Olga Cox – Book Review – Female Fetishism – A New Look – Gammon, Makinen

THE LETTER 07 (Summer 1996) pages 114-116

This book has a wonderful cover. A creamy-skinned young woman opulently overflows the confines of a strapless evening gown. Her head is thrown back and her tongue arched in anticipation against her red upper lip as she gazes at an oozing cream bun held aloft by her black-gloved hand. Unfortunately, like the cream bun, it is a book which promises more than it delivers.

Possibly this is due to its rather odd agenda. Not only do the authors wish to claim fetishism as an active female practice in the face of what they not inaccurately term its Freudian phallicization, but they explicitly set out to create a space for it at the forefront of radical sexual politics. This double agenda creates problems which are considerably more serious than those acknowledged by the authors on page eighty-three: To make the case for female agency on the pathologised subject of perversity could be understood as the assertion of women’s rights to be constructed as sexually active. But it could also be politically compromising, to associate sexual activity by women with ‘perversion’. For a start, fetishism is an extraordinarily private phenomenon, and to attempt a kind of sociological survey of ‘the international fetish scene’ is peculiarly unrewarding. For instance, the news that leather and rubber have almost entirely replaced fur, velvet and silk as preferred fetishistic textures reveals nothing of the singular intensities of the rituals and fantasies which require the support of these substances. Similarly the idea that because unprotected penetrative sex is risky in an Aids shadowed world, fetishism could become ‘a way of expressing your sexuality without putting your health at risk’ is a bleakly banalizing approach to these strange and secret specificities. The psychiatrist/psychoanalyst Robert Stroller once offered the view that the fetish, with its accrued and partly unconscious meanings…

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