From ‘Leather fetish lands serial wallet thief in jail…again’, 23 March 2013, article by Elena Chong, ST
A SERIAL thief with a fetish for sniffing women’s leather wallets was jailed for 13 months yesterday after a judge decided he had already been given enough chances to mend his ways. Low Ji Qing also took “upskirt” pictures of a woman bending over in Kiddy Palace toy store, the court heard.
The 48-year-old, who becomes sexually aroused by the smell of the accessories, has been in and out of court since 1986 – spending a total of 16 years behind bars. He was spared prison in May 2011, when he was placed on probation due to his psychiatric disorder. However, he breached the order repeatedly, stealing again and insulting a woman’s modesty.
Yesterday, District Judge Soh Tze Bian decided not to give him another chance and handed him the jail sentence.
Sending a wallet sniffer to jail for repeat offending isn’t going to cure his compulsion, unless the punishment was intended as a form of cold turkey when psychiatric treatment doesn’t work. In 2011, it was revealed that Low got hooked on women’s wallets after nosing around his sister’s personal belongings when he was just 7. He later embarked on a snatch spree, pleasuring himself while looking at photographs of strangers. An Economics graduate and previous holder of executive to director level jobs, Low’s life fell apart when he succumbed to his olfactory obsession and was diagnosed with ‘fetishism’. Other experts in the field prefer to label it ‘paraphilia’. In the Tintin comics, there’s a character who pickpockets wallets for his own personal collection. Such behaviour would be viewed as, at best, ‘an unusual hobby’ in stories for teenagers, but condemned as ‘sick’ and ‘perverse’ in real life.
There seems to be a gender bias when it comes to fetishism or paraphila. It’s OK for women to be compulsive hoarders of shoes like Imelda Marcos but if a man does the same for stiletto heels, lingerie or used panties, it’s called a sick fetish and it’s usually assumed that the same shoe-hogging ‘sicko’ goes around sucking people’s toes too, though he could very well be a normal working adult contributing to society like any one of us. A woman who steals branded goods because she can’t help it is a kleptomaniac but a guy who runs around hostels robbing hanging students’ underwear from clotheslines is a nutcase. This probably explains why men make up the majority of fetishists; Compulsive women hug their objects of desire to sleep or snap a hundred versions of the same thing on Instagram. Men stuff their noses or rub themselves with it.
The word ‘fetish’ is used rather fast and loose these days to describe any abnormal attachment to activities or objects. What was once maligned as ‘fetishistic’ like making adult women dress in schoolgirl uniforms have become merely ‘kinky’ to even banal since ‘Back to School’ became a DnD staple theme. Fetishes are also used to sell men’s magazines, like the ‘FHM Fetish Finals’ held in 2008, to promote designer shoes in your neighbourhood shopping mall, or couple events to celebrate Valentine’s Day (2004′s LOVE FETISH).
It has also been trivialised to describe a strict preference for specific mate qualities. Supermodel Bar Rafaeli insists that she has a ‘fetish’ for men with nice teeth. Caucasian men who come to this part of the world for its ‘exotic’ women have an ‘Asian’ fetish. I have a fetish for women who can recite the value of Pi up to 17 digits. If I keep my workplace table tidy I have a fetish for cleanliness, likewise I have a fetish for blue if it so happens to be the colour of my bedroom and iPhone cover. But seriously, this overuse and undermining of a mental disorder isn’t new. An article in 1934 labels people who over-indulge in exercise as having a ‘fetish’ for it, an addiction which is still rampant today, judging by the rate people are posting their run timings and distances on Facebook and making the rest of us look like we have a fetish for sleep, junk food and TV.
Today, it might be deviant sexual behaviour to go around sniffing people’s armpits, but who knows, when it becomes mainstream this may become part and parcel of perfectly healthy foreplay (if it isn’t already). It may be gross now to view videos of women stepping on pieces of bread, but nobody says anything about people drawn to continuous video loops of Nigella Lawson kneading dough. Before you know it, anything from hugging and your hairstyle of choice to mundane activities like eating, Facebooking or putting a favourite song on repeat may be inflated to ‘fetish’ status just because you appear to be a slave to it. I can have potatoes for lunch everyday but that doesn’t mean I have a tuber fetish. That would imply that I tickle my erogenous zones with french fries.