Cross Dressing and Fetishism – Nigeria

Keywords: Cross dressing, sexual fetishism, transvestic disorder, autogynephilia, drag queen, Nigeria.


Cross Dressing and Fetishism – Nigeria. What does cross dressing mean? What does sexual fetishism mean? Do they exist in Nigeria? Are they mental health issues? Can they be treated?

Both cross dressing and fetishism are as old as history, especially in the European and Asian countries. The world is now a global village where travels and communications are now very easy. This has brought about the intermingling of cultures, both, the good, the bad and the ugly. Thus, cross dressing and fetishism can now be found in Africa, Nigeria inclusive. Whereas those who practice fetishism are still in hiding, cross dressers are trending. 

Cross dressing.

This is the habit of wearing the clothing of the opposite gender. This include accessories such as earring, stockings, make up, inner wears, etc. Cross dressing has nothing to do with the person’s sexual preference, because such a person may be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. It also has nothing to do with the person’s gender identity. Most cross dressers are men and they prefer remaining as men and do not want sex change. This means that they are not transgender.

Transvestic disorder:

There is a form of cross dressing called Transvestic disorder. This is a disorder that arises from cross dressing. These cross dressers have been cross dressing for 6 months or more. They also derive sexual arousal from cross dressing. It is also compulsive in nature, causes them distress and negatively affects their day to day activities. The sexual arousal may be physical or as fantasy.

When the person becomes physically sexually aroused, he can engage in sexual activities with his partner wearing the female clothing. If he does not have a partner, he can masturbate at the end.

Age of onset:

Cross dressing and transvestic disorder starts in childhood. The person at this childhood age is fascinated by wearing female clothing or accessories. He may just be as fantasy, imaging himself wearing female things. And by puberty the cross dresser or transvestic will begin to get an erection of the penis while wearing female things. This is because during the cross dressing he imagines himself as a woman. It is called autogynephilia.  So he may imagine himself menstruating, or cooking, or having breasts, etc. For some, the sexual arousal may stop totally as the years go by as they continue with the cross dressing. But for others the sexual arousal continues and may get worse as the man becomes obsessed with the cross dressing.

Cross dressing in Nigeria:

Are there actually cross dressers in Nigeria? The answer is yes, and we do see some on social media, with some as celebrities. But the rest are in hiding. These are usually normal men holding well respected jobs and importance in the society. Those in hiding dress as men in public, while in private or secretly, they put on female things, including pants and bras.  

Why cross dress?

What actually causes cross dressing is unknown. But people engage in cross dressing for so many reasons which include –


Some cross dress just for entertainment purposes. They do so for financial gain. Social media has gone agog with cross dressers who do so for financial gains using skits.  These are called drag queens. But for those who have transvestic disorder, they can get their sexual arousal also from the response they receive from their audience.

Poor coping mechanism:

Others do it as a coping mechanism for stress. Some do cross dressing just suppress the sadness from the deaths of their mothers. Also some others do so to get comfort and peace. Or to reduce anxiety.

Subversion of gender norms:

Some people do not believe in the clear cut gender roles. So they cross dress to oppose the distinctions in male and female roles. They want to be sexually liberated.


There are cross dressers who just want to have the feel of being a female. These males want to know how it feels to wear a dress, high heel shoes, make up etc. They also want to know how it feels to be admired by a man or kissed by a man. Also they want to know how it feels to buy female articles. They may also want to know how it feels to be submissive.

For sexual pleasure:

Those who have transvistic disorder go into cross dressing for sexual pleasure. They cross dress to get aroused, sexually. This arousal will enable them engage in sexual activities, either with a partner or to masturbate.

Cultural issues:

For some people, it is a ritualistic cultural practice.

Sexual Fetishism.

This is also called erotic fetishism. It involves the use of inanimate object as a preferred method to get sexually aroused. Fetishism can also come about from the person focusing on non genital part of the body to get sexual arousal or excitement.

The object used to get the excitement is called ‘fetish’ while the person engaged in the act is called fetishist.

To get sexually aroused, the individual or fetishist will smell the fetish object, taste it, or rub it around the genitalia. Also watching the female wear or take off the under wear could be the arousing stimulant. Sometimes, it is the shape or the texture of the object that causes the sexual excitement. It can be compared with masochism, where pain is the sexual excitement.

This fetish object can be used without a sexual partner and at the end, the person masturbates. But it can also be part of the sexual activity between the person and the partner. In this case, the fetishist holds the fetish object while engaging in sexual activity with the partner. 

Causes of sexual fetishism.

There is no known cause for this. But a lot of postulations have been made. These range from Freudian theories, to behavioral issues, as well as sociocultural matters. But modeling can be a causative factor. This occurs when one watches another person engage in the act.

Research has also documented that those who were sexually abused in childhood, may develop the disorder. They may use the object around during the abuse as a fetish object. For example, someone whose abuse perpetrator used pillow to drown her screams, may later use pillows as the fetish object.

It can also coexist with sadomasochism or transvestic disorders.

Fetish objects:

Inanimate objects –

Shoes, women’s under wears such as pants, braziers, used menstrual pads, etc. Even printed or pictures of female under wears can elicit the excitement.

Body parts –

These are non sexual body parts such as the leg, feet, neck, hair, or bushy armpits, etc.

How obtained –

These objects can belong to their partners, stolen from neighbors, or bought from people of the opposite gender who are willing to sell. Because the disorder is shrouded in secrecy, paid agents like street children are contracted to provide the objects. So these agents can steal them from the wires where they are spread to dry. They can also scout the trash cans for those thrown away, such as used sanitary pads.

Age of onset:

Fetishism disorder begins at puberty, between the ages of 11 and 12 years. It is a lifelong condition.

Fetishism in Nigeria:

Does fetishism occur in Nigeria? The simple answer is yes. Unlike cross dressers, fetishists in Nigeria are actually in hiding. Majority are men, but some women can also be fetishists. They are normal looking individuals who can also have normal jobs and respected in the society. They can be heterosexuals, bisexuals or homosexuals.

Is Cross dressing and fetishism considered mental illness?

Cross dressing and fetishism are actually not seen as mental health conditions. This only holds once the persons are not distressed by them and are functioning well in the society. But once these individuals become distressed by their actions and do not function effectively, they become disorders. Transvestic disorder is a mental health condition.

Once any of these persons feels shame, guilt, anxiety or depression from their condition, it becomes a mental health issue. Some may also have obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) where they watch females undressing or they peep under their dresses. Also, if the person becomes aggressive when others talk about his/her actions, it becomes a mental health issue.

Most often, their partners do not cooperate with them and it causes them problems with interpersonal relationships. The partner may feel guilt or inadequate, for not being able to arouse the individual. Some may end up with sexual dysfunction when unable to either cross dress or get the fetish object. And some may have delayed ejaculation without their objects. These are some of the reasons that take them to mental health treatment. The court can also request for mental health assessment when the person is caught trying to steal the fetish object.

Treatment of cross dressing and fetishism – Nigeria.

For cross dressers, treatment is not needed. The practice of fetishism may not require treatment unless the person is disturbed by it, or it is affecting the persons work, socially, etc.

Both transvestic disorders and fetishism are lifelong conditions that are difficult to treat. Unfortunately, the individuals do not present themselves for treatment, especially when they are faced with distress and functional issues. This is either because they do not know that treatment exists or they do not believe that they require treatment.

Treatment is via psychotherapy and medications and it is a long term treatment. Treatment comes from the clinical psychologist who specializes in this area. The cognitive Behavioral Therapy and aversion therapy are used. Also the psychiatrist makes use of medications to take care of the psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, depression OCD, etc. They also give medications to reduce the excessive sexual drive. For some, the behavior stops completely, while for others they relapse.

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