Monthly Archives: May 2012

Statue of limitations: A brief overview of agalmatophilia

In March 2012, the Daily Mail reported the story of Reighner Deleighnie, a 40-year old woman from London who claimed that she had fallen in love with a three-foot statue of the Greek God Adonis that she bought for £395. It was reported that:

“She enjoys reading and talking to her companion, and keeps him close by when she watches television and eats dinner. She also kisses and caresses him, imagining the pair of them walking through meadows of wildflowers or at the seaside. She shares the condition with Amanda Whittaker, a 27-year-old shop assistant from Leeds who has fallen head over heels for the Statue of Liberty”.

Agalmatophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from an attraction to (usually nude) statues, dolls, mannequins and/or other similar body shaped objects. It is also part of a wider condition known as ‘object sexuality’ (i.e., those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to specific inanimate objects or structures) that I wrote about in a previous blog. The behaviour can manifest itself in many forms including actual sexual contact with the body-shaped objects, fantasies of having sexual encounters with the body-shaped objects, the act or sexual fantasy of watching encounters between the body-shaped objects themselves, and/or sexual arousal from thoughts of being transformed or transforming into a body-shaped object. (Because of this latter variation, some commentators have noted there are elements of transformation fetishism that I examined in my previous blog on Furry Fandom). It has also been claimed that for some agalmatophiles, the idea of immobility or loss of control can be arousing. For other agalmatophiles, there may also be fantasies about paralysis that may cross over into hypno-fetishism and/or robot fetishism.

Agalmatophilia can also include “Pygmalionism” that is usually defined as a state of love for an object of one’s own creation. Pygmalion was a Greek sculptor and misogynist who fell in love with a statue he had carved. In Greek mythology (and according to Ovid), after seeing the Propoetides prostituting themselves, Pygmalion lost all sexual interest in women. The legend has it that his carved statue was so realistic that he fell in love with it. He prayed to Aphrodite (the Greek godess of love) to bring the statue to life. Aphrodite eventually granted his wish and Pygmalion married the once statue. (I feel duty bound to point out that this view is not universal. A 1978 paper in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences by two New Zealand historians, Dr. A. Scobie and Dr. J. Taylor, state that Pygmalionism is not – and shouldn’t be confused as – a form of agalmatophilia).

Most of the academic writings on agalmatophilia are either case studies and/or historical writings (which are hard to confirm). For instance, Dr. Brenda Love in a 2005 book chapter entitled “Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing” said that Clisyphus allegedly “violated the statue of a goddess in the Temple of Samos, after having placed a piece of meat on a certain part”. Dr. Love also reported that having sex with statues was commonplace among worshippers of Priapus where virgins were first penetrated by him. (For those who don’t know, Priapus was a fertility god, and protector of fruit, gardens, livestock, and male genitalia. All illustrations of Priapus accentuate his oversized, permanent erection that has given rise to the painful medical condition ‘priapism’ in which the penis remains erect for long periods). Even in the twentieth century, Dr. Love reports that young Indian female virgins have been documented as making love to statues as a way to break their hymens.

Arguably the first academically documented case was by Richard Von Krafft-Ebbing in his 1877 text Psychopathia Sexualis. Here, Krafft-Ebbing recounted that case of a male gardener who fell in love with a statue of the Venus de Milo and was discovered attempting to have sexual intercourse with it. In a 1978 issue of the Journal of Sex Research, Murray White, a psychologist based in New Zealand, examined the clinical and literary citations relating to agalmatophilia. Although making reference to case studies outlined by Krafft-Ebbing and Havelock Ellis, he found found only one “single documented instance where this condition existed as part of a complex manifestation of symptoms but a number of instances where it occurred as a pornographic fantasy”. Despite the rarity of the condition, White did at least conform that the condition was a bona fide clinical entity.

More recently, Dr. Brenda Love in her 2005 book chapter outlined two more case studies (one of which I think was originally in Robert Tralin’s 1969 book The Sexual Fetish). The first case was the case a 34-year old man who at the age of 12 years became obsessed with a life size museum statue. He subsequently bought two small statues he spotted in a shop window and began regularly masturbating with them. At the time of the report being written, he had been masturbating with the aid of the statues for 22 years and was still doing it even though he was now happily married.

The second case involved a window dresser who developed overwhelming urges to masturbate every time he saw a naked mannequin. This appeared to be related to his first sexual experience when he was forced to perform fellatio on a man while sitting on mannequins. As time went on, he also developed desires to rub up against mannequins and also liked other men to watch him do it.

There are also cases of what could perhaps be described as ‘pseudo-agalmatophilia’. For instance, Dr. Brenda Love noted that in the sado-masochistic community, some masochists are ordered by their sexually sadistic partners to become a statue and not move while being fondled. There is nothing in the empirical academic literature outside of case studies although one website essay on agalmatophilia claims men who participate in these fetishes outnumber women 10 to 1, but that there are many women who participate as well. It also states that:

“The sexual stimulation results more from a need of control and sexual gratification without emotion from either counterpart. It can be easily misunderstood as a shallow, cruel, and heartless depiction of sexual stimulation, and although this may be true for some, it is not true for all. Some use this as a way of performing derogatory acts without actually harming anyone…Agalmatophilia is a difficult concept to comprehend, especially when considering the mental states behind these fantasies. However, one should always consider whether the actions harm real individuals or not. In some cases, this is just a derogatory fantasy. For others, this is just sexual gratification that stems from loneliness or the lack of confidence in an ability to find a partner”

In the absence of any empirical sources to back this up, it is hard to assess the validity of these claims, but the claims seem plausible. As with most rare paraphilic behaviours, we have no way of knowing whether the published case studies are in any way representative of all people who have such sexual interests.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Baker, D. (2012). ‘I’m head over heels in love with the Statue of Liberty': Shop assistant has got a new flame! Daily Mail, March 6. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2110198/Amanda-Whittaker-love-Statue-Liberty-Shop-assistant-got-new-flame.html#ixzz1viApQQ1M

Krafft-Ebing, R. (1877). Psychopathia Sexualis. New York: Paperback Library (1965 reprint).

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Love, B. (2005). Cat-fighting, eye-licking, head-sitting and statue-screwing. In R. Kick (Ed.), Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong (pp.122-129).  New York: The Disinformation Company.

Scobie, A. & Taylor, J. (1975). Perversions ancient and modern. Agalmatophilia, the statue syndrome. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 11, 49-54.

Strauss, R.S. (2012). I’m in love with a three-foot statue of Adonis: Carer, 40, spends every day with £400 moulding of the Greek god of desire she has dubbed ‘Hans’. Daily Mail, March 23. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2119164/Carer-40-spends-day-400-Adonis-moulding-dubbed-Hans.html#ixzz1vi0JlPvb

Stupid My Cupid (2010). Agalmatophilia: Love in the age of silicon. May 20. Located at: http://stupidmycupid.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/what-is-agalmatophilia-agalmatophilia.html

Tralins, R. (1969). The Sexual Fetish: Case Histories of Bizarre Sexual Hangups. New York: Paperback Library Books.

White, M.J. (1978). The Statue Syndrome: Perversion? Fantasy? Anecdote? Journal of Sex Research, 14, 246-249.

Altered states: The psychology of distraction in gambling

I’m sure that most of you are aware that nearly all casinos around the world do not have clocks or windows. Casino operators don’t want their customers to think about time or give them external cues such as whether it’s night or day. By doing this, a gambler’s temporal perception is altered and gamblers may lose track of time and reality (and hopefully spend more money!). Although this may not be good from a financial perspective, from a psychological perspective, losing track of time and reality may not necessarily be such a bad thing.

Psychologists believe that gambling is an excellent  ‘distractor task’. What we mean is that playing slot machines, roulette or poker, has the capacity to engage much of a gambler’s individual active attention because of the cognitive and motor activity that is needed. Continuous gambling also allows the possibility to sustain achievement because of the level of difficulty and skills involved in most games. In short, they provide a challenge that uses a lot of mental energy.

One positive benefit of gambling may be a temporarily higher pain threshold. Research studies have shown that cognitive and attentional distraction has the capacity to block the perception of pain. The reasoning behind this is that distractor tasks (such as gambling and videogame playing) consume some degree of the attentional capacity that would otherwise be devoted to pain perception. Although gambling has never been tested in this way experimentally, research into videogame playing and pain perception has shown that those who play videogames after treatment for things like chemotherapy need significantly less painkillers than those who don’t play videogames. However, one of the problems with this type of “snapshot” research is that there has been no long-term follow-up and it is unclear whether players eventually tire of such games. Therefore other factors need to be explored such as novelty of the activity, game preference, and relative level of challenge.

There has also been an increasing amount of research showing that gamblers who play for long periods of time can enter “dissociative states” of mind. Dissociation is a form of altered state of consciousness. These behaviours lie on a continuum and range from losing track of time, feeling like your someone else, blacking out, not recalling how you got somewhere or what you did, and being in a trance like state. In its most extreme form it can include multi-personality disorders.

Dissociation also needs to be differentiated from distraction although it could be the case that they are at opposite ends of the same continuum. For example, a person may use gambling as a distracting activity but over time may progress into a dissociative one. Distraction usually involves a person’s attention being pulled somewhere other than where he or she wants it to go although some people may deliberately engage in some activities (like drinking alcohol, gambling, smoking etc.) as a way of shifting their thoughts away from something they do not want to think about. Distraction can be born out of boredom, lack of interest, melancholy and creativity. More generally it can be viewed as a low-level state of avoidance. It may also be a symptom of depressive or mood disorders and high levels of stress. On the whole, losing track of time because of distraction is normal when you are having fun. Blacking or going into a dissociative trance like state is not!

There is also the possibility that the medium of gambling influences distraction capacity. For instance, some of my own research has suggested that the Internet may provide immersive and dissociative feelings for its users and may facilitate feelings of escape. I also believe that the anonymity of the Internet allows users to privately engage in activities like gambling without the fear of stigma. The anonymity may also provide the gambler with a greater sense of perceived control over the content, tone, and nature of the online experience.

Anonymity can also increase feelings of psychological comfort since there is a decreased ability to look for, and thus detect, signs of insincerity, disapproval, or judgement in facial expression, as would be typical in face-to-face interactions. For activities such as gambling, this may be a positive benefit particularly when losing as no-one can actually see your face. However, one of the consequences of technology and the Internet has been to reduce the fundamentally social nature of gambling to an activity that in many cases is asocial. Most problem gamblers report that at the height of their problem gambling, it is a solitary activity. Gambling in a social setting has the potential to provide a kind of “safety net” for over-spenders as friends will often notice excessive and  ‘out of character’ behaviour. This is lost when gambling alone on the Internet.

The interactivity of the Internet may also be psychologically rewarding and different from other more passive forms of entertainment (such as television). Psychological research has consistently shown the increased personal involvement on a gambling activity can increase the illusion of control that in turn may facilitate increased gambling. The interactive nature of the Internet may therefore provide a convenient way of increasing such personal involvement.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (2003). Internet gambling: Issues, concerns and recommendations. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 6, 557-568.

Griffiths, M.D.  (2005).  The therapeutic value of videogames. In J. Goldstein & J. Raessens (Eds.), Handbook of Computer Game Studies. pp. 161-171. Boston: MIT Press.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Video games and health. British Medical Journal, 331, 122-123.

Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Gambling psychology: Motivation, emotion and control, Casino and Gaming International, (3)4 (November), 71-76.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Casino design: Understanding gaming floor influences on player behaviour. Casino and Gaming International, 5(1), 21-26.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Gambling addiction on the Internet. In K. Young & C. Nabuco de Abreu (Eds.), Internet Addiction: A Handbook for Evaluation and Treatment. pp. 91-111. New York: Wiley.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2003). The environmental psychology of gambling. In G. Reith (Ed.), Gambling: Who wins? Who Loses? pp. 277-292. New York: Prometheus Books.

Griffiths, M.D., Wood, R.T.A., Parke, J. & Parke, A. (2006). Dissociative states in problem gambling. In C. Allcock (Ed.). Current Issues Related To Dissociation. pp.27-37. Melbourne: Australian Gaming Council.

Parke, A. & Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Beyond illusion of control: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of gambling in the context of information technology. Addiction Research and Theory, 20, 250-260.

Wood, R.T.A., Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, A. (2007). Experiences of time loss among videogame players: An empirical study. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 10, 45-56.

Messing around: A beginner’s guide to salirophilia and mysophilia

Salirophilia – sometimes called saliromania – is a paraphiic sexual fetish in which individuals experience sexual arousal from soiling or disheveling the object of their desire (typically an attractive person). Salirophilic behaviour may include a range of activities such as tearing or damaging the desired person’s clothing, covering them in mud or filth, or messing their hair or makeup. The fetish never involves harming or injuring the person in any way, only messing up how they look in some way, shape or form. The fetish was thought to be mainly heterosexual in origin although a 1982 book (Human Sexuality, by James McCary and Stephen McCary) said that it was known to occur within same sex relationships.

It is sometimes related to other fetishes and paraphilias including urophilia (deriving sexual pleasure from urine), coprophilia (deriving sexual pleasure faeces), mysophilia (deriving sexual pleasure from filth), sploshing (deriving sexual pleasure from wet substances – but not bodily fluids – being deliberately and generously applied to either naked or scantily clad individuals, and sometimes referred to as ‘wet and messy’ fetishism), bukkake (the act of many men ejaculating over a man or women simultaneously; there are also variations of this where men ejaculate over photographs and pictures and referred to as ‘face painting), and omorashi (deriving sexual pleasure from having a full bladder and/or feeling sexually attracted to someone else who has a full bladder). Salirophilia may also extends to other areas such a forcing a sexual partner to wear torn or poorly fitting clothing that make the person look more unattractive.

Other variations of the fetish may also include people become sexually aroused from acts of vandalism and defacement of statues, photos of attractive people (including celebrities). Videos of individuals ejaculating over celebrity photographs are known as “tributes” within the fetish community.

As far as I have been able to establish, there is not a single piece of empirical research directly on salirophilia. Not even a single case study. All the information, I have compiled in this blog comes from online sources and books on sexuality and sexual paraphilias (where salirophilia is only mentioned in passing, if mentioned at all). Dr. Ian Kerner, a New York City sex therapist, says that salirophilia often involves domination and submission fantasies. McCary and McCary noted that although salirophilia has been described as a category separate from sexual sadism, they claim that most cases of saliromania would meet the criteria for sexual sadism, as described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. However, as Dr Joel Milner, Dr Cynthia Dopke, and Dr Julie Crouch note in a 2008 review of paraphilias not otherwise specified, it is unclear whether cases exist in which the salirophilic behavior (e.g., the act of damaging clothing) is distinct from a focus on the suffering and humiliation of the sexual partner. They also noted that the extent of overlap of salirophilia with fetishism, bukkake, mysophilia, urophilia, and coprophilia is unknown.

Like salirophilia, there is little empirical data on mysophilia. As mentioned above, mysiophiliacs derive sexual pleasure from filth and unclean items such as soiled knickers (but may also include related activities such as sexual arousal from seeing people wearing the same clothes for days or weeks on end). Magazines such as the Penthouse Forum: The International Journal of Human Relations has (for many years) contained classified advertisements for soiled women’s underwear for mysophiliacs to buy. According to Professor John Money, this focus may involve the “smelling, chewing or other-wise utilizing sweaty or soiled clothing or articles of menstrual hygiene”.  Back in the late 1940s, the American psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Karpman put forward a number of psychodynamic speculations on the etiological factors associated with mysophilia in a couple of papers that focused on coprophilia. One of Karpman’s analytic interpretations concerning mysophilia was that it involves a symbolic association of sex with something that is dirty (i.e., bad). He said that the pairing of sex and filth was functional, because any guilt associated with sexual behavior could be washed away.

In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). Their results showed that body part fetishes were most common (33%), followed by objects associated with the body (30%), preferences for other people’s behavior (18%), own behavior (7%), social behavior (7%), and objects unrelated to the body (5%). Feet (and objects associated with feet) were by far the most common fetishes. They also reported that some of the sites featured references to mysophiliacs but that this particular fetish accounted for less than 1% of all fetishes

As with salirophilia, case studies of mysophilia appear hard to come by. In a paper by Dr John White published in a 2007 in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, he examinedevidence of primary, secondary, and collateral paraphilias left at serial murder and sex offender crime scenes. Two of the cases he reported involved mysophilia. In the first case, the offender was engaged in multiple paraphilias including mysophilia, picquerism (stabbing or cutting victims of sexual attacks), and attempted paraphilic rape intended to degrade the victim. In the second case, the offender manifested an even wider range of paraphilias including mysophilia, pogophilia (fascination with women’s buttocks), paedophilia, masochism, and urophilia. In both of these cases, the mysophilic tendencies did not seem to be central to the crimes committed, and mysophilia was clearly part of a much wider range of paraphilic behaviour.

There are also first person accounts of salirophilia and/or mysophilia on the internet. I came across this account (which I have edited down from a much longer posting on a psychology bulleting board:

“First of, let me say I’m not a dangerous or mean person. I really almost never hurt other people, and I really don’t want to. I’ve never really told anyone about this. When I was younger, I don’t know how young exactly, I had kind of unusual sexual fantasies. I think I was 6/7/8/9 [years old]. I don’t really remember. I used to think about them while lying in bed before I was going to sleep. Things I fantasized about, and this is a really hard part to type out for me, is people wearing diapers, people wearing clothes in weird ways, and people that got messy. Please don’t think I’m a sick person or something. If I could change it, I would, although it didn’t really harm anyone. When I got a little older, I think I was 9 or 10, maybe 11, I searched on the internet for people that got messy. I don’t know if that was because of fetish, or just because of normal interest in that. [After that] I mostly watched videos of game shows in which people got messy. Sometimes they were my age, sometimes they were younger, sometimes they were older. Only recently I started to realize that the fantasies I had when I was younger weren’t normal, and that I could have had a fetish. It kind of shocked me. Sometimes, I dream about it. I start watching those videos again. In others, I get messy myself, and in those dreams, I get aroused by that. Did I do anything wrong? Do I need to get help? Am I a bad person? Will this affect the rest of my life badly? I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just really had to tell this somewhere on some moment”.

Treatment for salirophilia and mysophilia is rarely sought unless the condition becomes problematic for the individual in some way. Although the individual may feel compelled to engage in the paraphilic behaviour, anecdotal evidence suggests that the great majority manage to integrate their fetishistic behaviour within their day-to-day life without harm to anyone (including themselves).

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Butcher, Nancy (2003). The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore. New York: Avery.

Holmes, R. M. (2009). Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behavior. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Karpman, B. (1948). Coprophilia: A collective review. Psychoanalytic Review, 35, 253–272.

Karpman, B. (1949). A modern Gulliver: A study in coprophilia. Psychoanalytic Review, 36, 260–282.

McCary, J.L. & McCary, S.P. (1982). McCary’s Human Sexuality (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Milner, J.S. Dopke, C.A. & Crouch, J.L. (2008). Paraphilia not otherwise specified: Psychopathology and Theory In Laws, D.R. & O’Donohue, W.T. (Eds.), Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment and Treatment (pp. 384-418). New York: Guildford Press.

Money, J. (1986). Lovemaps: Clinical concepts of sexual/erotic health and pathology, paraphilia, and gender transposition in childhood, adolescence, and maturity. New York: Irvington.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

White, J.H. (2007). Evidence of primary, secondary, and collateral paraphilias left at serial murder and sex offender crime scenes. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 52, 1194-1201.

Blood lust: A brief overview of menophilia

I apologise in advance if this is “too much information” but back in 1985, I had a brief relationship with a woman who had just come out of a long-term relationship with someone in the Hell’s Angels. One of the things she told me was that her ex-boyfriend had earned his ‘red wings’ many times and that he couldn’t wait each month for her to be on her period. For those who are wondering what the hell I am talking about, ‘red wings’ are earned by Hell’s Angel’s members when the perform oral sex on a women while she is menstruating. As I later found out, other groups of males who spend a lot of time together – such as those in the armed services – also engage in such practices to earn their ‘red wings’.

Many reading this might find my first paragraph of today’s blog utterly disgusting. For many, blood is associated with injury, trauma and/or violence. The fact that some may associate blood with sexual arousal sets the stage for an uncomfortable psychological and physical dichotomy.

It wasn’t until I came across a 1966 book by one of my favourite US writers – Hunter S. Thompson – that I first saw this practice written about in print. In the book Hells Angels, A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, Thompson wrote that red wings meant that the “the wearer has committed cunnilingus on a menstruating woman.” There were also other types of ‘wings’ that Hell’s Angels could earn including ‘black wings’ (engaging in oral sex on a black woman) and ‘brown wings’ (for anal sex with a woman).

Such practices were virtually unknown by anyone outside of Hell’s Angels circles until journalists like Thompson started chronicling their activities and interviewing Angels’ members. Although many of the badges, patches and tattoos were worn with pride, they were often earned as part of male initiation rituals (the key components of which are typically pain, sacrifice, disgust and/or a sense of accomplishment). Clearly my own personal anecdote highlights that for a minority (at least), performing oral sex on menstruating women was something to be treasured, celebrated, and enjoyed sexually. What may have started as a ‘rites of passage’ became a regular and – well at least monthly – highly arousing occurrence. The fact that for many women their sexual drives often increase during menstruation may be another reason why some men find this so sexually arousing.

In trying to research this blog, I didn’t come across too much information. In Tantric sex, the practice is mentioned but not encouraged. However, in Karezza (a Westernized form of Tantra), it is viewed as an opportunity for increased intimacy between consenting sexual partners. In voodoo folklore, it is claimed by some that having oral sex with a woman during their period ties the man with that woman for life.

In previous blogs I have examined sexual paraphilias in relation to other activities that have involved blood including sexual vampirism and vorarephilia (i.e., being sexually aroused by the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process for sexual gratification). Another blood-related paraphilia of direct interest here is menophilia. Menophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual (almost always male) derives sexual arousal from menstruating females. Such individuals (which may have included the ex-boyfriend of the women I mentioned at the start of this article) are also aroused by the smell, image, taste and/or feel of the blood expelled during menstruation. As one female menophile reported online:

“Blood to me is exciting. Thrilling. A visual delight. It has been that way since I was a young girl. Nose bleeds and the sight of blood was exciting to me. I would sit in the mirror and watch the red rivulets run down my face. I began to menstruate and after a period of self loathing and fear of my cycle”

It has also been claimed that some menophiles also enjoy licking used sanitary towels and/or sucking on used tampons. For these individuals, there are some clear overlaps between mysophilia (sexual pleasure from filth and unclean items such as soiled knickers) and sexual vampirism. There was also a case of a man who was both a menophile and a coprophile (i.e., sexually aroused by faeces). He was allegedly caught tampering with public toilets as a way of collecting excreted waste products from female users to fuel his sexual desires. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most menophiles are male, some lesbians are also claimed to enjoy such practices.

I have yet to come across any psychological theorizing about the roots and causes of menophilia in any academic paper or book. I did come across the following online speculation although there was seemingly no empirical evidence backing up such claims:

Some theorize that men lust after menstruating women because they are envious of the woman’s body which is in constant preparation for fertilization.  Contrary to this however is the fact that it is almost impossible for a woman to become pregnant during her menstruation. Either way, a fascination of period blood is a fairly common fetish at [this website]. Luckily for menophiliacs, it is easy to find a female who is willing to have sex during menstruation.  Often, women are charmed by men who aren’t disgusted by what is a perfectly normal and healthy body process”

In a previous blog on fetishism, I wrote at length about a study led by Dr G. Scorolli (University of Bologna, Italy) on the relative prevalence of different fetishes using online fetish forum data. It was estimated (very conservatively in the authors’ opinion), that their sample size comprised at least 5000 fetishists (but was likely to be a lot more). They reported that some of the sites featured references to menophiles. However, this particular fetish was included in a ‘body fluids’ fetish category along with coprophilia, urophilia, lactophilia and mucophilia. Although this category made up a sizeable minority of all online fetishes (9%), it is unlikely that menophiles made up more than a handful of websites found compared to the fetishes of other bodily fluids.

As with many of the paraphilias I have examined in my blogs, there is almost a complete absence of any academic study on menophilia. Maybe this is one of those paraphilias that – amongst others – is seen as more trivial and/or devoid of academic merit.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Flow Forum (A website about menstruation). Located at: http://www.dotcomjunkies.com/members/kayo/forum/

Red Wings (undated). The history and culture of red wings. Located at: http://www.red-wings.com/wings-culture.html

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Thompson, H.S. (1966). Hells Angels, A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. London: Random House

Into the black: Why are we so fascinated by death and dying?

If you type the words “weird addictions” or “strange addictions” into Google, there is one story from 2006 that comes up time and time again. It is usually headlined “Addiction to Funerals” and concerns a Brazilian man called Luis Squarisi. The story claimed that Squarisi (who was 42-years old at the time) had attended every funeral in his hometown of Batatais for more than 20 years. The story also claimed that in order to attend every funeral, Squarisi had given up his job to “feed his addiction to funerals”. He was quoted as saying:

“What set me off was my father’s death in 1983. The first thing I do every morning is to turn on the radio to find out if anyone has died, if I don’t hear it on the radio I call the hospitals and the local funeral home”.

A spokesman from the local São Vicente funeral home where Squarisi lives said: “We don’t want him to go to therapy, everyone expects to see him at the funerals.” If you are regular reader of my blog, it won’t surprise you to learn that I don’t consider Mr. Squarisi’s activity an addiction at all (although the habitual daily ringing of the hospitals and funeral parlour combined with the giving up of his job might potentially be indicators for some types of addiction or compulsion).

However, it did get me thinking about the morbid (and for some almost compulsive) fascination that some people have with death and dying, and whether there were other possible links to addictive, obsessive, and/or compulsive behaviour. Fascination with death and dying is not a recent phenomenon and extends back into ancient history. Historically, many cults have been formed around death gods and figures including Anubis (the jackal-headed Egyptian religious god associated with mummification and the afterlife), Osiris (an Egyptian god usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead), Hades (the ancient Greek god of the underworld), and Santa Muerte (i.e., “Saint Death”, a sacred and skeletal Mexican figure symbolizing death to remind people of their own mortality).

More recently, people’s fascination with death have included wanting to contact the dead via séances and/or psychics. The greatest evidence of the general public’s fascination with death is the coverage that death gets in the popular media (“if it bleeds, it leads”). There also seems to be an appetite for death as art such as Gunter von Hagen’s Body World’s exhibitions. As US journalist Winda Benedetti put it in her article Is digging the dead normal or just plain weird?”:

“I have gawked at the skeletons decorating the walls of the Kutna Hora Bone Church in the Czech Republic. I’ve stood transfixed before the towering piles of skulls that mark the Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields in Cambodia. In Cairo, it was the display of mummified kings and queens that lured me to the Egyptian Museum. And in London, not even the cruel bite of the bitterest winter on record could keep me from standing in a line half a city block long for a peek at “Body Worlds,” a display of dozens of cadavers skinned, dissected and posed for all to see… A new thought occurred: Does my preoccupation with the dead make me a freak? Am I really so different from everyone else? Take a look around. These days it seems the dead are everywhere. Every week on television, actors pretending to be crime-scene investigators pick over the fetid cadavers of the deceased on not just one but three different ‘CSI’ shows. And while these programs are TV-fake, the images of the dead are unflinchingly real”.

While researching this blog, I came across a number of online references about US novelist Charles Dickens being “addicted” to and/or ‘obsessed” with mortuaries and checking out murder scenes. Dickens admitted: “I am dragged by invisible force to the morgue [and] the attraction of repulsion”. He allegedly visited the city mortuary for days at a time observing the dead bodies coming in and watching the morticians who worked on them.

Anyway, the next death-related “addiction” I came across (excluding some recent reports of some people becoming addicted to ingesting embalming fluid!) was “Woman is addicted to eating the ashes of her late husband” from the US television documentary series My Strange Addiction. The woman in question lost her husband following a fatal asthma attack and allegedly developed “a strong compulsion” to keep his ashes by her side at all times that then developed into eating the ashes. She says the ashes eating began when she was first transferring her husband’s cremated remains from a box into an ornamental urn. She accidentally got some of the ashes on her finger and “not wanting to just brush them off, licked them off, starting a habit that has become compulsive”. At the time of the television programme being recorded (and despite the ashes tasting horrible) she had been eating the ashes for two months and had consumed approximately six pounds of the ashes.

Again, I don’t think the woman in question is addicted but the behaviour appears to be an unusual type of pica (i.e., the behaviour in which individuals eat non-nutritive items or substances) and which in some cases has been shown to be compulsive. Other online commentators have speculated that the eating of her husband’s ashes is a way of symbolically holding onto her husband in the easiest way possible.

To me, this ash eating behaviour is reminiscent of one of the ten sub-types of necrophilic activity described by Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India). He published a necrophilia typology in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. This new classification of necrophilia included one sub-type that he termed “romantic necrophiles”. According to Aggrawal romantic necrophiles display only “very mild necrophilic tendencies”. This type of necrophile typically comprises people whose loved ones have just died and who do not seem to fully believe or psychologically appreciate that the person they love is dead. Therefore, the sexual contact may not (in the person’s view) be seen as necrophilic as they still believe the person is alive to them. Aggrawal claims that in some cases, romantic necrophiles may mummify the body (or body parts) of their partner. The necrophilic activity is typically short-lived and is something that stops once the person fully accepts that their loved one is dead.

Back in the 18th century, Martin Schurig in his book Spermatologia, described the case of a Belgian woman, who secretly cut off her husband’s penis he died and treasured it as a sacred relic in a silver casket. This was then turned into a powder and described it is an efficacious medicine. The sexologist, Havelock Ellis, cited the case of a French woman who embalmed and perfumed her dead husband’s genitals and preserved them in a gold casket. Obviously the women who ate her husband’s ashes did not do it for anything sexual but all these cases kept some embodiment of their loved ones in order, as Dr Aggrawal might argue: “to fill up a psychosexual vacuum that their death has caused”.

Maybe the internet will start to fuel the sexual side of death? I’ll leave you with two confessions I came across on the internet. They may – of course – not be in any way representative, but they do seem to suggest that some people out there are fascinated by the sexual macabre:

“I have an addiction to dead bodies. The site of gore porn really turns me on. How should I satisfy my sexual fantasies?”

“I’m 15 years old – female, and I love looking and reading about murder cases and I’m addicted to looking at pictures of murder victims on the internet. I’ve seen ‘3 guys one hammer’ and it didn’t disturb me at all. When I see people I look at them and I can picture in my mind how I could kill them (even if I don’t know them or they’re my friends). Am I disturbed?”

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal, A. (2009). A new classification of necrophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 16, 316-320.

Aggrawal A. (2011). Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Benedetti, W. (2006). Is digging the dead normal or just plain weird? Seattle PI, September 29. Located at: http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/article/Is-digging-the-dead-normal-or-just-plain-weird-1216015.php#ixzz1uTvnqX9R

Digital Journal (2006). Man addicted to funerals. November 10. Located at: http://digitaljournal.com/article/48897

Ellis, H.H. (1923). Studies in the Psychology of Sex (Volume V: Erotic Symbolism, The Mechanism of Detumescence, The Psychic State in Pregnancy). Davis FA.

Geekosystem (2011). Woman is addicted to eating the ashes of her late husband. August 9. Located at: http://www.geekosystem.com/woman-eats-husbands-ashes/

Neatorama (2009). Four writers and their strange obsessions. February 7. Located at: http://www.neatorama.com/2009/02/07/four-writers-and-their-strange-obsessions/

Schurig, M. (1720). Spermatologia historico-medica. Frankfurt: Johannis Beckii.

Seaward, A. (2012). Embalming fluid as a drug. Addictionblog.org, April 19. Located at: http://drug.addictionblog.org/embalming-fluid-as-a-drug/

The Eyeful Tower: An objective look at love and sex

One of the most interesting documentaries I have watched in recent years was the Channel 5 programme Married To The Eiffel Tower which first aired on June 4, 2008. The programme featured (via three in-depth case studies) an examination of ‘object sexuality’.

Object sexuality refers to those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to (and have relationships with) specific inanimate objects or structures. Such objectophiles express a loving and/or sexual preference and commitment to particular items or structures. Such individuals rarely (if ever) have sex with humans and they develop strong emotional fixations to the object or structure. Unlike sexual fetishism, the object or structure is viewed as an equal partner in the relationship and is not used to enhance or facilitate sexual behaviour. Some objectophiles even believe that their feelings are reciprocated by the object of their desire. (Check out my previous blog on sex and cars that included the case of a car objectophile).

Arguably the most infamous objectophile is Erika LaBrie who “married” the Eiffel Tower (ET) in 2007 (and now calls herself Erika Eiffel). She first met the ET in 2004 and fell in love with it immediately. She visits her “soul mate” as often as she can afford to, and she claims her relationship is as real as that between any two consenting adults. Prior to her relationship with the ET, her object love empowered her to become a two-time world champion in archery (her first object love was her bow called ‘Lance’). While falling in love with an inanimate object is rare, Erika is not alone.

Erika Eiffel’s feelings for the La Tour Eiffel are not common, but not entirely unheard of either. Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer infamously married the Berlin Wall over 30 years ago and invented the term ‘Objectum Sexuality’ (OS) to describe her love. Together they founded “OS Internationale” – a support network and educational website for other objectophiles. Unsurprisingly, the formation of the website generated worldwide media attention.

Here are a few other well known objectophiles who have turned up in the national and international media:

  • Edward Smith, a 57-year old man from Washington State in the US, admitted to having had sex with over 1,000 cars. He said: “I write poetry about cars, I sing to them and talk to them just like a girlfriend. I know what’s in my heart and I have no desire to change”.
  • Amanda Whittaker from Leeds (UK) gave an interview (to the Daily Mail) regarding her romantic feelings for the Statue of Liberty Whittaker said:“She is my long-distance lover and I am blown away by how stunning she is. Other people might be shocked to think I can have romantic feelings for an object, but I am not the same as them”. 
  • Reighner Deleighnie, a 40-year old woman from London (UK) claimed that she had fallen in love with a three-foot statue of the Greek God Adonis that she bought for £395. It was reported that: “She enjoys reading and talking to her companion, and keeps him close by when she watches television and eats dinner. She also kisses and caresses him, imagining the pair of them walking through meadows of wildflowers or at the seaside”.
  • Amy Wolfe a 33-year old woman from Pennsylvania (US) declared her romantic feelings for a fairground ride ‘1001 Nachts’ in Knoebels Amusement Park that she fell in love with aged 13 years. She said: “I love him as much as women love their husbands and know we’ll be together forever. I was instantly attracted to him sexually and mentally”. She’s now marrying the ride.
  • 41-year-old Joachim A. from Germany, a 41-year old man recognized and accepted his inclination when he was just 12 years old. He fell head over heels “into an emotionally and physically very complex and deep relationship, which lasted for years.” His partner as a teenager was a Hammond organ. He’s now in a steady relationship with a steam locomotive and has been for several years.

It is only recently that academics have started to carry out research into OS. In a 2010 issue of the Internet Journal of Human Sexuality, clinical psychologist Dr. Amy Marsh described what she claims is the first ever research study conducted on a group of 40 “objectophiles” of which 21 English-speaking participants shared their experiences. On US television, Marsh revealed that she supported OS as a legitimate sexual orientation. Her research doesn’t appear to indicate childhood trauma being a factor in the development of OS. She stated there would be far more objectophiles if this was the case. As one car-lover in Marsh’s paper said:

 “I’ve been in love with my mom’s car and my own car since I got it bought. My car’s appearance is what attracts me the most. [I enjoy intimacy with the cars] between twice a week and once every three weeks [and] involves cuddling and such affectionate activity, and sometimes masturbation…However, I’d like to mention that although there can be a little amount of mental role play, I am fully aware that objects are inanimate and that this mostly is a one-sided relation. Although I may consider a human relationship eventually, it has not happened yet.”

German sexologist Volkmar Sigusch (former director of Frankfurt University’s Institute for Sexual Science) believes he has unraveled the mysteries of OS – a form of modern ‘neo-sexuality’. He views OS as proof of his hypothesis that society is increasingly drifting into asexuality. He speculated:

“More and more people either openly declare or can be seen to live without any intimate or trusting relationship with another person. Cities are populated by an entire army of socially isolated individuals. Singles, isolated people, cultural sodomites, many perverts and sex addicts”.

However, Sigusch doesn’t want to classify such odd behaviour as pathological. He concluded: “The objectophiles aren’t hurting anyone. They’re not abusing or traumatizing other people. Who else can you say that about?”

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Baker, D. (2012). ‘I’m head over heels in love with the Statue of Liberty': Shop assistant has got a new flame! Daily Mail, March 6. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2110198/Amanda-Whittaker-love-Statue-Liberty-Shop-assistant-got-new-flame.html#ixzz1viApQQ1M

Stopera, M. (2010). The 15 hottest objectum-sexual relationships. Buzz Feed. Located at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-15-hottest-objectum-sexual-relationships

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 13, March 1. Located at: http://www.ejhs.org/volume13/ObjSexuals.htm

Otto, S. (2009). Woman getting married to fairground ride. Daily Telegraph, August 5. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5972632/Woman-getting-married-to-fairground-ride.html

Simpson, A. (2008). Woman with objects fetish marries Eiffel Tower. Daily Telegraph, June 4. Located at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2074301/Woman-with-objects-fetish-marries-Eiffel-Tower.html

Stopera, M. (2010). The 15 hottest objectum-sexual relationships. Buzz Feed. Located at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/the-15-hottest-objectum-sexual-relationships

Strauss, R.S. (2012). I’m in love with a three-foot statue of Adonis: Carer, 40, spends every day with £400 moulding of the Greek god of desire she has dubbed ‘Hans’. Daily Mail, March 23. Located at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2119164/Carer-40-spends-day-400-Adonis-moulding-dubbed-Hans.html#ixzz1vi0JlPvb

Thadeusz, F. (2007). Objectophilia, Fetishism and Neo-Sexuality: Falling in Love with Things. Der Spiegel, November 5. Located at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,482192,00.html


Blame it on the fame? The role of celebrity endorsement in gambling advertising

Have any of you reading this ever visited an online poker site because of a celebrity endorsement? Would the presence of Ben Affleck or James Woods make you more likely to play poker? Commercial gambling has only relatively recently got in on the celebrity endorsement bandwagon mainly because gambling advertising has always been very restricted. When a poker company uses a celebrity endorser, they are signing up an image that is itself a gamble. At the very least, gaming companies should get what they pay for but it can all go horribly wrong. When a purple-bearded Billy Connolly was used to promote the National Lottery in 2002/2003, sales decreased. The adverts had high recall by the public but were hated by a large proportion of the British public who found Connolly highly irritating.

This is all goes to show that any gaming company wanting to use celebrity endorsement as part of its marketing drive has to carefully evaluate a celebrity’s image and reputation. Steps need to be taken to make sure the celebrity’s image and reputation matches the needs of the company. Sales can take a tumble especially if the celebrity used does something that compromises the company’s image. For instance, Vic Reeves drink-driving conviction wasn’t very good for the car insurance company he was promoting! However, in most situations, the relationship between the company and the celebrity will be mutually beneficial. The company receives all of the perks associated with the celebrity such as publicity, positive connotation, recognition, respect and trust. The celebrity – at the very least – benefits financially.

The advertising industry claims that brand recognition, recall and awareness are the most important outcomes of successful marketing campaigns. This, they believe, will result in greater sales and increased revenue. However, as with the Billy Connolly example above, this isn’t always the case. Celebrity endorsement is perhaps even more important in online commercial activities like playing Internet poker where identity, trust and reliability equate to potential punters. As a consequence, many online commercial enterprises appear to opt for short-term, high impact celebrity endorsement and ‘buzz marketing’ rather than investing for the long term. These types of marketing tend to create an instant image and reputation but may not necessarily be good for the company’s longevity. To be market leaders amid the competition, online gaming operators will need to couple strategic marketing with solid brand management.

Interestingly, a survey carried out by Marketing UK asked marketers from a sample of the top 1000 British companies which techniques they thought were the most successful in increasing sales and at building long-term relationships with customers. It found that celebrity endorsements ranked last, beneath things like loyalty schemes, sales promotions, and general display advertising. However, it doesn’t make sense to isolate celebrity endorsements, because they are just one of many marketing elements that are used in a successful campaign. What’s more, if marketers didn’t believe celebrities help in generating long-term sales and profits, they wouldn’t keep paying the large fees they command.

While the jury is out on whether celebrity endorsement is a sales winner, one question that has yet to be answered through research is, what type of gambler does a celebrity endorsement impress and/or influence in their decision play? Is it the novices, long-standing players, or both? Maybe different types of celebrities appeal to different clientele. For me, the most interesting development of the celebrity endorsement culture is how the big poker tournament winners have now become celebrities in their own right. For instance, the star after-dinner speaker at an academic gambling conference I was at in Lake Tahoe was World Series of Poker veteran Howard Lederer. This type of celebrity endorsement may be more appealing to players. The fact that someone has become a celebrity through skill and talent in an activity that gamblers are already positively predisposed towards suggests they will want to have more of a psychological association with these celebrities than those the celebrities who just happen to play poker as a hobby. Judging by the front covers of magazines like Inside Poker, the editors clearly believe that it is the big poker winners that sell the magazine rather than Hollywood A-listers or scantily dressed women.

Celebrity endorsements also tap into the psychology of ‘intrinsic association’. This is the degree to which the gambling activity is positively associated with other interests, people and/or attractions. Intrinsic association also taps into the psychology of familiarity and help explain why so may UK slot machines feature themes relating to television shows, films, popular board games, video games or celebrities. It makes punters feel they know something about the product before they have even played it.

Gaming companies have to ask themselves how much they are willing to gamble on celebrity endorsement in trying to carve out a niche in the market. Companies have got to be clear that they are targeting the right product with the right celebrity with the right message. It can be a long hard slog to shape an image or reputation but it can take just a few seconds of celebrity madness to destroy it.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Binde, P. (2007). Selling dreams – causing nightmares? On gambling advertising and problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Issues, 20, 167-191.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005).  Does advertising of gambling increase gambling addiction? International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 3(2), 15-25.

Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Brand psychology: Social acceptability and familiarity that breeds trust and loyalty. Casino and Gaming International, 3(3), 69-72.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Celebrity endorsement and online gambling: Ten golden rules. i-Gaming Business Affiliate, June/July, p.64.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Media and advertising influences on adolescent risk behaviour. Education and Health, 28(1), 2-5.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2003). The environmental psychology of gambling. In G. Reith (Ed.), Gambling: Who wins? Who Loses? (pp. 277-292). New York: Prometheus Books.

Griffiths, M.D., Parke, J., Wood, R.T.A. & Rigbye, J. (2010). Online poker gambling in university students: Further findings from an online survey. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 82-89.

Wood, R.T.A., Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2007). The acquisition, development, and maintenance of online poker playing in a student sample. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 10, 354-361.

Zangeneh, M., Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2008). The marketing of gambling. In Zangeneh, M., Blaszczynski, A., and Turner, N. (Eds.), In The Pursuit Of Winning.  pp. 135-153. New York: Springer.


Havin’ it large: A beginner’s guide to macrophilia

Macrophilia appears to be an increasingly popular sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from a fascination with giants and/or a sexual fantasy involving giants. Such fantasies may include the macrophiles themselves shrinking in front of a normal sized person (male or female). Alternatively, macrophiles may fantasize about their sexual partner growing to an abnormal height while the macrophiles themselves remain unchanged.

The literal translation of macrophilia means a “lover of large” but in this context it does not refer to those in the fat admiration community (i.e., people who are sexually attracted to very fat women) but specifically refers to individuals who are sexually attracted to people much taller than themselves (i.e., it is the height rather than width that is crucial). As the scale between small and tall is not generally found in real human life, almost all macrophilic behaviour is sexual fantasy.

The overwhelming majority of macrophiles are thought to be heterosexual males that are sexually attracted to female giantesses. However, even non-sexual scenarios involving giants can result in sexual stimulation. Each fantasy situation is different for every macrophile as the behaviour is fantasy-based. Even the preferred heights of the fantasy giants differ between individuals. For instance, some macrophiles have a preference for people only a few feet taller than themselves whereas others involve giants who are hundreds of feet high.

The reason that this particular paraphilia has increased massively over the last decade is because the internet has played a crucial role in helping create and facilitate the paraphilia. Because the paraphilia is almost totally fantasy-based, much of the material from which macrophiles gain their sexual gratification is placed and distributed online. There is a wide range of macrophile artwork, photographs, and video on the internet. Applications such as Photoshop are widely used to create collages of fake giants. Photographs are also taken from low angles to make everything in the viewfinder (including people) seem much bigger. The internet is also full of home made camcorder films of people trampling and destroying model cities.

A recent online article by Tyrone Slothrop on “The Bible and Macrophilia” (on the Remnant of Giants website) examines the artwork of ‘He Thong’ a well known artist in the macrophile community.

“The phenomenon of macrophilia certainly demonstrates how wrong Edmund Burke was, in Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful (pp. 157-58), when he opined, ‘It is impossible to suppose a giant the object of love. When we let our imaginations loose in romance, the ideas we naturally annex to that size are those of tyranny, cruelty, injustice, and every thing horrid and abominable.’ He Thong’s macrophiliac art is combined with depictions of Goliath gathering slaves from his enemies, slave submission, and bondage – a common related paraphilia among a significant sector of macrophiles”

Although most macrophilic behaviour is fantasy-based, there are some macrophiles who attempt to experience the fetish in real life by dating extraordinarily tall women (so called ‘Amazons’) even if they have to pay for the privilege to do so. For instance, it was reported that Mikayla Miles (who when wearing her fetish boots nearly 7 feet in her fetish boots, and 6 feet 4 inches without the boots), provides private sessions with macrophiles to engage in behaviours such as trampling, domination, role play, and foot worship. Macrophiles can also meet their tall heroines at such gatherings as the annual Amazon Convention.

Macrophilia has also been associated with other sexual fetishes and paraphilias. The most noteworthy in this regard are:

  • Breast fetishism: This is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from being pressed against, or placed in between, the breasts of a giant woman.
  • Dominance/submission: This is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual pleasure being at the mercy of a giant, or from being in control of a tiny person.
  • Sadism/masochism: This is a sexual paraphilia in which an individual derives sexual pleasure from being physically harmed or even killed (in this case by a giant).
  • Vorarephilia: This is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from the idea of being eaten, eating another person, or observing this process. Although there are cases of real life vorarephilia (that I wrote about in a previous blog), the behaviour is typically fantasy-based (e.g., fictional stories, fantasy art, fantasy videos, and bespoke video games).
  • Zoophilia: This is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual pleasure from sex with animals (in this case, the desire is to have sex with a giant animal that is given human characteristics (i.e., anthropomorphism). This also has some crossover with furries (those individuals who – amongst other behaviours – like to dress as animals when having sex)
  • Crush fetishism: This is a sexual fetish in which an individual derives sexual arousal from being stepped or sat on by a giant person, and is also a variant of sexual masochism.

Crush fetishism has also been associated with formicophilia, a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal from insects. For instance, in the journal Cultural Entomology, G.A. Pearson (North Carolina State University, USA), described the fetishistic behaviour where people get sexual pleasure from watching insects, worms and spiders being squashed (particularly men watching women doing it). This also has macrophilic overtones. As Jeremy Biles notes in a 2004 essay on crush fetishists in Janus Head:

“Among the many obscure and bizarre sects of fetishism, few remain so perplexing or so underexamined as that of the ‘crush freaks’. At the cutting edge of the edgy world of sexual fetishistic practices, the crush freaks are notorious for their enthusiasm for witnessing the crushing death of insects and other, usually invertebrate, animals, such as arachnids, crustaceans, and worms. More specifically, crush freaks are sexually aroused by the sight of an insect exploded beneath the pressure of a human foot–usually, but not necessarily, a relatively large and beautiful female foot”

It’s also been reported that maximum sexual excitement comes the more frightened the woman, and the larger the feet doing the squashing (which again has macrophilic overtones). In her 2000 book Deviant Desires, Katharine Gates contextualizes crush fetishes as a subset of both macrophilia and macrophilic podophilia (i.e., foot fetishism). This has led to the controversial posting of many so called ‘crush videos’ online.

I haven’t come a cross a single academic paper that has been published on macrophilia although there have been some psychological speculation about the roots of macrophilia. The American St. Louis-based clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Friedman was reported as saying:

“[Macrophiles] are playing out some old, unresolved psychological issue. Maybe as a child
they felt overwhelmed by a dominant mother, or a sadistic mother. Maybe
they were abused. [Macrophilia] is not so much a fetish as a
disassociation from reality. It’s part of an internal world. The macro’s
submersion in fantasy [and] serves as a substitute for a more normalized approach
to sex. Healthy sexuality is about personal intimacy. It’s about
feeling good about yourself in a way that expresses caring, and feeling a
connection to another person”.

However, most online accounts by macrophiles that I have read online, don’t seem to match the psychological profile put forward by Dr. Friedman. One such man interviewed by Jon Bowen for the online Salon magazine (way back in 1999) said that as a child:

“I was turned on
by ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ before I knew what the
birds and the bees were all about. In the book there’s a scene in the land
of Brobdingnag where Gulliver gets intimate with one of the local
giantesses – the enticingly named Glumdaclitch. I’ve
fantasized about giantesses ever since. Like any fetish, if you
don’t have it, you probably won’t get it”.

Finally, there is one article I tracked down online by Dr Samuel Ramses. He appears to talk knowledgably about macrophilia although all of his assertions are made without reference to any academic source. For instance, he says that:

“Macrophilia is a fairly widespread trait, and is found in individuals of many different ethnic and social backgrounds. No common element has yet been found that can point to an environmental cause”

He makes a number of claims that appear intuitively plausible but without any supporting evidence. He claims macrophilia begins in very early childhood and that a sexual or pseudo-sexual response to giants is exhibited before physical puberty. Macrophiles are extremely shy and isolated, and believe that few share their desires. The specific stimuli that elicit macrophilic sexual responses tend to fall into two broad categories, which are not mutually exclusive. They are summarized here as direct sexual situations and indirect sexual situations.

Direct sexual stimuli involve situations in which sexual contact occurs between people where one person is at least twice as big as the other. Typical scenarios are said to include:

  • Full-body contact of the macrophile with the penis of a male giant, or full-body insertion of the macrophile into the female giant’s vagina.
  • Oral contact in which the giant licks or swallows the macrophile
  • Themacrophile being bathed in or being showered wih the sexual fluids of a giant
  • Masturbation and frotteurism by the macrophile rubbing their body against some portion of the giant’s body

Ramses claims that in macrophilia the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality is sometimes blurred as even macrophilic heterosexuals may find themselves attracted to the images of giants or tiny persons of the same sex, and vice-versa.

Ramses also outlined the case of 30-year old white male, who since very early childhood had experienced sexual arousal (i.e., erections) whenever he watched films in which giant monsters destroyed towns and cities. The strongest sexual responses occurred when humans were being trampled to death. In adulthood, his macrophilic sexual fantasies included sadism, crush fetishes, and vorarephilia.

Dr. Ramses concluded that macrophilia is far from rare, as evidenced by the growing number of admitted macrophiles that have come forth in recent years. The number of macrophile websites certainly appears to support Ramses’ claim but – at present – there is next to nothing known empirically.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Biles, J. (2004). I, insect, or Bataille and the crush freaks. Janus Head: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature, Continental Philosophy, Phenomenological Psychology and the Arts, 7(1), 115-131.

Bowen, J. (1999). Urge: A giant fetish. Salon, May 22. Located at: http://www.salon.com/1999/05/22/macrophilia/

Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.

Pearson, G.A. (1991). Insect fetish objects. Cultural Entomology Digest, 4, (November).

Ramses, S. (undated). Introduction to macrophilia. Located at: http://www.pridesites.com/fetish/mac4black/intro2macro.htm

Slothrop, T. (2012). The Bible and Macrophilia: He Thong’s Goliath Art. Remnant of Giants, February 6. Located at: https://remnantofgiants.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-bible-and-macrophilia-he-thongs-goliath-art/

Heavy petting: A brief overview of animal hoarding

Last week I was interviewed on BBC radio about Channel 4’s new show ‘The Hoarder Next Door’. In previous blogs, I have briefly examined pathological hoarding and one particular type of hoarding behaviour (i.e., pathological book hoarding). Another very specific type of hoarding is animal hoarding (typically defined as having a higher number of pets than is normal to have and failing to look after them properly). In a 2006 issue of Veterinary Medicine, Dr Gary Patronek (Tufts University, US) defined animal hoarding as: “Pathological human behaviour that involves a compulsive need to obtain and control animals, coupled with a failure to recognize their suffering”. According to a recent literature review led by Dr Albert Pertusa (Institute of Psychiatry, London), this sub-type of hoarding has been defined as the accumulation of a large number of animals along with a:

  • Failure to provide minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, and veterinary care.
  • Failure to act on the deteriorating condition of the animals (including disease, starvation or death) and the environment (severe overcrowding, extremely unsanitary conditions)
  • Lack of awareness of the negative effects of the collection on their own health and wellbeing and on that of other family members.

Animal hoarders often live in severe domestic squalor and live in more unsanitary conditions than other types of hoarder (although some other types of disorder such as Diogenes Syndrome – also known as ‘senile squalor syndrome’ – is characterized by extreme self-neglect, apathy, domestic squalor, social withdrawal, compulsive hoarding of rubbish, and lack of shame). It is common for the houses of animal hoarders to be filled with animal faecal waste, and it is not unusual to find the decomposing remains of dead animals. The animals are often left to reproduce at will as animal hoarders do not typically get their pets spayed or neutered. Sick animals are typically left to die and rot. A 2009 study by Dr Gary Patronek and Jane Nathanson examined the living areas of 49 animal hoarders. They reported that four out of five living areas were heavily littered with trash and garbage” (78%), and that in just under a half there was profuse urine or feces in the living spaces (45%).

One very key difference between animal and non-animal hoarders is that animal hoarding may involve animal cruelty. Dr Frank Ascione (Utah State University) defines animal cruelty as a socially unacceptable behavior that intentionally causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress to and/or death of an animal. Ascione believes that animal neglect falls within this definition and that therefore animal hoarders are guilty of animal cruelty. However, some researchers claim that the animal cruelty is not deliberate as the compulsive hoarding is underpinned by some kind of mental disorder.

Many animal hoarders are known to hoard other items and objects, and therefore some experts in the area (such as Patronek and Nathanson) suggest that animal hoarding is a special manifestation of compulsive hoarding. There is also some research that suggests that animal hoarding follows more ‘conventional’ hoarding. However, animal hoarders share many of the same characteristics as those with Diogenes Syndrome. It has also been suggested that animal hoarders had very controlling parents, come from backgrounds that were chaotic and/or deprived in childhood (and sometimes described as scary and frightening), have psychological issues and problems surrounding emotional attachments, and often attribute human characteristics to the animals they own. Another seemingly common theme is that of physical and/or psychological loss. For animal hoarders, losing a possession is for them like losing a close friend or family member. It has also been claimed that some animal hoarders are often incapable of looking after and caring for themselves (let alone animals – particularly if there are so many of them).

Colin Berry and colleagues, writing in an overview on animal hoarding for the journal Animal Law cited a 2002 review by Arnold Arluke and reported:

“Arnold Arluke analyzed one hundred articles about animal hoarding. Arluke suggests that, rather than presenting a realistic picture of animal hoarding that captures the complexity of the issue, the media presents animal hoarding in a stream of different emotional themes. While drawing the reader’s attention, these themes are more likely to elicit revulsion, sympathy, or humor from the reader rather than understanding of the hoarding issues themselves. Arluke concludes that these emotional themes ‘present an inconsistent picture of animal hoarding that can confuse readers about the nature and significance of this behavior.’ Portraying hoarders’ stories in this light can cause the public to be sympathetic and even supportive of the hoarder and her actions. Some hoarders even receive donations or offers of more animals”.

In the same paper, Berry and colleagues also noted that in terms of demographics, empirical studies have found that animal hoarders are typically middle-aged or older females who are often disabled, retired, or unemployed, living alone in homes without working appliances. The animals that are most likely to be hoarded are cats (the highest number they came across being owned was 400) and dogs (the highest number owned being 218). They also noted that numerous psychological models have been proposed to explain animal hoarding, including focal delusion, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), zoophilia, and dementia. Although there is no consensus, the conceptualizing of animal hoarding as a form of OCD appears to be the most popular explanation (although this does not appear to explain all cases). According to Karen Cassiday, no-one knows what the prevalence of animal hoarders is within any population although press reports over the last decade have quintupled. Whatever the prevalence, animal hoarding is an area that needs further investigation.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Arluke, A. et al. (2002). Press reports of animal hoarding. Society and Animals, 113, 130-32.

Ascione, F. (1993). Children who are cruel to animals: A review of research and implications for developmental psychopathology. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 6, 226-247.

Berry, C., Patronek, G. & Lockwood, R. (2005). Long-term outcomes in animal hoarding cases. Animal Law, 11, 167-194.

Cassiday, K.L. (undated). Animal hoarding: An overlooked and misunderstood problem. Located at: http://www.ocdchicago.org/images/uploads/pdf/Cassiday_-_Animal_Hoarding_-_An_Overlooked_and_Misunderstood_Problem.pdf

Patronek, G. J., & Nathanson, J. N. (2009). A theoretical perspective to inform assessment and treatment strategies for animal hoarders. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 274−281.

Pertusa, A., Frost, R.O., Fullana, M.A., Samuels, J., Steketee, G., Tolin, D., Saxena, S., Leckman, J.F., Mataix-Cols, D. (2010). Refining the diagnostic boundaries of compulsive hoarding: A critical review. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 371-386.

Reinisch, A.I. (2008). Understanding the human aspects of animal hoarding. Canadian Veterinary Journal, 49, 1211-1214.

Fowl play: A brief overview of avian bestiality

I don’t normally write blogs on request, but one of my friends and colleagues here in my department, Dr. Belinda Winder, asked me if I knew anything about sexual paraphilias involving birds. Dr. Winder – no stranger to sexual paraphilias as they feature quite a lot in a new book she’s just co-edited [A Psychologist's Casebook of Crime: From Arson to Voyeurism] – did pique (or should that be ‘beak’) my interest into the topic so I thought I would have a quick look at what has been done academically.

As it turned out, not a lot but enough to write a blog. In his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices, Dr Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India) noted that bestial acts involving birds are commonplace in mythology and folklore. For instance, the Greek god Zeus was said to assume the shape of various animals as part of his seduction technique. He transformed into a swan to order to seduce Leda (the mother of Troy), and became an eagle to carry off a young Ganymede. In a separate part of his book, Aggrawal writes about Rome where the practice of bestiality was also commonplace. Examples cited by Aggrawal include bestial acts with chickens. He also noted that professional people supplied animals specifically for bestial purposes. For instance, the Belluari supplied dogs and monkeys, the Caprarii supplied female goats, and the Anserarii supplied geese.

An online essay by Cameron King noted that in the 13th century, the bestiality laws were different between having sex with a mammal and with a chicken. Avian sex was seen as a much less serious offence because fowl were less costly to replace than farm animals. However, King did add that “eating the bird after making love to it was frowned upon and could land you with two or three years of fasting”.

The Marquis de Sade (whose name of course gave rise to sexual sadism) wrote about avian sex in a Parisian brothel where they employed a turkey. de Sade claimed: “The girl holds the bird’s neck locked between her thighs, you have her ass straight ahead of you for prospect, and she cuts the bird’s throat the same moment you discharge”.

Academically, Richard von Krafft-Ebing was arguably the first person to write about bestial acts with birds in his 1886 book Psychopathia Sexualis. In a chapter on zoosadism, Krafft-Ebing wrote of a male poet who “became powerfully excited sexually whenever he saw cows slaughtered” and another male who “committed sodomy with geese, and cut their necks off, tempore ejaculationis!” This latter practice is called avisodomy and is listed as one of the many acts of zoophilia in Dr. Aggrawal’s new classification typology in a 2011 issue of the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. The practice typically involves breaking the neck of a bird and then penetrating it. In the 2001 book Sexual Relations of Mankind, Mantegazza claimed that: the Chinese are famous for their love affairs with geese. Just when they are at the point of ejaculation they wring off the birds’ necks in order that they may get the pleasure of the last spasms of the anal sphincters of the dying geese”.

A similar account of avisodomy is also described in The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices by Dr. Brenda Love. Here it is referred to as the “the ancient practice of having sex with a bird. As the man is about to orgasm he breaks the neck of the bird, causing the bird’s cloaca sphincter to constrict and spasm, thus creating pleasurable sensations for the man”. (In zoological anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior orifice that serves as the only opening for the urinary, intestinal and reproductive activities in some animal species). Zoosadistic sexual elements involving birds have been reported in case studies of high profile serial killers – the most notorious being Jeffrey Dahmer (that I briefly covered in a previous blog).

In Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking studies on human sexual behaviour in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he reported that 8% of the males and almost 4% of the females had experienced a bestial act with animals at some point in their lives. The frequency of such behaviour among males was highest for those raised on farms (with 17% of these men reported experiencing orgasm as a result of animal contact). Although the animals most frequently involved were calves, sheep, donkeys, dogs, and cats, a significant minority of bestial acts involved large fowl (i.e., ducks and geese). Such acts are not unknown in contemporary societies and include the recent case reported in the Daily Mirror of a 23-year old man who hanged himself after his wife came home and found him having sex with a chicken.

One of the most infamous accounts of bestial activity was reported by porn publisher Larry Flynt in his autobiography (An Unseemly Man). Flynt claimed that he had sex with a chicken before his tenth birthday. He was told by older boys that having sex with a chicken was as good as having sex with a girl. He wrote:

“I caught one of my grandmother’s hens out behind the barn, managed to insert my penis into its egg-bag, and thrust away. When I let the chicken go it started towards the main house, staggering, squawking and bleeding. Fearing that my grandmother would see what had happened, I caught it, wrung its neck and threw it in the creek”.

Ornithophilia is a sub-class of zoophilia and specifically refers to those individuals who are sexually aroused by the thought and/or the act of having sex with birds. As far as I have been able to establish, there are no specific case studies in the literature that refer to the condition, and the only specific mention of ‘ornithophilia’ I have come across in the academic literature it is in the writings of Aggrawal (including his most recent 2011 paper mentioned earlier). Other others such as Helen Munro (writing in a 2006 editorial of The Veterinary Journal) have noted that sexual contact with birds exists, but none of these provide any kind of validated case study.

However, I did come across a recent case reported in the journal Romanian Neurosurgery that described the late onset of zoophilia in a 42-year old man who suddenly started engaging in zoophilic behaviour following an aneurysm in the posterior cerebral artery. More specifically, he developed a sexual interest towards the hens in his garden, and his wife found him several times having sex with the hens. Unfortunately, the man died a few weeks later following a rupture of the aneurysm.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Aggrawal, A. (2011). A new classification of zoophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 18, 73-78.

Ene, S., A. Sasaran, A. (2011). Zoophilic behavior in a patient with posterior cerebral arterial aneurysm. Romanian Neurosurgery, 18, 349-355.

King, C. (2010). The A to Z of sexual history: A – Avisodomy: The act of a human engaging in sexual activity involving a bird. Located at: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/the-a-to-z-of-sexual-history-a-avisodomy-the-act-of-a-human-engaging-in-sexual-activity-involving-a-bird

Krafft-Ebing, R. von (1886). Psychopathia Sexualis. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

Mantegazza, P. (2001). The Sexual Relations of Mankind. Honolulu, Hawaii: University Press of the Pacific.

Munro, H.M.C. (2006). Animal sexual abuse: A veterinary taboo? The Veterinary Journal, 172, 195-197.

Shaffer, L. & Penn J. (2006). A comprehensive paraphilia classification system. In E.W. Hickey (Ed.), Sex Crimes and Paraphilia (pp.69-93). Pearson, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

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