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Roiphe, H. Galenson, E. (1973). The Infantile Fetish. Psychoanal. St. Child, 28:147-166.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 28:147-166

The Infantile Fetish

Herman Roiphe, M.D. and Eleanor Galenson, M.D.

FETISHISM, ONE OF THE MOST BIZARRE AND FLORID PERVERSIONS OF the human sexual instinct, has attracted the attention of many psychoanalytic and psychiatric investigators. The fetish is an inanimate object which is adopted as a necessary prop to insure adequate sexual performance in adult life. Tracing the development of adult fetishists in analysis, several authors have found that the fetish first emerges in the phallic phase and during latency (Gillespie, 1952); (Bak, 1953), (1968); (Greenacre, 1970).

Any discussion of the genetic and dynamic roots of fetishism must start with Freud's original contributions to this topic, which occupied him over a period of 35 years. In 1905 Freud described fetishism as an "unsuitable substitute for the sexual object." He stated: "What is substituted for the [normal] sexual object is some part of the body … which is in general very inappropriate for sexual purposes, or an inanimate object which bears some assignable relation to the person whom it replaces" (p. 153). He wrote that a certain degree of fetishism is normal and ubiquitous, as in the overvaluation of the love object which inevitably extends to everything associated with the beloved. The condition becomes pathological only in those cases in which the fetish replaces the normal object. He also alluded to intermediary states in which the sexual partner must have certain distinct qualities, e.g., a particular hair coloring.

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