It’s not fetishism, it’s cathexis.
A moment ago I found myself saying that “I’m done apologizing for my gay male fetish.” But you know what? It’s not fetishism, for me or, I suspect, for many other slash writers. Fetishism is taking one part or aspect of something and attributing mystical powers to it, so that it fills in for something in yourself you feel you lack. Fetishism leads to objectification, which denies the individuality and subjectivity of those you fetishize. Cathexis is different. (I know, it’s an obscure word, and it sounds all professory and elitist, but it’s such a precise term I really need to use it.)
Cathexis is investing erotic and emotional energy into a person, situation, object or act. Cathexis, unlike fetishism, doesn’t fill in for a lack, but adds to and enables parts of yourself and the world you haven’t fully understood. Cathexis draws out and enhances libido; the object of cathexis is like a magnet pulling out of you desires that you haven’t accessed otherwise. Most importantly, cathexis is strongest when you attend to the specific, unique characteristics of your object. Fetishism means mystifying; cathexis means paying attention. The fetish loses its power when you learn about who or what it really is; cathexis gets stronger the more you know about your desire and its object.
So: I’m done apologizing for my gay male cathexis. I’m not quite sure exactly what it’s enabling in me, but I’m a better, happier, more creative person because of it.