a conference paper investigating how the body has been distorted through the cut and construction of fashionable clothing. He noted that fetishists cover their bodies in rubber cat suits or are restricted by corsetry, and that the clothing promotes levels of sexual desire and satisfaction. Valerie Steele also makes an interesting observation in her 1996 book Fetish, Fashion, Sex and Power that”

“The corset, like the shoe, was one of the first items of clothing to be treated as a fetish, and it remains one of the most important fetish fashions. But it is crucial to distinguish between ordinary fashionable corsetry, as practiced by most nineteenth century women and the very different minority practice of fetishist tight lacing”.

Excluding footwear fetishes (which are very prevalent), there are many other particular types of clothing fetish. The most well known are arguable stocking and suspender fetishes, and uniform fetishes (for instance, a woman dressing up as a nurse or a man dressing up as fireman) which I will look at in future blogs. However, there are other less reported clothing fetishes including sock fetishes, denim jean fetishes, and coat/jacket fetishes. For instance, the Wikipedia entry on jacket fetishism makes the following observations (although none of them are referenced so there are issues around to what extent the information is reliable):

“Jacket fetishism in its pure form is most usually associated with padded nylon jackets though can be associated with leather jackets, particularly in association with bondage (BDSM). Jacket fetishists are generally (but not necessarily) male and gay in the 20 to 45 age range. The fetish often revolves around the feel and look of the nylon though can also relate to elements such as: padding thickness, nylon shiny through wear, orange lining (a well known element), dirty nylon (through normal wear or sexual use), and ripping the nylon. Part of the muddy/dirty fetish can also include getting jackets dirty and then ripping them up… Whilst jacket fetishism does not have the widespread popularity of other fetishes like bondage, it is a popular niche fetish and has numerous successful websites and discussion/picture groups dedicated to it”. 

A 1999 paper by Kathleen O’Donnell in Advances in Consumer Research examined the consumption of fetish fashion and the sexual empowerment of women in a qualitative interview study involving five women self-identifies as followers of fetish fashion. O’Donnell’s conclusions were interesting and perhaps surprising: Each of them spoke of the changes in posture that occurred as they slipped into their stilettos, their corsets or their latex dresses. By forcing them to stand tall, chest held high, the fetish gear instilled in them a sense of self-confidence that many indicated they had previously lacked. As they appeared more confident, self assured, and sexy, they also experienced increased attention from others, which further increased those feelings of self-confidence. Ultimately, fetish fashions gave these women the mechanism to tap into the power of their own sexuality and for that they seemed grateful”.

This is certainly area that would benefit from more empirical research

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

Further reading

Almond, K. (2009) ‘You Have to Suffer for Fashion’: An investigation into how the body has been distorted through the cut and construction of fashionable clothing. IFFTI Journal of Conference Proceedings (pp. 197-210).

Hazell, K. (2012). Dress ‘Becomes Transparent When Wearer Is Sexually Aroused’. Huffington Post, April 5. Located at:

Kunzle, D. (2006). Fashion & Fetishism: Corsets, Tight-Lacing and Other Forms of Body-Sculpture. London: The History Press.

Kathleen A. O’Donnell (1999). Good girls gone bad: The consumption of fetish fashion and the sexual empowerment of women. In Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 184-189.

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