My guest today is Jennifer Valli. She has been on the show before to share her expertise and we’re very fortunate to have her back!
Jenifer has a Ph.D., has 26 years of clinical experience in psychiatry, and is an experienced therapist an AASECT-certified sex therapist and educator. She is professionally involved with many different publications including Men’s Fitness Magazine, and she did Post-Grad work in Sexual Health at the University of Michigan. These are just a few of her notable accomplishments and qualifications.
Most applicable to this particular episode is her training in fetishes/paraphilias through Johns Hopkins University. Within this talk, she explores the complex world of fetishes, and how we should approach them, some theories on their starting points, as well as ways to normalize atypical arousal.
Listen to “94: Dr. Jennifer Valli – Fetishes” on Spreaker.
What is Paraphilia?
Jennifer says that “a paraphilia is when someone has an intense sexual arousal pattern to an atypical object or situation.” These are known as fetishes. While we used to consider these “abnormal,” we now see these arousal patterns as part of the spectrum of human experience. A couple of common fetishes that Jennifer talks about are the cuckold fetish and the infantilism fetish.
The cuckold fetish means that one partner derives pleasure from another person pleasuring their partner. It usually involves a male, and there is often a humiliation component to the act. This is different than a threesome, though. With cuckoldry, there is a voyeuristic component that is different than three individuals collaborating together in a threesome.
The infantilism fetish consists of being treated as an infant during sexual encounters. This often involves wearing a diaper or drinking from bottles. Jennifer walks through a lot of different non-consenting paraphilias which are listed as a disorder in the DSM-5.
The Importance of Sex Positivity for Those With Paraphilia
As is discussed within the talk, the DSM has been shifting in a positive direction when it comes to paraphilia. This is important because it normalizes these desires and removes shame from the consensual fetishes – that are actually pretty common across the board.
Where do Fetishes Start?
As far as the origins of some fetishes, there are rare cases that can be traced back to a particular moment. But she states that there is not a lot of consensus on why people develop fetishes.
One of the theories is that because men have a higher incidence of paraphilia, that there are distinct moments, say around the age of 10 when they witness a taboo moment that is linked to erotic arousal. And then as they masturbate, this serves as a biological reinforcement that is sort of mapped into the mind.
Females are more likely to have sexual fluidity around arousal, and males are more linked to a kind of sexual imprinting.
Listen along for a detailed 5-step breakdown of how assessments are made for fetishes.
Legal Vs Non-Legal Assessment
When talking about the assessment of fetishes, legality is a key thing that professionals like Jennifer are required to assess. If the fetish is legal, there will be efforts to normalize the behavior by minimizing any residual shame surrounding the paraphilia. If it is not legal, like pedophilia, she then looks to see if there is any distress around the urges. If there is no distress, that’s when the red flags are raised, and there’s a problem.
Mistakes in Accommodating Paraphilia in a Relationship
Jennifer says that a common mistake is in too much time and attention being spent on the partner with the fetish and not enough on the balance of the entire relationship.
Another mistake is in trying to meet both partner’s needs in one night. Jennifer states that it’s probably a better idea to separate out days and accommodate the fetish separately.
One strategy to accommodate fetishes, if a particular partner is having a hard time participating, is in strengthening other activities that speak to that paraphilia but which aren’t quite as involved. This is for the benefit of the partner without the particular fetish.
You can also make a hierarchy of interests and compromise according to a determined range you decide with your partner. This relates to strengthening related interests that speak to the original fetish. She goes through a lot of other different strategies and practices for accommodation within the talk. Make sure to check it out!
Key Links for Jennifer:
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom: https://www.ncsfreedom.org/
Perv: The Sexual Deviant in all of us: Book Link https://www.amazon.com/Perv-Sexual-Deviant-All-Us/dp/0374534837
Her website: http://www.jennifervalli.com/
AASECT website: https://www.aasect.org/