“Cool me down, I’m feeling so exotic. Ya right now, I’m hotter than the tropics.”-Priyanka Chopra
An othering fetish is having an exclusive sexual attraction to people of other origin, or attraction to the point of fetishizing a distant group of people, whose culture is viewed as being inferior or mystically different to your own. It is called othering since it is an attraction based on considering people from another culture as significantly different or “other” than you.
The original term for ethnic fetishism is orientalism. It is based on the early travels of colonialists who came back and spoke about how different and exotic the people and places were. But it wasn’t just the people and the places, it was everything about where they were from. Their unusual clothes made of unknown fabrics, strange makeup and jewelry, and their unknown foods were all part of this fantasy picture. The sexualization of these cultures is often tied into the idea of a hidden and unknown sexuality, that once unfolded is far more rewarding and extensive than Western sexuality.
The Dark Side Of Othering
This othering and hyper-sexualizing of different cultures was a way that western culture dehumanized eastern cultures. It is dehumanizing because it is objectifying the person and reducing them to an idea, or sexualizing parts of them. The attraction is not about the person but about what the person represents. Othering as a fetish reinforces typically negative racial stereotypes. This fetishism has grown with the Western exposure to the hijab. Devout Muslim women have most of their face covered, so being able to see their whole face is very intimate. The hijab makes them mysterious in their look and also in their culture, as most of the Western world does not relate to wearing them. Women who wear hijabs, because they are viewed as being more traditional, are also supposed to be “off limits” to Westerners and therefore more mysterious.