The Fetishization of Anorexia

Why do I (and many people like me) find so much (guilty) pleasure and enjoyment in watching YouTubers like Eugenie Cooney? As a highly educated man, I can tell you it’s not for the depth of her content nor the creative- or intellectual stimulation but rather an entirely different kind of stimulation altogether.

Fetishes, by definition, are intense sexual attractions to specific objects, body parts, or behaviors that are not typically sexualized. In the realm of sexual fetishes, some individuals develop attractions towards conditions or states that are harmful or unhealthy, such as anorexia nervosa.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, leading to extreme restriction of food intake and often resulting in dangerously low body weight. This disorder has profound physical and psychological consequences, including organ damage, infertility, and even death. Understanding how someone might develop a fetish for anorexia requires delving into the complex interplay of psychology, cultural influences, and personal experiences.

Firstly, it’s crucial to distinguish between fetishization and empathetic understanding. Fetishization involves objectifying or sexualizing a condition or trait without regard for its harmful consequences, whereas empathetic understanding involves a compassionate recognition of someone’s struggles without reducing them to a sexual object. Individuals who fetishize anorexia may be drawn to the perceived control, discipline, or perceived fragility associated with extreme thinness. These individuals might find arousal in the appearance of emaciation or the physical markers of starvation, such as protruding bones or sunken features. For some, the appeal may lie in the taboo or forbidden nature of the condition, which can amplify its allure.

Cultural factors also play a significant role in shaping fetishistic tendencies. In societies that valorize thinness as a beauty ideal, individuals may internalize these standards and develop associations between extreme thinness and attractiveness. Media portrayals that emphasize frailty or depict emaciated bodies as desirable can further reinforce these associations, influencing perceptions of beauty and desirability.

Psychologically, fetishization of anorexia may stem from deeper issues related to control, identity, or intimacy. Some individuals may project their own anxieties or insecurities onto the fetishized condition, seeking a sense of control over their desires or finding validation in taboo fantasies. Moreover, the fetishization of anorexia can intersect with broader patterns of objectification and exploitation, where individuals with anorexia are reduced to objects of desire rather than recognized as individuals struggling with a serious mental illness.

Addressing the fetishization of anorexia requires a multifaceted approach that includes education, awareness, and empathy. Education efforts should focus on promoting understanding of the complexities of eating disorders, debunking myths, and highlighting the severe health risks associated with anorexia nervosa. Increasing awareness about the psychological and cultural factors that contribute to the fetishization of anorexia can help challenge harmful stereotypes and foster healthier attitudes towards body image and sexuality.

In conclusion, this article was not written to single-out, diagnose or speculate as to whether YouTuber Eugenia Cooney suffers from anorexia, but rather to draw attention to the sexual fetishization of anorexia and the large number of viewers such as myself who enjoy her content, and that of others like her, for all the wrong reasons. Whether or not Eugenia does indeed suffer from anorexia is beside the point. The mere fact that she is extremely thin and may appear as though she does simply creates “eye candy” for those of us with an anorexia fetish who find her sexually attractive and her content thus stimulating and gratifying.

Ultimately, fostering empathy and understanding towards individuals with anorexia nervosa involves recognizing their experiences as valid and complex, rather than reducing them to objects of fetishistic desire. By promoting respectful dialogue and informed awareness, we can work towards creating a society that values mental health, supports recovery, and respects the dignity and humanity of all individuals.

— Dr. Ivan Vaselthorpe

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