Okay, I thought that title would arouse some interest.
Has anyone ever heard of this woman? She writes an “advice” column much like Dear Abby or Ann Landers. I was researching information on latex fetishes when i came across this. Although the article is only five years old, you’d think that a magazine like Slate in the 21st century wouldn’t have such an article that portrays fetishes as “deviant” behavior.
My 13-year-old son, a well-behaved, sweet boy, already has what I perceive as a strange fetish. He loves and is fascinated by latex gloves. When he was little, he would stop in front of the rubber glove display at the supermarket and just stare at the packages of dishwashing gloves. He wanted me to buy them for him, but he would never tell me why. Now that he’s older, he goes online to medical supply Web sites and “shops” for rubber gloves. Recently, I found out he had been visiting glove fetish Web sites with pornographic glove pictures. I installed content filtering software to block him from being exposed to such images. He was horribly embarrassed and guilty, and he promised to give up gloves forever. Apparently, it’s not so easy. He still asks me to buy latex gloves for him when we go to the drug store, and he keeps piles of them around his room. He worries that he might not be able to find a girlfriend or wife who will be interested in sharing his glove love. Should I try to stop him, or should I just chalk it up to a personality quirk and worry no longer?
—Hand in Glove
You’re right to be concerned, because you don’t want your son’s future romantic prospects to be limited to women who really enjoy dishwashing. 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. Kafka says your son needs a complete psychological workup. In his experience, frequently people with fetishes have other psychiatric ailments, such as ADD or mood disorders. Getting treatment for that underlying problem often has the result of reducing the intensity of the fetish, because the person overall has better impulse control. While it can be difficult to fully extinguish a fetish, Kafka says behavioral therapy can make it less engulfing. He says patients are greatly relieved when they come to feel they control the fetish instead of having it control them—which may be what your son is experiencing now. To find the right therapist, Kafka recommends contacting the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers—not because your son is or will be an abuser, but because these professionals are knowledgeable about paraphilias. Ask for someone with experience treating adolescents. With help, your son has a chance to free himself from the grip of rubber gloves.