Mental Illness and Criminal Behavior

Discussion #5: After reading this week’s articles do you feel if fetishes are a crime? Are there any potential criminal offenses that can be committed through fulfilling ones fetish; if so what are they?


CO1: Summarize the link between mental illness and criminal behavior.

CO2: Debate how mental health issues influence behavior.

CO3: Synthesize the mental health diagnosis of conduct disorder.

Classmate 1 Ariana: According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013), in order to meet the criteria requirement for fetishistic disorder, an individual must have experienced and acted out sexual urges that focused on any of the following: body parts that are non-genital, inanimate objects, or other stimulus, over a six month period. Additionally, these fetishistic fantasies, urges, or behaviors result in distress or impairment of functioning and the object involved is not a device for sexual stimulation or an article of clothing used for cross dressing (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). A fetishistic disorder diagnosis is specified by the type of stimulus being focused on such as, non-genital body parts (feet, hair), non-living objects (shoes), or other activities or situations (smoking during sex) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Furthermore, fetishistic disorder may also be specify if the person is institutionalized and is in an environment where the disorder may not be engaged, or in remission, meaning there has not been any distress or impairment for five years, outside of a controlled environment (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Based on the criteria requirements for diagnosis and the specifiers for fetishistic disorder, fetishes themselves do not appear to be criminal; however, if they are acted upon, they have potential to be.

According to Myers et al. (2008), bondage fetishism (sexual or erotic interest involving restraints) and transvestic fetishism (sexual or erotic interest in cross-dressing) are frequently associated with autoerotic asphyxiation (practice of sexual self-stimulation while causing oneself to experience a lack of oxygen). Additionally, 20-25% of autoerotic asphyxiation deaths scenes show evidence of transvestic fetishism. A study by Prentky et al. (1989) found that in a sample of 25 serial criminals, fetishism was present in 71% of the individuals.

Fetishes that are criminal can be seen in two cases: Harvey Glatman and Dennis Rader.

Glatman had a history of autoerotic asphyxiation, bondage fetishism, and voyeurism (Myers et al., 2008). Over a period of 11 months, Glatman killed 3 adult females by posing as a professional photographer and then binding, raping, and strangling his victims with rope (Myers et al., 2008). Glatman would take photographs of criminal activities such as, posing the women prior to their murder (Myers et al., 2008).

According to Myer et al. (2008), Rader described his activities and murders as a “fantasy out of control.” Rader murdered over a period of 17 years, resulting in 10 victims (seven adult females, one adult male, one girl, and one boy) (Myers et al., 2008). Rader studied the lives of his victims and would then attack them in their residences, binding his victims and repeatedly strangle them to the point of recovery prior to killing them (Myers et al., 2008). After their deaths, he would pose his victims and then masturbate onto a piece of their clothing. Rader was also known to pose and photograph himself in the positions similar to his victims and to wear panty hose, underwear and bras (Myers et al., 2008). Rader’s involvement with sexual bondage and transvestic fetishism was documented through photographs which he explained were substitute for murder (Myers et al., 2008).

After reading this weeks articles, some of the potential criminal offenses that can be committed through fulfilling ones fetishes are those depicted above such as, voyeurism, breaking and entering, theft, rape, torture, and murder.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental

disorders (5th ed.).

Myers, W. C., Bukhanovskiy, A., Justen, E., Morton, R. J., Tilley, J., Adams, K., Vandagriff, V. L., & Hazelwood, R. R. (2008). The relationship between serial sexual murder and autoerotic asphyxiation. Forensic Science International176(2–3), 187–195.

R.A. Prentky, A.W. Burgess, F. Rokous, A. Lee, C. Hartman, R. Ressler, J. Douglas, The

presumptive role of fantasy in serial sexual homicide, Am. J. Psychiatry 147 (7) (1989) 887–891.

Classmate 2 Felice: Hello Professor and Class,

After this week’s readings, I have a little more information around fetishes. A fetish according to the readings is essentially and intense sexual arousal to non living objects or body parts on a person ( Kafka, 2009). When reading the inside view of someone with a foot fetish, the subject became arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, mainly because he was following women around and getting aroused by their legs and shoes (Grant, 1953). After reading the article, I feel he was arrested in general because officers were looking at him following these women around and possibly harassing them in order to get his orgasm. When looking at the actual definition and understanding the criteria, first hand look is someone gaining an orgasm around objects which may appear abnormal to some but no harm present. When there becomes a fetish around body parts, one could invade someone’s privacy or put themselves in possibly crime potential in order to gain their orgasm.

When questioning if fetishes can lead to a crime. On the surface? No. However, when we look deeper into them, they possibly could if the person is desperate enough to steal, break into something, or harm in order to gain their orgasm. If someone becomes sexually aroused to underwear or another particular kind of clothing item, they may be willing to commit a crime to steal underwear or some other clothing (Doctor & Prince, 2007). When looking at other potential crimes of having a fetish, there are some instances where a person can cause harm by being sexually aroused. For example, there have been cases where men and women like to be rough during sex (i.e. choking). If someone were to participate in this type of activity, someone could die and that would be crime within itself.

With first look at this type of disorder, no one is really thinking illegal or crime, however, after diving more into research there is always a potential for fetishism to turn into a crime if someone is desperate enough to cause harm or distress in order to get their sexual fix. I enjoyed learning about this type of disorder because it is one that we do not think about everyday. We often know that other disorder can lead to crime but one just does not think that this first hand can lead to a crime.

Hope everyone has a good week.


Docter, R. F., & Prince, V. (1997). Transvestism: A survey of 1032 cross-dressers. Archives of Sexual Behavior26(6), 589-605

Grant, V. W. (1953). A case study of fetishism. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 48(1), 142-149. doi:

Kafka, M. (2009). The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Fetishism. Archives of sexual behavior. 30(1) 357-62.

Classmate 3 Kassy: Fetishes in general are something that are not a criminal act, but very can lead to one due to the strong desires stemming from the fetish. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, “This category is for individuals whose sexual interests are directed primarily toward objects other than people of the opposite sex, toward sexual acts not usually associated with coitus, or toward coitus performed under bizarre circumstances as in necrophilia, pedophilia, sexual sadism, and fetishism. Even though many find their practices dis- tasteful, they remain unable to substitute normal sexual behavior for them. This diagnosis is not appropriate for individuals who perform deviant sexual acts because normal sexual objects are not available to them” (American Psychiatric Association, 2017). It is important to realize just how strong of a sexual desire comes forth from a fetish, though it may start off as innocent. Fetishism can be considered a mental health disorder if the sexual desires start to interfere with ones daily life, this is something that needs to be heavily taken into consideration.

There are many different potential criminal offenses that can be committed through fulfilling ones fetish if the mental disorder does not get treated. What can appear to start as an innocent fetish, can eventually turn into a crime. Any person can become fixated on something and desire to have it, but once that fixation turns into a fetish it is something completely different. It is important to know that the crime level that can occur from a fetish can continue to grow in the level of severity that occurs. A person can have a fetish of a woman’s panties and decide they want to hold them. So that person very well may break into the woman’s home while she is not there to go through her panty drawer. Eventually, that fetish may no longer be enough of a fix for them. So, they progress to breaking into her home while she is there. The woman may very well end up being sexually assaulted and maybe even murdered from the person with the fetish. Fetishism starts off as victimless, but once a person starts conducting criminal activity because of the fetish it can easily increase severity levels of crime. (Myers, Bukhanovskiy, Justen, Morton, Tilley, Adamas, Vandagriff, and Hazelwood, 2008, pgs. 187-195).

Various fetishes can lead to different things but it vital to understand that if things are being taken to a severe level that interferes with a persons daily life, they need to seek mental health treatment. Once they have a diagnosis they can work on themselves and their desires to ensure a crime does not happen. There is help out there, they just have to be willing to seek it.

American Psychiatric Association. (2017). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: Dsm-5.

Myers, W. C., Bukhanovskiy, A., Justen, E., Morton, R. J., Tilley, J., Adams, K., Vandagriff, V. L., & Hazelwood, R. R. (2008). The relationship between serial sexual murder and autoerotic asphyxiation. Forensic Science International176(2-3), 187–195.

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