(Names changed to protect identities)
“I suspected Layak was cheating on me when I noticed some of my sarees missing from the wardrobe. A georgette saree appeared in his wardrobe one day to confirm my doubt. I was really angry at him but waited for a direct clue,” Manini began her story. Every counselling session I’m ready for surprises so to calm her I asked her “Couldn’t it be possible that he has bought a gift for someone and had kept it in his wardrobe?”
“No, that wasn’t a new saree. I kept track of his phone calls but nothing seemed amiss as he had no password on his mobile nor hid the phone from me anytime. Even Layak’s laptop was open all the time and I could easily access his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. So he was playing the game really well,” she went on.
Was it an affair?
At the onset, it seemed like a regular extramarital affair, yet I waited for Manini to go further. “One day I pretended to go to my sister’s home to Indore but stayed back in Mumbai. I went home by around 6 pm. I noticed that Layak’s car was in our parking area. Opening the door, I heard the song “Choli ke peechey” being played very loud. As I made a dash for my bedroom and I saw someone dressed in my saree. I was shattered that Layak would bring someone home in my absence and then dress her up in my saree. I saw my world breaking. Through the cracks of my world I saw that it was Layak who was in my saree and he was seducing himself with the song.” Then there was a long silence from Manini.
“I became sick in the stomach seeing the strong man in my life in his weak moments. There were mixed feelings. I was happy that Layak was not cheating on me but I was worried that Layak was cheating on himself. He broke down before me and said he had a fetish for sarees and he wore my sarees when I was not home,” said a broken Manini.
The secrets tumbled out
Together we worked around getting Layak to reveal his emotional turmoil. Apparently Layak had his first sexual encounter with his maidservant when he was only 11 years old. She had removed her saree and draped it around him while she taught him the act and enjoyment of sex. Henceforth every time they were in a sex act she draped the saree around him. The georgette saree that was in his cupboard was hers. Manini also found all her missing sarees tucked away under his drawer in a secret compartment. The saree aroused him and later on he developed a fetish. Layak used the saree to masturbate and that’s why Manini and Layak didn’t have a good sexual life.
The discovery of Layak’s fetish was a startling revelation to Manini. Suddenly the man she thought she knew became a total stranger and she had acceptance issues. She didn’t know if she wanted to continue the marriage or not, as he had completely broke the trust in their marriage. Yet she came for counselling, as she wanted to give him one chance to change.
Related reading: An (s)exceptional case
“Even before we got married, Layak always told me that he loved women in sarees and I always complied with him before and after marriage. But I can’t have two people in the house wear sarees. So I will help him come out of this fetish, knowing it is time consuming, as this has been a two-decade-old problem. Our sex life has been a disaster with him being elusive in bed. Other than that he is very loving and adores me so I just took it as a lack of interest in sex due to his high stress at work. Now I have much more on my plate to handle.”
Not just one issue
There are multiple issues in this case. Manini had to deal with the fact that Layak had hidden a huge secret from her. First she had to come to terms with his lies. She even felt guilty that she didn’t seeing the red signals he was sending. She also feared that he could be gay. And finally she either had to cope with this fetish or help him out of it.
Layak particularly had a fetish for Manini’s sweaty blouses, as that reminded him of the smell when he first had sex. He couldn’t articulate why he continued the fetish despite having moved on in life. He confessed that he wasn’t gay and that he would give marriage his best try.
Manini on her own decided that she will help him with his fetish by letting him have his way by draping her saree, but she had to have her way too by him making love to her with it. It was a tough call for him but it worked in their marriage. The counselling is still going on.
The psychology of fetishes
Clothing fetishism or garment fetishism is a sexual fetish, a fixation for a particular garment, usually of the opposite sex. The person is so obsessed with the garment that this gives him sexual gratification. Sexual fantasies are often representations of parts of our lives, whether past or present. When we break them down and take a closer look, we will see that they are normal reactions to our life experiences. Everybody has a sexual fantasy in their mind; some wish to share while others don’t. The sexual fantasies are most likely a reflection of the stimuli one was exposed to during one’s sexual awakening in childhood, much like classical conditioning of childhood. This was what happened to Layak. Childhood sexuality is a natural part of child development, though it is completely taboo and ignored in our culture.
These fetishes are like skeletons in the closet. Not many can accept it if confessed early and if not confessed earlier then the revelation is pretty shattering.