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."
Penis and Phallus
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.
In the work of Slavoj Žižek
There is no unhappier creature under the sun than a fetishist who longs for a woman’s shoe but has to make do with the whole woman. (Kraus 2001: 13)
Karl Kraus’s aphorism encapsulates a key element of the fetish – a disproportionate attachment to a particular ordering or structure of desire. The fetish can be viewed as a psychological version of the fi gure of speech known as synecdoche wherein a part is used to represent the whole. Excessive attachment to the part means that the fetishist “misses the bigger picture” – in Kraus’s example, obsessive longing for a shoe displaces appreciation of the whole woman. The standard understanding of the fetish has come to be dominated by connotations of sexual perversion (the fetishist needs rubber clothing, extreme pain or humiliation, etc.), but the concept of fetishistic disavowal allows a wider understanding of the concept that enables important insights into contemporary ideological processes – the political implications and consequences of which reach well beyond the merely sexual.
- Freud, Sigmund.. "Fetishism", 1927e. SE XXI, 149
- Lacan, Jacques. "Variantes de la cure-type", in Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. [1956b]. p. 267)
- Freud, Sigmund. "Fetishism", 1927e. SE XXI, 149
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 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