Eye love to love: A brief look at oculophilia

In November 2011, various news reports were published claiming that Saudi Arabian women with “sexy eyes” were to be outlawed from displaying them in public. This was because Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice announced a proposal to make it law that women with “sexy eyes” must cover them up when out and about in public. This report got me wondering about the inter-relationship (if any) between ‘eyes’ and ‘sex’. There’s no doubt that someone’s eyes can be a source of sexual attraction. Furthermore, most people are aware that a person’s pupils enlarge when someone or something sexually attracts them. In fact, Brenda Love in her book the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices says that European women used to put chemicals in their eyes so that they would dilate as a way of making men thinking that the women in question were attractive to them.

Believe it or not, there are some people who have something of a fetish for eyes. This condition is called oculophilia and is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals derive sexual arousal and sexual pleasure from eyes. The fetish can manifest itself in a desire for actual physical contact and interaction with the eye. It can also take a number of different forms and might be very specific. For instance, it has been written that the 17th century philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes (1595-1650) had a fetish for women with squinted eyes. He cited his attraction to cross-eyed women as originating from an infatuation with a childhood friend who had a squint. It appears there are modern day adherents too as I found this on an online confessional website:

“I am attracted to people that have lazy eyes. The more lazy their eye, the more attractive it is to me.
It’s a huge turn-on, especially eyes that turn outward (e.g., exotropia)”

One specific oculophilic activity involves the licking of eyes for sexual pleasure. This activity is called oculolinctus. According to Brenda Love in her book chapter in the 2005 book Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong, noted that oculolinctus appears “to be rare, but there are several cases, including one of a female who in order to orgasm would have to lick the eyeball of her obliging male lover”. She did add a note of caution that those engaging in the act should be aware that oral herpes (i.e., cold sores) can be transferred to the eye. There may also be other dangers. For instance, one website claimed that:

“Optometrists are calling for an immediate halt of eye licking by sexual fetishists due to the dangers involved. Particles, debris and plaque collected in the mouth can emerge at the tip of the tongue. During a tongue to eye licking session those particles can easily scrape the cornea causing significant damage to the eyeball. Optometrists are quick to point out that patients do not admit to eye licking as the source of such damage. Most attribute their scratches to sand, pine needles and rusty nails. Optometrists wish to inform the public that they know when their patients are lying about their sexual perversions when they involve the eyeball”

Another website claimed (in the complete absence of empirical evidence) that the oculophilic fetish is:

“A predominantly female one; that is, more women want to do it than men. In the rarest of cases, women have been documented that need to lick the eyeball of their lover in order to achieve orgasm”.

In modern literature, a detailed description of oculolinctus was described by novelist Jonathan Coe in his 1997 book The House of Sleep. However, a Wikipedia entry on this particular oculophilic act claimed: “The interest of the person in question is not always of an entirely sexual nature, but sometimes of an intellectual nature”. However, there is plenty of oculophilic fantasy fiction out there online in the form of short stories and blog musings.

Another variant of oculophilia is that of ‘eye-play’. This can only occur with those where the sexual recipient has glass eye and has the empty eye socket penetrated by a male penis or testicle. Again, Brenda Love writes about this practice in her book Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. More specifically, she cites the case of a prostitute in the Philippines who gained notoriety for soliciting men to penetrate her eye socket after removing her glass eye. Some of you reading this may have also come across the film Bed Scenes directed by François Ozon. The film features seven small vignettes depicting various moments around alternate styles of sexuality. In one of the vignettes, a man visits a prostitute to discover she uses the socket after her glass eye is removed to perform “oral” sex using her eye socket.

Eye socket sex – and more commonly eye socket rape – also appears in Japanese pornographic comics (i.e., Hentai Doujinshi and Hentai Manga). There are also occasional reports from the forensic crime literature indicating paraphilic interest in eyes. For instance, writing in a 2007 issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences, Dr. John White examined evidence of primary, secondary, and collateral paraphilias left at serial murder and sex offender crime scenes. He reported that possible that serial killer Charles Albright may have “raped and killed three prostitutes (collateral paraphilia) for the purpose of carefully extracting their eyes (primary paraphilia of oculophilia)”.

In an online article by Dr. Ruth Neustifter on sexual eyeball licking she reports that:

“Eyeballs are covered in naturally salty water used to keep them lubricated and clean, which also gives them a distinctively smooth and salty flavour. While the eyeball doesn’t feel in the same way that our fingers and tongue do, it can sense pressure and temperature, making eyeball licking an optimal form of stimulation. Pretty much everyone recognizes the eye as a vulnerable area of the body, making it an intimate area for some people. Where there is vulnerability and intimacy, you might just find eroticism! Some folks enjoy doing the licking, both for the sensation and for the ability to enjoy their partner’s vulnerability in this way. And for those who like to be licked, they find the situation as well as the physical stimulation to be highly enjoyable. This isn’t a universal erogenous zone, so many folks won’t get the attraction even if they try it”.

This is yet another paraphilic and/or fetishistic behaviour on which there is no empirical research at all. We know next to nothing about the incidence, prevalence, etiology, or why people engage in the behaviour. This is definitely an area (if you excuse the poor pun) should definitely be looked at in more scientific detail.

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

Further reading

Didymus, J.T. (2011). Saudi women with ‘sexy eyes’ will have to cover them up in public. The Digital Journal, November 19. Located at: http://digitaljournal.com/article/314708

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.

Neustifter, R. (2008). Tuesday’s Twisted Fetish: Eye Licking (Oculingus). Exploring Intimacy, September 23. Located at: http://exploringintimacy.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/tuesdays-twisted-fetish-eye-licking-oculingus/

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.

Wikipedia (2012). Oculophilia. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oculophilia

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About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Gambling Studies at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 430 research papers, three books, over 120 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on June 18, 2012, in Case Studies, Compulsion, Obsession, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Paraphilia, Sex, Sex addiction and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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