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To say (sexual fetish)… or not to say (sexual fetish). That is the question

Robert John Searle (Department of Psychology, Learning Disabilities, Aneurin Bevan Health Board, Torfaen, UK)

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

ISSN: 2044-1282

Article publication date: 24 November 2023

Issue publication date: 4 March 2024




In a recent report the author wrote about a service user, the author was challenged by the service user’s advocate in respect of the author’s use of the term “sexual fetish”. The author was informed of the advocate’s fears in respect of people involved in the service user’s future care and support needs feeling uncomfortable and possibly stigmatising someone having a sexual fetish. Consequently, the author was asked to change their wording from “sexual fetish” to “sensory need”. The purpose of this study/paper aims to highlight best practice regarding the most appropriate wording for individuals with sexual fetishes.


A review of the available evidence was ascertained.


A review of British Psychological Society guidelines and recent research highlights that what were once called “perversions” must be destigmatised, which will not be achieved if people continue to sweep the term fetish under the metaphorical carpet.


It is the author’s sincere hope that use of the term “sexual fetish” embraces and normalises people’s sexual fetish and results in heightened awareness and de-stigmatisation of what is essentially a reference to an element of the wonderful and pleasurable world of sexual behaviour.



Since submission of this article, the author has updated their affiliations. Robert John Searle is at the Ty Lafant Assessment and Treatment Unit, Llanfrechfa Grange Hospital Caerleon Road Llanfrechfa Cwmbran NP44 8YN.


Searle, R.J. (2024), "To say (sexual fetish)… or not to say (sexual fetish). That is the question", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 22-24.



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