I got pretty angry reading Dear Prudence today in Slate. A mom writes in about her 13-year-old son’s pretty innocent glove fetish and is confirmed in all of her fears, while the son is recommended to get a “complete psychological workup” to help him get rid of his natural sexual desires before they destroy his ability to have relationships with normal women (because who could tolerate a partner with a sick, sick fetish like rubber gloves). An excerpt:
Fetishism is a type of paraphilia, a disorder of deviant sexual arousal and behavior. People with fetishes are attracted to inanimate objects—women’s shoes and rubber are two common ones. No one knows what causes it, but it usually begins in childhood or adolescence; some fetishists can remember the moment they first became aroused by the object of their desire. I talked to an expert in paraphilias, Dr. Martin Kafka (here’s a fascinating article about him), a psychiatrist at the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital. He said you should take action because your son’s fetish is already overwhelming him, and, as your son worries, it may interfere with his ability to have normal relationships.
The only thing wrong with this kid is his mom. When she embarrassed him by catching him, he, “promised to give up gloves forever,” which he has of course failed at. I’m sure he feels anxiety over this fetish, but it’s not the fetish that’s the problem – it’s the anxiety. This kid’s going to grow up thinking his sexuality is broken and wrong and will render him unlovable if he doesn’t stuff it deep, deep down into the recesses of his mind.
All he needs is to be reassured that there’s nothing wrong with liking a little latex glovery in your love life and that a lot of people like weird things. In the meantime, he should relax and enjoy his sexuality like the rest of us do.
The wrongness of Prudence’s response to this really makes me furious. I’m somewhat comforted by the thought of the field day that Maymay is going to have with this one.