This is a guest post by  Mistress Steel. It was part of her Steel's Chamber Scrolls which is now defunct. Shared with Permission.

Fetish. An object of extreme or irrational reverence or devotion. The often pathological displacement of erotic or libidinal interest sufficient to stimulate actions of worship. Often regarded as a fixation of the mind where sexual interest is shifted upon an inanimate object, concept, idea or representation.

We use the term fetish to describe many actions or conditions which appear with relative prevalence within the BDSM communities. The mode of dress recognized as 'scene dress' is often regarded as 'fetish wear'. The wearer may experience a personal excitement to the selection and clothing of themselves in their 'special' attire and presentation or may relate the entire 'scene' beginning with the alteration of dress to be fetish. This tends to objectify the actual scene or displace the erotic stimulation from the human participants toward the 'scene' inclusive of the participants but not focused primarily upon them. The involvement with a fetish is sometimes viewed as compulsive or bordering on compulsive obsessive behaviors. Frequently the individual will articulate that they became aware of their 'fixation' on a certain act or object at or near puberty. Often they have elected to hide or obscure their attraction finding the nature of that attraction to fall outside acceptable standards. It is important to recognize that many of the behaviors found within the BDSM communities have similar obsessive compulsive traits.

For a submissive this compulsion may be expressed by the concept of being with a Dominant. The 'idea' of being with or in the presence of an acting Dominant may be experienced as an 'irresistible' impulse to perform an 'irrational' or otherwise viewed as 'outside the normal behavior' in order to reach a state of resolution or peace as experienced when 'within' the object of their obsession or need. Some studies exploring obsessive compulsive behaviors note plateau's of satiation where it appears the action or behavior serving the fetish may no longer be sufficient for attainment of the resolution by the individual. This may encourage the individual toward more aggressive or extreme exhibitions or behaviors in order to attend to this 'need'. This 'desensitization' often results in a furtherance or selection by the individual to delve deeper into their fetish or need in order to trigger a stronger level of sensitivity.

For a Dominant this compulsion may be expressed by the desire to find, interact with or otherwise be with a submissive. The Dominant may find themselves almost compulsively drawn toward the attainment or purchase of large quantities of 'scene gear' or toys. At times their involvement with these 'objects' of expression of their fetish upon will border on excessive. They may find themselves fantasizing about the objects, how and when they hope to utilize them. This may extend to spending significant amounts of time, energy and money on practicing or developing performance skill levels with these objects, maintenance of these objects and involvement with like-minded persons to discuss, examine or otherwise lavish attention upon these objects. This can also extend to the development of new objects or designs in the direction which most stimulates a constant or frequent level of personal pleasure.

In some ways forms of obsessive compulsive behaviors mimic or appear similar to addictive behaviors. Many individuals discover patterns of need within themselves, sometimes they regard a scene as getting a 'fix' or feeding the 'monster' within themselves. In the attainment of this 'fix' they are often willing to set aside simple safety issues and take risks which at less vulnerable times might appear irrational to even consider. In addition they may find themselves willing to destroy the significant and important relationships within their life in order to fill a temporary need.

The most visible fetishes are those which an outside observer can look at and identify or label as 'outside rational responses or behavior.' The most common of these are foot fetishers, (sometimes high heels), feminization or infantilism. However in many ways almost all the behaviors expressed by persons involved in BDSM can be viewed as 'fetish'. A submissive may be obsessed with the idea of being flogged. A Dominant may be obsessed with the idea of 'forcibly using' a submissive.

A member of the BDSM community can honestly identify themselves as a 'fetisher'.

A concern of many entering or exploring the D/s or BDSM communities is whether their initial need or desire will change or grow. This is a valid concern and from my viewpoint the answer is a resounding 'yes'. The original interest may grow, alter or evolve into behaviors and needs even further from the acceptable norm. The individual may become less sensitive as they become more experienced and may desire stronger stimulation on both sides. There are of course risks attendant to this which should not be overlooked or ignored. It is my opinion that the power of the compulsion, seduction or lure of this lifestyle is sufficient in many cases to stimulate actions by the individual which may be destructive of their personal life, involvement's and relationships. When possible the individual should refrain from participating in this lifestyle until their primary responsibilities are discharged. These are the commitments to children and spouse that already exist. If refraining from participation is impossible to resist then the individual should make every effort to 'retain' their spousal relationship by offering that relationship the respect of open and honest communication and significant hard work necessary to maintain the stability of the relationship. In all cases the children's innocence should be protected as paramount. It is not proper to impose expressions of fetish behavior upon those vulnerable, formative or in the process of shaping their ideas and thoughts. Your behaviors can be healthy or unhealthy, the choice is yours. When any behavior becomes identifiable as having a 'negative' effect on the health of a person's life then that person should seek assistance in correcting or limiting that behavior to return their life to a more balanced state.

Written by F.R.R. Mallory - also known as Mistress Steel. This article may be excerpted from  Extreme Space, The Domination and Submission Handbook, Safe, Sane and Consensual, Dangerous Choices or other books by F.R.R. Mallory and shared here with her permission. Please click on the book title for information on how you can order a copy of these books and others by F.R.R. Mallory.