Fetishism: the sexual attraction to an object. Freud believed fetishism to have been an illness, because the viewer becomes emotionally involved with an object and is therefore unable to properly direct that attention to a person who could receive and reciprocate that emotional attention. It is, in effect, emotion and love misdirected. Watching actors or actresses in a movie may elicit sexual fantasies in the mind of the viewer (though such love cannot be returned). Pornography or particular articles of clothing (underwear or shoes belonging to the opposite sex) that fuel masturbation are examples of fetish objects.

 

Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss, 1886-98, fuels fetishist fantasy. Firstly, narcissism is achieved with men identifying with the man and women recognizing an ordinary woman. So, viewers already identify with Rodin’s figures. Then, male viewers may fetish the body of that woman and females may fetish the body of that man. Gays may fetish the body of the man and lesbians may fetish the body of the woman. (In the case of the latter, the gay man will narcissistically identify with the woman, and the lesbian will narcissistically identify with the man in the process of love.) Target audience? 100% of the human population. Obviously, issues of race and ethnicity may impact viewers’ interest levels.

William Bouguereau’s Nymphs and Satyrs, 1873, functions similarly in fueling fetishist fantasy. Firstly, narcissism is achieved with men identifying with the satyr and women with the nymphs. So, the viewer is drawn into the composition. Then, male viewers may fetish the bodies of those nymphs and females may fetish the body of that satyr. Clearly, men don’t have the legs of a goat and woman aren’t water spirits, yet in the realm of fantasy, everyone may want to engage in a little erotic play and skinny dip in the cool water to the bottom right of the composition.  

 INSERT IN THIS BOX “BOUGUEREAU”