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Medical Fetish  Written by: Mistress Tracy, 01/25/2006

The Fantastic Journey: An overview of medical fetishism

Part 1: Moving toward an understanding

Probably like most people, my first experience of medical fetishism was role-playing doctor. Stethoscopes and thermometers, plastic reflex hammers and Popsicle sticks served my purpose in examining my largely male patient list. It wasn't so much that I cared whether or not they were healthy as I observed their ears and throats and searched for a heartbeat, but I was more curious, and I must admit excited, to explore and examine the penis and the scrotum. As much as my body looked like my patients', our genitals were quite significantly different and this was my opportunity to closely inspect these differences in a sexually intimate way and under the guise of my doctor status. It seems logical that most people develop an interest in the medical through this exploratory play, but this is just my experience and when it comes to medical fetishism, things aren't so cut and dry as role-play.

Interestingly enough, there is no solid consensus on a definition of this fetish even among the medical community. In a recent discussion, clinical psychologist Dr. Brian Zamboni agreed that it is an umbrella and vague term. "Little is known about it research-wise and clinically, thus any conclusions should be tentative at best."

The psychological community appears to agree that any fetish is a "translocation of desire directed away from the genitalia and toward a body part (partialism) or object (fetishism)."1 In this way, most common fetishes - like breasts, feet, shoes, panties or nylon, for example - can be neatly categorized or explained as either one or the other. However, defining medical fetishism poses a unique problem.

"I would not say one aspect makes it medical except the involvement of a medical professional or medical devices or medical procedures. Although it is possible that other types of fetishes could be a part of a medical fetishism, this is not necessarily the case," said Dr. Zamboni. "People with a medical fetish might not even derive sexual arousal or pleasure from their behavior. For example, some individuals who might seem to have a medical fetish may actually have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) or another type of condition."

Disorders such as Anorexia and also the persistent pathological desire to fix a perceived physical flaw through cosmetic surgery, for example, both fall under the umbrella of medical fetishism, but it's important to note there is a wide difference between the clinical and their related psychological disorders and sexual medical fetish as it is practiced by those who would define themselves as fetishists, and that do not have an excessively dissatisfied image of their bodies as those who suffer from BDD.

Medical fetishism, as it relates to sexuality, is a phrase that is more increasingly used to encompass any fetish that might qualify under the medical. Just as Dr. Zamboni suggested, a fetish toy site called MedicalToys.com claims that anyone who includes medical instruments and clinical surroundings to their normal BDSM scene has introduced themselves to medical fetish2.

Exactly when the term medical fetish became popular among the BDSM community is hard to determine. However, it is a widely used phrase that has been touched on by authors like J.G. Ballard, romance novelists in the romantic doctor/patient role-play scenario, filmmakers like David Cronenberg, and photographers like Romain Slocombe.

Yet, even among these diverse artists and perhaps not unlike medicine itself, there is an obvious and expansive divide among their specialized medically themed works. Slocombe appears like an ER specialist or ambulance worker as he makes a fetish art out of bandages in his ‘Broken Dolls’ series. In Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates describes his bandages as a medical version of Japanese erotic rope bondage3.

Cronenberg is said to describe himself as a 'Beverly Hills gynaecologist’ 4 and you can see how this arises in many of his films from his use of speculums and references in Dead Ringers (1988) and to the vaginal-looking organic game in eXistenz (1999). Ballard, who is the author of the notorious novel, Crash (1973), which was, not surprisingly, turned into a film by Cronenberg in 1996, is a medical student, and his specialty seems to be forensic psychology and science. "When he is shown some kind of techno-social-medical innovation, he's always trying to peel it back and understand it from the unconscious urgings that power it."5

All of these artists are avant-garde and just like anything that's avant-garde or taboo, it eventually moves into the popular imagination. Through these artists, we can certainly see how fetishism plays a role and particularly how medical fetishism may have appeared more prevalently in popular and porn culture since the early seventies. This is not to say that medical fetishism did not exist prior to the works of these artists, but rather that sometimes it takes a jolt from controversial cultural works before something like medical fetishism becomes more universally accepted, and it is becoming more popular among the BDSM community.

In talking to staff at a variety of toy stores in Toronto, Canada, I determined that there has been an unquantifiable but increasing interest in the consumer purchase of medical fetish toys over the last few years. Not only are stores reaping the benefits of increasing public awareness and interest in medical fetishism, but so too are specialized fetish sites. Whether this has to do with the arts and humanities is hard to determine because, as Dr. Zamboni pointed out, there is little research, and conclusions regarding medical fetishism are speculative more than anything else.

There are 51 physician specialties not including sub-specialties according to the American Medical Association (GME Handbook, 2003) and I would suggest that there are almost as many fetishes in the realm of the medical. Even among one specialty like gynaecology you are looking at a half-dozen fetishes that can include speculum, genital examination, cervix fetishism or can even include exploratory role-play. However, each individual is different and so too is each person's fetish. What is certain, or at least what is agreed upon in defining medical fetishism among clinicians and fetishists is that it must involve either a professional (doctor or nurse and patient), instrument (speculum, latex, bandages) or procedure (exploration, enema). I cannot speak to all of the fetishes, so with this in mind I will discuss a handful that I have seen most frequently on medical fetish porn sites like The Rubber Clinic and Doctor Tushy or non-medical sites like K Scans, and which include enema, speculum/cervix and catheterization.


[1] Brame, Gloria G., Brame, William D., Jacobs, Jon. Different Loving: The world of sexual dominance and submission. Villard, New York, 1993. p. 358.

[2] “About Medical Fetish.” Medical Toys, 2005 MedicalToys.com 01 Dec. 2005

[3] Gates, Katharine. Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. Juno Books, New York, 2000. P. 209.

[4] Ballard, J.G. The Killer Inside 23 Sept. 2005

[5] Nakashima-Brown, Chris. Child of Diaspora: Bruce Sterling on J.G. Ballard 7 Oct. 2005

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