Sex ed group: ‘Fetishism is not a disease’

The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) is demanding the removal of fetishism and sadomasochism from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) registry of diseases.

“RFSU, which strives to ensure that every individual has the right to be, chose, and enjoy, as long as it takes place voluntarily, not at the cost of someone else, and doesn’t injure anyone else, believes that the registry which today classifies sadomasochism and fetishism and a disease is stigmatizing,” the organization wrote in a letter to Socialstyrelsen earlier this year.

According to Marika Smith, who belongs to a working group for issues related to sexual politics and fetishism associated with RFSU’s Stockholm chapter, the welfare board has yet to provide a formal response to the request, but insists they are looking into the matter.

While she admits that the classification is rarely, if ever, used in practice, having it removed from the disease registry is still important.

“It’s a matter of principle,” she told The Local.

“We think it’s unacceptable to use different methods of sexual expression as a way to judge people’s mental health.”

According to RFSU, classifying sadomasochism and fetishism as diseases leads to unwarranted stereotypes which can make it difficult for people to be open about their sexual habits.

The group has been working for a change to the registry in Sweden and at the World Health Organization (WHO), which also maintains the practices in its disease registry.

“RFSU feels it’s wrong to classify these sexual practices as psychological diseases and believes it’s high time that these terms were removed from the WHO’s and Socialstyrelsen’s classification of diseases,” the organization writes on its website.

Smith said her group, which has taken on primary responsibility for sparking debate about the classification, had done what it can to draw attention to the issue, including cooperating with an international group working to change the WHO’s classification.

“We thought we’d start with trying to achieve the change in Sweden,” said Smith, adding that Denmark removed the classification back in 1995.

“If (the WHO) can see that Sweden, Denmark, and hopefully other developed countries have enacted the change, we hope that the WHO will follow suit.”