Simplified Fetish Theory

Among f18225‘s recent string of excellent entries was one about fetishes. As in: “Bob totally has yellow fever. He’s got a huge asian fetish.”

It seems like the popular take on fetishes is that they, and the people who have them, are weird in a negative kind of way. It’s a bit of a stigma. I was going to write a post with a mathematical evaluation of fetish “strategy”, but I had to make too many assumptions, the post got too long, and I got confused.

Instead, we only make the simple statement: for most fetishes, under reasonable assumptions, more than half of the population benefits.

First, let’s define a fetish as “a heightened attraction to a (smallish) subset of the population”. We limit these subsets to ones based on characteristics orthogonal to attractiveness (e.g. there is no fetish “for hot girls”). In this scenario, for simplicity, we assume a heterosexual fetish. We partition the population into four groups: F = fetishists; (1-F) = all other people of that gender; OF = fetishized group; (1-OF) = all other people of that (opposite) gender. Here’s how each group fares.

F: By definition, since this group has a heightened attraction to members of OF, people in (1-F) don’t find OF quite as attractive. Thus members of F have less competition in succeeding with their most desired partners, members of OF.

(1-F): Members of F are more concerned with OF, leaving less competition for (1-OF), which is good for (1-F).

OF: Members are subject to heightened attention, and thus have a larger swath of partners to choose from.

(1-OF): Members are less desirable on average, so they lose out.

But (F + (1-F)) = all people of one gender, so (F + (1-F) + OF) > 50% of the population. So fetishes aren’t so bad.

(* This evaluation isn’t strictly true; you can come up with degenerate cases using bizarre values of F and OF. Have at it…)

Anyway, a couple of years ago, I did a little fetish-testing experiment. I sent out pictures of 10 (fully-clothed) women to a large number of my guy friends. These 10 women had a variety of hair colors, body types, ethnicities, and so on. I had the friends rank the women from 1 (best) to 10 (worst), and aggregated all of their votes to create an overall top 10 list. Then I compared each person’s top 10 list with the aggregate, and computed the deviation. The larger the deviation, the greater that person’s “fetish index” — and the better off he was. For instance, if a guy had a high deviation, that meant that a woman he thought was hot wasn’t generally recognized as hot (what you might call a fetish). So, he was in a great position: that woman wouldn’t receive much attention (since most other guys didn’t think she was hot), so he’s got a better shot of getting her. Good for him!

My results? Improbably, my top 10 (which was the first I inputted into the system) was exactly the same as the aggregate top 10… which meant that every girl I thought was hot, every other guy did too. Great, say, if I wanted to become a model talent scout, but bad for real life.

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22 Responses to Simplified Fetish Theory

  1. vchou says:


    i totally forgot about your fetish index. still makes me chuckle.

  2. ratatosksv says:

    Do you still have the 10 pics and the results?

    • aj says:

      Yeah, I found the link:
      Booth babes.

      In retrospect, not that much ethnic variety, but still telling. Send me your 10 in order and I’ll see if I can find the script and compute the results.

      • ratatosksv says:

        Yeah, I don’t think this selection really gets much insightful information out of me. I didn’t find any of them very attractive, and almost all of them would fall at about within a range of 3 or so points if I were to rate them individually on a 10 point scale.

        Oh, and since you weren’t clear on what “in order” means, here are the two most useful orderings:

        In order of appearance on the page (reading left-to-right):
        Candace – 2
        Lisa – 1
        Stacia – 9
        Marisa – 6
        Chanel – 5
        Devon – 4
        Aimee – 3
        Caroline – 8
        Danielle – 10
        Tyan – 7

        In order of ranking, 1 to 10:

        Lisa – 1 (even though her boobs scare me)
        Candace – 2
        Aimee – 3
        Devon – 4
        Chanel – 5
        Marisa – 6
        Tyan – 7
        Caroline – 8
        Stacia – 9
        Danielle – 10

  3. f18225 says:

    my picks:

    1. chanel
    2. lisa
    3. aimee
    4. caroline
    5. devon
    6. marisa
    7. stacia
    8. danielle
    9. tyan
    10. candace

    is it bad that i picked the asian woman as the least attractive? (yet the aggregate results actually have her as quite high.) i feel like a traitor or something.

    btw, this is a fantastic way of thinking. more divergent preferences = less competition = more satisfaction for everyone!

    i also have this theory about relationships — we weigh traits in others (physical and otherwise) according to how much we value (and work at) our own traits. E.g. a man who spends hours at a gym every day is really proud of his muscular build, he is likely to prefer a woman who has an athletic build to a waify or curvy woman. Or a woman has a really great sense of humor, she is very proud of her own ability to make others laugh and lists sense of humor as the #1 thing she looks for in a guy. so because people have priorities/rankings/weights for different traits (personality, looks, education level, etc), they also tend to go after different mates. (of course some lucky people have it all and are pursued more heavily than others.)

    • vchou says:

      more rankings

      from brad:
      1. lisa
      2. chanel
      3. candace
      4. devon
      5. tyan
      6. stacia
      7. danielle
      8. marisa
      9. aimee
      10. caroline

    • aj says:

      Keep in mind that the “results” on the page are different from the results I’ve collected from friends, etc.

      I can’t actually permanently add your picks to the database, as that would skew the accuracy of the rankings for people “actually in competition” for said babes. However, if I run your stats on the current database, you’d be the 27th most normal of 31 people. Fetish!

      “Or a woman has a really great sense of humor, she is very proud of her own ability to make others laugh and lists sense of humor as the #1 thing she looks for in a guy.”
      Or, sometimes, a woman thinks she has a really great sense of humor, or a guy thinks he’s studly, etc. But yeah, interesting.

  4. ccho says:

    Though I prefer HAC, the two Asians on the Booth Babes page would score pretty low on my list.

    1 – Stacia
    2 – Lisa
    3 – Aimee
    4 – Danielle
    5 – Candace
    6 – Chanel
    7 – Devon
    8 – Marisa
    9 – Caroline
    10 – Tyan

    I guess I’m picky ;)

  5. f18225 says:

    for hot women and racial diversity, try the miss universe contestants?

  6. gdogg says:

    just wondering — how do you compute the “deviation” between the overall ranking and another ranking? i’d garner there are multiple sensible ways of doing it and there’s a possibility you’d get vastly different results.

    • aj says:

      I compute RMS and linear. RMS is the one I report… seems better since it amplifies a large discrepancy (e.g. ranking the #10 woman #1).

      • interesting. l-infinity would clearly be a bad choice, but it’s not immediately obvious that i should prefer l2 (rms) to l1 (linear)… there’s a whole psychological fitting process here just to chose the right norm.

  7. Anonymous says:

    regardless/irregardless makes me crazy