This post discusses adult material. For the most part, it reports things “A” was told by a teacher in a school lesson when aged 13 or 14. However, if you are offended by discussion of fetish, please go somewhere else.
Many of the models and other photographers we work with describe themselves as “fetish models”, “fetish photographers/videographers” or shooting “fetish styles”. But what does this mean? I (“A”) do not really know – and do not really care. If I was still practising law and the word appeared in a legal text I had to interpret, then I would have to care. But as a word in general speech with friends and colleagues, I try to go with the flow. One thing seems clear: the way it is used is rather different to the way I was introduced to it at school.
I remember the teacher raising the subject of fetishes – or more precisely whether any of us pupils was a fetishist. I was teenage – definitely under 16 – and this was the 1960s. The teacher was a Methodist chaplain. He was supposed to be teaching about religion but seemed to spend a lot of his time talking about the moral dilemmas facing growing boys (it was a single sex school) in an age when both Christian churches and society generally was re-assessing many old certainties. His approach seemed progressive – even if for most of my classmates it was mostly a chance for a giggle and to avoid the hard work of other subjects.
So here’s the gist of what he said as best as I can remember it more than half a century later.
He opened the lesson with what turned out to be his central message. He said he was approached by many young people worried they might be fetishists. So he wanted to reassure us by explaining his opinion that “fetish” was a relatively narrow concept. He said there was nothing wrong in trying new and different things. There was nothing wrong in finding unusual activities fun, or arousing. I am not now sure what particular activities he mentioned but I think he included acceptable euphemisms for bondage, spanking and possibly transvestism. I honestly do not remember whether gay sex was mentioned in this context at all. This was at a time when all same sex activity was still illegal and the word “gay” was unknown to most people (including me) as anything other than a synonym for “happy”. The chaplain only considered something a “fetish” if the person was unable to get sexual arousal or satisfaction without it. In simple terms, it was OK to get turned on by unusual things: it was a problem if you were not turned on by anything else.
I am not trying to comment in any way on the accuracy or validity of this view of “fetish”. It is just what I grew up with and lived with for many years. With hindsight, I still suspect it was somewhat progressive for the time. It did not roundly condemn all sorts of activity. There was, however, the underlying belief that a fetish was something to be worried about or avoided.
Fast forward to the more recent past when I started taking pictures of “fetish” models. I think I encounter two separate usages of the word.
First, it is a definition of a type of picture by content – as in “modelling styles – fetish”. I guess it still means different things to different people but it is about things like strappy leather, latex and rubber; tight corsets and so on. Often it does not include bondage and BDSM because they have separate categories.
Second it can be used to refer to any activity the speaker really likes – at least if it is not “mainstream”. I have heard models claim to have a “velvet fetish” or a “swimwear fetish” when it appears to an outsider that they only mean they have had a lot of fun shooting in that sort of thing for the last few days.
Time for some photos of my own – featuring the lovely Bad Dolly.
These were shot about two years ago (March 2018). In each, Dolly is wearing her own outfit she brought to the shoot.
In photo 1, she is Goldilocks. She holds one big cuddly toy bear – our “BB”. It’s a sweet picture and I don’t think it is a fetish one, although I know there are people who have a cuddly toy fetish. In the same set, we found two other toy bears and a spoon and empty bowl to make the Goldilocks story more evident. One of the bears was more “fetishy” but, to my mind, the whole thing remained innocent if somewhat crazy fun.
In Picture 2, Dolly is Harley Quin. With our love of mixing ideas up, we added a Star Wars toy “execution ax” for this picture.
The outfit in Picture 3 is really the serving wench. We didn’t have 6 or more glasses for Dolly to hold in the best Oktoberfest tradition, so we gave her one half full glass and let her be a customer instead. And then we added the – rather decorative – crop. I suppose this brings it into many people’s idea of “fetish”, depending on where your mind goes when you see the picture.
We can have different views whether our pictures show a “fetish”, but it very much looks like Dolly acquired them for a fetish in the other sense. She told us a customer had bought them all for her but just wanted her to make videos while wearing them and talking to him. Fair enough, but the customer concerned might well have a fetish – maybe even of the sort explained by my teacher so long ago – for these videos. I should immediately add that even if so, it seemed a harmless activity. Dolly brought the outfits to us because she wanted to do some more conventional modelling poses in the outfits and we were happy to help.
Finally, where do I think we are with what is a “fetish”?
- “Fetish” can mean different things to different people. “Art” and “pornography” spring to mind as similar. And like them, some people get over excited about others who use the word differently.
- Half a century after my school lesson, many people still regard “fetish” as something undesirable or unhealthy. I do not know how strong or widespread that view still is. I hope it can not harm the wonderful people I have worked with.
- In my mind, I still see a difference between a “fetish” and something unconventional I enjoy. I shoot for fun. I shoot in the hope others will find my pictures fun. I do not think I am exercising any fetish of my own and it is not my express purpose to satisfy anyone else’s. If you get harmless fun out of our pictures, that’s all we need to know.
Post created on 22nd April 2020