Top Stories


    May 26, 2014

    Fetishes may lead to crime, say experts

    HE WAS a bright 17-year-old who attended a prestigious school. But the boy had a secret fetish for lingerie, which aroused him when he put it on.

    Eventually, the boy's parents found out about his habit and took him to see psychiatrist B. L. Lim.

    A fetish refers to the use of an inanimate object (or, for some psychiatrists, a non-genital part of the body) for sexual arousal or fantasy.

    Dr Lim's patient's experience was similar to that of Defence Science and Technology Agency scholarship holder Jonathan Peh, who was found with more than 200 bras in his home.

    The 26-year-old research engineer was given a one-year mandatory treatment order for his underwear fetish.

    Psychiatrists The New Paper On Sunday spoke to say it is difficult to pinpoint a predominant cause leading to the development of a fetish, but it usually begins with associating an object with sexual release.

    While it is normal to be aroused by certain types of clothing, such as fishnet stockings or provocative lingerie, it becomes a problem when the object is the preferred or sole manner in achieving sexual satisfaction, said Brian Yeo, consultant psychiatrist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.

    The practice of indulging in a fetish is not a crime. But it can sometimes lead a person to break the law, such as when he has the urge to steal the objects he has a fetish for.

    Referring to his patient, Dr Lim said: "He had initially bought the lingerie, but had been contemplating stealing the underwear belonging to neighbours as he felt that would arouse him more."

    The impact of a fetish on a person or his family becomes pronounced only when his habit is discovered, or when an arrest is made, said psychiatrists.

    In such cases, arrests may shame the person with the fetish and his family, or affect his job, said Dr Yeo.

    Fetishism, like many other atypical sexual interests, is not recognised as a mental disorder.

    It crosses the line to become a psychiatric disorder when it harms the individual or others around him, said Tan Hwee Sim, specialist in psychiatry at Raffles Counselling Centre.

    Psychiatrists were not able to provide exact numbers on the percentage of people who suffer from the disorder.

    Treatment for a fetish can be divided into two levels: The first focuses on preventing the person from breaking the law because of the fetish. The second deals with modifying or converting the fetish into a healthier sexual habit.

    In some cases, medication is prescribed to lower preoccupation with the sexualised object and sexual arousal, said Dr Tan.