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Placebo TalksModern perspectives on placebos in society$
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Amir Raz and Cory Harris

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199680702

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199680702.001.0001

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Fetish as placebo: the social history of a sexual idea

Fetish as placebo: the social history of a sexual idea

(p.227) Chapter 13 Fetish as placebo: the social history of a sexual idea
Placebo Talks

Edward Shorter

Oxford University Press

This chapter uses placebo as an analogy in distinguishing between biologically and socially determined aspects of sexual behavior. Today, it is increasingly accepted that human sexuality is shaped by both genuine neural influences and cultural suggestion. From the subjective viewpoint of the participants, the impact of a sexual idea can be so powerful as to feel entirely “biological.” Yet in tracing the social history of sexuality, the distinction becomes clear. The three basic sexual orientations—heterosexuality, male homosexuality, and female lesbianism—have been documented since the Ancient Greeks, and there is growing evidence that same-sex attraction is biologically ordained. By contrast, role playing (voluntary sadomasochism) and fetish (erotic adornments such as fur, leather, or latex) have had too brief a historical existence to qualify as brain-driven. Fetish, in particular, functions as a placebo, evoking powerful yet culturally derived responses from the players.

Keywords:   placebo, fetish, role playing, sadomasochism, sexual behavior, sexual orientations, social history

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