The term "fetish" first came into widespread use in the eighteenth century in the context of the study of "[[religion|primitive religions," in which it denoted an inanimate object of worship.
It was Krafft-Ebing who, in the last decade of the nineteenth century, first applied the term to sexual behavior.
He stresses that the equivalence between the fetish and the maternal phallus can only be understood by reference to linguistic transformations, and not by reference to "vague analogies in the visual field' such as comparisons between fur and pubic hair."
In the seminar of 1956-7, Lacan elaborates an important distinction between the fetish object and the phobic object; whereas the fetish is a symbolic substitute for the mother's missing phallus, the phobic object is an imaginary substitute for symbolic castration.
Firstly, it reverses Freud's views on fetishism; rather than the fetish being a symbolic substitute for the real penis, the real penis may itself become a fetish by substituting the woman's absent symbolic phallus.
Secondly, it undermines the claims (made by both Freud and Lacan) that fetishism is extremely rare among women; if the penis can be considered a fetish, then fetishism is clearly far more prevalent among women than among men.
- Freud, Sigmund.. 1927e
- Lacan, Jacques. 1956b: 267)
- Freud, Sigmund. 1927e.
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. 734
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.154
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.84-5, 194
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.86, 160
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.290